Killing Them Softly: Japanese Tea Cake


EDITOR’S NOTE: My recent discovery of our families’ collection of 1970s era church cookbooks has been nothing short of a conversation piece around Al Dente HQ. The kind-hearted and well-intentioned women behind these recipes set cooking back years, all the while trying to kill their families with butter, shortening and lard. Not wanting to hog the glory and splendor for myself, it is my pleasure to share these classic culinary gems with you. These are the original recipes with very little editing. If you have one of these around your house or find one at your parent’s home, please contact me. I would love to get my hands on it.

RECIPE: Japanese Tea Cake
AUTHOR: Norma Cubito
COOKBOOK: Our Lady of Pompeii’s Society of St. Therese Cookbook

WHY DID I CHOOSE THIS? I don’t know much about Japanese cuisine. My knowledge of it peters out at the end of the sushi menu. I’ve done a little reading on the Internet and have determined that raisins are decidedly not linked to dishes from the archipelago.

Call it food bigotry, but it seems like one of those recipes that someone made up and imparted an ethnic name upon. Like a Mexican sundae, which apparently gets its name because there are SPANISH peanuts involved.

Oh, and one other thing. This Japanese Tea Cake lacks tea. Yeah. Good work on this one. It’s racist and inaccurate.

Japanese Tea Cake

  • 2 cups raisins
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 molasses
  • 3 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil and cook raisins 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve 1 cup cooking water.

Mix shortening, sugar, eggs and molasses. In a separate bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients. Combine the dry ingredients with the raisin liquid. Add the raisins and 1 cup of chopped nuts.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, reduce oven to 350 and bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes.

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