Book excerpt

Grandma's Wartime Baking Book

World War II and the Way We Baked

Joanne Lamb Hayes

St. Martin's Press

Grandma's Wartime Baking Book: World War II and the Way We Baked
1Victory CakesCELEBRATION LAYERS AND LOAVES"Cocoanut" Cake Creole Layer Cake Ginger-Raisin Cake Harvest Cake Hurry Scurry Cake Jiffy Cake Lafayette Gingerbread Mincemeat Fruit Cake Molasses Bread Crumb Cake Raisin Fruitcake Red Devil's Food Cake Service Cake Sugarless chocolate Cake Sweet Potato Victory Cake Three-Way Cake War Cake Wedding CakeWARTIME SPECIAL 
Blueberry-Honey CakeA HOMEMADE CAKE for dessert makes an occasion out of an ordinary meal. Through the busiest and the hardest of times, American bakers have always found a way to create these comforting sweets for families and friends. "War" cakes and "Victory" cakes were developed during World War I, and those recipes were still a part of the repertoire of most home bakers when it again became necessary to find recipes that limited the use of ingredients that were difficult to find as well as those that were rationed. The terms are applied to many recipes; the main criteria was that they substitute ingredients that are likely to be available for those that are scarce or rationed. They represent creativity derived from necessity, and sometimes the comforting flavors that result make the cake a permanent part of our national culinary heritage.One of the biggest helps home bakers had in coping with the uneven availability of ingredients was the great variety of cake recipes that were developed to deal with different shortages. There were cakes that used corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, brown sugar, boiled raisins, the heavy syrup from canned foods, and other commercially sweetened products in place of sugar. While most cake recipes substituted vegetable shortening for butter, there were some cakes that called for vegetable oil, lard, or chicken fat. Because sugar and fat are the ingredients that make baked products tender, most recipes were only severely restricted in one or the other in the hopes that if the baker was low on sugar, there was a little extra shortening in the house that week and the recipe higher in fat could be used. Recipes using no eggs are likely to have been carried over from the First World War, when eggs were less available. During World War II, there was an adequate supply of eggs nationwide, but those recipes were still useful because local distribution was sometimes a problem. And, with gasoline rationed, it was impractical to drive around to find a grocer who had the item you were missing if you could do without it.During the war it was especially important to have a cake for celebrations. Magazine articles on entertaining and food advertisements often showed servicemen and their dates around an attractively set table with only a cake in the center. If the occasion was a wedding, the Christmas holiday, or a long-awaited furlough, it was often celebrated with a special cake made to prewar standards, even if the whole family had to pool ration coupons to get the sugar and butter. On other holidays, a molasses-sweetened treat decorated for the day was the star. Pound cake was the one cake that seemed to disappear "for the duration," probably because it called for a pound of butter and a pound of sugar.Most World War II cake bakers still remembered a time when cake baking was unpredictable because of the poorly formulated baking powders on the market. By the 1940s, baking powder was standardized and fairly reliable, making one-bowl and mixer cakes possible. Their success was a big help to busy homemakers. The cakes that follow are based on ones that appeared in pamphlets and periodicals of the period. Although some call for all-purpose flour, most use cake flour, which helps keep a cake tender when it is low in fat and sugar. Sifting the flour before measuring it was a standard technique at the time, and I have used it here in some cases, when it results in a better cake. If you don't have a sifter, you can press the flour through a strainer or remove and return to the container 1 tablespoon of the flour from each cup of unsifted flour after you have leveled it."The mixer is more than a tool, it's a friend; it will keep Your energy coot low Your success record high Your daughter on tiptoe to learn cakemaking"--Woman's Home Companion, October 1941"Cocoanut" CakeIn the 1940s coconut was often spelled with an a. This cake is quite different from the traditional white layers topped with sweet fluffy frosting and shredded fresh coconut that were familiar before the war. Although the availability of coconut must have been affected by the reassignment of merchant ships to military transport, coconut cakes appeared frequently in magazines and were promoted as "a taste of the tropics." This cake gets its sweetness from molasses, brown sugar, and the commercially sweetened coconut.2¼ cups unsifted all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon baking soda ¼ teaspoon salt ½ cup packed light brown sugar ¼ cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) ½ cup light molasses 1 large egg 2/3 cup milk 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut2 tablespoons confectioners' sugarPreheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Stir together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in a small bowl.Beat brown sugar and shortening in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed; gradually beat in molasses and egg. Add dry ingredients and milk to molasses mixture; beat on low speed until thoroughly blended. Fold in ¾ cup coconut.Transfer the batter to the greased pan; sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup coconut and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly pressed.Cool cake in pan 15 minutes. Remove to serving plate and serve warm or cool completely. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving. 
