Well, here we are Christmas Eve. How did that happen? It's crept up on us really quickly now, but you might just have time to fit in one more baking delight before night falls and the big day is upon us. When I was growing up this cake was a family tradition that we all looked forward to every Christmas Celebration.
It is a recipe that my mother baked every year, and her mother before her, and probably her Grandmother did as well . . . it being a recipe handed down through the generations and carried on with love. A beautiful example of thrift having come about during the War years when things like eggs, milk and butter were in short supply.
Yes . . . this cake is egg, milk and butter free. There is white vegetable shortening in it, which over here means White Flora or Trex . . . if you are not worried about the calories, lard and even bacon fat, which was judiciously saved for things just such as this can be used.
I'll wager the recipe is even older than that . . . it sounds like the type of thrifty cake that might have been baked in log cabins out on the prairies or in farm houses, for special occasions just such as Christmas . . .
Simple ingredients, simple measures . . . simple methods. Fabulous taste and incredibly moist. It's a dense cake, thick with raisins and spice and only too perfect for the holidays.
My mother always used the large seeded raisins, but they are very difficult to find today . . . and so we make do with what we have to work with. It somehow never comes out tasting as good as the memory of my mom's tastes in my mind, but oh well . . .
There are a lot of things like that. A slice of this sitting on a plate next to a warm cup of horlicks and spread with butter (I know . . . soooo hedonistic) whispers Christmas to my heart. Thanks mum.
*Mum's War Cake*
Makes one 9 inch round deep cake, or two large loaves
A deliciously moist fruited cake from the days of rationing when eggs and butter were in short supply.
300g soft light brown sugar ( 1 1/2 cups packed)
375ml of water ( 1 1/2 cups)
2 heaped dessertspoons of white vegetable shortening (1/2 cup)
230g of raisins ( 1 1/2 cups)
200g plain flour (2 cups)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
Combine the browns sugar, water, shortening and raisins in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to the boil, then allow to boil for 3 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 150*C/300*F/ gas mark 2. Butter and line a round deep baking tin with baking paper. Butter the baking paper. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, soda, nutmeg, salt and baking powder. Stir this into the cooled raisin mixture. Mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the cake is cooked through and solid, and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. It will still look fairly moist on top. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before tipping out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Once cold, wrap tightly and store in a tin overnight before serving. Cut into wedges to serve.
Alternately if you are baking two loaves, butter and line the loaf tins with paper. Butter the paper. Divide the batter betwixt the two tins. Bake as above from 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the cakes are cooked through and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the centre. Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before flipping out and cooling completely on a wire rack. Store as above.
This will keep for about 2 weeks, and freezes well for longer storage.