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Watch the “You Won’t Believe This War Cake Recipe – No Eggs, No Butter, No Sugar! Poor Man’s Boiled Cake” video

During World War 1, baking ingredients, such as flour, butter, eggs, and sugar, were rationed or in short supply. So, making creative use of the ingredients they had, home cooks of that era baked War Cake, and that’s the innovative recipe that I’m excited to show you today.

This recipe helped home cooks make a flavorful dessert for their families during WWI, and thanks to their ingenuity, they created a recipe that continued to be popular through the Great Depression and World War 2. This War Cake recipe fed millions, and it is still popular today.

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What Is War Cake?

War Cake (sometimes referred to as Poor Man’s Boiled Raisin Cake) is a simple round or loaf pan style quick bread that shares the characteristics of peanut butter bread or banana bread. It’s sweet like cake but forgoes the layers and icing typical of what many of us think of when we hear the term cake. However, even though this simple quick bread may lack icing, it is a delicious cake that is both tender and moist thanks to the boiled raisins.

War Cake owes its popularity due to its tastiness and because it uses cheap yet nutritious ingredients. It’s still made today because it requires no eggs and no butter, so it’s a cost-effective and delicious dessert to enjoy anytime, especially during these inflationary times!

What Type of Fat Is Used to Make War Cake?

With the food rationing during World War 1, home cooks had to be very clever when cooking or baking with the ingredients that were available to them. They used every last bit of food in some way, and all fat—whether rendered from a bit of bacon, some ground beef, or a roast chicken—was put to good use in various ways when cooking.

My maternal grandmother Louise was occasionally able to buy a leg of mutton (older sheep meat) during times of rationing. Mutton was more available to her and less expensive than beef. So when she slow roasted a leg of mutton to tenderize it, she saved all the fat that was rendered from it. She used this fat to sauté vegetables and make baked goods.

In this War Cake recipe, I use my saved bacon grease as my animal fat ingredient. Would using animal fats from bacon or mutton impart a taste to baked goods? Yes, but thanks to the use of lots of spices in their recipes, as with this War Cake recipe, home cooks were able to hide the taste of animal fats in their baked goods.

What Type of Sweetener Is Used to Make War Cake?

Making use of the ingredients readily available to home cooks during WWI and The Great Depression, this War Cake recipe uses molasses instead of sugar as a sweetener. (I used unsulphured molasses, not blackstrap. Alternatively, you can use honey or another liquid sweetener.) As I explain in this section, white sugar was hard to come by, so home cooks had to be creative.

Making the Most of the Ingredients You Have

I remember the stories my parents shared with me of living during The Great Depression. Their experiences with hardship and scarcity left such an impression on me. My mom made many of the recipes she grew up with, and I learned the importance of not wasting and creatively using the ingredients we had.

Since I first helped my mom in her kitchen, I’ve always been interested in the home cook’s experience during The Great Depression and both world wars. As I researched the recipes of these eras, I was fascinated to learn the various ways home cooks conserved their use of white sugar by using alternative sweeteners.

During The Great Depression, white sugar was expensive, and during WWI and WWII, sugar was tightly controlled through rationing. Much of the white sugar processed in the United States was sent overseas to use in baked goods to feed the troops and our allies.

When home cooks were able to acquire some white sugar, they generally reserved it for their home canning needs since sugar is an essential ingredient in preserves. So they had to be creative when it came to baking or sweetening a cooked dish.

Choosing An Alternative Sweetener

The good news was that molasses was readily available and cheap, which was a godsend for families during the Depression. Molasses contains more nutrients than white sugar, and its availability during the war made it a go-to sweetener for many home cooks.

Additionally, depending on where in the United States families lived, home cooks could also choose from alternate sweeteners, such as syrups made from sorghum or barley. Honey was another acceptable alternative to white sugar.

Another popular way for home cooks to sweeten baked goods was to simmer fresh or dried fruit in water and allow the water to evaporate and concentrate to create a sweet syrup. Raisins were often used in this way, as we are using them to sweeten our War Cake.

Home cooks often used stewed prunes to create a rich sweet syrup similar to molasses. I remember my mother still doing this well into the 1970s by regularly stewing prunes and enjoying the sticky sweet syrup drizzled over the plumped prunes or as a complement to a bit of vanilla ice cream.

Whatever alternative sweetener option home cooks chose to use, the good news is that they were using a healthier alternative than plain white sugar. So along with using alternate flours, these alternate sweeteners made nutritious baked goods. So when you make this War Cake, just like they did back in the 1910s or 1940s, you can enjoy it guilt free!

