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Canadian War Cake

| March 23, 2015 | 15 Comments

Canadian War Cake Recipe, as seen on Taste of Southern. Printable recipe included.
Follow our easy, step-by-step, photo illustrated recipe to make this super simple cake. NO EGGS are used to make this war era cake, created pretty much out of necessity back in the day. Filled with pecans and raisins, then topped with a powdered sugar icing, this cake still is a hit around the table, even today. Printable recipe included.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, slider.
Canadian War Cake Recipe:

I know you’re wondering why a good old Southern boy would be posting a recipe called a Canadian War Cake on a website devoted to Southern Cooking. Okay, I have a fair and reasonable answer for your question.

Several weeks ago, I received a very nice Comment on my recipe for Spanish Bar Cake. The recipe originally appeared on the Our State Magazine website, as I was supplying a couple of recipes a month to their website at the time. It is also posted here on Taste of Southern, and you can view it by clicking: Spanish Bar Cake Recipe.

The comment received, was from Gene M. who grew up around the Charlotte, North Carolina area, and now resides in the beautiful state of Florida.

Gene remembered the original Spanish Bar Cake, sold by the A&P Grocery store chain for many years. I had tried to reproduce the cake, and was in hopes readers could offer some input on the original cake. I was never able to find a genuine recipe for the cake, and set out on my own to recreate it. I called it a work in progress, and it still is.

Gene had tried my “clone” of the Spanish Bar Cake, and graciously said it was a good effort, but not totally accurate. For reference, I have little memory of what the actual cake tasted like, but my older brother claimed he still remembered it. He gave me about a 6 on a scale of 10 for trying.

Gene offered that the Canadian War Cake, often made by the ladies of the Charlotte area, including his Aunt Lucy, and his mother Lorene, bore a good resemblance to the Spanish Bar Cake that was eluding me. He offered to send me a copy if I’d like to try it.

I replied that I’d love to look the recipe over, and Gene was quick to send me a copy.

After looking over the Email from Gene, I started searching for some history of the cake. I found an interesting article about it online at this link: The Great War 1914 – 1918, which also features a simpler version of the War Cake as it was often called. I think you’ll find it an interesting read if you have the time to take a look.

The recipe featured there, claiming to be more of the original war time version, was missing a few ingredients found in Gene’s version. Neither of the recipes include EGGS, which is interesting within itself. Gene’s version calls for butter, while the recipe claiming to be more of the original, calls for adding Lard. Gene’s recipe includes pecans, raisins, and a powdered sugar icing, all missing from the other recipe mentioned above.

I would suspect that the ladies making the recipe after war time, added some extra ingredients to spice up the recipe. And speaking of spice, this is a form of spice cake.

Overall, I found the recipe interesting and wanted to try it as soon as possible. So, I present my efforts to you in the step-by-step below.

The cake was super easy to prepare. Most of it is prepared on the stove top in one pot, then you add flour, spread it in two nine inch pans and bake. The icing is simple as well, and adds an extra heaping of sweetness to the finished cake.

The cake smelled great while baking, and baked up quickly. It was surprisingly moist, minus the eggs, and a bit dense and heavy. It has a definite taste of a spice cake, easily defined by the four spices added to the batter, but it’s not overpowering. I liked it and trust you will too should you decide to give it a try.

A very special Thank You to Gene for sharing this family recipe with Taste of Southern. I hope you’ll approve of my efforts here, and I’ll look forward to reading all the comments regarding the cake, and the Spanish Bar Cake it resembles.

So, if you’re ready to get busy. Let’s get in the kitchen, boil up some water, and… Let’s Get Cooking.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, you'll need these ingredients.
Canadian War Cake Recipe: You’ll need these ingredients to make the cake. Icing ingredients are posted further down in the recipe.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, add water and bring to a boil.
Let’s start by placing 2 cups of water in a medium size sauce pot. Place this over Medium-High heat on your stove top and bring the water to a boil.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, add the chopped pecans.
Add the chopped Pecans.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, add the stick of butter.
Add the stick of Butter. One stick will equal 1/4 pound by the way.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, add the ginger.
Add the Ginger.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, add the ground cinnamon.
Add the Ground Cinnamon.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, add the brown sugar.
Add the two cups of Brown Sugar. Remember, when measuring brown sugar, always pack it tightly into the measuring cup. Thus, two cups of firmly packed brown sugar.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, add the nutmeg.
Add the Nutmeg.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, add the allspice.
Add the Allspice.

Have you checked your prescription on those glasses lately? If this looks a little fuzzy, it might be time to get another eye exam. (Smile) Apparently it’s me that needs the exam, it looked good and clear in the camera viewfinder. Sigh.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, add the raisins.
Add the Raisins.

