1950s Style Brown Bread


In the 1950s, the dainty card party sandwich of choice was brown bread spread with cream cheese and cut into small sandwiches.  I loved the bread because of the walnuts and raisins – it took me awhile to learn to like cream cheese.

Whenever our PTA had a bake sale, one lady baked several loaves of brown bread but they were always snatched up immediately so I never got to buy a loaf and taste it.

Fast forward to 1985 when I was always looking for something different to enter in our Hamilton County (Cincinnati) Fair.  I found a recipe for brown bread that sounded good – it had walnuts and raisins – and made it in a pressure cooker.  It won a blue ribbon at the fair.

Since my big country garden days, I no longer have a pressure cooker and had to experiment a little to make this prize winner in the oven.  The second try came out just as I wanted it to be – with good memories of the 1950s and the 1980s.


  • 1-¼ cups raisins
  • 1-½ tsp soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tblsp. butter
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

You will need three 14.5 oz. cans (a common size for fruit and vegetables).  Thoroughly wash, rinse and dry the cans, then grease them.  You will also need a baking pan with sides high enough to come 3/4 of the way up the cans.  I use a small roaster which has a rack, but you can also use small tins like tuna fish cans or trivets – something to keep the cans off of the bottom of the pan.

Start water boiling – you will need about 8 cups of water to fill the pan, depending on size.

To make the bread:
Combine raisins, soda, salt and butter.  Combine water and apple juice in small pan.  Bring to boil.  Pour over raisin mixture.

Combine sugar, eggs and vanilla with raisin mixture.  Stir in flour and nuts.

Divide batter among the three greased cans.  Each can should be about half-full.   Wrap foil over the top of each can and press/pinch on sides of cans to secure.

Place cans in deep pan with a rack in the bottom and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the cans.

Bake @ 325 degrees F for approximately 2 hours.  Check water after an hour to be sure it is still close to the halfway level.  Bread is done when a  wooden skewer inserted into one of the cans all the way to the bottom comes out clean.  Place cans of bread to cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the bread all the way to the bottom and turn out the bread onto the rack to continue cooling.

For a 1950s treat, slice bread in thin slices …..
…and spread with cream cheese to make a dainty sandwich.

Actually, my daughters and I like this so much that we use a sandwich as a dessert.  Delicious.


Yield:  Three loaves

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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.

10 thoughts on “1950s Style Brown Bread”

  1. For some reason, your blog doesn’t want to post my comment. I’ll try again. This looks delicious, thanks! I like your header of vintage valentines, too. Much more creative than mine. =)

  2. Oh, I remember those sandwiches at a child… loved the brown bread but wasn’t fond of the cream cheese til I grew up. I will definitely have to try this recipe… would be a great accompaniment for a nice hot cuppa! Thanks for sharing the recipe, Lillian!

  3. Very interesting. This is totally new to me. I love the idea of cooking them in the cans. That is the way I make fruitcakes.

  4. I don’t think I’ve made brown bread since moving to KY–it used to be a regular item on our table. I always steamed it–will maybe try your method of baking.

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