Na Na pinches her pennies

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Mix and match cake recipe

My Grandma Mama would make what she called mix and match foods.  Mix and match is a method of cooking rather than a recipe. For example; stir fry is a method but what you put into it is a sort of mixed and matched together set of ingredients according to your own tastes.  Soup is also a mix and match method of cooking with what ever you have to put in the pot.  Understand?  You start with a basic recipe and change or add to it with what you have available.

I’m fairly sure my Grandma Mama would have learned the concept of mix and match cooking from her mother and she from her mother etc.  I think this basic cake recipe may have become really popular during WW1 and then again during the depression because it didn’t require eggs, milk, yeast, baking powder, or butter to make.  Those would have been the foods of most scarcity during both WW1 & WW2 and during the depression.  Women had to adapt recipes to what was currently available.  In other words, mix and match.


Here is the basic cake recipe as it was given to me.  I’ll explain the mix and match part at the end.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon vanilla

4 tablespoons room temperature lard or dripping

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 cup water


Mix all dry ingredients together first.  Add the wet ingredients and mix just until well combined.  Pour into an 8 inch baking pan that has been lightly coated with lard or dripping.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Its done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Ok that is the “basic” recipe.  Here is how the mix and match method works.

Suppose you don’t have any vanilla or you are just not in the mood for plain white cake.  You can change the flavor by changing the ingredient used for creating the flavor.  No, I’m not talking about swapping one liquid flavoring for another liquid flavoring.  I’m saying there are lots of different ways to flavor a cake. Here are a few examples;

  1.  cocoa powder or shaved coconut
  2. hard candies or leftover holiday candy canes – break them up with a hammer until crumb like pieces
  3. peanut butter – or any other types of nut butter such as almond, walnut, hazelnut, etc.  Sometimes I use my homemade cashew butter
  4. caramel candies – hard or soft or even ice cream sauce
  5. canned fruit – I often use fruit cocktail but any kind of canned fruit will do as long as it provides a flavor
  6. preserves or jelly – store bought or homemade
  7. lemon or lime juice or other juice – heck if you like the flavor well enough you could even use prune juice
  8. Raisins, cranberries, dried cherries, dates, or other dried fruit

You get the idea?  Now let me say here that if you use a flavoring that is already sweet you should cut back on the amount of sugar.  If you use a flavoring that is already wet you should cut back on the water.  Use your own judgement.

If you don’t have enough all purpose flour you can combine with other flour like wheat or self-rising or even a little cornmeal.  In other words, use what you have available so long as its 1 1/2 cups.

There are various ways to sweeten the cake instead of white sugar. There is honey, candy, molasses, syrup, stale donuts, treacle, sweet & low, splenda, and so forth.  Just choose your favorite or whatever you have available.

Are you understanding the concept of mix and match better now?   Thrifty people need to know how to cook.  Really cook.  Using whatever is available.  Zero waste.  The “basic” recipe makes more sense as mix and match when you understand the way any food can be substituted for another.

4 comments on “Mix and match cake recipe

  1. Randal Oulton
    September 13, 2016

    Thanks for this! Will be doing this fall, for sure! Do you use sugar in it?


    • Anita
      September 13, 2016

      You are welcome Randal. I make it with some type of canned or dehydrated fruit when I make it for myself but I use regular sugar when I make it for someone else. Like for a birthday cake or to take to a family gathering. When I made that chocolate cake I added a quarter cup of cocoa and used 8 dates chopped up really fine as a sweetener.


  2. Sandy Lewis
    September 13, 2016

    Thank you for the recipe and for really explaining mix and match. I do understand it much better now. I’m saving this recipe and I’m going to try to make some mix and match cakes. Thank you again Anita.


    • Anita
      September 13, 2016

      You are welcome Sandy. Try it with a cup of strawberry jam or orange marmalade instead of the sugar.


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