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June Sageser's request for Spanish Bar Cake intrigued several folks, including myself, who had never heard of such a cake. June remembers the dark spice cake from her childhood in the '50s and '60s and that it was sold in grocery stores.
Well, apparently it is an A&P thing. A&P, which stands for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., is a 150-year-old grocery store chain now concentrated in the Northeast. At one time, its territory extended farther south and west, making it the first national supermarket chain in the United States.
A bit of trivia: In the 1930s, A&P pioneered the concept of self-service, meaning customers selected their own groceries without the assistance of a clerk.
As for the cake, a number of people made the A&P connection, such as Frances Freeman of Montgomery, Ala. She e-mailed, "My mom used to buy this at the A&P. After I married in 1955, I shopped A&P also and would buy it. It is very good. Would love to have the recipe."
I also heard from faithful contributor Ann Strawser of Arlington, Texas. She wrote, "I remember well buying Spanish Bar cakes at the A&P grocery many years ago in Circleville, Ohio, just down the street from J.C. Penney's where I worked until we started our family. It was my favorite -- so moist with lots of raisins."
Ann shared a few recipes copied from The Columbus Dispatch newspaper in Ohio. Here's one, described as tasting exactly like the original.
Note: The batter also can be baked in muffin tins. Decrease the cooking time to 30 minutes.
A&P Spanish Bar Cake
Makes 9 to 10 pieces
1 cup raisins
1 1/4 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Glaze (recipe follows, optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan or a loaf pan.
Soak raisins in hot water until plump. Drain.
Sift flour, soda, spices and salt together three times.
Cream shortening and brown sugar. Add egg and beat. Gently stir in applesauce. Add flour mixture in three additions, stirring after each addition. Gently stir in nuts and raisins.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 45 minutes.
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon water
Blend ingredients until smooth. Drizzle or spread over top of cake.
Ann Penegar of Atlantic Beach, N.C., and Hollywood offers another version from the Winston-Salem, N.C., newspaper.
Spanish Bar Cake
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup water
1 stick margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
Cream-Cheese Icing (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square pan.
Simmer raisins in the water until soft and plump. Drain, saving 2 tablespoons liquid to use in the recipe.
Melt margarine in saucepan. Remove from heat and add the sugar and 2 tablespoons raisin liquid; blend well. Stir in flour, soda and spices. Add egg and beat well. Lightly stir in plumped raisins until combined. Bake about 30 minutes.
Cool cake in pan about 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool thoroughly. When cool, frost with icing.
Cream Cheese Icing
2 tablespoons cream cheese
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla.
Beat in milk 1 tablespoon at a time to make a thick, spreadable frosting.