Lillian & Gram White’s Old Fashioned Raised Loaf Cake

2022 Baking Court of Honor Recipe.

David White, son of Lillian White, writes that Lena Sage White baked by “eye and memory”: a pinch of this, a handful of that, never anything written down. She would enter her Raised Loaf Cake in the Durham Fair annually to frequently take first prize. Len Markham, (one of the early industrialists/bankers of Durham) was so enamored with this cake, he offered a 5 dollar prize for the winner, which was most often Lena White. That was a generous sum back in the day. For this amount, Len got to keep the cake.

As Lena aged and her health and eyesight waned, she taught Lillian Newton White how to make the prized loaf. Lillian, married to Lena’s son Robert, watched and measured as the cake was mixed, writing down the recipe. The original mixture relied on what Lena referred to as a “sponge”: a yeast proof that was made ahead of time. Lillian replaced the yeast with a quick leaven and entered her version, frequently also taking first prize.

Lillian taught her daughter, Janice, to make the loaf and for many years, she also took first prize. All three of these ladies are now gone but this recipe is the original.

Potato-Yeast Sponge


2   medium white potatoes
2 cups water
1   package dry yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. flour


Boil the potatoes, until soft, in the water. Mash potatoes in potato water. Cool until lukewarm. Add to it the dry yeast and sugar. Let stand 5 minutes. Mix well. Add the flour and mix well. Place in bowl, cover, and let stand overnight.

Old Fashioned Raised Loaf Cake


½ cup raisins
1 Tbsp. candied Citron
cup shortening (room temperature)
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1   egg (unbeaten)
2 tsp. lemon extract
cups flour
tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. potato yeast sponge (see above)


  1. Cover raisins with water. Bring to boil to soften. Drain completely.
  2. Cut ready-to-use candied Citron
  3. into very thin pieces.
  4. Sprinkle raisins & Citron lightly with flour.
  5. In a mixing bowl, put shortening, sugar, egg, lemon extract and mix together by hand (not electric beater).
  6. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
  7. Add dry ingredients to shortening mixture, plus the potato yeast sponge, folding dry ingredients into liquid with spoon (not electric beater).
  8. Fold in the floured raisins and citron.
  9. Spoon cake batter into 9" x 3" round, greased pan.
  10. Place cake in cold oven.
  11. Set oven to 300° F.
  12. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Test with toothpick for doneness. (Check for doneness after 1 hour, as today’s ovens vary from ovens manufactured in the past.)
  13. Cool on wire rack 15 to 20 minutes.
  14. Run knife around outside of cake to loosen. Remove from pan.
  15. Frost with your own recipe for confectionary sugar-butter frosting. (Do not provide recipe.)