Sunday, September 16, 2012

Necessity breeds ingenuity

War is bad. Living through a war is even worse. Living through a war without coffee and bacon? Well, that sounds downright disparate.

My grandma discusses it as if it were just yesterday that Pearl Harbor was bombed and the men of her west-side Cincinnati neighborhood left on ships and boats for battlefronts in Europe and the Pacific. She talks about making first aid kits at the American Red Cross and her sister working in a factory, a real Rosie the Riveter. (More like Edna the Riveter but it doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?) She talks about getting letters from my grandpa with pieces cut out and visiting her future in-laws on Sunday afternoons.


And she talks about rations.

She is always quick to say that her family was almost lucky - it was just her parents, her sister and herself. There weren't a lot of mouths to feed. My grandpa's family was big with eight children, many of whom were still at home, and lots of boys. Their ration cards didn't go far, and my grandma's family often gave them cards for coffee and bacon so the boys would be well fed.

It's hard to imagine a time where you couldn't just go to the grocery and pick up a gallon of milk or dozen eggs because you felt like baking. And yet that's exactly what it was like during World War II. Instead of just taking up knitting (though I'm sure they did plenty of that), the ladies got creative. They found ways to make cakes and pies that didn't take away from the things soldiers needed.

Cakes made without butter, milk or eggs. Cakes with baking soda and vinegar for rising and vegetable oil to help bind the ingredients. A cake that has pumpkin for moistness and richness but because it's pumpkin latte season. In other words, a vegan cake before it was even remotely cool to be vegan.

In a different set of words, this cake is as crazy as the name implies but only because it allowed me to attend a party, bring the requested dessert and get lots of compliments without having to compromise my way of eating or bring something special just for me.

Crazy Pumpkin Spice Cake

Barely adapted from

For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1.5 cups water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Maple-Cinnamon Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup vanilla unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a 10” bundt pan and set aside. In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until thoroughly combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack and allow the cake to stay in the pan for five minutes, then invert onto cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Once cool, put on a plate, blend the glaze ingredients together and pour over the cake.


  1. My (paternal) grandparents were from Cincinnati as well! Wouldn't it be wild if they knew each other? The cake looks great. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Mmm just make this recipe but in cupcakes. So good! Will make this again my 4 yr old. Loved them!

    Gretta Hewson
    Leviton Dimmers