These Rich and Chocolaty Depression-Era Cakes Don't Use Eggs or Butter

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

As the name suggests, Depression-Era cake was created during the Great Depression. Americans struggled to find essential baking ingredients during that time and had to get creative with what they had. So instead of calling for the usual cake ingredients such as milk, butter, and eggs, recipes for Depression-era cakes use staples like vinegar and cooking oil. While it may have a sad-sounding name, a Depression-era cake brought a little joy to the table.

piece of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting
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.

Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt).

  1. Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt).
  2. Second, make three small wells, where you'll pour vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and vinegar.
  3. A cup of water is poured over all the ingredients before stirring together and baking in the oven.

Since you mix this super moist egg-free and dairy-free dessert in the same pan it bakes in 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 choose homemade with a creamy white frosting or double the 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. The main difference between this cake and the Crazy Cake is the use of mayonnaise instead of oil, vinegar, and salt (still no eggs). However, 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're 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.

Ingredients:

  • 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

To make:

  1. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda.
  2. Combine mayonnaise, water, and vanilla.
  3. Stir mayonnaise mixture into dry ingredients; beat until blended, about 2 minutes.
  4. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9x9.7-inch baking pan ($22, Wayfair).
  5. Bake in 350°F oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  6. Cool completely and frost with chocolate icing.

Chocolate Icing

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.

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