This will help plump them up.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, stir well, and let boil for five more minutes.
Give everything a good stir, then let the mixture return to a low boil.

BOIL FOR FIVE MINUTES LONGER.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, remove from heat and let cool.
Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside.

Let the mixture completely cool before proceeding to make the batter. It’s very important that the mixture be cool before proceeding. Turn the burner off and take a quick nap while you have a little time here. You can thank me later. (Smile)

This part could easily be done one day, then allowed to cool overnight and make the rest of the cake the following day. It took about two hours for the pot to completely cool. Keep that in mind as you plan to make this particular cake.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, mix baking soda in water and stir.
I added the Baking Soda to the 1/2 cup water called for in the recipe. I wanted to stir it and let it dissolve before adding it into the liquid mixture. I used cool water, and stirred it until the baking soda had fully dissolved.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, add soda water to mixture.
Pour the soda and water combination into the cooled down liquid mixture. Stir well.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, gradually add flour to wet mixture.
I transferred the liquid mixture to a larger mixing bowl to complete the batter.

Gradually add the flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, then stir it into the liquid mixture.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, mix and add more flour.
Stir the batter after each addition of flour, and continue doing this until all of the flour has been added.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, stir just until combined.
Stir the flour into the liquid mixture, just until it’s fully incorporated together. Do not over mix, and be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you’re mixing.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, grease and flour pans.
Generously grease and flour two – 9 inch cake pans.

I used the baking spray with flour to coat my pans. It pretty much depends on my mood at the time as to whether I do the old fashioned way of greasing then flouring the pans, or just use the canned stuff that is so convenient these days.

I’m not sure what influences either mood, and why I do it one way one time, then another the next. It just happens.

You can view my Basic Cake Layers Recipe to see how to do it the old fashioned way.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, divide batter between the two pans.
Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.

I measured this out, and found that I had just enough batter to add 3 cups of batter to each pan, along with a serving spoon size of batter to each one. Basically, I had about 3 1/4 cups of batter all total.

After adding the batter, I pick up each pan about 4 inches off the surface of my work board, then just drop it flat onto the counter. I do this a couple of times to each pan. This will help the batter to settle, spread out evenly, and reduce any bubbles that might be in your batter so you don’t have big holes in your cake layers.

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, to sift or not to sift, that is the question.
To SIFT, or not to SIFT, that is the question.

As a side note: I wasn’t sure whether to sift the flour or not, so I went ahead and sifted it. Some recipes call for it, and others don’t. The recipe I received from Gene didn’t say which was preferred.

As you know, we always measure flour in LEVEL measurements. I scooped the 3 1/2 cups of flour out into a measuring cup, one cup at a time, leveled it off, then added it to my sifter. Next, I simply sifted the flour into a large mixing bowl.

Next, I spooned the sifted flour back into the measuring cup, then leveled the top using a knife. If you’re not familiar with this process, check out the Basic Cake Layers recipe and you’ll see what I mean.

After using 3 1/2 cups of SIFTED flour, I ended up having the amount of flour you see in the photo above left over. It was probably about a full cup measure of flour. You can see by this, how much difference the amount of flour you will actually need in your recipe will make, depending on whether you sift the flour or not. Sifting helps to add air to the flour.

Don’t have a sifter? You can also use a whisk to aerate the flour. Just give it several good “whiskings” and you’ll be good to go. (I just made up that word whiskings. Spell check doesn’t approve. Smile)

 

Canadian War Cake recipe, baking time and temp.
Place the layers in your oven, preheated to 350F degrees. Use the middle rack in your oven.

Bake the layers from 25-30 minutes, or as needed, until the layers test done when a toothpick is inserted. Ovens will vary, so your time will probably vary. Just keep a close eye on the timer, and follow your nose.

As a side note, my layers started smelling pretty good after about 10 minutes. I let the layers bake for 20 minutes, and then planned to rotate the pans in my oven so they would bake more evenly. I tested them by inserting a toothpick, and to my surprise, it came out very clean. I still rotated the pans and let them bake for 5 minutes longer. I might shouldn’t have baked them any longer, and you’ll see why in just a minute.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, remove layers from oven, place on wire racks to cool.
When the layers are done, remove them from the oven and place on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, run a sharp knife around the edges of the cake pan.
After the layers have cooled for about 10 minutes, run a sharp knife around the inside edges of the pan. This will help separate the cake from the inside of the pan in case it’s stuck any at all, and will make it easier to remove the cake from the pan.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, turn out of pan and let cool.
Flip the layers out of the pan.

