Depression Cake

I had seen this cake a couple of times over the years and was intrigued by the fact that it didn’t contain eggs, butter or milk. It was developed during the Great Depression when those dairy items were in short supply. The cool thing about this cake is that you don’t even necessarily need a mixing bowl, just the pan you bake it in. I paired it with a One Minute Frosting and I thought it was a completely satisfying chocolaty cake. Recipe and photo courtesy of

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

One Minute Frosting

  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine the dry ingredients in your baking pan (8×8) or a mixing bowl. Make 2 small wells and 1 big well in the dry ingredients. Add the vinegar, vanilla and vegetable oil to the wells, then add the water. Mix until combined. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or til a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Add milk, butter and sugar to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and let boil for 45 seconds. Take off the heat and add in the chocolate chips and vanilla. Mix until until the chocolate chips are completely melted and the frosting looks shiny. Immediately spread onto cake. Let cool completely before serving. Makes enough for a 9×13 cake.

* A couple of notes: make sure your baking pan is well greased. Also, if you don’t have cocoa powder you can substitute 1 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate, just make sure the reduce the vegetable oil by 1 tablespoon. I also happened to be out of vinegar so I was able to substitute 2 tablespoons of white wine and it came out great.