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. It’s the official recipe released by the government in 2014 so everyone can try their hand at baking a traditional cake 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 piece!
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 adapted from Francis Quinn’s Trench cake for the Department for Culture Media & Sport. We 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 well 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 over the Life on the Home Front weekend

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. I remember Grandma’s Abson’s brother Frederick Henry Cave who sadly died alongside many others in the Somme battlefields in July 1916. 

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