8 ServingsCreole Layer CakeIn this case the name "Creole" was associated with the Caribbean Islands and the molasses and spices that they were known for before the war. The photograph of this cake in the November 1942 issue of Better Homes and Gardens is captioned, "A dusky beauty, glamorous with spices." The use of dark corn syrup for a sweetener gives the cake a mellow, very mild molasses flavor that doesn't overwhelm the spices that provide its identity.2½ cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) 2 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon ¼ teaspoon baking soda ¼ teaspoon ground cloves ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg ¾ cup packed light brown sugar 1/3 cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) ½ cup dark corn syrup 2 large eggs, beaten 1 cup buttermilk Creole Frosting, recipe followsPreheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Line bottoms with wax paper or parchment and grease again. Sift or stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, soda, cloves, and nutmeg.Beat the brown sugar and shortening with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy; gradually beat in the corn syrup and eggs. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk and beat on low speed, scraping side of the bowl occasionally, just until smooth.Divide the batter into the prepared pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the centers spring back when lightly pressed.Cool layers in pans 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely. Fill and frost with Creole Frosting. Store in the refrigerator. 
Creole Frosting: Combine 1 cup heavy cream, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Beat until stiff peaks form; beat in ¼ cup dark corn syrup and 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
10 Servings"Good Eating depends on good cooking. Today--even more than ever before--good cooks appreciate good recipes. They want thoroughly tested interesting recipes they can count on for food that will be nourishing, appetizing, and readily digestible."--Recipes for Good Eating, 1945Ginger-Raisin CakeMolasses provides most of the sweetness and sour cream the richness in this quick spice cake. Frost it with Victory Frosting (page 44) for an unforbidden treat.2¾ cups unsifted cake flour 1 tablespoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt 1 cup light molasses 1 cup sour cream ¼ cup sugar 1 large egg ¾ cup dark seedless raisinsPreheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease two 9-inch round baking pans. Combine flour, ginger, cinnamon, soda, and salt in a sifter or stir together in a small bowl.Stir together molasses, sour cream, sugar, and egg in a medium bowl with a spoon. Sift or spoon dry ingredients over molasses mixture and stir until thoroughly blended; fold in raisins. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the centers spring back when lightly pressed.Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Remove to cooling rack and cool completely. Fill and frost with Victory Frosting. 
10 Servings"Cakes were masterpieces then: beautiful to behold and marvelous to eat. Nearly everyone occasionally likes to turn back time, to live vicariously in a pattern before the present."--Jeanne M. Hall and Belle Anderson Ebner, 500 Recipes by Request: From Mother Anderson's Famous Dutch Kitchens, 1948Harvest CakeAdapted from a 1943 cake flour advertisement, this recipe produces a spectacular three-layer cake using only ½ cup of shortening and a little added richness from the half-and-half. The original recipe suggested sifting the dry ingredients together three times before adding. This wasn't as time-consuming a task as it sounds. The ingredients could be measured directly into a special sifter that sifted through three screens at once. If you have a single-screen sifter you can sift just once; if you don't have a sifter, you can stir the dry ingredients together in a small bowl with a fork.½ cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) ¾ cup sugar 2 large eggs, separated 2½ cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) 3 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 1 cup half-and-half ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans 1 tablespoon grated orange peel ¼ teaspoon orange flavoring Yellow food coloringPreheat oven to 375°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans.Beat the shortening with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy; gradually beat in ¼ cup of the sugar. Beat in the egg yolks all at once. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a sifter and sift over shortening mixture; add the half-and-half and beat on low speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, just until smooth.With clean beaters, beat the egg whites at high speed in a medium bowl until they are fluffy. Very gradually beat in the remaining ½ cup sugar until the mixture is stiff; fold the beaten whites into the batter just until no white streaks remain.Remove one-third of the batter to a small bowl; stir in the vanilla and transfer to one of the prepared pans. Stir the nuts, orange peel, orange flavoring, and several drops foodcoloring into the remaining batter and divide between the 2 remaining prepared pans. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the centers spring back when lightly pressed.Cool layers in pans 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely before filling and frosting. Assemble with plain layer in the center. 
