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I’ll Tell You Where the Missiles Are! Or, a story of war cake


One of my brother’s best high school friends came from a military family. Arthur’s father had been in the Armed Forces, and in time, Arthur followed in his footsteps. He flew missions during the Persian Gulf War, came home unscathed and is now happily retired.

Art and my brother share a love of music. As boys they spent hours on my family’s back deck, playing guitar and making up ridiculous lyrics to blues melodies. At other times they would stalk through the house commando style, hiding behind doors and creeping down hallways. But my mother had a secret weapon to end the hijinks – war cake.

For those who may not have heard of it, “war cake” was one of necessity’s inventions during the First World War. It contained no eggs, milk or white sugar, which made it an acceptable sweet in times of rationing. In Deliverance, war cake is served at Carl and Naomi’s wedding. A traditional wedding cake would likely have been out of the question at the time.

In my opinion, the combination of raisins, brown sugar and spices is delicious, but Art disagrees. He just doesn’t like that mix of flavours. The mere mention of war cake used to make him recoil in mock terror. “No! Not war cake! Please, I’ll tell you where the missiles are!” The joke still comes up on the rare occasions when we see him.

I believe my mother got her recipe from my father’s mother. I think hers contains molasses instead of brown sugar, but otherwise it’s very similar to this one. If you enjoy spice cake of any kind, I think you’ll like this.

2 c. brown sugar
2 c. hot water
2 tsp. shortening
1/2 to 3/4 c. raisins
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. salt
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. hot water
Mix brown sugar, hot water and shortening in a medium size saucepan. Add raisins, cinnamon, salt and cloves. Boil for 5 minutes after it bubbles. Remove from heat and cool completely (important). Add baking soda that has been dissolved in hot water. Then add flour. Pour in greased tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees 1 hour.