Chocolate Depression Cake {Wacky Cake}

filed under: Cakes · Chocolate Cakes · Dessert on March 30, 2020

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, try my Dark Chocolate Cake with Buttermilk Pecan Frosting.


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.

This Chocolate Depression Cake is still full of chocolate flavor and delicious! Plus, I did add a chocolate frosting that takes only about a minute to get together. The frosting does include butter and milk, but it’s just an added bonus to the cake.

Overhead of Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting Recipe

Again, this recipe does include a chocolate frosting recipe. But, feel free to just make the cake if you are keeping dairy out of your diet. Either way, the results are both yummy options!

Chocolate Cake Ingredients (full recipe below)

  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Cocoa powder
  • Salt
  • Baking soda
  • Vanilla extract
  • White vinegar–This is an important ingredient because it reacts with the baking soda to make the cake rise.
  • Vegetable oil
  • Water

Frosting Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Honey
  • Vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • Whole milk

Pouring Chocolate Depression Cake Batter into Pan

How to Make Chocolate Depression Cake

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! In addition, while the cake is baking you could be making a sweet chocolate frosting to go on the cake. Both are a pretty ‘sweet’ deal if you ask me. So, preheat the oven to 350°F and get out a large bowl.

To make the chocolate cake, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda, whisking them all together. Next, add the wet ingredients–the vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water–to the dry ingredients in the bowl. Stir it all together with the whisk or a spatula. Pour the cake batter into the greased 8×8-inch baking pan. Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes. You will know the cake is done when an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs on it, but not wet batter. While the cake is baking, make the chocolate frosting.


Spreading Chocolate Frosting over Chocolate Depression Cake - Wacky Cake

How to Make the Chocolate Frosting

This Chocolate Frosting would not be considered a ‘depression frosting’ since I do use butter and milk in the recipe. But, if you have those around, I encourage you to try it. It comes together in about a minute and is the perfect complement to the chocolate cake. It’s actually a frosting I have used on my brownies recipe and knew it would have the same added bonus to the flavor of the cake. It’s soft, but ‘crusts’ ever so slightly after sitting out.  The texture and consistency are natural and pure.

Fork Taking Bite out of Chocolate Depression Cake - Wacky Cake

Can You Freeze This 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 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.

Looking for More Chocolate Desserts?

Chocolate Cherry Brownies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ooey Gooey Cake

Easy Sourdough Brownies

Mocha Brownies

5 from 32 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!

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chocolate Depression Cake, chocolate frosting
Servings: 9
Calories: 340 kcal
Author: Amanda
  • 1 1/2 cups (187g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (29.5g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (237g) water
  • 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
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to combine.

  2. Add vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water to the dry ingredients and stir using a spatula or whisk until ingredients are fully combined.

  3. Pour into a prepared (greased or parchment-lined) 8x8-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.

  1. With a hand-held mixer, combine room temperature butter, cocoa, honey, vanilla, and confectioners sugar.

  2. Turn mixer on low and let it combine ingredients for about 30 seconds.

  3. 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.

  4. Spread over cooled cake.

Recipe Video

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  • Pamela says:

    If you don’t have honey for the frosting could you use maple syrup?

    • Elizabeth Keeney says:

      Hi, Pamela! I work with iambaker and am happy to help with questions. We have not tried substituting maple syrup for honey in this recipe, but it is worth a try. Just be sure to use real maple syrup. Let us know how it turns out, and have a great day!



  • Linda Gillis says:

    I have made this cake for many years, but mine is listed as Crazy Cake. Whenever I ask my daughters what kind of dessert they would like me to make, the answer is always the same…Crazy Cake! I made one to donate to a fundraiser. I put a $6.00 sticker on it, as the price. At the fundraiser my daughter spotted me coming into the building and followed me to where I was to hand it over to the person at the selling table. She quickly grabbed it and said $6.00?.? I will give you $10, then bought it!

  • Pam says:

    Has anyone made this cake gluten free? We have celiac in our family. Thank you so much!

  • Jeanne Barnes says:

    This recipe also adapts well to gluten free. My son is on a restricted diet, and I found that I can make this cake with gluten free all purpose flour. He loves it!

  • Jen says:

    Grew up on this, called “Crazy Cake”. Always a favorite. But our recipe tells you to mix the dry ingredients right in the baking pan, make wells for the wet, mix with a fork. Just one pan! Have a raisin-spice version as well.

  • Petra DV says:

    I loved your video! You had me chuckling as well. Going to try your recipe soon! Stay well!

  • Rosemary smith says:

    Love your recipes. Always are amazing
    Thank y

  • Dottie says:

    Can you use one cup coffee in place of h20?
    I have read it enhances chocolate flavor
    But does not change flavor to coffee like

    • Elizabeth Keeney says:

      Hi, Dottie! I work with iambaker and am happy to help with questions. We have not used coffee in this recipe, so I can’t say how the cake would turn out. But, it’s worth a shot! You could even do half water, half coffee. There is a little coffee in the Best Brownies recipe, and those are a favorite! Let us know how it turns out, and have a great day!

  • Feefee says:

    Hi! This cake looks amazingly easy and I can’t wait to try it. Can we use apple cider vinegar instead of White venegar?
    Thanks alot.

  • Sailee says:

    How can I make this with no cocoa powder? How much should be the all purpose flour then?

  • Judy Foster says:

    It was moist and very tasty! One of the best chocolate cake recipes I have had in a long time! Thanks so much!

  • Sharie says:

    Perfection and Delicious. Want more and more recipes. Thank you.

  • Nicole says:

    Can we replace honey by something else ?

  • Jean says:

    I’ve made this cake for over 40 years but I mix it in the pan. No real cleanup! It’s the best and fast to throw together!

  • ROBYN says:

    So Great! Perfect directions! my daughter loves it! It comes out perfectly
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Becky says:

    Great recipe! My question is, where can I purchase the 9×13 baking dish that’s pictured? I ❤️ It !!!!

    • Elizabeth Keeney says:

      Hi, Becky! I work with iambaker and am happy to help with questions. The pan is an 8×8-inch glass pan by Pioneer Woman. I hope this helps, and have a great day!

  • Diya says:

    Instead of water in the cake I’m thinking some strong coffee would amp up the flavor. Thank you for the recipe

  • Sylvia Porter says:

    Hi, when I 13 yr old I made Wakey cake back 53 yr ago. My dry ingredients was sift together and put into a 9 x 9 baking dish. Than I made three holds on which I add the vinegar in one the second hole the oil and the last hold vanilla in which I pour warm water over all. Mix well and than bake at 350 degrees for 35 min. Than I would make a peanut butter frosting.

  • Steph K says:

    It is topped with a creamy chocolate frosting for the ‘icing’ on the cake!

  • Louise Levy says:

    Why vinegar in the chocolate cake
    I follow only your recipes

    • Elizabeth Keeney says:

      Hi, Louise! I work with iambaker and am happy to help with questions. The vinegar reacts with the baking soda to help the cake rise. Have a great day!

  • AmandaRae says:

    can you add zucchini to this recipe at all?

    • Elizabeth Keeney says:

      Hi, AmandaRae! I work with iambaker and am happy to help with questions. I would recommend the Chocolate Zucchini Muffins. Have a great day!

  • Irene says:

    Thanks for the demo, I’m making my cake tomorrow!
    Your daughter is a great helper.

  • Lindsey says:

    Amazing! The icing is out of this world! Wish I’d found this sooner!

  • Ashok says:

    Thanks Guys, Your Recipe Was Too Fantastic. Me and My Family Loved it. I Will Share your Rrecipe with my friends. Hope they will love it too.