10 ServingsHurry Scurry CakeSpeed is the theme in this two-step cake. Young home-front warriors can be enlisted to snip the marshmallows. Be sure to use large marshmallows--the minis were not available, in the 1940s.2/3 cup sugar 1/3 cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) 1 large egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ¼ teaspoon salt 1½ cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) ½ cup milk 1½ teaspoons baking powder 10 marshmallows, cut in half with a moistened scissorsPreheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8- by 2-inch round baking pan.Combine sugar, shortening, egg, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Add flour, milk, and baking powder; increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes, scraping side of bowl occasionally.Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Arrange marshmallows on top, cut side down, and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted between marshmallows in the center comes out clean.Cool cake in pan 15 minutes before cutting. Cut into wedges and serve from pan. 
6 to 8 Servings"Sift flour just before using it. Then measure it, spooning it gently into the measuring cup. Using a spatula or knife, cut the excess flour off the top of the cup sharply."--Down-On-The-Farm Cook Book, 1943Jiffy CakeThis quick cake can be served warm as the base for a cottage pudding or shortcake or cooled and frosted. Jiffy cakes appeared in most wartime cookbooks. They relied on a new one-bowl technique using an electric mixer and were publicized by electric mixer manufacturers. However, I found in testing this recipe that I got a more tender cake when I just stirred it together with a fork--and it was even easier.1½ cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) ½ cup sugar 1½ teaspoons baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt ¾ cup milk ½ cup vegetable shortening or butter (or a mixture), melted 1 large egg, beaten 2 teaspoons vanilla extractPreheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add milk, shortening, egg, and vanilla. Beat with a fork until just combined--about 1 minute.Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly pressed.Cool in pan at least 5 minutes, then cut and serve warm with fruit topping. Or, remove to wire rack and cool completely, then frost. 
9 Servings"After the last war, eggs cost 92c a dozen, sugar 26c a pound. Let's make sure that the price control we have in this war continues to keep prices down!"--War Information News Service bulletin, November 1944Lafayette GingerbreadLafayette Gingerbread is well known in the South. It is reputed to be the cake served to Lafayette by George Washington's mother. The recipe was so famous by the 1940s that advertisements for a well-known gingerbread mix claimed on the label that it was "Washington's Mother's Own Recipe." The recipe that follows is adapted from one that appears in the community cookbook, "From North Carolina Kitchens: Favorite Recipes Old and New."½ cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) ½ cup packed light brown sugar 1 cup dark molasses 3 large eggs ½ cup milk ½ cup orange juice ½ cup coffee or water 3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons ground ginger 2 tablespoons grated orange peel 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 2 teaspoons ground mace 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg 1½ teaspoons baking soda ¼ teaspoon salt 1 cup dark seedless raisinsPreheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9-inch baking pan.Beat the shortening and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy; gradually beat in the molasses. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk, orange juice, and coffee one at a time. Then add the flour, ginger, orange peel, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, soda, and salt all at once and beat on low speed just until smooth. Fold in the raisins.Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly pressed.Cool in pan 5 minutes. Cut into 12 rectangles and serve warm. 
