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Spanish Bar Cake

Follow our step-by-step, photo illustrated instructions to make our version of the old fashioned, A&P Spanish Bar Cake. We’ve stepped back in time to recreate one of your favorite tastes from the past with this very special spice cake recipe. We’ll share the cake recipe, and the frosting recipe, so you can make this wonderful dessert right in your own kitchen. Printable recipe included.

Spanish Bar Cake, slider.

Spanish Bar Cake: The old fashioned A&P Spanish Bar Cake type recipe.

Welcome to my Spanish Bar Cake journey.

I hope you’ll join me on this adventure as we set out to recreate a beloved recipe from the past. I’ve given it my best shot, and look forward to you joining in and sharing your memories, comments, and suggestions.

I developed this recipe for the Our State Magazine website a few weeks back. I’ve been contributing recipes to them for several years as you may already know.

Many of their readers had made comments about a Spanish Bar Cake that use to be sold at A&P Grocery stores throughout North Carolina years ago. Their comments sparked my interest in finding the recipe, and thus the journey began.

There were several recipes on the internet that claimed to be the original, but how can several “different” versions, all be the ONE recipe that made this unique cake? Obviously none of them were, so I took it upon myself to come up with one that might be close to what the cake originally tasted like. Problem was, I had no idea what that taste might be. However, I did have a pretty good source that might could help out. More on that in a moment, let me give you a little background information first.

The Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) began back in 1859 in New York City, and quickly made a name for itself as an innovator and leader in the grocery industry. Before long, the company even began making its own brand of products, including the beloved Spanish Bar Cake. By the 1930s, there were over 16,000 A&P stores across the country. Sadly, in the 1950’s, A&P lost ground to newer, more modern stores, and eventually closed all its North Carolina locations.

Mama shopped the A&P store in our hometown every chance she had back then. She had no choice. Her oldest son, my older brother, worked there and eventually became store manager. He worked with A&P for many years.

When I first asked my older brother about the Spanish Bar Cake, he lit up and started telling me all about it. He described it vividly, so I knew I’d have to make a recipe that would meet his expert approval. The pressure was on, but at least I knew I had a trusted source.

Older brother said this was one of his favorite desserts when he worked for A&P. He spoke fondly of how he’d grab a soft drink and one of these cakes at break time, and practically eat the whole cake in one sitting. He was quick to recall the look and the taste of the cake, and told me numerous stories about selling the cake over the years he worked with A&P.

I contacted the A&P Company, still in existence with about 300 stores in the Northeast, but they never responded. Instead, I did my best to collect copycat recipes from the Internet and gain information from old A&P ads before setting out to recreate the cake.

My first attempt garnered a “6 out of 10” on my older brother’s memory scale. Not bad, but not good enough. He said it should be darker and a little spicier. My second attempt, rated a 7 from older brother. Either he was just being nice, or I was getting a bit closer.

I made a few changes, then baked the cake yet again. This time, I entered it into the 2014 North Carolina State Fair. I’d never entered a cake into the fair before, but I just wanted to get an independent, blind taste test, of the recipe itself to see what someone else might think about it. The judges at the fair didn’t know it was an attempt to recreate the A&P cake, to them, it was just a spice cake. At least I might find out if the cake itself had any merit.

The recipe below managed to get an “Honorable Mention,” from the State Fair judges. I think that meant that it tied for third place, then after another round of judging someone else took third place, and mine got the Honorable Mention. I would later find out there were 15 entries in the Spice Cake division this year, so being 4th out of 15 isn’t so terribly bad just on the merits of being a spice cake alone.

The printable recipe at the bottom will turn out a much darker cake than the one pictured here. I switched the regular cocoa powder I first used, to a Dark Chocolate cocoa powder for the cake I made for the State Fair entry. Of the things my older brother kept mentioning in my first attempts was. the cake needed to be darker, moist, and a bit more spicy.

The printable recipe is the recipe that I used to bake the actual cake that was entered into the State Fair competition. Making the cake by the step-by-step photos is pretty much the same, but follow the printable recipe if you decide to join in on this little journey of ours.

How you can help.

If you remember the A&P Spanish Bar Cake, I’m open to your suggestions, and your own memories of it. I know it will be an older generation that will have those memories, so maybe you could ask a parent or older neighbor if they know about and recall the cake. Any information will be helpful.

I have found that A&P still makes a fruitcake that was made years ago, but I haven’t found where they still make the Spanish Bar Cake. I could pick up the phone and call and ask I guess, but I haven’t done that as of yet. Maybe I need to do so.

So, if you’re ready to step back in time a bit, let’s get in the kitchen and sling some flour. Ready to give it a try? Alright then… Let’s Get Cooking!!!

Spanish Bar Cake, ingredients.

A&P Spanish Bar Cake recipe: You’ll need these ingredients.

We’ve also got the ingredients for making the frosting for this cake, further down in this post.

Spanish-Bar-Cake, plump up the raisins.

Plump up those Raisins: Before we start making the batter, let’s plump up those raisins.

Bring about 2 cups of water to a slight boil, then REMOVE from heat. Drop in the raisins, and just let them sit while you make the batter. This will plump them up, and make for a better cake.

Spanish Bar Cake, measure the flour..

You’ll need two level cups of All-Purpose Flour to begin the batter.

Measure the flour out into a large mixing bowl.

Spanish Bar Cake, add baking powder.

Add the Baking Powder.

Spanish Bar Cake, add the salt.

Add the Salt.

Spanish Bar Cake, add the cocoa.

Add the Cocoa.

I used Hershey’s regular cocoa for the first recipe, which I took these pictures of. After making the cake, older brother told me that he remembered it being much darker in color, almost black. I switched to the Dark Chocolate cocoa for the printable recipe, and for the cake that I entered into the 2014 North Carolina State Fair.

