Keep the home front baking: Wartime recipes to mark the Armistice centenary

Simple treats to mark the Armistice centenary based on wartime recipes from the period – perfect for a fundraising tea.

Vintage shortbread poppies

Wartime recipes: Poppy biscuits
Chris Alack

MAKES 15-20

110g unsalted butter diced
50g golden caster sugar plus extra for dusting
100g plain flour plus extra for rolling
60g rice flour
1 tsp orange flower water (for example Nielsen-Massey brand)

1. Whiz the butter, sugar and two flours to crumbs in a food processor, then trickle in the orange flower water and whiz to form a dough. Wrap this in clingfilm and chill for half a day or overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Knead the dough until pliable, then roll it to a thickness of 1cm on a lightly floured work surface. Cut out poppies using 5cm and 6cm flower cutters, rolling the dough twice as necessary (you should get 15-20 biscuits depending on size). Arrange the poppies spaced slightly apart on nonstick baking sheets. Bake for 35-40 minutes until just starting to colour. Dust with caster sugar if wished, loosen with a spatula and leave them to cool. 

POPPY TOPS Using ready-to-roll coloured icing (for example Renshaw brand from, stamp out red poppy shapes slightly smaller than the biscuits and black centres and use them to decorate some or all of the biscuits if wished.

Treacle scones

Wartime recipes: treacle scones
Chris Alack


400g plain flour
1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon
1 rounded tsp mixed spice
2 heaped tsp baking powder
50g golden caster sugar plus extra for dusting
pinch of salt
100g salted butter chilled and diced
120g treacle
125ml whole milk

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Have ready a 7cm fluted or plain cutter and a nonstick baking sheet. Sift the flour, spices and baking powder into the bowl of a food processor and add the sugar and salt. Add the butter and whiz to crumbs. Combine the treacle and milk in a medium bowl and stir to loosely combine until the treacle thins and turns runny, then add this through the funnel with the motor running and whiz to a soft, sticky dough.

2. On the work surface, lay out a large sheet of clingfilm (about 60cm long). Place the dough on one half of the clingfilm and fold the other half over the top. Gently roll out the dough between the clingfilm until it’s about 2cm thick. Remove the clingfilm and cut out scones using the cutter, bringing the cuttings together and re-rolling once as necessary (you should get 8 scones in total). Arrange the scones on the baking sheet and scatter a little caster sugar over each one. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until risen, crusty and cracked, a bit like soda bread.

SERVING IDEA These are most delicious eaten warm, slit and spread with clotted cream and some golden syrup oozing out the sides. They also keep well until the following day stored in an airtight container.

Tearoom apple cake

Wartime recipes: Tearoom apple cake
Chris Alack


400g bramley cooking apples
100g unsalted butter chilled and diced plus extra for greasing
200g plain flour sifted
1 heaped tsp baking powder sifted
100g golden caster sugar
75g candied peel
2 medium eggs
100ml whole milk

½-1 eating apple
1 tsp caster sugar
knob of butter

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Butter a 22cm nonstick loaf tin about 1.3 litre capacity and line the base with baking paper. Peel, quarter and core the bramleys and cut into 2.5cm dice. Combine the butter, flour, baking powder and sugar in a food processor and whiz to crumbs. Transfer this to a large bowl and stir in the diced apples and candied peel. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a small bowl, add to the main mixture and stir to combine. Transfer to the prepared tin and smooth the surface.

2. Thinly slice the eating apple into rounds or wedges as preferred (no need to peel) and scatter over the top. Sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar, dot with butter and bake for 60-70 minutes or until a skewer inserted at the centre comes out clean. Run a knife around the edge and turn the loaf on to a wire rack the right way up to cool. Peel off the base paper before cutting.

