Spiced old-fashioned raisin cake is a delicious vintage dessert that features juicy boiled raisins and a simple brown sugar frosting! It makes a wonderfully tasty dessert during the fall due to the blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, but is equally enjoyable year-round!
Vintage Boiled Raisin Cake Recipe
This old-fashioned boiled raisin cake is a vintage recipe that has been around forever. It consists of a delightfully moist spiced cake that is chock full of sweet boiled raisins, and in this case, coated with a simple brown sugar frosting (though it is still tasty without it)!
Also known as the 'poor man's cake' due to the lack of butter, milk, and eggs, this cake was born of necessity during the depression era. If you are fortunate to have any family that was around in the 1930s-1940s, it will surely bring back fond memories!
There aren't too many ingredients in this cake. If you bake frequently, you likely have most of these ingredients in your fridge or pantry!
Old Fashioned Raisin Cake Ingredients
- 1 ½ cups Raisins - This cake is traditionally made with purple raisins but gold would also work.
- 1 ½ cups Water - Divided into 2 portions, 1 cup hot water and ½ cup cold water.
- ¼ cup Shortening - Shortening is ideal but you could try a shortening substitute if need be.
- 1 cup Sugar - Granulated white sugar.
- Warm Baking Spices - ½ tsp ground cinnamon, ½ tsp ground nutmeg, and ½ tsp ground allspice.
- ½ teaspoon Salt - Just a bit of salt to make all of the flavors 'pop'.
- 2 teaspoons Baking Soda - Dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water before adding to the batter.
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour - You could use cake flour or bread flour in a pinch, but it will change the consistency a bit.
Brown Sugar Frosting Ingredients (optional)
- 1 ½ cups Light Brown Sugar - Dark brown sugar has a more potent molasses taste, so light brown is preferred.
- ¼ cup Butter - Salted.
- 3 tablespoons Milk - I prefer whole milk, but you could use 2% or skim milk if that's all you have.
- 2 cups Confectioners' Sugar - Also referred to as powdered sugar.
*Be sure to see the free printable recipe card below for ingredients, exact amounts & instructions with tips!*
🔪 Step-By-Step Instructions
The brown sugar frosting may be optional, but I highly recommend it! You will need a 9x13 cake pan, a saucepan, a mixing bowl, and a rubber spatula.
Making The Old Fashioned Raisin Cake
- Prep. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly butter, grease, or spray your 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- Boil raisins. Place 1 cup of hot water and 1 ½ cups of raisins into a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Cream. Cream together ¼ cup shortening and 1 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Then, stir in the cooked raisins with the water they were boiled in. Then, mix in ½ a cup of cold water, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, ½ teaspoon salt, and 2 teaspoons of baking soda.
- Bake. Add 2 cups of all-purpose flour and mix until smooth. Transfer the batter into your prepared 9x13 pan. Bake in the center of your oven's middle rack at 350°F (175°C) for 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool. Serve as-is, or allow the cake to cool before making the optional frosting.
Making The Brown Sugar Frosting (Optional)
- Cook sugar mixture. In a medium saucepan combine 1 ½ cups of light brown sugar, ¼ cup of butter, and 3 tablespoons of milk. Cook over medium heat until the brown sugar has fully dissolved, whisking frequently as it cooks. Then remove it from heat and set it aside so it can cool completely.
- Mix. Once the sugar mixture is cooled, transfer it into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer and mix in 2 cups of confectioners' sugar. Add milk in small 1 tablespoon portions, if desired, to thin out the frosting.
- Frost and serve. Spread the brown sugar frosting over your old fashioned raisin cake using an offset spatula, cut, and serve.
Enjoy a slice of old-fashioned raisin cake with a cup of coffee or tea, or eat it as an after-dinner dessert! Without the frosting, it's delicious at breakfast time. Enjoy!
💭 Angela's Tips & Recipe Notes
- ¼ cup of butter is 4 tablespoons or ½ the standard stick of butter (in the states).
- This cake has many names. It is also commonly called poor man's cake, depression era cake, or war cake.
- Storing: This cake is best when stored at room temperature and enjoyed within the first 1-3 days. Without the frosting, the cake can be wrapped tightly in a layer of plastic wrap, then a layer of foil, and frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge.
🍰 More Tasty 9x13 Cakes!
- Mandarin Orange Cake
- Cherry Blueberry Dump Cake
- Chocolate Banana Cake
- Irish Oatmeal Cake
- Banana Pudding Poke Cake
- Vanilla Tray Bake
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Old Fashioned Raisin Cake (Vintage Boiled Cake Recipe)
Old Fashioned Raisin Cake
Old Fashioned Raisin Cake
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and lightly butter, grease, or spray your 9x13 baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
- Bring a saucepan with the first 1 cup hot water and 1 ½ cups raisins to a boil then reduce heat and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat when done.1 ½ cups raisins, 1 ½ cups water
- In a large mixing bowl cream together the shortening and granulated sugar until smooth. Stir in the cooked raisins (with the water) then add the ½ cup cold water and warm baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice), salt, and the dissolved baking soda.1 ½ cups water, ¼ cup shortening, 1 cup sugar, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoon baking soda
- Add the all-purpose flour and mix until smooth, then transfer into your prepared 9x13 pan. Bake in the center of your oven's middle rack at 350°F (175°C) for 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.2 cups all-purpose flour
- Allow the cake to cool before mixing the (optional) frosting.
Brown Sugar Frosting
- In a saucepan, combine the light brown sugar, butter, and milk and cook over medium heat until the brown sugar is fully dissolved. Whisk frequently while cooking, then remove from heat and allow to cool completely.1 ½ cups light brown sugar, ¼ cup butter, 3 tablespoon milk
- Once the sugar mixture is cooled, transfer it into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer and combine with confectioners' sugar. Add milk in small 1 tablespoon portions if desired to thin out the frosting.2 cups confectioners' sugar
- Spread over your old fashioned raisin cake using an offset spatula, cut, and serve.
- ¼ cup butter is 4 tablespoons or ½ the standard stick of butter (in the states).
- This cake is also commonly called poor man's cake, depression era cake, or war cake.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!