Poor Man's Cake

Recipe for Poor Man's Cake
Sam Jones/Quinn Brein


2 cups brown sugar
2 cups hot water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 package (15 ounces) raisins
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water
cream cheese frosting (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan.

In a pan, combine brown sugar, hot water, salt, shortening, raisins, and spices. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

In a bowl, combine flour and dissolved baking soda, add to the batter, and mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan. Frost, if desired.


12 to 15 servings

Reader Comments

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Poor mans cake

My gram called it spice cake ...... to use less sugar and save money she kept jelly jars in the fridge and used the water to rinse them into the batter .... it’s also called war cake .

need recipe for cake popular in 50s in WV, PA

Anyone have a recipe for an Orange Kis-Me Cake? Had orange rind (zest), spices, dried fruit, was color of spice cake and was laced with orange juice after baking.

Poor man's cake

I'm not fond of raisins, and I was wondering if you think dried
cranberries /craisins would work?
Thank you


Can cooking oil be used instead of the shortening. Do not want to buy shortening for one recipe

A&P raisin cake

The A&P grocery store had raisin cake baked in a loaf pan with a white frosting, it was my grandmother's favorite cake and very similar to this one. I found a recipe for it in the 1952 Good Housekeeping cookbook.

Grandma's Lead Cake

my Grandma had a recipe like this. It was called "Lead Cake" because when you picked it up it was heavy.

Poor Man’s Cake

Do I need to make any changes in the amounts of certain ingredients or add anything to bake this at 5100 ft. altitude?

poor man's cake

Yes, I remember that cake and I think I still have the recipe for it. We were poor but we didn't thik so. We always had enough of what we needed - but not always what we wanted. My sister's hand me down shoes fit her narrow feet but not my wider feet - tough.

Poor Mans Cake

This is a cake we have always made for the holidays. It truly is the best. I am now trying to get this working with Gluten free flour.

Depression cake

Agree w another reader.... my mother made this “ boiled cake”! Often at Christmas.

"Man's cake"

My neighbor used to talk about his favorite "Man's Cake". it looked a lot like this recipe but used mincemeat? Anyone ever hear of this and have the recipe?

Sweet memories

My Gram often made this cake many years ago. Brings back so many sweet memories. I’ll definitely try it and see if it’s the same

Poor Man's Cake

My mother in law gave me this recipe in the 60s and it called for lard instead of shortening. It's delicious but I haven't made it in years.

This is the same as my Grandma's Boiled Cake!

This is exactly the same as my Grandma's Boiled Cake! The only difference is that her recipe only made an 8x8 size cake, so it is great to have this recipe that makes a 9x13! Thank you so much for posting it!

Poor Mans Cake

This is very similar to Eggless Milkless Spice Cake in the Joy of Cooking cookbook. An easy to make cake and delicious, even without frosting.

Original date of Poor Man's Cake

It's also called Canadian War Cake, and under that name predates the depression by about 13 years.

Poor Man's Cake

Can you use dates or plums instead of the raisins. Maybe figs also? I don't like raisins. Thank you.

Poor Man’s Cake

This was a family staple for al long as I can recall (I’m 68) especially at Easter when we decorated it with jelly beans & Peeps. We called it Yum Yum Cake..We also added 1 small can of drained pineapple to it...I make it to this day...

Poor Man's Cake

Finally made this, it is delicious, reminds me of the Spice Cake bar that was sold in A & P a LONG time ago. Had to bake it 43 minutes, batter was soupy in the middle after 30 minutes. Will make again.

Poor mans cake

Looks really good but I do not like raisins could I use craisins instead

Poor Man's Cake Ingredient Substitution

Could butter be used in place of the shortening? Thanks in advance.

poor man's cake recipe

The Editors's picture

Yes, you can sub butter. Enjoy!

Poor man's cake gluten-free ?

Do I dare try and make this with a gluten-free flour blend ?

gluten free flour in cake

The Editors's picture

We have not made the recipe with gluten free flour so we can’t say if it will yield the same results. You can experiment and see how you like it. Good luck!

Poor Mans Cake.

The recipe looks like what I remember except for hot water I am going to try hot coffee. Thanks

Poor Man's Cake

I used to make this cake for my father in law using his mother's recipe. The only difference was that she added black walnuts from the tree in their yard. Of course, the cake became more expensive after the depression with the raisins and nuts. If we did not have the black walnuts we also used pecans which I preferred, but no the rest of the family!

Depression Cake

I think this is what my mother-in-law used to call "War Cake" since it didn't have eggs or white sugar, which were in short supply due to the war

My mom made this cake special

My mom made this cake special for me ...she came through the depression and I know it was everything for them to have this specialty in tough times..thank you


3/4 cup raisins
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
1 egg
1-1/2 cups applesauce
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup boiling water
Confectioners' sugar, optional
Place raisins and hot water in a small bowl; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients except last three. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water; add to batter. Mix well. Drain softened raisins and fold into batter. Pour into a greased and floured 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan.
Bake at 300° for 40 minutes. If desired, dust top with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm or cold. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 12-16 servings.

Does anybody have the recipe

Does anybody have the recipe for the applesauce cake that grandma used to make