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Poor Man's Cake

Think you can't enjoy a sweet treat when you're living on a tight budget? Think again! With simple, inexpensive ingredients, this Poor Man's Cake Recipe is a yummy way to end your meal.

Cooking Time55 min


  • 1 pound raisins
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped nuts


  1. Preheat oven to 300F degrees.
  2. Combine the raisins, sugar, and water in a saucepan and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Add the shortening and let mixture cool.
  4. Stir in the salt, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, flour, and nuts and transfer to a 9"x13" baking pan.
  5. Bake at 300F degrees for 45 minutes.

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I like that happychef said that they used coconut in the recipe because I need to replace the nuts. I want to try this dish out soon because it sounds so yummy. I like that it sounds so versatile because I could see using coconut and pineapple or mandarin oranges in this with a whipped cream icing.

I'VE made this recipe with my mother abd grand mother.But now i've made it with a twist of the old poor man's cake to poor little rich cake.Because i add ,pistachios and o'donnells irish cream.SO YUMMY MY LITTLE LADY RICH CAKE. THERE'S SO MANY WAYS THAT I DO THIS CAKE.ALSO ADDED COCONUT ,AND RUM...............& RAISINS,Pistachios .OH MY GOODNESS WAY TO YUMMY.HAPPYCOOKDIVA

Sounds goon!

I think the recipe is much older than WWII. My Grandmother was born in 1888 on a farm in NY and by the age of 9 she had quit school and was keeping house and cooking for her grandfather, 3 siblings ( 2 older brothers and a younger sister ) and making bread for the farmhands. When her brothers went to work for the Hoositonic Railroad in 1900 she would make their lunches, one brother was a fireman (fed coal to the furnace and the other a conductor. She would put all the ingredients except flour/baking soda/nuts & salt in a metal lunch pail and everything else into a cloth sack. My uncles would put the lunch pail on the fire box to boil and then stir in the dry, cover tightly with pail lid and leave on the firebox til done. She called it Fireman's cake. We use to mix it up some with dried fruit and run for the holidays.

My cake is also the color of spice cake, not exactly like the one pictured but the taste is remarkably like A&P Spanish Bar cake from a million years ago. This was a great find because I also had this recipe from my grandma, and misplaced it. My grandma used to cook her raisins in black coffee, which could explain my cake's darker color. Now, all I need the real A&P icing recipe, that is not cream cheese frosting. For some reason I do not think it is a traditional butter-cream, either. It would have been something that did not require refrigeration, if I remember right, because they came in a cellophane wrapped package that sat on a counter, right inside the door of the A&P! Thank you for this great find.

Oh my can I relate to the AP cake. My Dad worked as a butcher at AP for 47 years and we ate those cakes all the time. There were 2 kinds. One was a square without icing and the other was a rectangle with icing. I am pretty sure the icing was made with only powdered sugar, water and shortening and maybe a bit of vanilla extract. I really never liked the icing all that much but loved the 2 types of cake. I am going to try this cake this week. It should be like a walk through my past.

This recipe really surprised me. It is my favorite cake! My mom's recipe (from before WWII) is a little different like using ground cloves instead of allspice, readying the raisins differently and using different amounts of the ingredients. I use a tube pan and this cake rises above the top! One thing I don't understand though is my cake is the color of spice cake, not yellow. Why is this?

This recipe is very old, from WWII era. It was called poor man's cake back then because it did not call for eggs or milk, which were expensive and rationed. Raisins back then were very cheap and the only fruit many people could afford. I have seen hundreds of variations of this recipe, but this is the first time I have seen nuts in it. They have never been on a poor man's budget, unless he happened to live in an area where they grew and he picked some off the ground! If a recipe just says "flour", it always means all-purpose flour. It will specify if you need a different type of flour. And "shortening" always mean solid shortening. You can use Crisco or whatever brand you prefer. Sometimes you can substitute oil, butter, or margarine, and sometimes you can't. It is best to use shortening in this recipe, but it will work with the others.

Hi nanaerm, There is a great tip from angeltea9 9248850 a few comments down on keeping this recipe in your budget. -Editors of RecipeLion

Wow-I must be poorer than I thought because in reading the ingredients I do not conside rthis a frugal recipe. One pound of raisins and a cup of nuts would not be "poor' at all.

To me, shortening means Crisco lard. When other not specified, I use all purpose flour.

@angeltea9 9248850: Thanks for the suggestion! -- Editors of RecipeLion

If you shop at the Dollar Tree ,you can add Choc. chips or nuts to this for $1, if you wish-instead of raisins.

@kooker1 - Use solid shortening for this recipe. Hope this helps! - RecipeLion Editors


Hello kooker1, There really isn't any specific shortening that works best. Though I'm sure you'll have the best luck finding Crisco and well known brands like this in the store. Any other readers have a specific brand/type that you think works really well? Thanks for the comments everyone!

What type of shortening is best to use ?

@aprils8, That is all purpose flour and yes you could use oil if you wanted to. Thanks for the questions and comments.

Is the flour used in this recipe all-purpose or self-rising? Also, if you didn't have shortening to use, could you use oil instead? Thank you.

This cake was so easy to make and it smells wonderful, cant wait to try it!

My mom used to make the Choc. Cake and it was called a Poor Man's Cake it was really good I still have the recipe for it. I am going to try this cake. Keep up the good work.

what type of flour was used please.

This cake looks delicious!


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