12 ServingsMincemeat Fruit CakeThis recipe, from a 1943 community cookbook, uses a clever trick for getting the fruit, spice, and additional sweetness into the cake using mincemeat and apple butter that are most likely already available, home canned, on pantry shelves. These days both are available in the supermarket. The note accompanying it says that "it can be served at once or aged as for ordinary fruit cake."2½ cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) 2 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon baking soda ¾ cup sugar ½ cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) 2 large eggs, beaten 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 pound mincemeat ½ cup apple butter 1 cup chopped nutsPreheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 10-inch tube pan; line bottom with wax paper or parchment and grease again. Sift or stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and soda.Beat the sugar and shortening with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy; gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients; beat on low speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, just until combined. Fold in mincemeat, apple butter, and nuts until thoroughly blended.Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and bake 60 to 65 minutes or until the top feels firm when lightly pressed.Cool cake in pan 15 minutes. Remove to wire rack and cool completely.Serve, or wrap in cheesecloth that has been soaked in brandy or other spirits, place in a tight container, and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
10 ServingsMolasses Bread Crumb CakeThis thrifty 1944 recipe certainly meets all the wartime guidelines. It uses very little shortening and sugar, incorporates nutritious whole wheat flour and molasses, can be assembled quickly, and even makes use of some day-old bread crumbs. This was originally topped with unbaked meringue, but Victory Frosting (page 44) is a safer option these days because the egg whites have been heated, and it provides a similar flavor. The corn flake topping is a creative wartime substitute for nuts.1 cup whole wheat flour ¼ cup sugar 2 teaspoons ginger ¾ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt ½ cup boiling water ¼ cup vegetable shortening or butter (or a mixture) ½ cup light molasses 1 large egg 1 cup day-old bread crumbs ¾ cup dark seedless raisins ½ recipe Victory Frosting ( page 44) ½ cup corn flakes 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped candied cherriesPreheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Stir together flour, sugar, ginger, soda, and salt in a small bowl.Pour boiling water over shortening in a large bowl; gradually beat in molasses and egg with a rotary beater or a whisk. Fold dry ingredients, crumbs, and raisins into molasses mixture until thoroughly blended.Transfer the batter to the greased pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly pressed.Cool cake in pan 15 minutes. Invert onto serving plate and cool completely. Frost top with Victory Frosting (see page 44), allowing it to drip down the side slightly. Sprinkle with corn flakes and cherries. 
8 ServingsRaisin FruitcakeThis simple fruitcake appeared in a December 1943 cake flour advertisement as a "Holiday Double Feature." Homemakers were told, "In a time of shortages, you daydream of a recipe like this! ... Few eggs, little sugar, little shortening--but you still get moist, mellow, rich-tasting cake ... ." They were advised to frost one loaf or top it with nuts for their holiday use and to leave the other one plain so it could be packed to "send away." Seeded raisins are not easy to find these days, but dark seedless ones may be substituted.4 cups seeded raisins 2¼ cups cold, strong coffee 2 tablespoons grated lemon or orange peel 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground allspice 2 cups walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts 4 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) 1½ cups sugar 5 teaspoons baking powder 2 teaspoons salt ½ cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) 2 large eggs, beaten 2 teaspoons vanilla extract Frosting or jam and chopped nuts, optionalCombine raisins, coffee, lemon peel, cinnamon, and allspice in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 8 minutes. Pour mixture into a colander or strainer over a bowl, catching liquid in a large measuring cup. Press raisins to release as much moisture as possible. Add additional coffee to measured liquid to make 1½ cups; set aside. Grind raisins and nuts in a grinder or finely chop in food processor.Meanwhile, grease two 9-inch loaf pans; line with parchment or aluminum foil and grease again. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Preheat oven to 350 °F.Beat shortening in a large bowl; beat in eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, andreserved liquid; beat just until thoroughly blended. Fold in raisin mixture. Divide batter between prepared loaf pans.Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.Cool to room temperature and serve or pack in an airtight container.Frost or spread with jam and top with nuts, if desired. 
