Poor Man's Cake Recipes

Recipes of this type have been popular since the Great Depression and can be served as a simpler, less expensive alternative to the traditional fruitcake during the holidays too. This page contains poor man's cake recipes.

Poor Man's Cake
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Very similar to spice cake, this recipe has been handed down in my family for generations. It is called Poor Man's Cake because you don't need milk, butter or eggs to make it. During the depression, these were expensive and during the War (World War II) they were rationed. It is an excellent, moist cake that needs no frosting. It is always a big hit at potlucks.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup shortening, melted
  • 1 box raisins (not snack size)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 3 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp. baking soda


Combine all ingredients in saucepan, bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool at room temperature. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into a large, generously greased and floured cake pan (I use a 13 x 9 inch pan) and bake at 325 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes. Center should be firm and a clean knife or toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Allow to cool before cutting.

Source: Knox family recipe

By dove947 from Millinocket, ME

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I lost my recipe for a very moist poor man's cake. it was dark brown in color and very moist. I tried a recipe from the internet, and it was not at all like my favorite one. It came out lighter in color, and somewhat dry. Does anyone have this very moist poor man's cake recipe? I would appreciate it!

P.J. from Delaware

AnswerWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes

I read about this recipe in a book by Fern Michaels. The book is called Texas Fury and it is the third in a series of 4.

I want to try the recipe but I don't think they used vegetable oil back in the day. I'm going to try it with shortening (the closest thing to lard). I don't think the recipe is as expensive as ya'll make it out to sound (pound for pound anyway). Back in the day, the spices were probably the most expensive things they had to buy and I'm sure they didn't add nuts unless it was a special occasion (the holidays). I'm going to give it a shot and hope my family likes it. Thanks all for sharing.

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  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. soda
  • 2 rounded Tbsp. shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Pinch of each of the following:
  • salt
  • allspice
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • ginger


Cook raisins and water down to 1 cup juice. Add soda and shortening to liquid while warm. Add sugar and flour (enough to make light batter - will not be stiff), baking powder, salt, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Mix well and bake at 350 degrees F until done.

By Robin from Washington, IA

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Food and Recipes Recipes Baking & Desserts Cakes FruitJuly 13, 2013
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