Take one of the wire racks and place it on top of the cake layer in the pan. Grab both the pan and the rack, and flip it over quickly. Place the rack side back down on the counter top and the cake should fall free from inside the pan. Tap the bottom of the cake pan while it’s still covering the layer. This will also help to loosen the layer should it be stuck.

As you can see by the areas in the center of this layer, it did stick just a bit. The white looking area is just a reflection of an overhead light. This part had just a hint of a burnt taste, probably because I baked it that extra five minutes.

Let the layers completely cool on the wire racks before icing.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, ingredients for the icing.
Canadian War Cake Icing: You’ll need these ingredients, plus a little milk. The milk was still cooling itself in the refrigerator and refused to come out for a picture at this particular moment in time. Silly milk. Go figure.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, melt the stick of butter.
Melt the stick of butter, and place it in a large mixing bowl. A DEEP bowl would be good… just saying.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, gradually add the powdered sugar.
Gradually begin to stir in the box of Powdered Sugar.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, beat well.
I went ahead and pulled out the hand mixer, and beat the sugar and butter together until it was well mixed.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, add milk as needed.
After I finished slinging clumps of frosting all over the counter, I decided to go ahead and add a little bit of milk. Start out with just a few drops and add more as needed.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, add the cocoa powder.
Add the three Tablespoons of Cocoa Powder.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, mix until creamy and spreadable.
Beat the icing, adding more milk if needed, until it’s creamy, smooth, and spreadable.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, icing on the first layer.
Place a dab of the icing on your cake plate or board, then center the layer on the plate. The dab of icing will help hold the layer in place as you build up the cake and frost it.

Spread a good layer of the icing on top of this first layer.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, icing on second layer.
Place the second layer on top of the iced bottom layer. Center it up, then spread a good thick layer of icing on top of the layer.

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, place icing around the sides of the cake.
Spread a layer of icing around the outside edges of the cake. Do your thing, and decorate it the way you like it.

I would have preferred a bit more icing than what this recipe made. I barely had enough to get a thin layer around the outside of the cake before I ran out of icing. While I had a good layer in the middle and on top, I still think a little more icing would have made it easier to make the cake look a little better. But then, I’m not very good at this cake decorating thing anyway. Smile!

 

Canadian War Cake Recipe, enjoy.
Enjoy!

Thanks again Gene. I look forward to hearing your comments on the cake.

UPDATE: March 29, 2015 – This cake gets even better after it’s been around a couple of days. I left this one out on the counter, covered, and liked it even better later in the week. It was a bit crumbly when trying to cut it, but the crumbs would stick together when pressed with a fork, and it seemed to be more moist than the day I first made it. I hope you’ll enjoy it. Thanks!!! 

 

Print
Canadian War Cake, printable recipe from Taste of Southern.com.

Canadian War Cake

  • Author: Steve Gordon
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 8 - 12 slices, depending on size.
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Follow our easy, step-by-step, photo illustrated recipe to make this super simple cake. NO EGGS are used to make this war era cake, created pretty much out of necessity back in the day. Filled with pecans and raisins, then topped with a powdered sugar icing, this cake still is a hit around the table, even today.


Ingredients

  • 2 cups boiling Water
  • 2 cups Pecans, chopped
  • 1 stick Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 cups Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • 1 box of Raisins (16oz)
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • ½ cup Water
  • 3 ½ cups Flour – Self-Rising

Icing:

  • 1 stick Butter
  • 1 box Powdered Sugar (16oz)
  • 3 Tablespoons Powdered Cocoa
  • Milk, as needed

Instructions

  1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Add pecans.
  3. Add butter.
  4. Add ginger.
  5. Add cinnamon.
  6. Add brown sugar.
  7. Add nutmeg.
  8. Add allspice.
  9. Add raisins.
  10. Stir well, let boil for 5 minutes.
  11. Remove pot from heat and allow mixture to completely cool. (cooling is very important)
  12. Add baking soda.
  13. Add ½ cup water.
  14. Add flour, a little at a time, stirring to combine as you go. Do not overmix.
  15. Grease and lightly flour 2 – 9inch cake pans.
  16. Pour batter into pans, dividing equally between both pans.
  17. Bake in preheated oven, at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes, or until done. Test with a toothpick or knife.
  18. Remove cake layers from oven, place on a wire rack, let cool 10 minutes.
  19. Run a butter knife around the inside of the pan to separate the layer from the edge of the pan.
  20. Turn layers out of baking pans, let cool completely before icing on the wire racks.

To Make The Icing:

  1. Melt butter in microwave or on stove top.
  2. Place melted butter in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add sugar, a little at a time, stirring carefully after each addition.
  4. Add powdered cocoa and mix well.
  5. Add a little milk, if needed, to make the icing easily spreadable.

