Emergency Cake

Emergency Cake

How could I not make this cake? It is labeled Emergency Cake. A cake emergency? As in, I need a cake now? I forgot to make something celebratory? Or, this situation calls for cake and only cake, stat? It was accompanied by a recipe for emergency bread. Which, upon reading, is soda bread. And we already know how I feel about soda bread. Delicious, easy, and the author is right, easy to pull off quickly in a bread emergency.

I’m not sure what constitutes a bread emergency, though I’m probably more likely than some to encounter one, living as I do at the end of a dead end road. I found these recipes in one of the notebooks of recipes that my mother amassed in her life. They are written out in her very careful, beautiful script. There are recipes cut from newspapers and magazines and pasted into loose-leaf notebooks. There is one notebook made for this purpose called ‘My Recipe Book” There are others that are plain looseleaf binders with lined paper.

There is one of these books that I will assume was a wedding gift and begins with pre-printed instructions on how to purchase food items in order to feed two people. Quanities. Measurements. Nutritional values of various foods. What to eat to prevent fatigue or stunted growth or scurvy. Sources of vitamins. A full how-to on being the one in charge of a household’s nutrition. How to do this on a budget was also highlighted. (Yes, the instructions are for the ‘American Housewife’. My soon-to-become ultra-feminist mother must have laughed at all of this eventually. They’re still pretty accurate instructions.)

Later there are other clippings tucked in and not pasted. Recipes on cards that must have been given to her, in someone else’s handwriting. Printouts from websites. Printed out emails from former students giving her recipes that they were sure she’d love or that she’d obviously had at some party or another and complimented and so the recipe was emailed.

I’m intoxicated by the nostalgia of all of this. The idea of sharing recipes by giving out a handwritten card, rather than a google link or a photocopied page or a web address. It’s so personal. You know that the writer didn’t create the recipe, but does it matter? They cooked it and it was loved and it was shared and they get to claim a little piece of that recipe’s history.

The recipe for ‘Daboo’s Hermits’, I’m going to guess, is the same as any other recipe for hermit cookies. But Daboo was what my mother called her grandmother and how much better do Daboo’s Hermits sound anyway? Do I care about absolute provenance? Not in the least.

Anyway, back to emergency cake. I loved the name, I loved trying to imagine a cake emergency. I loved the connection to my mother. I have no idea if she ever made this cake but it’s in the book so I will make it too. Once I read the ingredients I also realized this was likely to be a favorite with the hubby (he’s a little obsessed with ginger). So, with a tweak here and there, here is an Emergency Cake for you too. This is the kind of cake that is masquerading as bread or vice versa. Tasty on baking day. Maybe even better on days two, three and four – after a little toasting and spread with salted butter. Enjoy.

Cake with Butter

Emergency Cake


  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup syrup I'm pretty sure this is a British recipe and I had Lyle's golden syrup in the house, so that's what I used. Maple syrup would be a delicious substitute
  • 6 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 egg


  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a loaf pan.

  2. In a large bowl mix the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.

  3. Stir in the brown sugar and the raisins.

  4. Meanwhile, melt the butter and syrup together over a low heat.

  5. Stir the butter syrup mixture into the dry ingredients.

  6. In a small bowl, whisk the milk and egg and then add it to the large bowl. Mix well.

  7. Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.

  8. Remove it from the pan as soon as possible and leave in on a rack to cool.





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