These simple recipes call for some surprising ingredients from the pantry.

By Katlyn Moncada
Updated November 12, 2020
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Depending on where you live, certain ingredients might be hard to find right now. We've heard about shortages on eggs, yeast, and even flour. As a result, Depression cake (aka crazy cake or wacky cake) is currently trending on Google. As the name suggests, this type of cake was created during the Great Depression, a time when Americans struggled to find or purchase essential baking ingredients and had to get creative with what they had on hand. So instead of calling for usual cake ingredients such as milk, butter, and eggs, recipes for Depression-era cakes use staples like vinegar and cooking oil. So while it may have a sad-sounding name, I imagine Depression-era cakes actually brought a little joy to the table.

Credit: Blaine Moats

Crazy Cake

There are only three basic steps to master a rich and chocolaty (and completely eggless!) Crazy Cake from our sister site, Allrecipes. First, combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt). Second, make three small wells to pour in vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and vinegar. A cup of water is poured over all the ingredients before stirring together and baking in the oven. You mix up this super moist egg-free and dairy-free dessert in the same pan you bake it in, so you'll have fewer dishes to wash later. (Get the full recipe and instructions here.) Simple enough, right?

All that's left is to decide what type of frosting should go on top. You can use purchased frosting, or go the homemade route with a creamy white frosting or opt for double chocolate with some fudge frosting.

Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake

While browsing the Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen recipe archives this week, we found another trendy cake recipe from the Depression era. The biggest difference between this cake and the Crazy Cake above is the use of mayo (which, yes, does have eggs in it, but you don't need any eggs as an ingredient) instead of oil, vinegar, and salt. It does include baking powder for extra help with leavening. Even the icing recipe omitted butter and milk to keep things frugal. Note: if you are serving someone with an egg allergy, this isn't the recipe for you (unless you want to give vegan mayo a try), but the Allrecipes cake above will work.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda. Combine mayonnaise, water, and vanilla. Stir mayonnaise mixture into dry ingredients; beat until blended, about 2 minutes. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9x9-inch baking pan. Bake in 350°F oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely and frost with chocolate icing.

Chocolate Icing

  • 1-ounce square unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp. shortening
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ tsp. vanilla

In a small saucepan melt chocolate and shortening over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Add boiling water to make a spreadable consistency.

Instead of running to the store or trying to substitute ingredients, try these recipes as a quick sweet tooth fix. Top with sprinkles for a fun treat and serve with a scoop of your favorite ice cream, if your freezer is stocked with it.

Comments (1)

Anonymous
November 2, 2020
My mother used to make what she called an Economical Chocolate Cake, which was a depression-era recipe. It called for one egg, one cup of flour and one cup of sugar, and Im pretty certain the recipe also called for sour milk and vanilla. I just can't remember the quantities or any other ingredients. I also know it made one 8x8 layer of the moistest, chocolaty cake I've ever had. She never made frosting, but did combine a drained can of fruit cocktail with Dream Whip and this was her go-to when we went to potlucks and people loved it. The dream whip and fruit cocktail were fresh and complemented the thick, chocolatyness of the cake. I would love to find that recipe.