This Chocolate Depression Cake is a moist cake made without any milk, eggs, or butter. It is topped with a creamy chocolate frosting for the ‘icing’ on the cake! For another delectable treat, I also have a Lemon Crazy Cake – the lemon version of this!

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Chocolate Depression Cake on White PLate with Fork

Chocolate Depression Cake

Depression Cake, also known as Wacky Cake or War Cake (among other names), originated in the Great Depression. It is a cake made without milk, eggs, or butter. These were all ingredients that were hard to come by during the Great Depression and at wartime. But, just because times are hard doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a sweet treat or dessert once in a while.

Overhead of Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Frosting Recipe

This frosting is NOT dairy-free, but it does have one ingredient that always makes for the best TASTING as well as best LOOKING frosting! And that is honey. No, it doesn’t taste like honey, but the honey certainly adds a magical element that other frostings don’t have. Even if you don’t make the cake, try the frosting on brownies, ice cream, cookies, or even a spoon!

Pouring Chocolate Depression Cake Batter into Pan

Can You Use Coffee Instead of Water?

I love that you thought of this as it is one of my favorite additions to chocolate cakes. Yes! You can absolutely substitute a cup of brewed coffee for the water in this recipe.

Spreading Chocolate Frosting over Chocolate Depression Cake - Wacky Cake

Can a Different Frosting Be Used?

Absolutely! Many readers have used buttercream, peanut butter frosting, cookie dough frosting, salted caramel, and so many more. Although frosting isn’t needed, it can be fun to try different flavors!

Fork Taking Bite out of Chocolate Depression Cake - Wacky Cake

Can You Freeze Chocolate Depression Cake?

You can certainly freeze the cake, but I do recommend waiting until it thaws to add the chocolate frosting.

This chocolate cake will freeze well if it is placed in the freezer the same day you make it. Make sure that it is completely cool before preparing it for the freezer.

Here is what I do:

Allow the cake to cool in the pan fully. Place a layer of plastic on top of the cake and then place a cutting board or cooling rack on top. Flip the cake over. Wrap the plastic up over the edges of the cake and then add another large piece and wrap it again as tightly as possible without crushing the cake. Make sure that none of the cake is exposed in the freezer as this can cause freezer burn. Now wrap it in a layer of foil. Label and date the cake. The cake will freeze well for 1 month and should be fine for up to 3 months.

To thaw the cake, remove it from the freezer and set it on the counter. After about 30 minutes, remove the foil and remove the bottom piece of plastic wrap. Place on a serving platter and flip the cake over so that it is now right-side up. It should thaw completely after 2-3 hours at room temperature. Prepare your chocolate frosting and serve!

Close up of Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting Dripping

Can Depression Cake be Made as Cupcakes?

Yes! Pour the cake batter into a lined muffin tin, filling each cup about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350°F, checking with a toothpick for doneness. The toothpick should come out clean, but some crumbs (not wet batter) are okay.

More Chocolate Cakes

4.99 from 62 votes

Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 40 mins
With just a few simple ingredients and one bowl, you can be ready to bake a chocolate cake and have it ready in about 30 minutes!

Ingredients

CHOCOLATE CAKE

  • cups (187g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • ¼ cup (29.5g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (237g) water

FROSTING

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (125g) confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk, or heavy cream

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.

CHOCOLATE CAKE

  • In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to combine.
  • Add vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water to the dry ingredients and stir using a spatula or whisk until ingredients are fully combined.
  • Pour into a prepared (greased or parchment-lined) 8×8-inch pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. When an inserted toothpick is removed with a few crumbs (not clean!) the cake is done. Let it cool while you prepare the frosting.

FROSTING

  • With a hand-held mixer, combine room temperature butter, cocoa, honey, vanilla, and confectioners sugar.
  • Turn mixer on low and let it combine ingredients for about 30 seconds.
  • Slowly add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until you reach desired consistency. You may not need all 3 tablespoons, you may need 1 more, it can vary from season to season and kitchen to kitchen.
  • Spread over cooled cake.

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Meet Amanda Rettke

Amanda Rettke is the creator of I Am Baker, and the bestselling author of Surprise Inside Cakes: Amazing Cakes for Every Occasion – With a Little Something Extra Inside.Over the course of her 15+ year blogging adventure, she has been featured in and collaborated with the Food Network, New York Times, LA Times, Country Living Magazine, People Magazine, Epicurious, Brides, Romantic Homes, life:beautiful, Publishers Weekly, The Daily Mail, Star Tribune, The Globe and Mail, DailyCandy, YumSugar, The Knot, The Kitchn, and Parade, to name a few.

Reader Comments

  1. Amanda – I thought I had lost ‘my Grandmother’s’ recipe for Wacky Cake and here you have it! I was so thrilled!!! Made it, closed my eyes, and I was 10 again and standing on a phone book to reach the top of the bowl with my Grandmother… wonderful, wonderful feeling and memory!!! Thank you so very much!
    All The Best Baking to You and Yours

  2. My friend always took this cake on camping trips. Topped it with cool whip was delicious and easy to take with. Add cool whip when ready to serve. So easy!

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