16 ServingsRed Devil's Food CakeThe method for this cake was billed as "Mix-Easy" to meet the needs of the increasing number of working mothers who had very little time for baking, yet felt that it was a part of their patriotic duty to serve a complete meal, including dessert, every evening. It is good topped with a half-recipe of Peanut Butter-Condensed Milk Frosting and shaved chocolate or a half-recipe of Victory Frosting and crushed candy canes. I was surprised that the Red Devil's Food Cake recipes I found in wartime cookbooks did not include red food coloring as is sometimes done today. The name comes from the fact that the interaction of cocoa and baking soda produces a beautiful reddish-brown cake without adding color. The earliest recipe I have found that includes artificial color was published in the mid-1960s.1½ cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) 1 cup sugar ¾ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt ¾ cup boiling water 2 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped ½ cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) 2 large eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla extractPreheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Combine flour, sugar, soda, and salt in a sifter. Stir together water and chocolate in a small bowl until chocolate has melted; set aside.Beat the shortening in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy; beat in eggs and vanilla all at once. Sift the dry ingredients over the shortening mixture. Add the chocolate mixture; beat on low speed just until smooth.Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly pressed.Cool cake in pan 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely before frosting. 
9 ServingsService CakeBased on a recipe from a Betty Crocker pamphlet called "Your Share," this versatile cake "serves" as the basis for other desserts. It can be enjoyed plain as a "farm" cake, frosted with a half recipe of frosting; as a cottage pudding with a fruit or chocolate sauce; or baked with a crumb, coconut, or nut topping.11/3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour 1½ teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 2/3 cup sugar 1/3 cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) 2 large eggs ½ cup milk 1½ teaspoons vanilla extractPreheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8- by 2-inch round baking pan. Sift or stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.Beat the sugar and shortening with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy; beat in the eggs all at once. Add the dry ingredients, milk, and vanilla; beat on low speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, just until smooth.Transfer the batter to the greased pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly pressed.Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove to wire rack and cool at least 15 minutes before serving warm, or cool completely to frost. 
8 ServingsSugarless Chocolate CakeThe meringue method, in which corn syrup is gradually beaten into egg whites, not only makes it possible to produce a tender cake using no granulated sugar, but it increases the volume of the layers in comparison to those made with granulated sugar and unbeaten eggs. This recipe can be used to make yellow cake layers by eliminating the chocolate and adding ¼ cup sifted cake flour. In this recipe it is very important to use cake flour, not all-purpose flour, and to sift it so that it is not packed in the cup.2¾ cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) 3 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt ½ cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) 1½ cups light corn syrup 3 large eggs, separated ¾ cup milk 4 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, melted 2 teaspoons vanilla extractPreheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round baking pans and line with waxed paper or parchment; grease paper. Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.Beat the shortening with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy; gradually beat in ¾ cup of the corn syrup. Beat in the egg yolks all at once. Add the dry ingredients, milk, chocolate, and vanilla; beat on low speed just until smooth.With clean beaters, beat the egg whites at high speed in a medium bowl until they are fluffy. Very gradually beat in the remaining ¾ cup corn syrup until the mixture is stiff; fold the beaten whites into the chocolate batter just until no white streaks remain.Divide the batter into the prepared pans and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the centers spring back when lightly pressed.Cool layers in pans 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely before filling and frosting. 
10 ServingsSweet Potato Victory CakeLight on both sugar and butter, this easy one-bowl cake was a perfect solution to the problem of providing a sweet dessert during World War II. It could be assembled quickly by a busy home-front cook, and chances are the sweet potatoes came from a backyard Victory Garden.1 cup mashed sweet potatoes, warm 2/3 cup sugar ¼ cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) 3 tablespoons lemon juice 1 teaspoon cinnamon ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon nutmeg 2 large eggs 1½ cups unsifted all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder Confectioners' sugar or half recipe of frosting (see here)Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan. Beat the sweet potatoes, sugar, shortening, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sprinkle the flour and baking powder over the mixture and beat on low speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, just until smooth.Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly pressed.Cool cake in pan at least 5 minutes before cutting into 9 squares. Serve warm sprinkled with confectioners' sugar, or at room temperature topped with frosting. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator. 
