This vegan raisin spice cake from my Granny is from the 1940s. It’s vegan, but that’s totally on accident.
In the 1940s, on account of scarcity brought on by the war, folks learned how to make all sorts of treats without rationed things like fresh eggs and butter. This is one of those recipes, and it’s just as delicious today as it was back then! And what a happy discovery it was when I realized that this spice cake is vegan!
The trick to this cake is that you cook the raisins and use the water as a binder instead of eggs. Raisins (grapes) are naturally high in pectin, and pectin helps to bind the cake together, creating an amazing crumb! The cake in the photos is actually a raisin-currant hybrid! It turns out currants also have enough pectin to hold the cake together and give it that slightly dense texture that we love in pound cakes and coffee cakes!
My Granny has since left us, but she’s still making my life better every day with wonderful gifts like this vegan raisin spice cake recipe, not to mention her many frugal kitchen habits.
So here’s to lovely Grannies that give so much to enrich our lives!
Granny’s vegan raisin spice cake
- 10-inch tube pan
- 2 cups fair trade Thompson raisins (see note)
- 2-1/2 cups cold water
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 2 cups Camino golden cane sugar (see note)
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg (see note)
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon (see note)
- 1 tsp ground cloves (see note)
- 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Thoroughly grease your tube pan with oil of your choice. A bundt pan can also be used, but removal will be more difficult. The easiest is a tube pan where the centre is removable.
- In a small saucepan, combine raisins and cold water. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer (uncovered) for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Measure all remaining ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer, or mix all but shortening together and then cut in the shortening by hand.
- Using a slotted spoon, scoop cooked raisins out of the cooking water. Then add about half of the cooking water to the mixing bowl and mix until all flour is moistened. Add enough additional cooking water to make the batter about the consistency of thick muffin batter. Typically this will use about 3/4 of the water. (If the batter is too thin and you're using a two-piece pan, your batter may leak out the seam during baking and make it difficult to remove.)
- Pour prepared batter into the pan and spread the batter evenly. Bake for 1 hour to 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the highest point of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan. If the cake is a little stuck, simply run a knife around the edges (or any exposed parts) to loosen it. Cool completely before slicing. Makes 16 servings.
- Thompson raisins are darker and typically have a richer flavour than Sultana raisins. My favourite raisins are Thompson raisins, but any kind will work.
- Golden cane sugar (Turbinado) is a sugar that has a touch of molasses left in it, and it’s a much less processed sugar. This gives it an added flavour depth that is just gorgeous in this cake. My favourite is Camino golden cane sugar.
- Nutmeg is a subtle but important addition to this cake. If you’re using freshly-grated nutmeg, it’s stronger, so only use half as much. My choice is Cha’s Organics’ nutmeg.
- Ceylon (a.k.a. true) cinnamon is crucial in this recipe. Did you know most of the “cinnamon” on the market is actually a cheaper cousin of cinnamon called cassia? True/Ceylon cinnamon is marked as such and has a more complex, amazing flavour. I recommend Cha’s Organics’ true cinnamon.
- Clove gives this cake its signature spiciness! You can use ground cloves, or start with whole and grind them yourself. I recommend Cha’s Organics’ whole clove.
What is your fondest memory of your grandmother? While this cake is way up there, I also really fondly remember helping her peel parsnips for Sunday dinner, even though I didn’t much care for them as a wee one!
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