Survival Foods – How to Make Trench Cake


Remember the trifecta of survival – three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food? Well, can’t help you with water and air, but I could definitely teach you a thing or two without food. So, let’s assume for a moment that there’s no more survival food in that fancy BOB of yours. What do you do then? Starve to death? Resort to cannibalism? Not on my watch. In today’s article I’m going to teach you a recipe that will not only blow your mind but will also fill than rumbling tummy of yours. Trench cake is called, and despite the name, it’s quite delicious, healthy, nutritious, and stupidly easy to make. So, grab what you need from the kitchen and let’s start cooking.

What the Hell is Trench cake?

The name is by no means accidental by nature. Indeed, the trench cake’s history can be traced back to the war to end all wars. In or around 1914, hundreds of thousands of these homemade fruitcakes were sent to troops fighting along the Ypres Line. Nights were cold, hearts were all a-quiver, and expectations as low as they could get. Indulging in such a treat, if only for a couple of minutes, was, for most battle-weary men more valuable than all the riches in the world.

Why was this pound cake so special? Well, one of would have to assume because it could have been prepared from virtually any kind of dry fruits. And it was also the matter of the recipe not requiring any eggs. Yes, I know that an eggless cake sounds strange, but times were hard, and eggs weighed their worth in gold. Most of them were diverted to the war effort. There were simply not enough to go around for more exquisite dishes. Housewives and chefs had to adapt their recipes accordingly. This is how the trench cake was born – no eggs, but just as delicious as a chocolate mousse cake.

The times may be a-changing, but some things stay the same; like this simply and delicious recipes. The bygones may be bygones, but not totally forgotten. History lesson over, class. Let’s get to the cooking.

Related: How to Make Dandelion Bread (Recipe Inside)

Gathering the ingredients

Ready to do some historical cooking? Awesome! Start by gathering the required ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Plain flour – 225 grams.
  2. Margarine – 110 grams.
  3. Currants – 75 grams.
  4. Cocoa – two teaspoons.
  5. Baking soda – half a teaspoon.
  6. Brown sugar – 75 grams.
  7. Vinegar – one teaspoon.
  8. Cow’s milk – a quarter of a pint.

Optional: To make the trench cake even yummier, you can use some extra flavorings such as lemon zest (grated), ginger, and nutmeg.

Done gathering the ingredients? Well, it’s time to hit the kitchen. Nervous? They say it hurts the first time, but you’ll get used to it.

Preparing trench cake

Just follow these instructions to prepare this delicious survival recipe.

Step 1. Preheat your oven. Aim for 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2. Take a small cake tin from the pantry. If you don’t own one, grab a circular one that’s about 15 to 16 centimeters in diameter.

Step 3. Put the margarine in the center of the tin. Use the brush to spread it all over the tin. Still, if you like to get dirty while cooking, you can ditch the brush and get creative with your hands. Just be sure that you apply enough grease to the walls – doesn’t ruin the taste, but it will be easier to clean the tin afterward.

Step 4.  Grab your dry ingredients (flour, currants, brown sugar, and cocoa) and place them all in the cake tin. Use a wooden spoon to stir them well (avoid using metal because it leaves an awful aftertaste).

Step 5. Take a clean bowl from the pantry and add milk.

Step 6. Add vinegar to the bowl of milk and the baking soda.

Step 7. Use a clean spoon to mix the soda. Continue doing so until the baking soda is completely dissolved.

Step 8. Dump the contents of the bowl in the cake tin. Use a whisk to mix the dry and wet ingredients. Leave the mix to rest for a couple of minutes.

Step 9. Stick the tray in the preheated oven and bake for one or two hours. I had mixed results with this recipe. The first time, I’ve used an electric oven to bake the cake. Took about two hours. However, the second time it took a bit over an hour to achieve the same results but this time I did it with a gas-powered oven. Remember to check the texture every 15 minutes when the first hour has passed. You really wouldn’t want to torch your first trench cake, would you now?

Tip: My mom taught me a neat little trick, very useful to see if the cake is ready to be taken out of the oven. It involved plucking a small straw from a clean broom and to insert it into the middle of the cake. If the idea of using a broom straw seems to be too disgusting, you can always use a toothpick or a thin wooden handle. So, stick the toothpick in the middle of the cake. Pull it out and take a closer look at it. If the dough still sticks to the toothpick, then it’s not yet ready. Simple and very, very efficient.

Step 10. Take the tin out of the oven and let it cool for a while. When it’s ready, use a knife to cut it into manageable pieces and serve with plenty of nutmeg, ginger, and some grated lemon zest.

That’s it! No hassle and no getting the kitchen all dirty.  When it dries up, you can stick pieces into zip-lock bags and place them in each of your bug out bag. They’re great as trail snacks and marvelous for replenishing your energy reserves. What do you think about trench cake? If care to share the results of your work, shoot me a comment.

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