Cowboy Cake | Recipes from American History

Cowboy Cake | Recipes from American History

When you get to Week 18 of Dave Raymond’s American History course, you’ll be covering “The Expansion of the US.” We often think about what these men and women encountered in their travels across the West, but we don’t always remember what they ate.

With the expansion of the U.S. came interesting issues; for example, what food would withstand the tough travel and climate of the new frontier? Commodities such as dried meat and fruit became a pioneer’s best friend on the trail, as they did not spoil easily and would last a long time. 

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Another helpful tool was the dutch oven, which was sturdy and could cook anything from stew to cake. One of these cakes is known as Cowboy cake. Made with dried fruit in a dutch oven, it was a useful recipe because it didn’t call for eggs or milk, which spoiled easily on the trail. 

Cowboy Cake

*Adapted from the cookbook American Cake by Anne Byrn

Makes 8 servings

  • 1 c. raisins
  • 3 c. Water
  • 1 Tbsp. Butter or vegetable shortening
  • 1 tsp. Baking soda
  • 1/2 c. Granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. Ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 2 c. All-purpose flour 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Heat a 10” dutch oven over medium-high heat on stove. Combine the raisins and water in oven, turn heat to medium and let simmer for 15-20 minutes uncovered, until raisins are brown and soft. Drain and set aside, keeping 1 c. raisin liquid. 
  2. Pour raisin liquid into dutch oven and add the butter/vegetable shortening, stirring to melt. Add soda, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and flour, mixing until smooth and no flour lumps are left. Add in raisins and stir until combined. 
  3. Smooth cake batter, cover dutch oven, place in oven, and bake 25-30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in middle of cake. Best served warm, but will be good up to 2 days.
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