Spanish Bar Cake, add cinnamon.

Add the Cinnamon.

Spanish Bar Cake, add ginger.

Add the Ground Ginger.

Spanish Bar Cake, add cloves.

Add the Ground Cloves.

Spanish Bar Cake, add nutmeg.

Add the Nutmeg.

Spanish Bar Cake, whisk together.

Use a whisk to mix all of the spices and flour together.

Spanish Bar Cake, sift three times.

Now, you’ll need to sift this spice and flour mixture three times. I used a sheet of parchment paper in this step. After sifting the flour into my bowl, I’d dump it out on the sheet of parchment, then place it back into the sifter. The parchment let me grab up the sides so I could easily pour the flour back into the sifter. Of course, two bowls will work, so use what you have. Once you’ve sifted it three times, set it aside until later.

Spanish Bar Cake, add brown sugar.

Using another large mixing bowl, add the Brown Sugar.

Spanish Bar Cake, add the shortening.

Add the Shortening.

Spanish Bar Cake, mix together.

Using a hand mixer on Low speed, combine the shortening and sugar together.

Add the Molasses.

Spanish Bar Cake, combine together.

Mix the molasses into the sugar mixture.

Spanish Bar Cake, add the eggs.

Add the two whole Eggs.

Mix the eggs into the mixture, just until they are combined in good.

Add the Evaporated Milk.

Still using the hand mixer, mix the milk just until it’s combined with the rest of the wet ingredients.

Spanish Bar Cake, add the applesauce.

Add the Applesauce.

Spanish Bar Cake, combine together.

Mix the applesauce in, just until combined.

Spanish Bar Cake, add dry ingredients.

Now we’re going to mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. This is done in three increments.

Add one third of the flour mixture into the bowl. Using the hand mixer, mix this together just until it’s all combined. Add another third of the flour into the bowl and mix again. Finally, add the remaining flour into the batter, mix it just until combined, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. Do not over beat the batter.

Spanish Bar Cake, mix just to combine.

The batter should be fairly thick at this point.

Spanish Bar Cake, drain the raisins.

Drain the raisins in a colander.

Spanish Bar Cake, sprinkle with flour.

Sprinkle about a Tablespoon of All-Purpose Flour over the drained raisins.

Spanish Bar Cake, stir to coat.

Stir the raisins around with a spoon, until they are all coated with flour. This is suppose to keep all the raisins from just sinking to the bottom once you place the batter into the baking pan.

Spanish Bar Cake, fold raisins into the batter.

Add the Raisins to the batter. Using a large spoon or spatula, gently fold the raisins into the batter mixture. Just a quick swirl or two is about all you’ll need.

Spanish Bar Cake, prepare the baking pan.

Prepare your baking pan: I used one of the canned sprays that contains flour to coat the inside of this 9×13 sheet cake pan. If you don’t have a spray with flour, coat the inside of the pan with shortening, then sprinkle in some flour. Roll the flour around inside the pan until you’ve got the bottom, corners, and edges fully coated. Spoon the batter into the coated pan.

Spanish Bar Cake, spread batter in pan.

As mentioned, the batter is a bit on the thick side. I used a spatula to spread the batter out into the corners of the pan so it would be evenly distributed inside the pan. Work from the center, and spread the batter out into all corners. I also lifted the pan about 2 inches off the counter, then dropped it, to force any air bubbles up to the top.

Spanish Bar Cake, baking time and temp.

Place the pan in your preheated oven.

Bake it on 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes, or until done. Oven’s will vary, so keep a close check on it.

The cake is done once it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, and when a wooden toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake, pulls out clean.

Spanish Bar Cake, place on wire rack to cool.

When the cake is done, remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely before you try to remove it. You could also just add the icing to the top of the cooled cake and serve it directly from the pan.

I wanted to make my cake look more like the original, so I planned to remove it from the pan. To do this, I cut a piece of cardboard just smaller than the inside dimensions of the pan and placed this on top of the cake once it had cooled. Placing one hand on the cardboard, I flipped it all over and removed the layer intact.

Next, I split the cake in half and started building up the layer cake, frosting the middle, then the top.

While the cake is cooling, lets go ahead and make the icing for it.

Spanish Bar Cake, frosting ingredients.

Spanish Bar Cake Frosting: You’ll need these ingredients.

I’m using some left over Evaporated Milk that I had. Regular milk will work just as well for this part. It’s pretty much a basic Buttercream frosting. The butter needs to be softened to room temperature for best results.

Spanish Bar Cake, add sugar.

Place the Confectioners Sugar in a large bowl… with high sides. Don’t ask why they need to be high. (Smile)

Spanish Bar Cake, add the butter.

Add the softened Butter.

Spanish Bar Cake, add the vanilla extract.

Add the Vanilla Extract.

Spanish Bar Cake, add the milk.

Start out by adding three Tablespoons of Milk. You’ll probably need to add a bit more, but do this gradually to work the frosting up to your desired consistency. I ended up using 5 Tablespoons both times I’ve made this frosting. You might need more, or even less.

Spanish Bar Cake, mix together.

You’ll want the frosting to be a bit on the thick side, so be careful adding more of the milk as you go.

With all of the ingredients in the bowl, use a hand mixer, on low speed, and lower it right down into the middle of the softened butter. Start working with the butter, gradually working in the confectioners sugar, so you don’t send sugar flying all over your kitchen. You can thank me later for that little house keeping tip. Again, don’t ask why I know this. Just saying. (Smile)

If you’re making two layers from the one sheet cake layer, spread a good amount of frosting in between the layers, then frost the top. You’ll probably still have more frosting than you really need this way. I ended up with about half a cup leftover, and I thought I was spreading it pretty thick.

Spanish Bar Cake, enjoy.


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