A ‘Depression Cake’ for Our Recession Aches

Every day I watch the stock market fluctuate and my heart races when it dips. Our economy is screwed and my hard-earned retirement savings are now half of what it had been just months ago. Obviously, I’m not alone and we all are experiencing a variety of economic issues in our lives. I’ve resisted the urge to speak my mind about politics on my blog … *sigh* … and I’m continuing to resist the urge now … but I can hardly wait for next Tuesday’s Presidential election.

On a positive (and food-related) note, I held my ‘Making History’ event on my other blog where readers made an old recipe and shared their results (view recipe round-up) . Ginny from Just Get Floury enlisted her mother to participate (how cool is that?) and her recipe struck a chord with me. Ginny’s mother shared a recipe she lost and later found for ‘Depression Cake‘ (also known as Fruitcake Bars). I remember having something very similar while growing up but we called it simply, Snacking-Cake. I decided it would be the perfect thing to make this week to take my mind off the economy.

The recipe appears to have been created during the 1930s economic depression when eggs and butter were scarce. The cake utilizes a boiled mixture of sugar, dried fruit and shortening. The boiled mix is allowed to cool and is then mixed with the dry ingredients and baked. The outcome is a moist and fragrant cake which is perfect for snacking.

My great-grandmother made a similar recipe (since lost) which she called a snacking cake. I think it’s because the cake is baked in a 9×13 pan similar to brownies. You can cut it in small squares or bars and munch on it for a delicious snack. I’ve enjoyed eating it with my morning coffee every day this week. See, the hidden brilliance of this recipe is that if you call it fruitcake ‘bars’ or ‘snacking’ cake then you can eat it at ANY time of day. It’s no longer reserved for dessert only!

I made the recipe as Ginny’s mother’s recipe is written. I didn’t have raisins on hand so I used a mix of chopped dates, apricots, and prunes. I also opted to not make the frosting in order to save myself a few calories. However, with frosting the cake would have been gone in half the time :-)

Oh, I nearly forgot … I made one more alteration to the recipe. I happened to have a fresh pear which was going downhill quickly. As I cooked the wet ingredients for the cake, I saw it sitting in a bowl on the counter. I grabbed the pear and sliced it into thin pieces and dropped into the mix as I brought it up to a boil. Ok, that’s it. Those are the only changes I made.

I have a fascination with old recipes like this one. I love the historic use of ingredients like brown sugar, molasses, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, dates, walnuts and other brown things :-) I’ve been on a brown food kick lately as my Pumpkin Pie and Gingersnaps prove.

Hmmm, what brown food should I make next?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Peter G October 30, 2008, 9:50 pm

    This is a lovely cake for “hard times” Allen…I think we’re all going to have to get more creative in the near future.

  • Manggy October 30, 2008, 10:16 pm

    Very cool indeed, Allen (Hi Ginny! How’s law school?). Must be the 4 6-1/2 year-olds in me (add them all up…) but I miss the sprinkles, ha ha. For your next brown food, might I suggest fresh sausage? Are the savings worth it?
    Sorry to hear about your retirement savings :(

  • Ben October 31, 2008, 10:25 am

    A depression cake, LOL. Sometimes I just wanna hide and forget about the world, but cooking and baking is very therapeutic, isn’t it?

  • Gera October 31, 2008, 10:26 am

    Hi Allen!

    So sorry to hear the problem with your retirement savings :( unfortunately the crisis is now global and it’s striking everywhere, including my country, with lost of jobs also…

    On the other side wonderful! you’re having very good feedback in your other blog :)

    The “Depression cake” is totally valid nowadays -looks delectable especially for these great ingredients!
    As you’re in brown-wavelength perhaps, something with chocolate, next? ;)

  • Melissa October 31, 2008, 2:05 pm

    Ooh, ooh, Boston brown bread! Peanut butter something! Baked beans! Hush puppies! They’re brown on the outside.

  • Ginny October 31, 2008, 8:16 pm

    I am so glad that you tried it! My mother will be thrilled! Aren’t they amazing! We will have to try your changes! :)

  • Mediterranean Turkish Cook November 1, 2008, 8:13 am

    First of all, I really like your blog. I also browsed through the Turkish recipes you’ve posted and I must say…very well done.

    It is very difficult to see all our hard-earned savings disaapear. Cooking is a great way to get your mind off of all these problems with the economy. This depression cake recipe goes perfectly with this timing.

  • Cynthia November 2, 2008, 2:37 pm

    Well if this is the kind of stuff I can have during a recession and depression, sign me up! :)

  • [eatingclub] vancouver || js November 2, 2008, 4:33 pm

    These look wonderful. I’m just crossing my fingers about the economy. Here’s to hope.

  • Steamy Kitchen November 6, 2008, 12:41 am

    honey, I just wanted to say hi and tell ya that i am pissed about prop8 as well. i grew up in north platte nebraska in the 70’s where we were the ONLY asians in the whole entire town and i can’t tell you how many times other kids and adults would treat us differently and constantly remind us that we were ‘lesser’ folks. can’t even begin to imagine if our world back then had laws forbidding some of our rights.

    keep fightin’….

  • JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen November 6, 2008, 7:22 am

    Loved your post on Prop 8!!! Just commenting my support of all marriages no matter what shape or form!!!

  • hanne November 6, 2008, 11:58 am

    I love simple cakes like this. As far as the economy goes… oof. I just keep telling myself that at least I know how to cook. That should help, anyway.

  • Tina Lavelle November 6, 2008, 2:29 pm

    Hi Alan,

    RIGHT THE FUCK ON MY FRIEND! I just got engaged to my boyfriend a few weeks ago and was so happy. Then this whole thing went down with Prop 8 and I was floored. I couldn’t believe it. This injustice is NOT okay and I have a feeling it will be overturned. I am so sorry that you and your partner are having to go through this but what a great, positive creative way to express your opinion! I’m on board! I have sent your post to all my friends and family. We support you 110%! GO get them!

  • dirtykitchensecrets December 15, 2008, 9:21 am

    Hello and thanks for sharing some baking love during these hard times… I and many others in my family have been hit by all this mayhem as well :( Photos look scrummy! Love your blog!

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