Historic Recipe: Oatmeal Cake (1944)

Source: Good Eating: A Second Book of War-Time Recipes (1944)

I’ve dipped into this book before when I made the surprisingly good Corned Beef and Beetroot Hot, but in summary, it’s a reprint of a rationing-focused collection of recipes compiled by the Daily Telegraph. We have Mrs W. S. Fletcher from Wellow Cottage, Nr. Newark Notts to thank for this contribution.

½ lb fine oatmeal
4 ozs. sugar
4 ozs. dried fruit
4 ozs. margarine
1 teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoonful cream of tartar
1 reconstituted egg
Little grated nutmeg
About ½ pint fresh or household milk
Pinch of salt

Grease and flour a Yorkshire pudding tin. Sieve the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and nutmeg into a basin. Rub in the fat with the tips of the fingers until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then add the sugar and fruit and mix well. Stir in the egg beaten up well in the milk to form a fairly soft mixture. Bake in a hot oven until golden brown, then slightly lower the heat and bake until firm. When cold cut into fingers.

Even after some Googling I wasn’t quite sure what Mrs Fletcher meant by a ‘Yorkshire pudding tin’, so I held off making any decision on receptacles until I could see how much mixture the recipe was going to generate. The recipe itself was fairly straightforward, I used oat flour, but you could also grind up oats in a food processor. I plumped for sultanas, because they’re my favourite kind of dried fruit and settled on adding about a ¼ tsp of nutmeg. I did cheat and use a real egg because reconstituted eggs are hard to come by. I also still have a packet of milk powder from the last wartime recipe I made and I didn’t really want to add powdered egg to the list of weird things from historic recipes that are at the back of my pantry.

When everything was mixed, I plumped for a ceramic dish approximately 9” by 6” that seemed the best size-wise and it worked well, so it was probably something like this that Mrs Fletcher had in mind. I cooked it at 200oC initially and then turned the oven down to 180oC when it started to brown. I did cover the cake with foil for the last few minutes it was in the oven as it was beginning to get a little bit too brown on top.

It’s important to let this cool before trying to extract it or cut it as it’s really crumbly when warm. Once it was cool, however, it sliced pretty easily. The outcome was actually really nice, the taste was good and although the texture was a bit more dense than a traditional cake and had a tendency to stick to your teeth – it wasn’t at all unpleasant – a bit like a parkin.

Suggested alterations: This could be a delicious gluten free Christmassy cake with the addition of a little ginger and cinnamon. And use butter, everything is better with butter.

Final verdict: I would make this again. Good job Good Eating.


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