Rationing Desserts – Upside Down Blueberry Cake

I’m gathering quite a collection of World War II cook books that were designed to help housewives cope with rationing while still keeping their families happy. Blueberries from the grocery store spurred me on to look for a suitable recipe. I found one in a small pamphlet entitled: Your Share: How to Prepare Appetizing, Healthful Meals with Foods Available Today by Betty Crocker. Dated 1943 the cover boasts that the book contains “52 menus, 226 recipes, and 369 hints.” Certainly enough to keep the ration-weary housewife happy!

With a patriotic red, white and blue cover, it gives the reader of today a great look into rationing and how women were taught to cope. The section on desserts is titled “Spare the Sweets.” One idea was to use corn syrup instead of sugar or mix half sugar with half corn syrup. Other ideas were to make smaller cakes or cup cakes. Or to only ice the top of a cake, not the sides.

Using fruit was highly encouraged to make up for the lack of sweetener. So that was perfect for my blueberries. I decided to make the Upside-Down Cake which suggested using peaches, apricots, plums or berries.    

However, I’m not sure this was too much of a ration-friendly recipe. The recipe calls for a full cup of sugar. Depending on what year it was in the war a family could be allotted 1/2 pound of sugar per week. Families were large and baking was big during the early 20th century so this cake would have been a treat for the typical family.

To read more about American World War II rationing and food check out this blog. And for the best rationing blog about Britain in World War II you can’t beat this amazing blog.

Here’s the recipe:

For the fruit portion:

2 cups fruit

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

Cook fruit sprinkled with sugar in water over low heat for 5 minutes

Arrange cooked fruit in bottom of well greased 8″ square pan

For the cake you use a recipe called Service Cake:

The cake after it's cooked - blueberries on top

  • 1/3 c. shortening (in the war this might have been lard or rendered fats, butter was very scarce)
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 1/2 c. sifted flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 tsp. baking powder (really interesting. They gave various measurements depending on whether the baking powder was double-action (Calumet, Clabber Girl, and Davis), medium phosphate (Rumford) or “largest amount of tartrate (Royal)
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350

Cream together the shortening (I used butter) and sugar.

Blend in the 2 well beaten eggs

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder

Blend the flour mixture into the creamed mixture alternately with milk and vanilla

Pour the batter on top of the blueberry mixture in the 8 inch square pan

Bake in oven for about 35 minutes (truthfully, it wasn’t fully cooked in the center and could have used about 5-10 minutes more

The result was a very yummy cake! If the blueberries had been local and fresh it would have been better of course. But by far the best part of this was the cake itself. It was moist, light, and just tasted so scrumptious that I want to try the cake again with a frosting. But of course in good rationing style I will only frost the top.

World War II cooking continues to amaze!


One Response to “Rationing Desserts – Upside Down Blueberry Cake”

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  1. Bev says:

    That sounds yummy! We’lkl be trying this one and I can’t wait!

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