Hello, Good News! Welcome to another article where we explore the fascinating history and culture of food. Today, we are going to learn how to make a trench cake, a simple but tasty fruit cake that was popular during the First World War. Trench cake was not only a survival food for the soldiers on the front lines, but also a way for their loved ones back home to show their support and care.
In this article, we will cover the origin and significance of trench cake, the ingredients and substitutions that were used, the recipe and tips for making it, and some common questions and answers about this unique cake. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the context and challenges of wartime cooking, as well as a delicious cake to enjoy with your family and friends. So, let’s get started!
What is Trench Cake and Why Was It Made?
The Origin of Trench Cake
Trench cake was a type of fruit cake that was made by women in Britain during the First World War and sent to their husbands, sons, brothers, or friends who were fighting in the trenches. The name “trench cake” comes from the fact that it was baked in a small and shallow tin that could fit in a soldier’s backpack or pocket. The cake was also dense and sturdy enough to withstand the long journey from Britain to France or Belgium, where most of the battles took place.
Trench cake was not only a source of nutrition and energy for the soldiers, but also a symbol of love and morale. Receiving a homemade cake from their loved ones must have been a great comfort and joy for the men who faced the horrors and hardships of war every day. The cake also reminded them of home and gave them hope for a better future.
The Significance of Trench Cake
Trench cake was more than just a simple dessert. It was also a reflection of the social and economic conditions of the time. During the war, food was scarce and rationed in Britain, as most of the resources were diverted to support the war effort. Many ingredients that were common before the war, such as eggs, butter, sugar, and flour, became rare and expensive. Therefore, women had to be creative and resourceful with their cooking, using whatever they had or could find.
Trench cake was one example of how women adapted to the situation and made do with what they had. They used vinegar instead of eggs, margarine instead of butter, dried fruits instead of fresh ones, and molasses or honey instead of sugar. They also used spices such as nutmeg and ginger to add some flavor and aroma to the cake. The result was a moist and fruity cake that was surprisingly tasty despite its humble ingredients.
How to Make Trench Cake: Ingredients and Substitutions
The Original Recipe for Trench Cake
The original recipe for trench cake was published by the Ministry of Food in 1916 as part of a pamphlet that encouraged women to save food and send parcels to their soldiers. The recipe was as follows:
1/2 lb flour
4 oz margarine
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/4 pint of milk
3 oz brown sugar
3 oz cleaned currants
2 teaspoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
grated lemon rind
The instructions were simple: grease a cake tin, rub margarine into the flour, add the dry ingredients, mix well, add the soda dissolved in vinegar and milk, beat well, turn into the tin, bake in a moderate oven for about two hours.
The Modern Variations of Trench Cake
The original recipe for trench cake can still be followed today, but some modern variations have been made to suit different tastes and preferences. For example, some people may prefer to use butter instead of margarine, or white sugar instead of brown sugar. Some may also add more dried fruits such as raisins, sultanas, or cherries, or nuts such as almonds or walnuts. Some may also omit the cocoa or use chocolate chips instead.
The baking time and temperature may also vary depending on the size and shape of the cake tin, as well as the type of oven used. A general guideline is to bake the cake at 180°C (350°F) for about an hour or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. The cake can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week or frozen for up to three months.
How to Make Trench Cake: Recipe and Tips
The Basic Steps for Making Trench Cake
Here is a summary of the basic steps for making trench cake, based on the original recipe:
- Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease a small cake tin (about 15-16 cm).
- In a large bowl, rub margarine into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the brown sugar, currants, cocoa, nutmeg, ginger, and lemon rind and mix well.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar and milk and stir quickly.
- Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and beat well until combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top.
- Bake for about an hour or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Wrap the cake in brown paper and tie with a string if you want to send it to someone or enjoy it yourself.
The Helpful Tips for Making Trench Cake
Here are some helpful tips for making trench cake:
- If you don’t have margarine, you can use butter or vegetable shortening instead.
- If you don’t have brown sugar, you can use white sugar or honey instead.
- If you don’t have currants, you can use raisins, sultanas, cherries, or any other dried fruits instead.
- If you don’t have cocoa, you can use chocolate chips or omit it altogether.
- If you don’t have nutmeg or ginger, you can use cinnamon, allspice, or any other spices instead.
- If you don’t have lemon rind, you can use orange rind or lemon juice instead.
- If you don’t have vinegar, you can use lemon juice or cream of tartar instead.
- If you want to make a larger cake, you can double or triple the recipe and use a bigger cake tin. Adjust the baking time accordingly.
- If you want to make a vegan cake, you can use plant-based milk and margarine instead of dairy products.
