Monday, 27 July 2015

Uncovering the past with Trench Cake

Here’s another recipe from the World War 1 period which I baked at the Life on the Home Front Doncaster 1914-18 event at Cusworth Hall Museum and Park. We tried out traditional recipes sent to soldiers in the trenches during the First World War. Although its name doesn’t sound too appetizing, visitors were highly impressed when they tried a slice.
Trench Cake
8oz/225g plain flour
4oz/110g margarine or butter
3oz/75g brown sugar
3oz/75g cleaned currants
2 tsps cocoa
½ tsp baking soda/powder
1 tsp vinegar
¼ pint/150ml milk
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Grease a 1lb/450g loaf tin. Rub the margarine or butter into the flour in a basin. Add the dry ingredients. Mix well. Add the soda dissolved in vinegar and milk. Beat well. Turn into the loaf tin. Bake in a moderate oven (350F, Mark 4,180C) for about 45 minutes.

This recipe is adapted from Francis Quinn’s Trench cake for the Department for Culture Media & Sport. I reduced the time of the baking to approximately 45 minutes to an hour as the 2 hours given in the recipe seemed to make the cake too dry and it had baked sufficiently in less time.

Although rationing in World War 1 didn’t start until 1917, some traditional cake ingredients were hard to come by. There were no eggs in this recipe; they were replaced with milk and margarine, lard or butter and vinegar was used to react with the baking soda to help the cake rise. It’s quite a dense cake but once packaged up, it would travel well and arrive at the front in reasonable condition.  
Here are more recipes I baked at Life on the Home Front

Many of the visitors to the Life on the Home Front Doncaster 1914-18  had someone in their family who went to the front line. Grandma’s Abson’s brother, Frederick Henry Cave sadly died alongside many others in the Somme battlefields in July 1916. 

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