Depression cake for a recession

Bank and industry bailouts, mounting job losses, plummeting savings rates – it’s enough to put a girl off her dessert.

With the economic forecast looking grimmer by the day, I thought we should take another look at hardship baking. These recipes may come in handy!

Like Wacky Cake, Depression Cake was popular during the Great Depression because it contained no scarce or expensive ingredients like eggs, butter or milk. While exact ingredients varied, the most common type of Depression Cake is also known as Boiled Raisin Cake, due to everything being boiled together into a syrupy batter before the addition of flour and leavener.

You can find more recipes at

I admit that I was slightly embarrassed serving a cake with this name to Ed’s family (though they all pronounced it delicious). Depression Cake and Boiled Raisin Cake don’t sound very sexy, do they? A more palatable name might be Raisin Spice Cake, which is essentially what this is.

What I love about this cake is that, whatever you call it, it shows you don’t need to spend a lot of money to produce something that’s delicious and will feed a crowd. It’s the perfume of the spices that make this cake shine.

Depression Cake or Boiled Raisin Cake
Adapted from a recipe on

1 cup / 200 g shortening
2 cups / 500 ml water
2 cups / 290 g raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups / 300 g granulated sugar
3 cups / 375 g all purpose or plain flour
1 tsp baking soda

In a saucepan combine shortening, water, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until cool.

Preheat oven to 350F / 176C. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, if desired, for easier removal from the pan.

Stir the flour and baking soda into the cooled liquid mixture and mix until just combined and most of the patches of flour are gone. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes, until the top of the cake is just firm to the touch.