Trench Cake Nutrition Facts
Trench cake is not a low-calorie or low-fat dessert, but it does have some nutritional benefits. It is rich in carbohydrates and fiber from the flour and dried fruits, which provide energy and aid digestion. It also contains some protein and healthy fats from the margarine and nuts, which help build and repair tissues and cells. It also has some vitamins and minerals from the fruits and spices, such as vitamin C, iron, calcium, and potassium, which support various bodily functions and immune system.
However, trench cake also has some drawbacks. It is high in sugar and sodium from the sugar and baking soda, which can raise blood pressure and blood glucose levels. It also has some saturated fat and cholesterol from the margarine, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Therefore, trench cake should be enjoyed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.
Here is a table that shows the approximate nutrition facts for one slice of trench cake (based on 12 slices per cake):
|Nutrient||Amount||% Daily Value|
|Saturated Fat||2 g||10%|
Trench Cake FAQ
What is the difference between trench cake and war cake?
Trench cake and war cake are similar in that they are both types of fruit cakes that were made during the First World War using limited and rationed ingredients. However, trench cake was specifically made by British women and sent to their soldiers in the trenches, while war cake was more of a general term for any cake that was made during wartime. War cake could also refer to other variations of fruit cakes that were made in other countries, such as Canada, Australia, or the United States.
How long does trench cake last?
Trench cake can last for up to a week if stored in an airtight container at room temperature, or up to three months if frozen. However, it is best to consume it within a few days, as it may become dry or stale over time. To prevent this, you can wrap the cake in a damp cloth or paper towel before storing it, or sprinkle some water or alcohol over it before serving it.
How do you cut trench cake?
Trench cake is usually cut into thin slices, as it is quite dense and filling. You can use a sharp knife or a serrated knife to cut the cake, but make sure to clean the knife after each slice, as the dried fruits may stick to it. You can also warm the knife slightly before cutting, as this may make the cutting easier and smoother.
How do you serve trench cake?
Trench cake can be served as it is, or with some whipped cream, custard, ice cream, or jam. You can also toast the slices lightly and spread some butter or margarine over them. You can enjoy trench cake as a breakfast, snack, or dessert, with some tea, coffee, milk, or juice.
Can you make trench cake without vinegar?
Yes, you can make trench cake without vinegar, but you will need to replace it with another acidic ingredient that can react with the baking soda and create bubbles in the batter. Some possible substitutes for vinegar are lemon juice, cream of tartar, yogurt, buttermilk, or sour milk. You will need to use the same amount of the substitute as you would use vinegar.
Can you make trench cake without baking soda?
No, you cannot make trench cake without baking soda, as it is an essential ingredient that helps the cake rise and become light and fluffy. Without baking soda, the cake will be flat and dense. If you don’t have baking soda, you can use baking powder instead, but you will need to use four times the amount of baking powder as you would use baking soda.
Can you make trench cake without margarine?
Yes, you can make trench cake without margarine, but you will need to use another type of fat that can provide moisture and richness to the cake. Some possible alternatives for margarine are butter, vegetable shortening, lard, coconut oil, or vegetable oil. You will need to use the same amount of the alternative as you would use margarine.
Can you make trench cake without dried fruits?
Yes, you can make trench cake without dried fruits, but you will lose some of the flavor and texture of the cake. Dried fruits add sweetness, chewiness, and color to the cake, as well as some vitamins and minerals. If you don’t have dried fruits, you can use fresh fruits instead, but you will need to chop them finely and reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe. You can also use chocolate chips or nuts instead of dried fruits.
Can you make trench cake gluten-free?
Yes, you can make trench cake gluten-free by using gluten-free flour instead of regular flour. You may also need to add some xanthan gum or guar gum to the recipe to help bind the ingredients together and improve the texture of the cake. You will need to use about 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum or guar gum per cup of gluten-free flour.
Can you make trench cake vegan?
Yes, you can make trench cake vegan by using plant-based milk and margarine instead of dairy products. You may also need to add some extra baking soda or vinegar to the recipe to help the cake rise better and become more moist. You will need to use about 1/4 teaspoon of extra baking soda or vinegar per cup of plant-based milk.
Trench cake is a delicious and historic recipe that originated from the First World War. It is a simple but tasty fruit cake that was made by British women and sent to their soldiers in the trenches. It is also a testament to the creativity and resourcefulness of the women who had to cope with the food shortages and rationing during the war. Trench cake can be made with various ingredients and substitutions, depending on what you have or prefer. It can also be served in different ways, depending on your taste and occasion. Trench cake is not only a satisfying dessert, but also a way to connect with the past and appreciate the sacrifices and struggles of the people who lived through it.
We hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new about trench cake. If you want to try making it yourself, you can follow the recipe and tips we provided above, or you can experiment with your own variations. If you do, please let us know how it turned out and share your feedback with us. We would love to hear from you!
Thank you for reading this article and stay tuned for more interesting and informative articles from us. Until then, happy baking!