What Type of Flour Is Used to Make War Cake?

White flour or plain flour, what we commonly know today as all-purpose flour, was heavily rationed during both world wars. The US government needed to send the flour overseas to feed our troops and allies. So this scarcity of plain flour required home cooks to learn how to bake with alternate types of flour.

The most common flours available in the US during the world war included:

  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
  • Cornmeal
  • Oats
  • Rye

This recipe for War Cake uses whole-grain rye flour and old-fashioned rolled oats. The oats help create a lighter texture to offset the use of the whole grain flour. And by substituting all-purpose flour with these whole grain alternatives, we are creating a much healthier cake, which makes it the perfect treat to serve our family and friends in our traditional foods kitchen.

Today, you can buy rye flour at most grocery stores, but to make this recipe even more economical, I grind my whole grain rye groats (rye berries) into freshly milled flour. These rye groats are less expensive to purchase than store-bought rye flour.

Grind Your Own Flour with the Mockmill

To grind my rye groats or berries, I could use my manual or electric grain mill. Since it’s much easier to grind grain to make flour with an electric grain mill, I keep my manual grain mill as a backup.

When it comes to electric grain mills, after I did A LOT of research, I decided to buy a Mockmill. And am I so happy I did! The Mockmill is a very affordable but beautifully crafted German-made mill that stone grinds grain with settings ranging from 1 to 10—fine to coarse ground grain. (I describe why I like to use setting 5 in my War Cake recipe video.)

And I have great news! The folks at Mockmill are very kind to offer my viewers and readers a special one-time discount on any of the grain mills that they sell.

Note: You can also get the new Flake Lover’s Flaker from Mockmill. Using this device, you can flake whole grain in minutes.

You can see me unbox and try out the Mockmill 100 Grain mill in the following video. (This is not a sponsored post, I bought the Mockmill products that I show you, and I’m a happy user of their devices in my kitchen.)

More Information About WWI Recipes

For more information about War Cake and WWI recipes, visit the following resources that I talk about in today’s video:

And if you’d like to browse more WWI posters and references, visit the US Library of Congress.

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How to Make War Cake (Poor Man’s Boiled Raisin Cake)

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: 16 slices
With food rationing in place during WWI, home cooks had to be very clever when cooking or baking with what was available to them. War Cake owes its popularity due to its tastiness and because it uses cheap yet nutritious ingredients. It's still made today because it requires no eggs and no butter, so it's a cost-effective and delicious dessert to enjoy anytime.


  • 1 medium saucepan
  • 2 loaf pans Alternatively, you can use one tube pan or one bundt pan.


  • 2 cups molasses I used unsulphured molasses, not blackstrap. Alternatively, you can use honey or another liquid sweetener.
  • 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups raisins, dark or golden
  • 1/2 cup fat I used bacon grease. You will need additional fat to grease the pan(s).
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg I substituted allspice
  • 3 cups rye flour You can substitute up to 1 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats for 1 cup of rye flour. This is what I did. You will need additional flour for dusting the pan.
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • powdered sugar, optional Also known as icing sugar.


  • Add the first eight ingredients to the saucepan and bring to a boil on the stovetop over high heat. Boil for 5 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C).
  • Grease the two loaf pans or one tube (or bundt) pan and dust with rye flour. Set aside. (In my recipe video, I use one tube pan.)
  • While the mixture is boiling, place the flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl and whisk together.
  • Remove the saucepan from the stovetop, place on a heatproof surface, and allow the mixture to cool.
  • Once the mixture has cooled, make a well in the flour and pour the wet mixture into the well. Mix together until the flour is completely incorporated and no streaks of flour can be seen. Do not over mix.
  • Divide the batter into two loaf pans or one tube (or bundt) pan. Smooth the top.
  • Place the pan(s) on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for approximately 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  • Using potholders, remove the pan(s) from the oven and let them cool on a heatproof surface for 10 minutes. Afterward, remove the cake from the pan(s), serve, dust with powdered sugar if desired, and enjoy!
  • Wrapped well, the cake can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days or two months in the freezer.



