Sunday, September 04, 2016

A Chill In The Air Means Raisin Spice Cake In The Oven

It's a chilly afternoon and the air has a decided nip to it. Which means it's a great day to bake something warm and comforting like Raisin Spice Cake.

When we think of this simple cake, we immediately think of an old family recipe. My sister now has the handwritten copy from our grandmother’s cookbook, who originally got it from her sister-in-law, Julia. My mom also had the recipe and made it often when we were kids. It came to be known as Aunty Julie’s Cake. If you look closely at the recipe, you'll see Grandma's side note: "It's good." And we all agree, yes, it is good.

Photo: Kathy Hillacre

Now there's a bit of a funny story that goes with this particular recipe. One day when Sis and I were youngsters we decided to surprise our mom with some baking. I might have been about ten or eleven, my sister three years younger. After deciding what to make, we went in search of Mom's recipe, which had been copied down, minus the most needful ingredient, the flour.

The two of us, being new bakers, didn't know that flour is always a key ingredient in any baking venture. Maybe we were denser than some kids, but we took all recipes at face value. We creamed the butter and sugar, we added the milk, spices, and raisins.

It doesn't look the way a batter should look, we mused, peering into the bowl with anxious eyes. We went over the ingredient list again, and yes, we had added everything it said, so, alright then, into the oven it went. Fingers crossed, we hoped for a 'miracle' in there.

Thirty minutes later the pan, now out of the oven, indeed looked strange. There was this hard sugary mess sprinkled with plump burned raisins. We called Grandma -- she would know what went wrong. She asked me to read off the ingredients. "But, you didn't add any flour." We wailed, "But the recipe didn't say."

That's the day we found out that every cake needs flour, whether the recipe says so or not. That incident is now a part of our family folklore and we've had many a good laugh over it. Sister thinks we fed the burned mess to the chickens, and Grandma no doubt enjoyed a good chuckle when she got off the phone that day.

Here is the recipe below, flour amount assuredly included.

Great Aunty Julia's Raisin Spice Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar (can be reduced to 1 cup)

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg or allspice

1 cup buttermilk (or milk soured with 1 tsp vinegar)
1 cup raisins

Cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well.
In separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices.
Alternate additions of flour and buttermilk to creamed butter until all is incorporated.
Gently fold in raisins.

Pour into greased and floured 9" x 9" cake pan.
Bake 350F for about 30 minutes.
Cool for 5-7 minutes. Then turn out of pan onto rack to finish cooling.

We sometimes eat it with ice cream and lemon sauce,
or we frost it with either a cream cheese or butter icing.

Also makes about 24 cupcakes using medium size paper liners.

“This is my invariable advice to people:
Learn how to cook -- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes,
be fearless, and above all have fun!”

  “ one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”
~ Julia Child, My Life in France


On that note, I'm wishing you a blissful day...

With hugs,



  1. I want to be your neighbor so I can smell all that goodness coming from your kitchen. Then be invited over for a piece of cake to exchange family folklores.

  2. It does seem to be the season for a spice cake! However, we expect our high temps for the next few days to be into the nineties here! Summer is still holding on! - xo Nellie

  3. What a treasure that recipe book must be for your family. I have a few old cookbooks of my great aunt's, and I like reading the notations she wrote in them. I write in all my cookbooks too. Your adventure in cooking reminds me of my brother and I cooking when my parents left us alone for three weeks (with older siblings). We decided to make a cheese sauce for our macaroni, but we didn't follow any recipe. I "knew" just how to make it, but used about a cup (or 2?) of flour rather than just a couple of tablespoons. It was a big glob of something resembling playdoh! We threw it on the manure pile and THEN looked up a recipe for it ;)

  4. Oh that is a tragic story! Ha! No, really, what a disappointment for you both when you so wanted to create something good and tasty. My sister and I fed more than a few things to the dog, some of which, even he would not eat. Wonderful handwritten recipe with the sweet note from your grandmother.

  5. The recipe looks perfect, and I have the buttermilk on hand that needs to be used right away. Thank you!

  6. Sounds delicious, Brenda (provided one adds the flour!)

  7. What a sweet story! Thank you for this funny tale of two little girls and their discovery of the necessity of flour.

  8. That recipe sounds wonderful. A moist spicy cake is just about irresistible to me. My problem is that i tend to snitch a bit whenever i walk past, unless i hide it. So i usually reserve baking until we're going to have company who will eat it. :-)

  9. What a fun story Brenda. I can almost picture two young girls looking at the batter and hoping it turns out in spite not being certain. This cake sounds scrumptious. Will have to give this one a try. Hope you are having a super day. Hugs!

  10. It sounds like a delicious cake and just right for this time of year! A lovely story from your early baking days, and a valuable lesson learned. I can totally see how it happened though! xx

  11. Oh, Brenda ... that cake sounds like a piece of heaven. I'm definitely going to try it.

    Send the chill on down!

  12. old recipes are a mom tells of one time when she was young she and her sister decided to make a dress from some fabric her mom had bought for that process. BUT they didn't have a pattern so one of them laid down on the spread out fabric, while the other one drew an outline then cut it out and sewed it up. don't think their mom was very happy with that experimentation!

  13. What a fun memory! Yes I baked that often and when you had good sour cream on the farm {good old fashioned cream} you could use that instead of butter! I made them for my grandkids when we went there. My grandson was usually looking to make sure I brought cupcakes; I think it was the caramel icing that he really liked!

    thanks for the memory,


To My Beautiful Readers,

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Brenda xo