Saturday, January 9, 2010

Grama Grace's Poor Man's Cake

This was My Grama Grace in 1933
(aka my "Cha-caw-go" Grandma. She was very insistent we learn how to say Chicago properly!) and this is what I inherited as her recipe for a cake she called a "Poor Man's Cake ."

I am making no claim that she invented this cake in any way ! I am only saying that this is how she made them and what she taught me about them and making them .

Poor Mans Cake was big thing in our house. After she and Grampa came to live with us, it became even more important. She would ship these cakes all over to family and friends most often at thier request.

The Magick of the Poor man's cake was all the substitutions you could use to make it work. It was a cake that could be made with what was on hand in the depression era kitchen, and it always tasted the same .. WONDERFUL!!!
For example , if there were no eggs in the house then you could sugstitute with 1 teaspoon baking soda in 2 teaspoons hot water for 1 egg; or if you couldn't get brown sugar,then for each cup needed in brown sugar, you would mix 1 cup white sugar with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the best molasses ( or sorghum) you had on hand .If you didn't have Shortening, you could use lard (don't reduce salt if using lard)or fresh creamery butter and reduce salt in the given recipe to 1/2 teaspoon ). If you didn't have or couldn't afford to buy raisens, but you had dried apricots or cherries or apples or currents or..( you get he picture) other fruites from the tree out back or put up over the summer for winter storage you could use that fruit instead of the raisens. If you had Just a hand full of nut meats you could chop and add them , or if you were lucky enough at Yule to get your hands on an orange , you would grate the peal and use it in the cake for an extra holiday zing, and you didn't waist any part of that precious orange either. (the above photo shows 2 cakes staked. I divided the batter to make 2 some what different cakes and to make them go further.)

Making Grama's Poor Man's Cake also tought us about problem solving, flexibility, and to appreciate what you had and not worry about what you didn't . I often think that being raised by Depression era elders has helped me help my family in so many ways in these currant and in past economically trying times.

I am posting the recipe the way she wrote it and the way I most often use it , but I must admit I do like to play with it a bit, adding different fruits and nuts and some times a bit of chocolate chips ( especially white) to the cake .. I love this cake almost as much as I love my Grama Grace, I am so glade to have such wonderful memories too, they make me feel as though she was right there in my kitchen , filling me with her love and guidance every time i make Grama Grace's Poor Mans Cake.

Grama Grace's Poor Man's Cake
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups good water heated till hot
2 teaspoons shortening
3/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground fine
1 teaspoon cloves, ground fine
1/2 teaspoon allspice, ground fine

Boil all the above for 5 minutes, cool!

next add the following:
1 teaspoon baking soda in 2 teaspoons hot water .
stir in well then add:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Mix all together well!!
pour into greased tube pan(s) ( also known as a bundt pan)

Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees F.

If you divide the batter over 2 pans, you will want to start checking at 45 minutes for
done-ness ad keep a close eye on it after until done as this cake can burn fast!

If you plan to ship this cake to some one , let it completely cool. then glaze it with a fruite jelly mixed with 3 tablespoons hot water and basted on the whole cake surface . let set 12 hours more on wire rack to "dry" , then sprinkle with a bit of sugar ( powdered) before packing in a wax paper lined cake tin . Ship right away.

Hope you enjoy , it's great in the morning with some scrambled eggs and hot coffee!!

Blessings !
Ma Fey


  1. I can't believe all the substitutions; I've never heard of any of those, but that's really neat. I'll have to try this!

    Also, She was sure gorgeous!

  2. What a great cake (and a great lesson!) to pass down in the family!

  3. Thank you Both for such lovely comments. If either of you try the cake Please let me know what you think .
    Warmest Blessings to you both
    Ma Fey