The Covered Dish - Granny Cake Recipe

August 30, 2023

Several weeks ago, I was back in Lewis County, Missouri visiting my dad, Jerry. One evening we took off and drove to Arbela, Missouri to eat fish, at the ‘Catfish House’. It was a fun evening except for the fact that we all ate ‘way’ too much!

I was extremely full, but noticed the goodie table was covered with homemade desserts. Nothing from a food supplier or professional baker at this downhome affair! I viewed a rather short statured cake that had some sort of light glaze drizzled over the top. It had pineapple in it, and it was so delicious. The next day at church we’re telling our friends about the pineapple cake. My high school buddy, Monica, said: “If you could only get the recipe for that cake!” I’m always up for a good challenge, so the research began. Only to discover the word ‘pineapple’ was not a part of the name of this historical cake. Nope, the name of the super delicious cake was: ‘Granny Cake’.
Where did it come from? What’s the history behind this simple, moist, delicious cake? They actually started in Belgium at the end of WWII, however the British style of this cake is very different from the more Americanized ‘Granny Cake’. Original Granny Cakes in America are made traditionally with crushed pineapple. However, I have personally enjoyed them with the addition of coconut, also variations of apple and peach.
The ingredients for a granny cake are usually in every good cook’s kitchen. In my mindset it reminds me of a chess pie. Why? Because the ingredients are extremely simplistic, flour, eggs, milk, butter, sugar, baking soda and fruit. It was inexpensive to make, especially if you lived on a farm and had 3-4 of the ingredients in abundance! Many early comments refer to the cake as a very frugal recipe. Basically, you will have a cake batter, a brown sugar & pecan crumble on top followed by a light glaze, after it’s pulled from the oven. Also, in some of my early reading we find Granny Cakes abundant in the North.
All this research sent me into studies of the great depression and analogies based upon the current economic conditions and the great depression. This has led me to take a closer look at the most common foods during this time period. Many of us who grew up with parents from this era know how our family cooking styles are a strong reflection of this period. So, starting next week we will dive into foods from the great depression, many we still enjoy today.

The Granny Cake version this week is also made with a cake mix. There are so many recipes out there for a total scratch version, you will have no trouble selecting a more conventional route. One thing for sure, your guests are going to love this cake! Wish I were home this week I would make this delicious cake for my dads 92nd birthday!

Granny Cake Recipe

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish with vegetable spray

Cake Body:

4 eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 (20 ounce) undrained can crushed pineapple

1 box yellow cake mix


1 cup brown sugar, could use light or dark

1 cup chopped pecans, of course, Walnuts will work

Top Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup

Gather a large mixing bowl and whisk the 4 eggs until smooth, add oil & whisk again. Empty crushed pineapple into mixture and blend. Lastly; add the box of cake mix and using a metal or wooden spoon stir until blended. I do not recommend a mixer for this recipe. Pour into the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, stir the pecans and brown sugar together. Sprinkle evenly over the cake so it is totally covered. Before placing the cake in the oven tap it a couple of times on the counter to release any air bubbles. Mine was done in about 34 minutes. But I started checking it at 25 minutes.
Some people never put the glaze on top of this cake. Use a whisk and combine the glaze ingredients. You can drizzle it over the cake about 15 minutes after the cake is done, or as you cut and serve. As I was studying the cake history, I also found some cooks poke holes in the warm cake and pour the drizzle over the top. Any way you slice it, this is going to be a hit! I would seriously consider serving this for a morning brunch, not just as a dessert. For some reason should you use half and half or milk in the glaze, instead of heavy cream, use a little less because it is much thinner than the heavy cream. If you don’t think it’s enough glaze, it’s easy enough to make more.
Thought: Instead of using maple syrup I would think maple flavoring would also work. You’re going to find all kinds of glaze recipes on line, so get creative.

Refrigerate the cake to maintain the freshness.