If you’re a fan of fruity desserts, then this raisin cake recipe won’t disappoint. It’s spongy and dense, with the perfect burst of sweetness from raisins in every bite. This vintage cake is delicious, comforting, and incredibly easy to make holiday cake!
Raisin cake is also known as ‘poor man’s cake’ due to the lack of milk, butter, and eggs in this recipe. This vintage recipe was created out of necessity during the Great Depression and, hence, is also known as Depression-era cake, war cake, and even boiled raisin cake.
This cake is perfectly dense and delicious, and it reminds me of my Irish bread recipe, which is a classic dense bread featuring chocolate chips. Or if you’re looking for a dessert with bites of raisins, then you need to try my apple strudel recipe that I found in my grandma’s recipe box. It’s a foolproof recipe!
I love a good typed vintage recipe. When “mom’s” was found handwritten at the top I knew this one had to be a keeper and was a sentimental recipe for someone. This recipe I found in my treasure trove of recipes I’ve purchased at antique stores. My only adjustment was seedless raisins and I found they worked just fine in the recipe.
Table of Contents
Why I Love This Recipe
- Easy to make: This raisin cake recipe is easy to make and has straightforward ingredients. Just combine, stir, and bake! Plus, the oven does most of the work, leaving you free to enjoy the wonderful aroma wafting from your kitchen.
- Family-favorite: With its moist texture and the classic flavor of raisins and spices, this cake is sure to become a beloved treat in your household. It’s a cake that appeals to all ages, making it a guaranteed hit at any family gathering.
- Versatile: This raisin cake recipe is incredibly versatile. Feel free to add a handful of walnuts or pecans for a delightful crunch, or sprinkle in a pinch more cinnamon or nutmeg if you’re a fan of extra spice.
- Delicious: Words can hardly do justice to the delicious taste of this dessert. It’s a beautiful combination of flavors, with the sweetness of the raisins perfectly balanced by the warmth of the spices. It’s a cake that will have you reaching for seconds (and maybe even thirds!).
- Freezes Well: The dense, spongy texture of the raisin cake holds up well in the freezer, unlike more delicate cakes. The sweetness of the raisins also helps to preserve the cake’s moisture during the freezing process.
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- Seedless Raisins: The star ingredient of this raisin cake recipe. They add sweetness and a chewy texture to every bite. This cake is spongy, dense, and bursting with sweetness from the raisins.
- Water: Used to hydrate the raisins for deliciously soft and sweet raisins in every bite.
- Shortening: This ingredient helps to give the cake its tender crumb. It’s a type of fat that is solid at room temperature, similar to butter.
- Granulated Sugar: Adds sweetness to the cake and helps to brown the top for a slightly crisp exterior.
- Salt: A small amount of salt is used to balance the sweetness and enhance the overall flavor of the cake.
- Ground Cinnamon and Ground Cloves: These spices add warmth and depth of flavor to the cake, complementing the sweetness of the raisins perfectly.
- All Purpose Flour: The main dry ingredient in this recipe, it provides the structure for the cake.
- Baking Soda: This is the leavening agent in the recipe. It reacts with the acidic ingredients to help the cake rise and become light and fluffy.
- Boiling Water: Boiling water is used to activate the baking soda, helping to create a lighter texture in the cake.
- Tube Pan or Square Baking Pan – This is where you’ll be baking your raisin cake. The shape of the pan can affect the baking time and the final look of your cake. So, pick your pan according to your preference.
- Saucepan – You’ll need this to boil your raisins. A medium saucepan would work best for this purpose.
- Wire Rack – After baking, it is best to let your cake cool on a wire rack. This prevents the bottom of the cake from getting soggy.
How to Make
Begin by preheating your oven to a temperature of 350˚ F (or 180 degrees C). Next, get your tube pan or square baking pan and grease it thoroughly.
Step 1 – Boil the Raisins
Place your raisins in a medium saucepan and separate them lightly using a fork. Cover the raisins with water until the raisins are covered and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and let it simmer until the water is nearly all evaporated. This should take about twenty minutes. After this, remove the saucepan from the heat.
Step 2 – Add Ingredients
To the hot raisins, add shortening, sugar, salt, and spices. Stir the mixture until it is well combined. Now, gradually add in the purpose flour and continue stirring.
Step 3 – Dissolve Baking Soda
In a separate bowl, dissolve baking soda into a cup of boiling water. Pour this mixture into the raisin batter. Stir the batter until it is smooth, and the raisins are well distributed.
Step 4 – Bake the Cake
Pour your cake batter into the greased tube pan or square cake pan. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for approximately thirty to thirty-five minutes. You can check if the cake is ready by inserting a toothpick into the center. If it comes out clean, your cake is ready.
