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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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
Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting
- 1½ 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
- ⅓ 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
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- 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.
- 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.
Did you make this recipe?
Thank you for making my recipe! You took pictures, right? Well go ahead and post them on Instagram! Be sure to mention me @iambaker and use the hashtag #YouAreBaker.
Can it be substituted with gluten free flour?
What can be substituted for the vinegar if none is available
Lemon juice or anything acidic.
What does the vinegar do?
The vinegar reacts with the baking soda and makes the cake rise. You can’t taste the vinegar in the batter or the baked cake.
Many, many years ago in school economics class we made a wacky cake. There was vinegar but I don’t remember how much (it seems more than your recipe. There was also mayonnaise. I have never seen a wacky cake with mayonnaise since.
I remember a recipe with mayo also. It was a very moist cake and I wish I had the recipe!!
Can almond flour be used?
My aunt taught me to make this cake in summer of 1957. She mixed it in a 9X9 square metal pan. She put in all the dry ingredients then made 3 wells in it. She poured the wet ingredients in the wells & mixed with a fork. When baked & cooled, she topped it with an icing containing coconut & pecans similar to a German chocolate cake.
My mother made this cake, so good.
My grandmother made a cake like this but poured boiling water over the top!
This is the same recipe I have from the 70’s.
I found recipes for carrot crazy cake,Lemon crazy cake and ‘vanilla crazy cake. I have no idea where though.
They also call it the depression cake.
My family love the chocolate one.
This cake is so good. It is quick and easy with pantry staples. Family absolutely loved it.
Can u use self rising flour?
Can u use buttermilk
To make it moist?