Find this recipe and video at
Copyright © 2023 Mary’s Nest, LLC, All Rights Reserved


Calories: 310kcal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 265mg | Potassium: 837mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 32g | Vitamin A: 0.5IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 127mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Baked Goods, Cakes
Cuisine: Americana
Calories: 310
Keyword: Boiled Raisin Cake, War Cake
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Disclaimer:I am not a medical doctor, a medical professional, a dietician, or a nutritionist. All content found on the website, including text, images, videos, eBooks or eGuides, social media, or other formats, were created solely for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or proper nutritional advice. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have watched in a video or read on this website. Use caution when following the recipe in this video. The creator and publisher of this video and website will not be held responsible for any adverse effects that may arise from the use of this recipe and method or any other recipe and method on this website or corresponding video channel.

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  1. My Mum and Grandma made Wacky Cake and Tomato Soup Cake, no recipe for War Cake existed in our house and I’m glad to find this one

    1. Hi Lois,

      Thanks for your comment. Both of those dishes sound very intriguing! I hope you enjoy this War Cake recipe. 🙂

      Love and God bless,

  2. I have not made this cake yet.
    I was wondering about the Cholesterol that is in all the natural animal fats–all the drippings from bacon, pork, and beef. I need to watch my cholesterol intake, and I am sure many others do too.
    Will the cake still be tasty if I use Coconut Oil?
    Thank you for your recipes. Love your channel.

    1. Hi Joyce,

      Instead of bacon grease, you could try a 1/2 cup of butter. I have not tried making this recipe with coconut oil. If you try it, please let us know if you like it or would recommend a different ingredient.

      Thanks for your kind comment. I’m happy we’re on this traditional foods journey together!

      Love and God bless,

  3. My family passed down this recipe using all purpose flour and baking in a 9″x13″ pan. When I use 2 c sugar, the water increases to 2 c, the shortening increases to 1 c, and we use 2 tsp baking soda – no baking powder. We sometimes add chopped nuts. Bake at 350°F ~35minutes. Mom just called it boiled raisin cake.

    1. Hi Laurie,

      Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing your family’s recipe. Adding chopped nuts is a nice touch!

      Love and God bless,

    1. Hi Shari,

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’m so glad we’re on this traditional foods journey together! 🙂

      Love and God bless,

  4. These old war era recipes make me chuckle. The cost of molasses and raisins in Canada make this an extremely cost restrictive recipe. Better off spending money on eggs and sugar. Way cheaper.

    1. Hi Andre,

      Yes. The prices of ingredients can vary over time. A hundred or so years ago, it was hard to get eggs and sugar, but yes, they may be cheaper than other ingredients now. Sometimes it’s fun to try old recipes with their original ingredients to get a taste of the time, which oftentimes can be more nutritious than the fare we’re used to.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Love and God bless,

  5. How does one adapt this for sugar as it’s much cheaper than molasses? Molasses is thought of as a healthfood so they charge huge amount. I’m talking the non-blackstrap molasses.
    Could u taste the bacon grease? I can’t imagine sacrificing all that bacon grease in one recipe! It’s a lifesaver in my kitchen!

    1. Hi Hélène,

      Instead of molasses, you could try a different liquid sweetener, such as honey. Molasses contains more nutrients than white sugar. Yes. The cost of ingredients, as well as their availability, can change over time. Making this cake with the original ingredients gives us a glimpse and a taste of what generations in the past made for their families with all that they had or could get.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Love and God bless,

  6. I need to substitute the bread since I’m gluten free. And the sugar – can I use monk fruit?

    1. Hi Ann,

      I have not tried this recipe with a gluten-free flour or monk fruit. If you try it with those ingredients, please let us know if you like it or would recommend different ingredients.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Love and God bless,

  7. 5 stars
    Mary, you’ll get a kick outta this…when I first saw your photo of advertising about the War Time cake recipe at the top of this page I saw you and saw your arm and I told my husband that you got a TATTOO on your arm!!! UGH. It was the LOGO showing up on the photo. I felt like a nit whit. Haahaahaaa! And of course my husband, who also gets a kick outta your “hello sweet friends” thought it would be a taboo for you to get a tattoo since you are the hallmark of class in the kitchen. Blessings, sweet friend, Sherri Becker from Woodland Hills Homestead in Trego, Wisconsin.

    1. Hi Sherri,

      Haha. Yes! Other sweet friends have also shared their initial surprise with me. My logo shows up in my pictures in odd places sometimes. I want to reassure you that I haven’t gotten a tattoo. 🙂

      Thank you so much for your fun comment. Please give your husband a big hug. I’m so glad that we’re on this traditional foods journey together!

      Love and God bless,

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