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Old-Fashioned Raisin Cake

Are you looking for a traditional cake recipe? Look no further than this timeless old-fashioned raisin cake, aka poor man’s cake. It not only stores incredibly well but also requires just a few staple ingredients to make. This easy yet delicious coffee cake has been a popular dessert, snack, or even breakfast for many generations. I got the recipe from my mom and I hope you’ll be able to pass it on to a dear family member or friend as well!

A raisin cake on a wooden board.
Table of contents

Why you’ll love my raisin cake recipe

  • Old-fashioned recipe: This easy raisin cake recipe is a fresh take on the old-fashioned boiled raisin cake that stood the test of times.
  • Stores well: Packed with juicy raisins and orange flavors, the moist texture of this type of cake allows it to be stored for several days.
  • Simple ingredients: With pantry staples like raisins, sugar, and butter, this easy recipe can be whipped up anytime.

Why is raisin cake called poor man’s cake?

Raisin cake earned its nicknames poor man’s cake, war cake, and depression cake during times of economic hardship like the depression era and world wars, when ingredients were scarce. Made with simple pantry staples and prized for its moist texture and long shelf life, it provided a comforting treat even in difficult times.

Ingredients

Ingredients needed to make the raisin cake.
  • Orange: Freshly pressed orange juice and orange zest add citrusy flavors to the fruit cake. Substitute with orange extract if needed.
  • Sugar: Granulated sugar adds sweetness to the cake batter. 
  • Butter: Unsalted softened butter gives the cake its richness and moisture. You can use salted but omit the pinch of salt.
  • Vanilla: Use vanilla extract or fresh vanilla for a rich flavor but you can also opt for vanilla essence if needed.
  • Baking powder: Helps the cake rise and achieve a light, fluffy texture.
  • All-purpose flour: Provides structure to the cake.
  • Eggs (separated): Use free-range eggs if possible, stored at room temperature. The egg whites are beaten separately and folded into the batter for added leavening.
  • Milk: Use whole milk for richness, but you can substitute with lower fat alternative.
  • Salt: A pinch of salt balances the flavors of the cake. 

Variations

Soaked raisins in a saucepan.
  1. Raisin loaf cake: Bake this raisin pound cake in a large loaf pan or create mini loaf cakes instead of a bundt tin.
  2. Rum and raisin cake: Soak the raisins in rum instead of orange juice to make the classic rum cake.
  3. Raisin spice cake: Add ground cloves, ground cinnamon, or nutmeg for a spiced version reminiscent of a traditional spice cake.
  4. Christmas fruit cake: Incorporate chopped nuts, candied fruit, Christmas spice mix, and a splash of rum or brandy for a festive holiday treat.

How to make this old-fashioned raisin cake

Steps 1-4 of how to make the raisin cake.
Steps 5-8 of how to make the raisin cake.
A raisin cake on a black plate.
  1. Cream the soft butter and sugar.
  2. Separate the eggs.
  3. Mix in the egg yolks.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and fully combine everything.
  5. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  6. Gently fold in the soaked raisins and egg whites.
  7. Pour the batter into a greased baking tin.
  8. Bake the cake at 350F for about 55 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes.
  9. Remove it from the baking tin and let it fully cool down.

Serving

Serve this raisin cake as a dessert topped with a dollop of whipped cream, brown sugar schlag, or whipped mascarpone cream. It also taste delicious dunked into coffee or tea especially once it’s starting to become a bit drier after a few days of storage.

FAQ

Can I make this cake ahead of time?

Yes, this cake actually tastes even better the next day as the flavors meld together. Store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Can I use different types of dried fruit?

Absolutely! Feel free to experiment with dried cranberries, chopped apricots, or even dates for a different flavor profile.

How can I ensure the cake stays moist?

Wrapping the cooled cake tightly in plastic wrap or tin foil and storing it in an airtight container in a cool place (not the refrigerator) will help maintain the cake’s moisture for several days.

Related recipes

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A raisin cake on a wooden board next to a piece of cake on some parchment paper.

Old-Fashioned Raisin Cake

Caro Jensen
This timeless old-fashioned raisin cake not only stores incredibly well but also requires just a few staple ingredients to make.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Course Cake, Dessert
Cuisine American, British
Servings 16 servings
Calories 305 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 oranges juiced
  • 1 cup butter softened, unsalted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs separated
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pinch salt

Instructions
 

  • Zest an orange and set aside. In a medium saucepan, add freshly pressed orange juice and raisins. Bring everything up to a simmer and switch the heat off. Let the raisins soak in the hot orange juice for 15 minutes.
    1 1/2 cup raisins, 2 oranges
  • Preheat the oven at 350°F (180°C). Grease a bundt tin with butter.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cream softened butter and sugar.
    1 cup butter, 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Add egg yolks one by one while stirring.
    4 eggs
  • Add flour, baking powder, pinch of salt, vanilla extract, orange zest, and milk. Mix until well combined and smooth. Make sure not to overmix the batter at this point.
    3 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp orange zest, 1 pinch salt, 1 cup milk
  • In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
    4 eggs
  • Drain the raisin mixture and gently fold them into the batter along the beaten egg whites until just combined.
  • Pour the batter into a prepared tube pan or bundt cake pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F (180°C) for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar. Slice and serve.

Notes

  • Soak raisins: To ensure juicy, plump sweet raisins in your cake, soak them in the hot orange juice mixture for at least 15 minutes before using.
  • Cream well: Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly to achieve a light and fluffy cake texture.
  • Fold gently: Be careful not to overmix the batter when folding in the beaten egg whites and raisins to preserve the cake’s light texture.

Nutrition

Calories: 305kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 5gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 73mgSodium: 173mgPotassium: 195mgFiber: 2gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 455IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 66mgIron: 2mg
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