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Grandma's Great Depression Cake

Grandmas Great Depression Cake

A delicious spiced cake recipe that is made with cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg, Grandma's Great Depression Cake is easy to make and easy on the budget. Old fashioned cake recipes like this will forever be remembered as some of the best desserts out there. Baked until golden brown, each slice has a bold flavor that is perfect for the colder months of the year. Serve it when it is still warm and you won't be able to stop at just one slice. This is a great cake recipe to serve with tea or coffee for a nice afternoon pick-me-up. It could even be eaten for breakfast, as a sweeter alternative to your regular eggs and toast.

Serves: 12

Chilling Time: 5 min

  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 cups raisins
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Powdered sugar for serving (optional)

These 21 Classic Great Depression Era Recipes are sure to hit the spot when you're trying to save money.


  1. Preheat oven to 325º degrees F.  Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, combine water, raisins, brown sugar, vegetable oil and the spices. Bring to a boil and, stirring constantly, boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile mix the baking soda and salt in water and stir until completely dissolved. Combine flour and baking powder and toss with a fork to combine.
  4. After raisin mixture has cooled, add soda and salt mixture – it will bubble up, so stir well.  Add the flour mixture and stir until a stiff dough has formed and raisins are well distributed. Spoon into prepared pan, smooth the top and bake 55 minutes. 
  5. Remove cake from oven to a cooling rack and let cool 5 minutes, then use overhanging foil to remove cake from the pan and allow to cool completely.
  6. Serve slightly warm as dessert or with morning coffee. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving if desired.  


For another budget friendly recipe, remininescent of the Great Depression, try our test kitchen recipe for Great Depression Casserole.


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Where the heck is the save button they say to a recipe box?????

Hi there! We recently moved the save button to join the social media buttons down at the bottom of the recipe. Sorry about the confusion! It should be the gray save button with a plus sign next to it. Hope that helps!

I've heard of depression cake since I was a kid and never had any idea exactly what it was. Had I known it was referring to spice cake I would have been making it and enjoying it all this time. The aroma alone is enough of a reason for me to make it and I just love that it has raisins in it. I'd even throw in some chopped walnuts for texture.

my grandma called it poor mans cake

This is like the spice cake my mom used to make with the addition of raisins. I like spice cake. It is moist and yummy. But, I don't like the raisins in it. Maybe cutting down on the amount if I used them, but I think I would just leave them out altogether.

This is such a classic recipe that traveled well through time- still so yummy today! I definitely agree that substituting some new dried fruits (like craisins) or nuts (like walnuts) would really take this traditional spice cake to a whole new level.

My mother made this every year starting in the fall. It was not made with oil, as we didn't use oil for baking back then, we used Crisco. Chopped walnuts were also in the recipe. Her recipe called for white sugar not brown. I still have her recipe. It was one of my favorites.

I liked the powdered sugar on top, but I wasn't a huge fan of the raisins. I think with this recipe you could easily substitute the raisins for a different dried fruit or nuts.

This was known as "War Cake" and was developed during the First World War when people were being encouraged to eat fewer eggs, milk and butter.

The spices in this cake reminded me of Christmas, but I'll definitely leave out the raisins if I make this recipe myself.

Grandmas Great Depression Cake made me the happiest I've been all day. Not too sweet and the raisins added just the right amount of texture.

This was surprisingly tasty! I would have added a bit more cinnamon and some nuts, but otherwise, it was a delicious treat!

This cake is simple and has a good flavor, but could use a little extra oomph. Instead of raisins, I might substitute dried cherries for a more robust flavor. This would be a good breakfast!

This is such a simple, yet tasty cake. I think it'd also be great for breakfast because it's not overly sweet. If I made it for breakfast, I'd leave off the powdered sugar.

I really like this recipe. It's simple and the finished product is simple. Sometimes you want just a little something to go with a cup of coffee. A plain spice cake with raisins perfectly fits this.

I found it to be not as moist as other cake recipes, but that just means that it would go perfect with your morning coffee.

This cake was moist and flavorful, but I'm not a huge fan of raisins. Next time, I might try to add nuts, instead. This is a good cake to make for when you're craving something sweet, but don't have all of the ingredients to make a traditional cake.

Somewhat Dry however This is very good with some Milk!

Have you tried this recipe? What did you think?

I'm going to try this. I have a question does anyone know what Kluskin noodles are?

rhiannon Klusky noodles are most like home made and most stores carry them. look for them where they have other noodles.

The list of ingredients does not list the nutmeg. How much do you use?

This is wonderful!!!!!!! My grandmother made this cake all my young life. I still make this for family functions.

That is a tipische wartime cake... in my childhood (the II. worldwar) we always eat similar to this. And without eggs! Beautiful remembrances.. ? No, not at all, only we werw children. Today we are the Grannies.

my mother use to make this cake but it was called eggless, milkless, butterless ,cake no matter the name it was good.

WOW .... Coincidences .... This is just like my Grannie's Depression Era Cake (she would be 104 if she was still with us) except her recipe didn't boil ingredients on the stove, and she added 2 cups of applesauce rather than the 2 cups of water and the vegetable oil. It's been my favorite for years .... No icing, plain or just a sprinkle of regular or powdered sugar; great for breakfast, lunch or dinner, at room temperature or slightly warmed. YUM.

8irwind45150 5363438, can you please give me your receipe for your Graqnnie's Depression Era Cake especially since it is not cooked on top of the stove, and applesauce is used instead of water. I would appreciate it. Thank you.

8irwind45150 5363438, can you please give me your receipe for your Graqnnie's Depression Era Cake especially since it is not cooked on top of the stove, and applesauce is used instead of water. I would appreciate it. Thank you.

Eileenmanibusan --- It's with great pride I share Granny's Depression Era Cake --- Hope you get to see this without difficulty: (Granny McMullens Recipe - for Depression Era Cake) cup butter or lard 2- cups sugar (brown or white) 1 Tsp. ground cloves 1 tsp. nutmeg 1 tsp. cinnamon 1- cups applesauce 2 cups flour 1 cup raisins 1 cup nuts 3 Tbsp. hot water 1 tsp. soda tsp. salt 2 eggs 1 tsp. vanilla Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs 1 at a time. Sift together flour, salt and spices. Dissolve soda in hot water. Add applesauce to butter/egg mixture. Stir in soda/water. Add nuts and raisins to dry ingredients; stir into wet mixture until well blended. Add vanilla and mix until blended. Turn into greased pans. Bake in moderate (350) oven until tooth pick to center comes clean (about 25 to 30 minutes).

Eileen --- I noticed the partial measurements didn't translate in my response to you. I did a cut and paste which didn't work. The measurements should be (2-1/2 cups brown sugar) ..... (1/2 cup butter) ....... (1-1/2 cups applesauce) .... and .... (1/2 teaspoon salt)

Interesting, I was just thinking of this cake! And the ingredients look almost identical to the recipe I had. Definitely have it on my list to test on the grandkids :)

this is similar to a cake my mom called 'war cake' (WW 2), and after the war, nuts were added, and was then called "victory cake" is very good

I didn't see nutmeg listed in the ingredients, I'm going to try it with 1/2 tsp nutmeg and hope for the best


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