Brown Cake



Source of recipe

This cake comes from the Aberystwyth 1917 War Hints and Recipes . It’s an odd recipe because, although it contains no eggs (easily available in 1917 Aberystwyth, surely?), it does contain vast quantities of spices and orange peel (!) which would have to be imported by ships endangered by the German submarine blockade, so I’m not sure how it helped the war effort.

The raising agents are baking soda and cream of tartar ( baking powder provides a modern equivalent ) mixed with buttermilk or ‘sweet ‘( i.e. new ) milk. This is a combination used today in making scones.

The quantities of spice are phenomenal – an ounce of cinnamon, an ounce of ground ginger and a whole nutmeg! I was nonplussed about the orange peel and used candied peel instead – surely the recipe couldn’t call for orange peel? The orange zest is lovely but the white pith inside is horribly bitter.

brown-cake-1917-texture-2The cake took two hours to cook at about 180° for the first hour and 160° for the second hour. The outside was very solid but the inside was nicely cooked. I found this cake overwhelmingly spicy but tried it on members of Ceredigion Local History Forum, and no-one said it was horrible. I suspect it may keep well if placed in an airtight tin.

Miss Marshall, who donated this recipe, may have been Ethel, the ‘clerk and telegraphist’ who was presumably working for the Post Office . She was originally from Barnsley, Yorkshire and appears in the 1911 census living in Northgate Street, Aberystwyth.




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1 Response to Brown Cake

  1. Sarah Chubb says:

    I’ve recently been looking at recipes for First World War trench cake, which people sent to their loved ones fighting in the trenches, and they seem pretty similar. They also don’t use eggs, but rely on bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to make them rise – presumably doing without eggs made them last longer, or maybe the cake’s solidity helped it survive the rigours of a journey overseas.


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