Spanish Bar Cake

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Transport yourself back in time with this old-fashioned, moist and spicy cake that was once a staple of supermarket bakeries. The Spanish Bar Cake offers a sweet dose of nostalgia, with its simple yet crave-worthy flavors of warm spices and plump, boiled raisins.

Decoding a Supermarket Classic

A few weeks ago, I received an intriguing request from a reader to share a recipe for the Spanish Bar Cake. This moist raisin spice cake was a beloved treat made by the Jane Parker Bakery and sold in A&P supermarkets across the US and Canada in years past.

Though the name evokes images of Spain, the “Spanish” inference remains a mystery. Perhaps the plump raisins were imported from Spain? Regardless, this humble cake has earned a cult following thanks to its straightforward everyday ingredients, easy prep, and old-fashioned flavor.

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Satisfying a Sweet Tooth and Memory

After some digging, I uncovered a few recipes that claimed to be the original Spanish Bar Cake formula. However, none could definitively confirm that status. I finally landed on an entry in an online food forum that asserted it came straight from the Jane Parker Bakery vault.

The cake was originally made in two high-rise 9×13 pans, frosted in the middle and on top. Then it would be sliced down the center to create two oblong “bars” for selling.

While my rendition may not be the exact specimen from the reader’s childhood, she still deemed it a “very good raisin spice cake.” Memory can sometimes enhance flavors in retrospect, so the intensity she recalled could have been a tad exaggerated. However, a few tweaks could boost the spice and color for an even closer match.

Adjusting for Spice Preference

Feel free to experiment with adding 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to the dry ingredients for a darker shade and more complex flavor. Bumping up the spices by half would also increase the intensity. The amount of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice is really key for infusing this simple cake with nostalgic yet crave-worthy flavor.

For an easy crowd-pleaser, I recommend starting with the recipe as written below. But spice enthusiasts can tweak and taste test to their heart’s content. No matter how you slice it, the Spanish Bar Cake delivers old-fashioned goodness with little fuss.

An Iconic Cake for Any Occasion

This tender treat would be right at home on a dessert table or as an anytime snack. Sweet memories not required – but likely to be made! Craving more nostalgic recipes? Check out this roundup of classic Newfoundland Christmas cakes perfect for the holidays.

Spanish Bar Cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

For the Frosting

  • 2 1/4 cups icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk, more if needed

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9×13 baking pan and line with parchment paper.
  2. Add the water and raisins to a saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the shortening to the boiled mixture. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. Sift together the sugar, soda, flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt.
  5. Add the sifted ingredients to the cooled raisin mixture, along with the beaten egg and nuts (if using).
  6. Fold gently until the flour is just incorporated into the batter. Do not overmix.
  7. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Cool completely and ice with frosting if desired.

To prepare the frosting:

  1. Beat together the icing sugar, butter, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk until smooth.
  2. If necessary, add more milk until frosting reaches a good spreadable consistency.
  3. Frost the cake layers, top with second layer and frost top. Run a fork over the frosting to create lines.

Enjoy this old-fashioned treat!

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1 Comment

  1. Vicki Cooke

    What is icing sugar?

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