Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ode To War Cake

With the aid of social media, today is the day one gets to see just how many interesting and unique desserts families prepare for their Christmas celebrations.  There are countless types of cakes and cookies people seem to like to make, panattone, fudge, struffoli, gingerbread, all kinds of pie, and of course -- fruit cake.

In my family, we make something called War Cake.  Sounds scary, right?  Well, it really isn't.  It is one big chocolate, spicy, raisin-ey sticky-sweet moist taste of deliciousness.  Why the heck is it called War Cake, then?  Well, I will get to that later.

Ok, so the origin of War Cake in my family begins with my grandmother, Mabel.  Like any true Italian grandmother, Mabel used to bake - and bake War Cake -- from memory.  Yeah, that's right, a pinch of this and a handful of that.  As you can imagine, the problem with this is nobody else can ever duplicate it!  My brother, knowing that this was an unsustainable, begged and pleaded with Mabel to give him the recipe - and to write it down.  After many years of imploring, Mabel finally relented and gave him the War Cake recipe for Christmas - incidentally the year I was born.  Hallelujah!  There was much rejoicing!  New baby sister and the much-sought-after-recipe.  My brother dutifully typed it up and made copies for all interested family members.  And to this day, my mother (Mabel's daughter) bakes a War Cake for each my birthday and my son's birthday each year.

So where was I?  Oh yeah, the origin of the name War Cake.  Apparently, back in the days of WWI, certain food items had to be rationed: eggs, milk, and butter in particular.  As a result, people started to experiment making dishes without those food items.  Lo and behold, it was then that they invented the recipe for War Cake: a cake that does not contain eggs, milk, or butter!  And it is absolutely delicious!

Fast forward to 2013, and one has the ability to search the wonderful world wide web and discover just how many other families have continued making this delicious cake that was borne out of such a difficult time in history.  Here is what Wikipedia has to say:

In a pamphlet distributed by the United States Food Administration in 1918 entitled “War Economy in         Food,” War Cake is listed under “Recipes for Conservation Sweets.” The United States Food Administration stressed the importance of reducing sugar consumption during the war and offered molasses, corn syrup, and raisins in its place.

So there you have it, a bonafide Wiki definition for a home recipe that has been passed down for generations!  I am, of course, attaching our family's version of the recipe for you all to create and enjoy.  Here's to you, Mabel Garbarini McGuire!
-- Eve

No comments:

Post a Comment