In June 1943, butter was added to the list of rationed foods. The allowance for each adult was one pound (0.45kg) per fortnight. Butter rationing continued until 1950. Other foods, including eggs and milk, were rationed from time to time when shortages occurred.
These wartime restrictions caused home cooks to change their ways. Baking was particularly affected, owing to the shortage of butter and, often, eggs. Recipes were developed to work around the constraints of butter rationing, among them the butterless, eggless fruit cake. Fruit cake was a favourite for shipping to servicemen overseas and the absence of butter and eggs helped to contribute to the cake’s keeping qualities.
The following recipe for Milkless, Eggless and Butterless cake was typical of the era.
Family Cutting Cake. – Into a pan put the following ingredients, bring to the boil and boil 5 minutes – 2 breakfastcups water, 1 ½ breakfastcups brown or ordinary sugar, 1 ¼ lb. or less sultanas or other dried fruit, 1 tablespoon syrup, 2 tablespoons lard, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground cloves.
When cold, add 3 breakfastcups sieved flour, and 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water. Mix very thoroughly, put into 2 greased tins, and bake 1 ½ hours in a moderate oven – 390 deg. F or Regulo 3-4.
Even before World War II butter rationing, recipes had been circulating for cakes without eggs and butter. This was often for economy, rather than because of scarcity. During World War I the good ladies of the Avenel Red Cross had unearthed a recipe, perhaps similar to the one quoted above, which they called the “Patriotic Cake”. Readers of the local paper were encouraged to obtain the recipe from a Seymour newsagent or by writing and enclosing a 1 penny stamp for reply.
During the Great Depression, a recipe from the Adelaide Stock and Station Journal was widely reproduced. The method was similar to the one above, but with fewer spices.