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Poor Man's Cake

Poor Man’s Cake
13 votes, 4.00 avg. rating (79% score)
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Yield: 12 to 15 servings

Poor man's cake is an old-fashioned dessert that was especially popular in the 1930s and is sometimes known as Depression Cake. Notice how low in fat this recipe is! Try it with a cream cheese frosting.

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  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 package (15 ounces) raisins
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 cups all-purpose white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan.

In a large saucepan, combine the brown sugar, water, salt, shortening, raisins, and spices. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Sift together the flour and soda, add to the batter, and mix well. Pour into the pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan.
Updated Thursday, May 23rd, 2002

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7 Responses to Poor Man’s Cake

  1. Deborah Kirby January 17, 2004 at 8:33 pm #

    GREAT!!! The cake was very moist & very tasty.

  2. Butch Smith December 19, 2004 at 11:22 am #

    Great recipe. Moist and tasty. Also great if you add 2 oz of citron or lemon and 1 cup of chopped black walnuts.

    Makes me think of home and Christmas. Make it a family tradition.

  3. Robin December 18, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    Can you substitute something else for the shortening?

    • Aimee Seavey December 22, 2015 at 10:19 am #

      Hi Robin. Feel free to substitute butter for the shortening. Thanks!

  4. Doug December 23, 2015 at 11:03 pm #

    Above says
    Dissolves baking soda in hot water
    Then it says
    Sift baking soda and flour together

    This does not seem possible as water and flour don’t sft

    • Aimee Seavey January 13, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

      Hi Doug. Great question — this is an old recipe and we scratched our heads a little over here after you called this to our attention. After doing a little research, our advice is to not dissolve the soda in the water, but sift with the flour and the recipe later instructs. We’ll update the text to reflect these changes. Hopefully that will do the trick! Thanks!

  5. Lori May 3, 2016 at 2:35 pm #

    The recipe I got from my great aunt calls for 1 tsp to be added to the raisin mixture after removing from the heat and then an additional 1 tsp added with the flour.

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