Chocolate Depression Cake

ActiveTime10 Mins
Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Mins
Yield: Serves 10 (serving size: 1 slice)

This humble yet delicious style of dairy-free chocolate cake originated during the Depression era, when ingredients like eggs, milk, and butter had to be rationed carefully. That said, there is nothing depressing about this one-bowl chocolate cake. Beyond being incredibly simple to mix up, our Chocolate Depression Cake boasts a decadent cocoa flavor and outstanding moisture. The cake is delicious as is, but to take it up a notch, try whisking up the equally easy chocolate frosting we’ve included here. 


  • Baking spray with flour
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh berries (optional)
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)

FROSTING (optional)

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

How to Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch cake pan with baking spray with flour, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Step 2

Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until incorporated. Add water, oil, and vanilla, and whisk until well combined. Pour cake batter into prepared cake pan, and bake in preheated oven until a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean, 30 to 32 minutes. 

Step 3

Let cool on a wire rack until completely cooled, about 30 minutes. Invert onto a serving platter. If desired, top with berries and dust with powdered sugar.

Step 4

If using Frosting: Whisk together powdered sugar and cocoa powder until well combined. Whisk in water, vanilla, and salt, and mix until smooth. Spread icing over cooled cake.

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