Warm your spirits with Depression era rum-raisin cake

Yankee Chef logoBy Jim Bailey

Depression cake was a popular treat during, of course, the Depression era here in the United States.

It didn’t include eggs, butter and milk because these were rationed and expensive during this time. On the same hand, apples were abundant, cheap and used excessively.

The topping of boiled raisins actually far predates this cake, back to a little earlier than the Civil War, with the popularity of the boiled raisin cake. You will notice, as well, that there is no other leavening agent other than a pinch of baking soda. You won’t believe the reaction of soda and vinegar in this recipe. This cake is higher than if you used baking powder or eggs. And the texture is out of this world, not to mention the taste.

Moist and delicious rum raisin cake.

Moist and delicious rum raisin cake.


1/2 cup raisins
3 cups apple juice or cider
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup crushed graham crackers
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons rum extract*
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 cups apple sauce

Make Spiced Raisin Sauce by boiling raisins, apple juice and cloves in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 15 minutes, adding more juice if needed to keep liquid just above raisins. Remove, stir in lemon juice and transfer to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least six hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. In a large bowl, add flour, graham crackers, sugar, baking soda and cinnamon; mix well. Add apple sauce, maple syrup, oil, vanilla and vinegar, stirring into the flour mixture until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake 36-38 minutes, or until nicely browned on top and it springs back when touched in the middle. Remove from oven to cool slightly before transferring to a plate or serving platter.

Remove Spiced Raisin Sauce from refrigerator, stir to combine and serve over cake to serve. Add whipped topping if desired. This cake is also great serving right out oven and warming raisin sauce before spooning over cake slices.

*Substitute vanilla or almond extract if desired. Old recipes for this cake often included alcoholic rum and you desire to use this, simply replace the milk with 1/4 cup dark or flavored rum.

Yankee Chef book coverSchiffer Books of Pennsylvania has released Jim Bailey’s new book The Yankee Chef: Feel Good Food for Every Kitchen. It contains more than 550 traditional New England comfort-food recipes tweaked for today’s palates with hundreds of kitchen tips and food facts. The hardback book is 312 pages and contains 200 color images. Its ISBN is 978-0-7643-4191-5 and the cost is $34.99. The book can be ordered through Misty Valley Books, 802-875-3400.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeThe Yankee Chef

About the Author: Jim Bailey is a third generation Yankee Chef, New England food historian and newspaper columnist. His first cookbook, simply titled The Yankee Chef, has been published. He welcomes all feedback, questions or comments at theyankeechef@aol.com.

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