War Cake

Flip through many Islanders’ cookbooks and recipe boxes, you will find a recipe for a war cake. A take on a traditional raisin spice cake, the recipe most likely passed down from generation to generation.

The origins of what many know as a war cake are varied. It is believed to originated during the First World War. During both World Wars, rationing of food was common, and items like eggs, sugar, and butter were not readily available. The evolution of a milkless, butterless, and eggless cake was the result. Saving rations to collect enough sugar, raisins, and flour to make the cake would have been common amongst households during those years of shortages.

There are many recipe variations for war cake. Some use lard or shortening in place of the butter, others vary with the spices used. This possibly had to do with what was on hand in the kitchen at the time. Common to all recipes is the boiling of the raisins with water, spices and sugar first, then letting it cool for a few hours before adding the flour and soda.

Traditional recipes are sketchy on details, especially ingredient quantities (some just say ‘add flour and mix’) as well as oven temperature. We’ve adapted our recipe for a modern kitchen.

You will note that this recipe has an egg in the ingredients. This is probably because Edith Young, who supplied the recipe, was raised in rural PEI in Murray River and her family did have chickens, and therefore access to eggs.

The cake was often cooked in a tube pan (Bundt pan), as it is quite dense and can be easily overcooked, and become dry if you are not careful. Like a fruit cake, it ages well, and a cake was sometimes baked in a tin so that it could be sent overseas with a care package to a soldier fighting in the war.


1 cup large raisins
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups cold water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 Tbsp shortening
(or butter)
1 egg, beaten
2 cups flour
2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. In large saucepan, combine raisins, sugar, water, and spices until well mixed.

3. Bring mixture to a boil on stovetop, boil for five minutes.4. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

5. Combine dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk well.

6. When raisin mixture is cooled, add butter, then beaten egg. Mix well, then gradually add dry ingredients in.

7. Pour batter into a well-greased and floured pan (we used a Bundt pan).
8. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Check after 25 minutes to ensure that cake does not dry out.9. Cool and slice.

Serve plain, or with whipped cream. You can also create a simple glaze to drizzle over it (mix approximately one cup of icing sugar with a few tablespoons of milk until smooth).

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A diverse group of people, the Salty team works hard each month to bring you great stories about PEI's food and farming community.

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