Step 5 – Cool and Dust the Cake
Once your cake is ready, let it cool on a wire rack. If using a tube pan, let cool for 10 minutes before inverting and releasing the cake to completely cool. After it has cooled, dust it with powdered sugar to add a sweet finishing touch. There you have it, your delicious raisin cake is ready to be served!
- Bake until the toothpick comes out clean: Set your oven timer to 5 minutes less than you anticipate the cake being done and check. To avoid overbaking or underbaking the cake, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, your cake is done.
- Add Nuts: If you’re a fan of a crunchy texture, try adding some chopped walnuts or pecans to this raisin cake recipe. Simply stir in about a cup of your chosen nuts into the cake batter before pouring it into the cake pan. The nuts will provide a delicious crunch and a nutty flavor that compliments the sweetness of the raisins.
- Use Pumpkin Pie Spice: If you love the warming flavors of fall, try replacing the cinnamon and cloves in this recipe with an equal amount of pumpkin pie spice. This spice blend contains cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, adding a complex flavor profile to the cake that pairs perfectly with the sweet raisins.
- Top with Glaze: For a sweeter, moister cake, consider topping your baked cake with a simple glaze made from powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla extract. Just whisk these ingredients together until smooth, then pour over the cooled cake. The glaze adds a sweet, creamy layer that enhances the cake’s overall flavor and presentation.
What to Serve With
- Pair this delicious raisin cake with a hot cup of coffee for a satisfying breakfast. The robust flavor of the coffee compliments the sweet and spicy notes of the cake.
- For a delicious dessert, serve a slice of raisin cake with a dollop of whipped cream on top. The cream adds a layer of richness that enhances the cake’s flavor.
- Try serving your raisin cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a delightful after-dinner treat. The cold, creamy ice cream contrasts beautifully with the warm, spicy cake.
- For a healthy twist, pair your raisin cake with a side of fresh fruits like berries or sliced peaches. The natural sweetness of the fruits pairs well with the dense, sweet cake.
- This raisin cake makes a great afternoon snack. Enjoy a slice with a cup of your favorite tea. The warm, comforting spices in the cake go well with a strong black tea or a soothing chamomile.
- Consider serving this raisin cake at your next brunch. It pairs well with both savory and sweet dishes, making it a versatile choice for any meal.
You can use either a tube pan or a square baking pan for this recipe. Just make sure to grease it well before pouring the cake batter in to guarantee easy removal after baking.
The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. This usually takes about thirty to thirty-five minutes in a preheated oven at a temperature of about three hundred and fifty degrees Fahrenheit.
This cake gets its unique and delicious flavor from the combination of spices used – cinnamon and cloves – and the sweetness of the raisins. The shortening also adds a rich, buttery flavor to the cake.
Yes, for a bit of crunch, you can add nuts like walnuts or pecans to the recipe. For a different spice flavor, you can use pumpkin pie spice instead of the individual spices. You can also top the cake with a glaze for added sweetness.
Storing and Reheating
- Refrigerate: You can store your leftover raisin cake in the fridge for up to a week. Just make sure to keep it in an airtight container to preserve its flavor and moisture.
- Freeze: If you have a big batch of this delicious cake and want to save some for later, this raisin cake recipe freezes well. Simply wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container or freezer bag. It can be frozen for up to three months.
- Thawing and Reheating: When you are ready to enjoy your frozen cake, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. For reheating, place it in a preheated oven at a low temperature until it is warmed through. To check the warmth, insert a toothpick into the cake. If it comes out warm, your cake is ready to serve.
What to Expect: This raisin cake recipe yields one medium-sized cake, enough for about twelve servings.
How to Scale: If you want to make more servings, you can easily double the recipe. Just make sure to use a larger bowl to mix the ingredients and a larger cake pan to bake. Follow the rest of the instructions as directed, but keep an eye on the baking time as it may vary slightly with a larger cake.
- 1 ¾ Cup Seedless Raisins
- 2 Tablespoons Shortening
- 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon Ground Cloves
- 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 Cup Boiling Water
- 3 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Grease a tube pan or square baking pan.
- Place raisins in a saucepan and lightly separate with a fork. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the water is nearly all evaporated (about 20 minutes.) Remove from heat.
- Mix in the shortening, sugar, salt, and spices to the hot raisins. Stir in the flour.
- Dissolve the baking soda into one cup of boiling water. Add to the raisin batter and stir until smooth with raisins.
- Place in a greased tube pan or square cake pan and bake at 350˚ F for 30-35 minutes or until the toothpick entered into the center comes out clean. Let cool and dust with powdered sugar.