Trench Cake

Being a youth theatre director my work often baffles a lot of people – I often open the boot of my car to reveal lots of weird and wonderful things which I then comment to my friends ‘Don’t ask – it’s work’. I’ve worked on projects involving vintage bikes, humongous fake cabbages and more recently the history of allotments! As part of the research for the project we looked at recipes cooked by local people from Wolverhampton during WW1 and WW2. The most interesting recipe that we came across was ‘Trench Cake’. It was baked by women back at home and sent across to France to meet the lips of their loved ones fighting in the trenches. Obviously everyone was having to cook using their rations so cake recipes had to be adapted, which meant using vinegar and baking soda as an egg substitute. The cake also had to last the journey to France so in the original recipe it was baked for 2 hours to make it good and solid! So I had a go at cooking this mysterious Trench Cake to see how it tasted and the results were very surprising! I expected to eat a dry crumbly cake, but it tasted like a spiced fruit cake – perfect for an afternoon cuppa in front of the telly 🙂 So here is the recipe that was issued by the Government back in 1914/1916 for Trench Cake as publicised by the Telegraph. Enjoy! (I had to convert the measurements using my good old trusted Dairy Cook book otherwise I wouldn’t have had a clue!)


  • 1/2 lb flour (I used self-raising)
  • 4oz margarine
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1/4 pint milk
  • 3oz brown sugar
  • 3oz currants (I used raisins)
  • 2 tsp cocoa powderc
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (I used baking powder- if there is any difference)
  • Nutmeg (I used 1 tsp)
  • Ginger (I used 1 tsp)
  • Grated lemon rind


  1. Rub together the marg and flour until they resemble bread crumbs
  2. Mix in all of the dry ingredients
  3. Mix the baking soda, milk and vinegar together until dissolved.
  4. Add wet mixture to dry and beat well
  5. Pour into a greased cake tin and bake in a moderate oven for 2 hours (I baked it for 1 hour at around 180C)

Go on – give this recipe a try – it will surprise you! x

For more information about the Heritage Project I’m working on click here Central Youth Theatre