A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 10, 2011
Depression Cake

Cakes were called “depression cakes” as early as 1932. The “depression” referred to the 1930s’ economic depression, not a depression in the cake. Recipes differ; the most popular and earliest “depression cake” recipes have included raisins and cinnamon. Raisin cakes, however, were served in the 1800s and were not original to the 1930s Great Depression.


Wikipedia: Depression Cake
Depression cake is a type of cake that was commonly made during the Great Depression. The ingredients include little or no milk, sugar, butter or eggs, because they were then either expensive or hard to get. Similar cakes are known as “War Cake,” as they avoided ingredients that were scarce or were being conserved for the use of soldiers. A common Depression Cake is also known as “Boiled Raisin Cake,” or “Eggless, Milkless, Butterless Cake.” “Boiled” refers to the boiling of raisins with the sugar and spices, to make a syrup base, early in the recipe. Some bakers do use butter in this recipe though. Boiled raisin-type cakes date back at least to the American Civil War.

Ingredients
The ingredients include:

. sugar,
. strong coffee, water, or apple juice,
. shortening,
. dark raisins or diced pitted prunes,
. apple,
. unsifted all-purpose flour,
. baking soda,
. baking powder,
. cinnamon,
. allspice,
. clove,
. nutmeg,
. chopped walnuts, almonds, or pecans.

Pears were sometimes substituted for apples.

28 June 1932, Elyria (OH) Chronicle-Telegram, pg. 8, col. 3:
DEPRESSION CAKE
1-2 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup sour milk
2 1-2 cups flour (sifted)
1-2 cup cocoa
1-3 cup boiling water into which one teaspoon soda is dissolved
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix in order given. Makes 2 9-inch layers or 1 large loaf.

28 September 1932, Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent, pg. 8, col. 4 ad:
Depression Cake
5 Eggs, 1 1/2 Cups Sugar, 1 Teaspoon Lemon Extract, 1/2 Cup Cold Water, 1 1/2 Cups of Flour sifted three times.
METHOD—To egg yolks add 1 cup of sugar, heat about 40 minutes; add 1/2 cup of cold water little at a time alternating with flour, beating continually. To egg whites beaten frothy add pinch of salt, 1/2 cup of sugar, and lemon extract. Beat till stiff and fold into rest of mixture, bake in angel food tin about 1 hour.
(First Ward Grocery—ed.)

16 November 1932, Manitowoc (WI) Herald-Times, “War-Time Kitchen Economy Revived; Recipes Recalled” by Mrs. J. A. Strathearn, pg. 8, col. 7:
War or Depression Cake
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups water
2 tbsp. lard
1 lb. seeded raisins
1 tsp. each salt, ground cinnamon, cloves.
Boil together 5 minutes after it commences to bubble. WHen cold add 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon soda dissolved in hot water. One egg may be added. Bake in two loaves 45 minutes in slow oven. This cake is better at the end of a week, and like all fruit cakes it ripens with age.

2 February 1933, Mason City (IA) Globe-Gazette, pg. 20, col. 5:
We didn’t have time to read that recipe for “depression cakes,” but we guessed right away that they must have more flap and less jack.—Boston Herald.

5 October 1933, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 15, col. 5:
Yum Yum—Or Depression Cake
Submitted by Margaret Keegan, 26 Hampton St.
One box large raisins, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon lard, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 2 large cups flour, 2 teaspoon baking soda. Put raisins, sugar, water, lard and butter in pan and slowly bring to boiling point; boil two minutes, remove from fire, add soda and let cool. When cool add flour and spices, and bake in moderate oven about 350 F. for forty-five minutes, in a large flat pan. This cake can be made into a fruit cake by adding some nuts, citron and marischino cherries.

12 October 1933, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 15, col. 4:
Depression Cake
Submitted by Mrs. Alice Babbitt, R. F. D. No. 7, Diverty Road.
Boil together for 5 minutes 2 cups water, 2 cups brown sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cloves and cinnamon, 2 tablespoons lard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 pound seedless raisins. Whn cold add 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in a little warm water. Bake 50 minutes in a moderate oven.

15 November 1934, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 15, col. 1:
Depression Cake
Submitted by Mrs. Albert Wharton, 62 Main Street.
One cup seedless raisins, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons cinnamon, 2 tablespoons lard. Boil all together five minutes, then let get cold. Then add three cups sifted flour with one tablespoon of baking soda. Bake one hour in a moderate oven, 250 degrees.

12 July 1935, Christian Science Monitor, “Favorite Recipes,” pg. 8:
The following recipe, some call “Depression Cake,” but as we didn’t like the name “Depression,” we call it “Oh, So Good.” It is made without eggs or milk, and very economical:
Oh So Good Cake
Mix together
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
3 squares chocolate or
6 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins.  Stir over fire until it boils. Let cool and add
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
salt
vanilla. Bake in a shallow loaf pan in a moderate overn 350 degrees F. It needs no frosting.

The Jewish Examiner Prize Kosher Recipe Book
Volume I
Edited by “BALABUSTA”
Woman’s Page Editor of The Jewish Examiner
Brooklyn, New York: The Judea Publishing Corporation
1937
Pg. 16: 
Depression Cake
By Mrs. Manuel Sarasky
821 Cassatt St., Pittsburgh, Pa.
2 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups Jack Frost sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon lemon or orange extract
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour (dough slightly thicker than sponge cake)
2 cups water
3 tablespoons cocoa
Beat yolks well, combine with sugar, fold in well-beaten egg whites, pour oil and mix thoroughly. Add soda, baking powder and fruit. Sift flour, add alternately water and flour until batter is fairly thick. Take about seven tablespoonfuls of batter, mix well with the cocoa, giving you two batters, light and dark.

Now grease pan and pour on layer of light batter and dark batter alternately. Bake one hour.

OCLC WorldCat record
Whistleberries, stirabout, & depression cake
Author: Edward B Reynolds; Michael Kennedy; Federal Writers’ Project.
Publisher: Helena, MT : Three Forks, 2000.
Edition/Format:  Book : English

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Monday, January 10, 2011 • Permalink