Poor Man's Cake

Photo Credit
Sam Jones/Quinn Brein
12 to 15 servings
Ruth Gagen Brentwood Historical Society, Brentwood, New Hamp

Poor Man's Cake

Why do we call this recipe Poor Man's Cake? It's a vintage cake recipe created during the Depression Era during the 1930s. The "poor man" refers to the ingredients; no butter, milk, nor eggs needed! Clearly, this doesn't seem to affect the taste because it's the best cake ever!

Most of these ingredients should be found right in the pantry. Just add raisins—which you boil for plumpness. If you wish, you could always add walnuts. 

It's fine without frosting but we like to pair the cake with a cream cheese frosting, such as the one we use on our Best Ever Carrot Cake. If you don't have frosting, a sprinkling of powdered sugar works, too.

Enjoy this old-fashioned cake! We're so glad that we rediscovered it in our recipe archives. It's a keeper!

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.


Janet (not verified)

7 months 1 week ago

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.

Judith A Chisholm (not verified)

7 months 1 week ago

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

Diane (not verified)

7 months 1 week ago

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

Ellie (not verified)

7 months 1 week ago

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.

Cindy (not verified)

7 months 1 week ago

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.