Canada War Cake

Last night provided a perfect example of why messy, heavily-annotated and well-used cookbooks are more important historical sources than clean, lightly used ones. After my talk on the politics and culture of food during the Second World War, the Culinary Historians of Canada provided some amazing wartime snacks. And in the process of trying to figure out whether a recipe for “Canada War Cake” from a wartime community cookbook published in 1918 would have actually been used during the Second World War, we discovered that some of the pieces of newspaper that had become stuck to the back of the oilcloth cover included references to the Nazis, suggesting that – indeed – the recipes proved to be useful during both wars!

Thanks again to Liz Driver, the Campbell House Museum, the Culinary Historians of Canada, and everyone who came out last night. It was a lovely way to spend an evening. I learned a lot from your questions and our conversations after the talk. I really look forward to incorporating some of your insights into my book.

If you couldn’t make it to the talk but want to try making your own Canada War Cake, here’s a recipe submitted by a reader of the Windsor Daily Star in March 1942.

3 comments

  1. Peter Leslie

    I realize that I am a bit late but I stumbled across this post on war cake in searching for old Nova Scotian recipe books. I just wanted to say that war cake was known as boiled raisin cake. It was a staple in the Lunenburg area of Nova Scotia. Because we were a seagoing people with access to the Caribbean, we had access to sugar, raisins and other “southern” delicacies. In the winter when lard was available but chickens were laying little and cows producing less, war cake was welcomed to a diet tht was normally heavy with sweets. During the world wars these conditions were endured year round and war cake was a staple for birthdays, weddings and holidays. In my family it is still the dark part of the wedding cake and is always produced at Christmas.

  2. Trish Johnson

    My mother and grandmother from New Brunswick made War Cake. We always had it at Christmas. The recipe for War Cake can be found on pg 72 of the Grand Manan Cookbook, contributd by Mabel Richardson. cookbook published by the Grand Manan Hospital Auxiliary in 1959. I also have “Favorite Recipes” published by the Capreol Historical Society where War Cake is on page 34, contributed by Yvonne Lancia, my mother’s next door neighbour. It was my mother’s recipe.

  3. Sarah Clark

    My mother made Canadian War Cakes here in Rockport, MA, all through my childhood in the 1940s and 50s. She made many to give away to friends, the postman, milkman, etc. From looking at various sites I’ve seen different variations of the recipe — hers used brown sugar and sometimes coffee instead of hot water. One website mentioned the cake needs to sit a day before being eaten — hers were wrapped up in wax paper or aluminum foil to be given away all during the Christmas season.

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