Assemble the cake:

  1. After cake layers are cool, add icing to top of bottom layer, then top of layer, and around sides.
  2. Serve and enjoy.

Notes

There have been several versions of this cake used in McAdenville. Sometimes Crisco is used in the batter rather than butter or margarine. White granulated sugar may be used in the batter rather than brown sugar. Walnuts are sometimes used instead of pecans. Sometimes, 1 teaspoon of Cloves are used rather than the 1 teaspoon of Nutmeg. The ½ cup of water which is added near the end of the batter making, is sometimes replaced by ½ cup black coffee. Recipe submitted by Gene Moore.

Keywords: Canadian War Cake Recipe, made from scratch, egg free cake, war cake

 

Your Comments:  I’d love to hear your comments on our recipe in the Comment Section at the bottom of this page.  It will only take you a minute or two to share them with us, and if you try our recipe, your comments might encourage someone else to try it.  Just know, all Comments are moderated.  That means that I personally read each and every one of them before they are approved for posting on our family friendly home here on the Internet.  I appreciate you taking the time to share your results with us, and I’ll look forward to hearing from you.  Your comments do not appear immediately.  I’ll review them and post them just as soon as I can.  Thank you in advance.

Sign Up For Our FREE Newsletter:  While you’re here, be sure to sign up for our FREE Newsletter. Each week, I send out a reminder to let you know we’ve posted a new recipe here on Taste of Southern.  Also, if anything else is going on around here, like a Giveaway, or something else of importance, I’ll send out a special note about that.  Usually it’s one a week, but sometimes you might get an extra one.  It’s easy to sign up, just use the box below, or the one you’ll find in the top right hand corner of each page of our site.  Should you ever decide you’re no longer interested, it’s even easier to unsubscribe.  But, I hope you’ll never feel that way.  Thank You in advance and for all of your support. I’ll look forward to seeing you on our list soon.  I do hope that you’ll also share our recipe information with your family and friends.

Be Blessed!!!
Steve

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Category: Desserts

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Award Winning Food Preservationist, Fisherman, Online Contributor to Our State Magazine Newsletter.

Comments (15)

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  1. ELIZABETH W. says:

    My Gran made this, minus the pecans (expensive to buy in the PNW), and she used half molasses and half brown sugar, added cloves…tasted very much like gingerbread. Never frosted, just topped with freshly whipped cream from our cows…she usually used home-rendered lard, and in later years, vegetable shortening or oil, not butter. She also added a Tbsp of vinegar “to make it rise better”. Thanks for sharing your recipe. Her family had roots in Alabama, so I’d say this could indeed be considered a true Southern recipe.
    I have copied the recipe and plan to try it soon…maybe for New Year’s Day, along with our blackeye peas, cornbread and collard greens!

    • Steve Gordon says:

      Hi Elizabeth, Thank you for sharing your memories of the Canadian War Cake with us. I bet your Gran made a great one. I do hope you get to try it and that it turns out well for you. I look forward to hearing about it. Sounds like you’ll have your New Years Day Meal covered with all the right things on the menu. Smile. Wishing you all the best in 2019 and beyond. Thank you for your visit. I do hope you’ll stop by again… real soon. Be Blessed!!! -Steve

  2. Sher says:

    So Growing up in Nova Scotia, Canada this cake was always a staple and found in all the pantries around..in fact one is in my pantry at this very moment…not many were ever frosted. Especially with chocolate frosting, If they were it was more of a powdered sugar glaze. Nuts were rarely used probably because of the cost and cloves was another spice added. Molasses could also be used in place of half the sugar according to what one had on hand. All molasses tends to make it very dark less sweet and slightly bitter but I do like it for a bit of a change… At Christmas fruit can be added and it makes a delicious easy fruit cake… my grandmothers recipe used all white sugar and all purpose flour was used… not self rising…Nothing like a thick slice of War Cake (no frosting) with a hot cup of tea and a friend or two…

    • Steve Gordon says:

      Hi Sher, Thank you for sharing your story with us. This was a recipe provided by one of my readers and the first time I’d ever tried or made the Canadian War Cake. It’s nice to hear some other versions of it. Someone else had mentioned about adding fruit and making it into a fruitcake, but I haven’t tried it that way – yet. Smile. As with most of the older folks, they made do with what they had. Thank you for taking the time to write and I do hope you’ll visit with us again… real soon. Be Blessed!!! -Steve

  3. Christine Ross says:

    Thank you so very much. Mo made this cake for year’s, with a few variation. We lost mom and the recipe a few years back. I’m so excited to make this for the family, we thought would never have it again!! This is awesome thank you again.

