Wednesday, 13 August 2014

WW1 Bakery ~ Trench Cake

I have been dabbling with historical baking and bringing it to the blog for a wee while now with a small selection of tried and tested recipes to be found here,here & here. However. I am expanding this area of LandGirl1980 and hoping to bring you a weekly bake. 

How very exciting!

I have a whole host of cakery to share with you from World War Two, but for today I am going a little further back.

Trench Cake is something that has often intrigued me. How did it survive being wrapped in paper and string to then traversing the Channel and the front line, until landing with a hungry recipient? Did it make the soldier grateful to be able to fill a hole in their stomachs or  to plug up a dug out? Is it something that my own G-Grandmother made, with each of her 3 children taking turns to stir the mixture, before baking, packaging it up and sending if off to find Gramps?

And what did it actually taste like?

Well -  thanks to a recent post over on Crinoline Robot and the search it sent me on to find the recipe, some of these questions can now be answered.

225g plain flour
120g margerine
90g brown sugar
90g currants/raisins
1/4 pint milk
1 tsp vinegar
2 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tbsp lemon rind

  • Preheat oven to 350F / 180C / GM4 Grease and/or line an 8" cake tin
  • Rub together the margarine and flour (just like making a crumble topping)
  • Add the rest of the dry ingredients - but not the bicarb
  • Mix together the milk, vinegar and bicarb
  • Add to bowl and mix well
  • Pour into tin and bake for 1hr 15 mins, or until knife comes out clean
  • Remove from tin once slightly cooled and then allow to cool completely

Now then, this cake is very dense and heavy. It could be used as a doorstop. But, do not be tempted to waste it on such a venture. I recommend you make a nice cup of tea and cut yourself a small slice. No spoon or fork will be needed. It holds form whilst you munch and a little goes a long way.

Taste wise, I thought it was pretty darn good. Somewhere between a currant bun and a drier piece of bread pudding. I can imagine that this would have made a cold and damp soldier very happy as he hunkered down to read a letter and tuck in.

You could always vary the ingredients slightly to suit your tastes, I am sure that many women may have done the same. Perhaps there were those that felt flush and decided to swap out the spices for just more cocoa? Or currants for candied peel? 

I really enjoyed making this cake, I have to say. I found myself thinking about the women that would have made this before me,  packing it off to the front. And there is always something delicious about rubbing marg into flour. 

Or is that just me?

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