Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wartime Baking

A single anachronism in a historical novel can draw a reader out of the story and impact the credibility of the writer. Therefore, to ensure my books are accurate, I conduct a tremendous amount of research. I am fortunate that a World War II museum, the Wright Museum, is located in the town where I live. I have access to genuine artifacts and a curator who has answered many questions through the years.
During a recent research junket about the availability and rationing of food during WWII, I stumbled on a website called www.1940sexperiment.wordpress.com. The author of the site is using recipes from the war to help her lose weight. I wasn’t interested in the dieting part of her site, but I was fascinated with her use of wartime recipes.

I’m not much of a cook, but I love to bake. Probably because that’s what I love to eat! I was intrigued by the idea of doing hands-on research by using a wartime recipe and baking without or with a limited amount of certain items that we take for granted in the 21st century, such as eggs, sugar, and milk.
In possession of a bag of apples I needed to use before they spoiled, I wandered the internet until I found a recipe that used ingredients I already had in the house. The recipe, originally from the 1943 Victory Cookbook, came from a blog authored by a staff member of the National D-day Museum www.ddaymemorial.blogspot.com in Bedford, VA: “Spicy Apple Coffee Cake.”

I was rather skeptical of how good the cake would be when the recipe created a dough rather than a batter, and an ungreased cake pan was called for. (I had visions of hacking the cake out of the pan – didn’t happen). The end result was a huge success. The cake was deliciously sweet despite the reduced amount of sugar in it and had a texture more bread-like than cake-like. I’ve already had requests to make it again!

Here's the recipe:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons shortening
2/3 to 3/4 cup milk
2 to 3 apples (your favorite type)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup nippy cheese (I didn’t use and never missed it)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and set aside.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Cut in shortening (and cheese, if using it). Add milk to make a soft dough. Turn onto lightly floured board and knead for about 30 seconds. Pat the dough into an ungreased 9-inch cake pan. Pare and core the apples. Slice them into 1/4” slices. Arrange apples in petal design on top of dough. Sprinkle with brown sugar/cinnamon mixture and dot with butter.

Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda Matchett also writes historical fiction. She is currently seeking a publisher for her series about war correspondent Ruth Brown. Visit her at www.lindashentonmatchett.com


  1. My mother often talks about wartime cooking. The lack of fresh eggs, flour & sugar for example. I must show her this recipe.

  2. It's been an interesting experience to cook without items we take for granted. I have a terrible sweet tooth, so I would have definitely felt the lack of sugar!

  3. When I was young, one of my aunts kept two of her food ration tickets framed and on her wall. She said, it was a reminder of what was and what is. I wonder what ever happened to those?
    Thank you for this post and the recipe. I'll have to try it out.

  4. Let me know how the recipe works out for you! That's interesting about your aunt. It would be interesting to know what happened to the ration stamps.

  5. Your post was fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

  6. Thank you for sharing this interesting post, Linda! I can't wait to try the Spicy Apple Coffee Cake!

  7. Very interesting post, Linda! It's hard for me to imagine people in the United States having their food rationed. My sister was the WWII buff in our family, while I researched the Civil War.