Boiled Raisin Cake – a 1940s Recipe


One of my Christmas gifts in 2011 was a small 4-½ x 6 inch leather bound book engraved “Cooking Recipes”, purchased in Sugar Creek, Ohio.  The pages are edged in gold and there are 10 index tabs for food categories.  The real gold in this book, though, is the collection of handwritten recipes.  There aren’t a lot of recipes – just 25, 22 of which are desserts.  There is also a page where a child scrawled – Mama probably wasn’t too happy with that.  

The book itself could have been from the 1930s, but I believe the recipes are from the 1945-1950 era.  This is based on a lot of recipes calling for shortening, for using the word “oleo” rather than margarine and the attention given to oven temperatures.  I believe it’s post-World War II because of all of the sugar-laden desserts.  

The handwriting is clear and ingredients are listed correctly, although most of the recipes give no idea of how the item is to be prepared, what kind of pan to use or how long to bake.  That’s why I’ve decided to make each of the recipes, using the products specified, and adding my own instructions.  I like to think that the woman from the 1940s kitchen (who would have been about my mother’s age) would enjoy having someone fuss around with these recipes again and turn out some delicious food for the family.

This cake was new to me and since no directions were given with the recipe, I checked out the internet and found it appears to have been a favorite cake of a lot of people.  It’s a rather plain cake – I made half of the recipe and added a glaze which many on the internet remembered their grandma adding to the cake.  I would consider this a lunch or supper cake – satisfying but not too rich.



  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup hot water
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • ¼ cup oleo (margarine)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-¾ cups all-purpose flour


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Approx. 2 Tblsp. Milk

Grease and flour a 9-inch loaf pan
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In a large saucepan, place sugar, hot water, shortening, margarine, raisins, cinnamon and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for one minute longer.

Remove from heat and immediately stir in baking soda – it will foam up.  Allow to cool.

When cool, add flour and beat for 2 minutes by hand right in the pan.

Pour into a greased and floured 9-inch loaf pan and bake @ 350 degrees F for approximately 50-55 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let set in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes.

Loosen sides and remove from pan to continue cooling on rack.

Mix together the powdered sugar, cinnamon and milk to make a thick glaze.  When cake is cool, spoon glaze over top and allow to drizzle down the sides of the cake.

Makes one 9-inch loaf cake


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Lillian Applegate Westfelt was a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, and great-grandmother of 3. She was an 86-year-old widow living in a nice little bungalow with her oldest daughter and a beagle-dachsund named Addie. She passed away in November, 2018.

12 thoughts on “Boiled Raisin Cake – a 1940s Recipe”

  1. Hi Lillian,
    How wonderful to disc over someone’s past “tried and true” recipes. This one looks delightful, and refreshingly simple. Must try that icing!

  2. This sounds like an interesting recipe. I’m sure my MIL would love this. I’ll have to give this one to her to try. Thanks for sharing and happy New Year!

  3. I never heard of this, but it sure looks yummy. I bet that book is lots of fun.
    I live near Sugarcreek, maybe when I go down again I will look for it.
    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

    1. This book wasn’t published – it was a handwritten notebook and I’ve had quite a time trying to figure out some of these recipes with her scanty instructions. However, she always gave the oven temperature – she must have just gotten a new stove. My mother’s stoves in that era didn’t have thermometers.

      We had a perfect Christmas, thank you. Happy New Year to you and your family. Lillian

  4. Love this and it so takes me back. My older. Brother by 20 years would always jokingly charge me a Poor Man’s Cake for bring our Mom down over the mountain to visit with my children and me. This seams exactly like the recipe I always make. Very good and moist.

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