    Variations – use coffee instead of water or half coffee half rum

    Add Christmas cake fruit mix

    Mom never measured her flour her recipe called for enough flour for a good stiff dough

    Her favorite saying when we found that loaf she thought she gave away for Christmas….”The longer it sits the better it gits”

    • Steve Gordon says:

      Hi Christine, Thank you for sharing your comments and your memories about the Canadian War Cake. It’s my pleasure to share it. I hope you’ll let me know how it turns out if you get to try it. Thank you for your visit. I do hope you’ll stop by again… real soon. Be Blessed!!! -Steve

  4. Susan says:

    My neighbor, Mrs. M., used to make a cake very similar to this when I was a child (a long time ago in a world far, far away!) She called hers a “fruit cake”. It was wonderful…one of my favorite childhood comfort food memories. The cake was dark and moist with a wonderful spice taste.

    Mrs. M. would start making the cakes the week after Thanksgiving, wrap them tightly in foil and distribute them the week of Christmas. Her cake did not have nuts, but did have candied red cherries in addition to the raisins. I asked her daughter many times for the recipe, but she would not share it until about 3 years ago. However, my cake does not come out even close to Mrs. M’s…mine are very, very dry and dense…everything the critics say about fruit cake is borne out in my cakes! I am delighted to have accidently come across your site. When I compared recipes, the amounts of all ingredients are identical except for the water…the recipe I was given has only 1 cup of water to 3 1/2 cups of flour. I am anxious to try adding more water and tasting the results. Thanks you so much for posting the recipe. Susan

    • Steve Gordon says:

      Hi Susan, Thank you for sharing your memories with us. I do hope your cake turns out well for you, and that you’ll share the results after you’ve made one. I appreciate you taking the time to comment, and hope you’ll visit with us often. Be Blessed!!! -Steve

  5. Sher says:

    Hi the War Cake We grew up on here in Nova Scotia just had the raisins no nuts or icing. Still make it today and still a favourite… It was Found in all the pantries alongside Washington Pie, Large flat dunking molasses cookies, and Lazy Daisy Cake just to name a few….

  6. Alison Kilpatrick says:

    Proper war cake has no pecans (or any other nuts), uses lard or bacon fat, and omits icing. The original recipe is still adhered to in Canada, and the cake is best when it’s had a chance to age for several days…just about as long as it took to get the cakes to the soldiers in the trenches.

  7. Kenneth Bode says:

    Hello this sounds like the war cake my mother and I have made for years, but I lost my copy and mom doesn’t remember it any more. But we made it in a loaf pan. The icing is better that way too.

  8. patty says:

    one of my husbands old bosses back in the early 80’s had us over for supper one night she had fixed the polk sallet that stuff was terrible I think it grows here in Florida but I wont even think about making it!!lol glad I found your site

  9. HONEY BEAR says:

    I LOVE YOUR SITE AND ALL THE WONDERFUL RECIPES YOU SHARE. MY TWO FAVORITE SUBJECTS IN SCHOOL WERE COOKING AND HISTORY. I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN “SOUTHERN” CALIFORNIA. MY FAMILY ROOTS ARE IN ARKANSAS. MY FAMILY WAS RAISED ON SOUTHERN COOKING. I LOVE TO HERE THE HISTORY OF THE DIFFERENT FOODS WE EAT. THANK YOU FOR SHARING THE CANADIAN WAR CAKE AND THE LINK FOR THE HISTORY. ONE SOUTHERN DISH I MISS IS POLK SALET. IT DOESN’T GROW WILD WHERE I NOW LIVE. THE ALLENS USED TO SALE IT IN CANS BUT THEY DISCONTINUED IT A FEW YEARS BACK. I USED MY LAST CAN TWO YEARS AGO FOR MY BIRTHDAY. WELL I HAVE RAMBLED ENOUGH. HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY.

    • Steve Gordon says:

      Hi Honey Bear, Thank you for your compliments on Taste of Southern. I’m thankful you’ve found us. I don’t recall Mama ever making or serving us Polk Sallet, although I’ve heard of the stuff all of my life. I remember seeing lots of the plants when I was a kid, and we were always warned about not eating it because it was poisonous. I know that part of it is, and that lots of people still cook it.

      I found a short film you might like to see about it. It’s produced by the Southern Foodways Alliance and you can view it here: What is Polk Sallet? I hope you’ll enjoy it.

      Thank you for sharing your comments. I truly appreciate your visit and trust you’ll stop by for another visit with us… real soon. Be Blessed!!! -Steve

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