Baking, 1917 Style

Here’s more on the background research I did into life on the “home front” during World War I for What Lies Beneath.

With the entry of the US into World War I, voluntary food conservation came into being in order to not only provide food for American troops heading over to fight in Europe, but also relieve severe food shortages for European civilians. The Food Administration encouraged homemakers to be frugal and to do without; the women’s magazines jumped in and began to publish recipes that reflected the new frugality.
And so this week, I present…recipes! I haven’t tried any of them, but I think I might try this first one some time, because….well, chocolate and potatoes? Carb heaven. It’s from a Royal Baking Powder ad in the July 1917 issue of McCall’s Magazine:

Potato Chocolate Cake
¾ cups shortening
2 cups sugar
½ cup chocolate
¾ cup milk
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
5 teaspoons Royal Baking Powder
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 cup mashed potatoes
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts
½ teaspoon cloves

Cream shortening, add sugar, melted chocolate and mashed potatoes, mix well. Beat eggs separately and add yolks to the first mixture. Add milk and dry ingredients which have been sifted together. Beat well. Add nuts, vanilla, and beaten whites of eggs. Mix thoroughly and bake in greased loaf tin in moderate oven one hour. (The old method called for four eggs.)

This one (from a Royal Baking Powder ad in June 1917’s McCall’s) is less tempting—I’m not a fruitcake fan—but I just love the recipe name. Makes you jump up and say, “yum!”, doesn’t it?

Or not.

Eggless, Milkless, Butterless Cake
1 cup brown sugar
1 ¼ cups water
1 cup seedless raisins
2 ounces citron, cut fine
1/3 cup shortening
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
5 teaspoons Royal Baking Powder

Boil sugar, water, fruit, shortening, salt, and spices together in sauce 3 minutes. When cool, add flour and baking power which have been sifted together. Mix well, Bake in loaf pan about 45 minutes. (The old method called for three eggs)

And finally, from an article in September 1917’s The Delineator entitled “More French Recipes”, is a recipe from a B. Simmen of Ruschlekom, Switzerland:

War Cake
1 cupful granulated sugar
2 teaspoonfuls cocoa
2 cupfuls milk
2 cupfuls flour
1 tablespoonful melted grape jelly
1 egg
1 or 2 teaspoonfuls powdered cinnamon
1 teaspoonful baking soda

Take the granulated sugar and add to it the egg. Then beat together and add the cocoa, cinnamon, and the fresh milk or cream. Add the milk or cream very slowly. Mix in the flour. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in one tablespoonful of melted grape jelly.

Butter a high baking-pan, as this dish bakes better in a high pan rather than a shallow one.

Shell some nuts and put them over your cake. This dessert is inexpensive and will keep for several days.

I rather like how the recipe’s author neglects to mention baking the cake!

Bon appétit!




Baking, 1917 Style — 6 Comments

  1. And what do you do with the grape jelly – baking soda mix?

    My great grandmother reportedly always left out a vital step or ingredient or changed volumes of ingredients so no one would cook as well as her. Perhaps this was a similarly inclined cook?

  2. That potato chocolate cake does look inviting—but *two* cups of sugar? Sweetness overload!

    That recipe doesn’t necessarily say “frugality” to me, but I suppose that concept might have had a slightly different meaning for those who could actually afford chocolate and vanilla in 1917.

  3. I wonder what “1/2 cup chocolate” is — melted chocolate? Cocoa? Chopped or grated chocolate? And is it bitter or sweet? Also, Royal baking powder must have been significantly less powerful than modern baking powder.

    • Oh, NVM, the recipe specifies melted chocolate! And with that quantity of sugar, I’m sure it’s bitter baking chocolate.

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