19 August 2011

Recession Cake - Not Quite Depression Cake - Vegan Applesauce Spice Cake


Recession Cake is my new name for this recipe I developed years ago after a discussion with my Aunt Irene about an old recipe she had from the time of the Great Depression. Of course, I could never have served anything called Depression Cake to my parents. It was kind of a sore subject when I was growing up.

As a child, I dreaded anyone mentioning The Depression. Even though it was ancient history long before my time, it still had a grip on my father. If anyone mentioned the subject and my mother joined in the conversation at all, my father (whose experience had been so much worse) would feel compelled to jump in and tell her (and everyone within range) that she didn't know anything about it! The way that vein popped up on his face, I was always afraid he was going to have a stroke or something! Anyway ... back to the cake ...

Milk, butter, eggs and sugar were hard to come by for many people during those years. Homemakers learned to bake with smaller amounts, or even none, of those ingredients. Raisins and apples were often used to make up for some of the sugar. They came to be called depression cakes. Talk about comfort food--the most basic cake must have been a real treat.

Starting with my aunt's recipe, I experimented with the concept until I came up with a recipe that had the lightness of a cake made with eggs. I make it with all organic ingredients and serve it to everyone, not just vegans, no explanations necessary--it "passes" easily for a "regular" cake! Of course, back then they didn't have organic canola oil and would have used solid shortening or so-called vegetable oil.

It's delicious plain, and a mere dusting of powdered sugar is pretty enough, but I like to serve it with a little organic whipped cream. After all, this is only the Great Recession, not the Great Depression! I'd love to hear your comments on the cake, that era, vegan cooking, your parents' favorite recurring arguments, whatever!

Vegan Applesauce Spice Cake AKA Recession Cake

(Makes one 10-inch round layer)

2 packed cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 cup raisins OR 3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce (I use Santa Cruz Organic)
1/2 cup organic canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla, optional

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease well and lightly flour one 10-inch round pan (or one 9-inch, not 8-inch, square pan).

2 In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, soda, salt and spices. Stir in the raisins and walnuts, separating the raisins. Add the applesauce, oil, and vanilla. Blend well. No electric mixer needed.

3 Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or until it tests done.

4 Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack for an hour.

22 comments:

Cranberry Morning said...

What an interesting post! I think if you'd waited a month or two you could have called it Depression Cake - but let's hope not. One thing people had going for them during the Great Depression was 'community.' Now, very few people know their neighbors and many don't know how to do simple things like gardening, preserving, doing without, etc. Both of my parents grew up during the Great Depression. It seems that what many people call hardship now is absolutely nothing in comparison to what those who lived through the Great Depression experienced.

P.S. My mom used to make this cake too. :-)

Jean said...

Yes, Judy, I doubt that our current society could handle a depression as well as that generation did. As a whole, they had an unmatched strength and character. I just hope, if we have a depression, I won't whine too much!

Richard Sheppard said...

My motto over the past few years is "Half is the new Whole." Which can be interpreted on many levels. Having said that, for my slice, I'll take half of that delicious looking cake! My dad is vegan and is living with me and my wife at the moment so this is perfect. Back in the Depression, families often lived together to make ends meet and apparently, they are in todays economy too.

Jean said...

Thanks, Richard! I hope your dad enjoys the cake. Multi-generational households have always seemed so interesting and fun to me. (Having no living parents or children, we are "safe" saying that! LOL)

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Oh, I was gonna crack wise, but Judy beat me to it -- wise...and sad. Depression cake revisited. Blah. But I do love applesauce cake, if it's moist to the point of being a dough ball. Yes, my mother's recipe, and she grew up in the Great Depression...of 1608 in Jamestown. For some reason I've never cared for powdered sugar sprinkled on anything. I think that it's because I have a sugar quota in my subconscious, and powdered sugar does not strike me as taste effective, i.e. having enough zing to be worth biting into the quota, so to speak. And I find your sidebar about the depression and your father most interesting. You really should lean on the narrative side of your postings a little more. Just sayin'.

Jean said...

Hi, Sully! Yes, it is *very* moist. Nothing worse than dry cake. About the powdered sugar: I sifted about 3 teaspoons over the *entire* 10-inch round cake. So if you ate a 3-inch slice like in the photo, you would be getting about 1/4 teaspoon--not even a bleep on your sugar quota radar! Thank you for your encouragement to "lean on the narrative side ... a little more." It takes a while for me, but I'm starting to open up a bit more.

The Procrastobaker said...

LOVE the look of this! The texture looks perfect and it looks like such a comforting little cake. Gorgeous recipe and photos too :)

Jean said...

Thanks! I'm enjoying taking pictures of food. Seems like that's all I ever take pictures of!

Ana said...

This looks amazing! I'm always looking for vegan-friendly desserts (I made a vegan dark-chocolate zucchini bread yesterday) this is definitely something I'll be making. GFC'd you! ;)

Jean said...

Thanks, Ana! Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Angie's Recipes said...

I really didn't know there's such a thing called "depression cake". I meant..cake is usually something sweet, comforting and satisfying.
Your applesauce cake looks very pretty and so inviting that I want a large slice now.
Angie

Jean said...

Thank you, Angie! I'd like a slice right now, too. Good thing it's so quick and easy to make!

Grant said...

Hi Jean,

Looks delicious! But let's hope we don't need too many of these 'recession cakes'...

My parents came through the war and the depression, and while the starvation they experienced during those times definitely affected their food decisions throughout the rest of their lives, they never had specific recipes that were obviously influenced by those hard and austere times.

Your blog always provides a fascinating read!

smiles, Grant

Jean said...

Thank you, Grant! Perhaps one day you'll do a post that includes a bit about your parents' Great Depression/WWII experience and how it affected their life choices?

Mrs. Tuna said...

I started using applesauce instead of oil in banana bread, makes it so much lighter.

Jean said...

Yes, I think we can make a lot of things with a lot less fat (and sugar) than called for! (I love banana bread.)

Jenn said...

I love this cake! Too bad it's named after such a low time in America's history - but what a great way to show how we can overcome certain obstacles. :)

Jean said...

Thanks, Jenn! I hope we never have to go through anything close to what that generation had to. I don't think we'd handle it with nearly so much grace as they did. Rationing doesn't sound like much fun either!

Erica said...

I only have 8in pans...can this be done or modified for 8 in pans?

Jean said...

Erica, I would think you could divide the batter between two 8-inch rounds and have two thinner layers, perfect for a layer cake. Let me know how it works for you.

Erica said...

Hey I just wanted to report back - I ended up making in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish and it turned out beautifully. So tasty! Thanks for the recipe!

Jean said...

Erica, thanks for letting me know. I'm so glad you liked it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...