Photograph of War Cakes
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War Cakes and the 75th Anniversary of VE Day

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Today is the 75th anniversary of VE (Victory Europe) Day – 75 years since Nazi Germany conceded defeat to the Allies of World War Two, ending the war in Europe. The agreement itself was signed on the 7th May 1945 dictating that all hostilities must cease at 23.01pm Central European Time, on the 8th May 1945. Given that it would already have passed midnight in the Soviet Union and some East European States, VE Day is also celebrated on 9th May in these nations. The war in Asia still raged on but VE day provided a brief moment of respite and celebration and time to take stock before the war finally ended on 2nd September 1945.

Many parades, concerts and services of remembrance had been organised across the globe to recognise this momentous day 75 years on, but with COVID 19 still raging throughout all continents, all celebrations have been cut back. Televised concerts to empty halls, television programmes, bunting on the streets and small street parties observing strict social distancing are taking place. The Red Arrows flew over Buckingham Palace and the empty streets of London at 10am, 2 minutes silence was observed at 11am and the Prime Minister and the Queen are due to address the nation later in the day.

Our enforced days of social isolation and social distancing meant we were able to observe all this on the television from the comfort of our own homes, whilst eating some War Cakes. These little cakes were made by my maternal grandmother on rare occasions of celebration throughout the war. The recipe requires no eggs (a huge plus) but does use butter and dried fruit – both would have been in very short supply and extremely difficult get hold of. I’m sure the warm, delicious smell of these little, spicy cakes permeating through the house would have cheered up my mum and her sister during those dark times as well as the years of strict rationing afterwards.

They are simple to make and use only a few store cupboard ingredients:

  • flour
  • salt
  • butter
  • sugar
  • mixed spice
  • mixed dried fruit
  • bicarbonate of soda
  • milk

You simply rub the butter into the flour and then add the sugar, mixed spice and dried fruit. Combine the bicarbonate of soda with the milk and then mix to a soft batter with the flour, butter and sugar mix. Divide into 18 small paper cases and cook for 25 – 30 minutes.

Mum’s recipe shown above. I’ve had to convert it to grams as mum and Aunty Gill both still work in imperial measures! Interestingly Aunty Gill’s recipe said you can also bake it as one large cake – in which case it should be baked for 1¾ hours and I imagine in a 7 or 8 inch round greased and lined cake tin.

For years we referred to them as Soda Cakes (I assume because of the bicarbonate of soda), but a few years ago my mum made a batch for Andrew’s parents and in re-telling the story of where the recipe came from and how my grandmother used to make them during the war, we now always call them War Cakes.

If you are interested in food from this period, have a look at Karen Burns-Booth’s wonderful website Lavender and Lovage. She has a lot of recipes as well as a host of more current ideas for food and travel.

Photograph of War Cakes
5 from 1 vote

War Cakes

I'm sure the warm, delicious smell of these little, spicy cakes permeating through the house would have cheered up my mum and her sister during those dark times as well as the years afterwards of strict rationing.

Course afternoon tea
Cuisine British
Keyword cakes, dried fruits, spicy, war


  • 220g SR Flour
  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt
  • 220g mixed dried fruit
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 70ml milk, or enough to mix


  1. Collect together your equipment (see Recipe Notes below) and ingredient

  2. Preheat oven to Fan Oven 150°C/170°C/325°F/Gas 3

  3. Measure the flour and butter into a mixing bow and rub the fat into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.

  4. Add the sugar, mixed spice, salt and dried fruit. Stir to mix.

  5. Stir the milk and the bicarbonate of soda together and addto the cake mix. Stir to mix with a spoon.

  6. Divide into 18 small paper cases and cook in the centre of the oven for 25 – 30 minutes. Delicous, either warm or at room temperature, with a cup of tea

Recipe Notes


  • mixing bowl
  • kitchen scales and measuring spoons
  • small jug or mixing bowl
  • fairy cake tins lined with 18 paper cases


  • Pat Sumner

    5 stars
    A tasty recipe and beautifully presented on your site with fascinating background information. Well done! I’ll definitely be sharing your blog with others.

    • Susan

      Thank you Pat. We have both grown up with these cakes! Sorry for delay in replying – just figured out how to do it! xx

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