9 ServingsThree-Way CakeWith just slightly reduced sugar and shortening, this basic yellow cake fit the bill during the early 1940s because it could be quickly and easily assembled when a celebration was in order. In an era before the widespread availability of cake mixes, the advertised reliability of the recipe gave novice bakers the confidence to give it a try. The name came from the advertisement's suggestion that the batter be divided into a small round pan, 6 cupcake pans, and a small loaf pan to make three different dessert presentations for three wartime dinners.3 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) 3 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 2/3 cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) 1 cup sugar 3 large eggs 1 cup milk 3 teaspoons vanilla extractPreheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans (or 1 round, 1 loaf, and 6 cupcake pans.) Sift or stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.Beat the shortening with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy; gradually beat in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients, milk, and vanilla; beat on low speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, just until smooth.Divide the batter into the prepared pans and bake layers 25 to 30 minutes or until the centers spring back when lightly pressed. (A 7-inch loaf cake should take about 35 minutes and cupcakes 18 to 20.)Cool cakes in pans 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely before filling, if necessary, and frosting. 
18 ServingsWar CakeThe name War Cake was used for several different cakes. All are sweetened by honey or molasses and are served with only a dusting of confectioners' sugar. This is the quickest version to prepare.2 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) 2 teaspoons baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt 2/3 cup vegetable shortening or softened butter (or a mixture) 1 cup honey 3 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Confectioners' sugar, optionalPreheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.Beat shortening in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed; gradually beat in honey, eggs, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined.Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Cut into rectangles and serve warm with a dusting of confectioners' sugar, if desired. 
6 to 8 Servings"Cakes are the cook's triumph. It takes skill, patience, and practice to turn out a perfect cake, but there is no other product so satisfying."--The New Hood Cook Book, 1941Wedding CakeA part of every family cookbook since the early nineteenth century, this 1-2-3-4 cake recipe was only used for a very special occasion during rationing. Wartime memoirs tell of the whole family contributing ration coupons in order to get the sugar for a wedding cake. Weddings were often small and quickly planned to coincide with a serviceman's furlough. The cake was definitely the centerpiece of the wedding reception, and was often the only food served, accompanied by a bowl of punch.2 cups sugar 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened 4 large eggs, separated 3 cups sifted cake flour (sift before measuring) 3 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt 1 cup milk 2 teaspoons vanilla extract Desired frosting (see here)Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round baking pans.Beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy; gradually beat in the egg yolks. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a sifter or sieve; sift over the sugar mixture; then add milk and vanilla and beat on low speed just until smooth.With clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form; fold beaten whites into batter and divide into the prepared pans.Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the centers spring back when lightly pressed.Cool layers in pans 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely before filling and frosting. 
12 ServingsWARTIME SPECIALBlueberry-Honey CakeAlthough I remember my grandmother making her sugar cookies with chicken fat, and have frequently seen it listed as an alternate for butter in recipes, very few recipes were published that actually called for chicken fat. Since it was usually made at home, it was not in short supply. This recipe is based on one from the February 1943 issue of Farm Journal and Farmer's Wife that also uses honey and home-canned berries or cherries. Serve this cake with colorful lemonade that has been sweetened with the syrup from the jar of fruit and you are truly a home-front hero.2¾ cups unsifted all-purpose flour 3 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon ½ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 cup honey 2/3 cup chicken fat (or butter), softened 2 large eggs 2/3 cup milk 1 cup drained canned blueberries, blackberries, or cherries Penuche Frosting (recipe follows)Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round baking pans. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.Beat the honey and chicken fat or butter with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy; beat in the eggs all at once. Spoon the dry ingredients over the honey mixture; add the milk and beat on low speed, scraping side of bowl occasionally, just until smooth. Fold in the berries.Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the centers spring back when lightly pressed.Cool layers in pans 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely.Fill between layers and frost just the top with Frosting. 
Penuche Frosting: Combine 2 cups packed light brown sugar, ½ cup milk, ¼ cup shortening or butter, and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook to 220°F, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and beat until thick and spreadable. 
10 Servings"Butter is preferable to any other shortening, but if the food allowance does not permit the use of butter, then a vegetable shortening should be used. One good plan is to use half-and-half, butter and vegetable shortening. In this manner the good flavor of the butter in the cake is secured."--Army Mess Management Simplified, 1942GRANDMA'S WARTIME BAKING BOOK. Copyright © 2003 by Joanne Lamb Hayes. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010. Joanne Lamb Hayes is the author of seven previous cookbooks, including Grandma's Wartime Kitchen, named one of the best cookbooks of the year by People. She holds a Ph.D. from New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, teaches both academic and recreational food courses. She lives in New York City.