Anzac biscuits

Wartime recipes: Anzac biscuits
Chris Alack

MAKES 20-24

100g unsalted butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
90g porridge oats
70g desiccated coconut
100g plain flour
100g golden caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Gently melt the butter and syrup together in a small pan. Meanwhile, combine the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Pour 2 tablespoons of boiling water over the bicarb in a small bowl and pour into the butter-syrup mixture, which will froth. Pour this over the dry ingredients and stir to combine into a dough.

2. Form spoonfuls of the dough into balls the size of a walnut and arrange on a couple of nonstick baking sheets with some space between. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden, leave for 2-3 minutes, then loosen with a palette knife and leave to cool. The biscuits will keep well for about a week in an airtight container.

Traditional fruit cake

Wartime recipes: traditional fruit cake
Chris Alack


200ml vegetable oil plus extra for the tin
400g currants
250g pitted and chopped dry dates
250g pitted and chopped prunes
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

125g plain flour sifted
25g cocoa sifted
150g ground almonds
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger

icing sugar for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Grease a 20cm loose-bottom cake tin 7cm-9cm deep. Line the base with baking paper and brush this with oil also. Tear off a sheet of baking paper large enough to cover the tin and go about halfway down the sides. Cut out a small (about 2cm) circle from the centre.

2. For the fruit mixture, pour the oil and 500ml water into a medium pan, stir in the fruit, bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda which will make the mixture sizzle. Leave to cool for 10 minutes. Fold in the flour mixture ingredients one by one until combined. Transfer the mixture to the cake tin and smooth the surface.

3. Lay the sheet of baking paper over the tin and tie it in place with string. Bake the cake for 2½ hours, testing it with a skewer (through the hole in the paper) after about 2¼ hours. Run a knife around the rim and leave the cake to cool in the tin. It will be good to eat from the following day onwards. Remove the paper and dust with icing sugar shortly before serving. The cake will keep well in a tin or covered container for several weeks.

One-bowl Victoria sponge

Wartime recipes: one-bowl Victoria sponge
Chris Alack


OVEN READY Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. For one large sponge use 2 x 20cm loose-bottom, nonstick cake tins about 4cm deep. For the mini sponges select a 12-hole mini sandwich tin (for our downsized victorias we used a mini nonstick, loose-bottomed sandwich tin from Lakeland (£16.99,; perfect for individual sponges) and bake the mixture in two batches.

WEIGH AND MIX This method uses the traditional ratio of ingredients for a simple sponge. Start by weighing 4 medium eggs (usually about 230g-240g) then assemble the same weight each of diced unsalted butter, golden caster sugar and self-raising flour. Using an electric whisk on high speed, whisk the butter in a large bowl for 1-2 minutes until very pale and fluffy, then add the sugar and continue to whisk for another 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, combining well with each addition until the mixture is amalgamated, then sift and lightly whisk in 1 rounded tsp baking powder and the flour in two goes.

INTO THE TINS Butter the tins and line the bases if making the larger sponges. Divide the mixture evenly (if making minis, cook two batches of 12). Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes for large sponges and 12-15 minutes for minis or until a skewer comes out clean when testing. Remove the cakes from the tins and leave to cool.

FILL & FINISH Remove any paper and sandwich the cakes with good quality jam of your choice (try rhubarb for an old-fashioned flavour), placing the lower cake top down and the second one top upwards. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Potted cheddar with poppy seeds

Wartime recipes: potted cheddar with poppy seeds
Chris Alack


PREP THE CHEESE Finely grate 150g mature cheddar. In a large bowl, work 50g unsalted butter using a wooden spoon until really soft and creamy, then fold in a large pinch of ground mace and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Work the cheese into the butter a quarter at a time, adding 2 tbsp medium sherry with the final quarter. Spoon into small pots or a shallow bowl, smoothing the surface. Dust with a thin layer of poppy seeds. Cover and chill until required (it will keep well in the fridge for a week or two).

SERVING IDEAS Dollop a heaped teaspoon on to hot crisp toast triangles and flash briefly under the grill until the top just starts to melt. Or, for a retro bite with a glass of sherry, sandwich walnut halves with a teaspoon of the potted cheese.