The Depression Cake (aka Wacky Cake) is not only a simple dessert to make but an ingenious one as well. It’s from the Depression Era when fresh ingredients weren’t always easy to come by.
As a result, this super scrumptious treat doesn’t use any eggs, butter or milk!
But don’t let any of that fool you into not making it. The Depression Cake is still super moist and rich and oh-so-chocolatey!
Ingredients You’ll Need
All-Purpose Flour. Without it, we wouldn’t even have a cake! All kidding aside, flour gives our cake the structure it needs and holds it together.
Granulated Sugar. Sugar sweetens the mix and also makes the cake soft and gives it a golden hue.
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. Aside from flour, cocoa powder is the most important ingredient in the dessert. It’s what gives the cake (and icing) the rich chocolate flavor you want.
Baking Soda. Acts as a leavening agent to help the cake rise. Baking soda reacts with vinegar and will ensure that the cake is nice and fluffy.
Kosher Salt. Salt is crucial to help balance out the sweetness of the cake and also to enhance the chocolate flavor.
White Vinegar. Acts with the baking soda from earlier. Vinegar helps the cake rise and gives it a tender crumb.
Vanilla Extract. Helps to deepen the flavor of the cake by imparting a complement to the chocolate. It also adds a nice aromatic touch to the icing.
Vegetable Oil. Adding vegetable oil is what gives the cake its moist texture and tender crumb.
Warm Water. Blends all the ingredients together and also helps to add to the cake’s moistness.
Powdered Sugar. After it’s blended in, powdered sugar is what makes the icing silky smooth and sweet.
Ground Cinnamon. Adds a touch of warmth and spice to the icing – just a pinch is all you need!
|All-Purpose Flour||Provides structure and holds the cake together.|
|Granulated Sugar||Sweetens, softens, and gives a golden hue to the cake.|
|Unsweetened Cocoa Powder||Key for rich chocolate flavor in cake and icing.|
|Baking Soda||Leavening agent ensuring a fluffy cake when reacting with vinegar.|
|Kosher Salt||Balances sweetness and enhances chocolate flavor.|
|White Vinegar||Works with baking soda for cake rise and tenderness.|
|Vanilla Extract||Deepens flavor, complements chocolate, and adds aroma to icing.|
|Vegetable Oil||Gives moist texture and tender crumb to the cake.|
|Warm Water||Blends ingredients and contributes to cake’s moistness.|
|Powdered Sugar||Makes icing silky smooth and sweet after blending.|
|Ground Cinnamon||Adds warmth and a hint of spice to the icing.|
Chocolate Depression Cake – Step by Step
Preheat the Oven. Use parchment paper to line an 8×8 baking dish. This helps to make it easier to remove the cake.
Combine Dry Ingredients. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together thoroughly.
Add Wet Ingredients. Once the dry ingredients are mixed, make a well in the center. Pour in the vinegar, vanilla extract, vegetable oil, and warm water. Mix until just combined but don’t overmix it.
Bake the Cake. Transfer the batter to the lined baking dish. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. To test, insert a toothpick. When it comes out with moist crumbs, it’s perfect. Set it aside to cool.
Prepare the Chocolate Icing. As the cake cools off, it’s time to make the icing. You’ll want to whisk the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and water together.
Keep an eye on the consistency of the icing. If it’s too thick, add a little water. Don’t forget to toss in a pinch of cinnamon for that special flavor.
Frost the Cake. After the cake is completely cooled off, spread the chocolate icing evenly on it. Wait for it to set.
Serve and Enjoy. Slice the cake into squares and serve. Try not to eat it all at once!
|Preheat the Oven||Line an 8×8 dish with parchment paper for easy cake removal.|
|Combine Dry Ingredients||Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.|
|Add Wet Ingredients||Pour vinegar, vanilla, oil, and warm water into a well in the dry mix. Combine without overmixing.|
|Bake the Cake||Transfer batter to dish, bake for ~30 mins. Cool after testing with a toothpick.|
|Prepare the Icing||Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and water. Adjust consistency and add cinnamon.|
|Frost the Cake||Spread icing on cooled cake and let it set.|
|Serve and Enjoy||Slice into squares and serve.|
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons water
- pinch ground cinnamon
- Use parchment paper to line an 8×8 baking dish. This helps to make it easier to remove the cake.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together thoroughly.
- Once the dry ingredients are mixed, make a well in the center.
- Pour in the vinegar, vanilla extract, vegetable oil, and warm water. Mix until just combined but don't overmix it.
- Transfer the batter to the lined baking dish.
- Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. To test, insert a toothpick. When it comes out with moist crumbs, it's perfect. Set it aside to cool.
- As the cake cools off, it's time to make the icing.
- You'll want to whisk the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and water together. Keep an eye on the consistency of the icing. If it's too thick, add a little water.
- Don't forget to toss in a pinch of cinnamon for that special flavor.
- After the cake is completely cooled off, spread the chocolate icing evenly on it. Wait for it to set.
- Slice the cake into squares and serve. Try not to eat it all at once!
Hi! I’m Natalie, a writer and a dessert connoisseur. I’ve been baking since I could reach the kitchen counter and I’ve never looked back. I love creating new recipes and putting a healthy twist on classic desserts. I believe that a balanced life includes a little bit of sweetness. When I’m not writing or in the kitchen, I’m probably out running or enjoying a good cup of coffee at my favorite local café.