Chocolate Depression Cake
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$2.41 RECIPE / $0.27 SERVING

This chocolate depression cake is made without the use of eggs, milk, or butter, this unique cake is rich and chocolaty.

Not depression as in “this cake will heal your depression,” but depression as in The Great Depression.

Since many of us are currently facing ingredient shortages, I figured there was no better time to share this Chocolate Depression Cake (also known as Crazy Cake or Wacky Cake), which was inspired by a time when ingredients were scarce. A butter-free cake? I know, I’m “wacky.”


Butter keeps cakes soft and supple by enveloping flour molecules in fat and inhibiting the formation of a stiff gluten matrix. In this recipe, butter is replaced with any frying oil of your choosing, resulting in a safe, although slightly less rich, result.

Eggs assist leaven cakes by creating steam, which puffs up the batter and then gives the raised cake structure as the proteins firm up.

The eggs are replaced in this cake with a mixture of vinegar and baking soda, which foams up quickly and makes the cake light and fluffy.

If you’ve ever tried my Chocolate Mug Cake, it’s almost identical. Anne Byrn’s 1917 Apple Sauce Cake uses a no-egg, no-butter batter as well.


Chocolate Depression Cake
Food: Chocolate Depression Cake
Source: CakeWhiz

Let’s be honest, this cake doesn’t contain any butter. So, while it’s definitely not the nicest chocolate cake I’ve ever had, it’s a great treat when your cupboards are empty. It’s also really simple.

This cake is simple to create and requires very little cooking equipment and materials. This is a good recipe to keep in your back pocket (or your browser’s bookmarks) only for those two reasons. It’s also vegan!


To top my cake, I made a basic dairy-free chocolate icing, but be careful that this sort of dairy-free icing is extremely sugary due to the lack of fat to help balance out the sweetness.

If you don’t like overly sweet icings, omit the frosting and simply coat your cake with powdered sugar after it has cooled (if you do it while the cake is still hot the powdered sugar will dissolve).

If you have butter on hand, a more classic chocolate buttercream frosting can be used. A scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of a slice of this cake that isn’t iced would also be delicious.


Without the use of eggs, butter, or milk, this unique Chocolate Cake recipe, popularized during the Great Depression, is rich and chocolatey!
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Cooling Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 hr 50 mins
Servings: 9; 1 slice each



  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour ($0.23)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar ($0.80)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 1 tsp baking soda ($0.02)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ($0.21)
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil* ($0.21)
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar** ($0.06)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract ($0.30)
  • 1 cup of water ($0.00)


  • 1.5 cups powdered sugar ($0.10)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder ($0.16)
  • 3 Tbsp. water ($0.00)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract ($0.30)



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Mix the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder together in a large mixing basin until well blended.
  2. 1 cup water, vanilla essence, and vinegar in a liquid measuring cup
  3. After adding the oil, add the water mixture to the dry ingredients bowl. The chocolate cake batter should be mainly smooth after stirring. Make sure the bowl’s bottom is free of dry flour.
  4. Fill an 8×8″ or 9×9″ baking dish with the cake batter. Bake for 35 minutes after transferring the baking dish to the oven.


  1. Allow for at least an hour of cooling time after baking the cake before decorating it with chocolate frosting.
  2. Prepare the icing after the cake has completely cooled. In a mixing dish, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla essence. 1 tablespoon at a time, add water until the icing becomes thick yet pourable (about 3 Tbsp total). If you leave the icing out too long, it will dry out, but you may re-moisten it with a splash of water.
  3. Using a spatula, spread the icing evenly over the cooled cake. Serve the cake by cutting it into 9 pieces.


*Canola, vegetable, grapeseed, safflower, corn, or avocado oil are all good neutral cooking oils to use.

*White vinegar, rice vinegar, or apple cider vinegar are examples of mild vinegar that can be used.


  • Serving: 1 slice
  • Calories: 319.77 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 59.44 g
  • Protein: 3.09 g
  • Fat: 9.07 g
  • Sodium: 272.58 mg
  • Fiber: 2.71 g


Chocolate Depression Cake
Food: Chocolate Depression Cake
Source: CakeWhiz
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine 1.5 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder in a large mixing basin. Combine these items in a mixing bowl and stir until completely blended.
  2. In a liquid measuring cup, add 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, and 1 tablespoon vinegar (any light vinegar, like white vinegar, rice vinegar, or apple cider vinegar). Toss the dry ingredients with a third of a cup of cooking oil and the water mixture.
  3. Stir until you get a thick cake batter. A few lumps are acceptable, but make sure there is no dry flour on the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Fill an 8- or 9-inch baking dish halfway with the cake batter.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the cake for 35 minutes. Cool the cake for at least an hour before creating and applying the chocolate icing.
  6. Simply combine 1.5 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence in a bowl to make the icing. Stir and add one tablespoon of water at a time until a thick icing forms (about 3 Tbsp total). To melt the powdered sugar into a thick icing, only a minimal amount of liquid is required. Allowing the icing to sit for a while will cause it to dry out, but it may be re-moisturized by adding another splash of water.
  7. Pour the frosting over the baked and cooled cake and spread evenly. Serve by cutting the cake into nine equal pieces.

It’s also delicious with a glass of milk or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.