Chocolate Depression Cake – No Milk, Eggs or Butter

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There is nothing easier to make than a Deep Depression Cake. A cake that dates back to the Great Depression, it is easy to make, a moist and inexpensive cake that has an amazing flavor. Made without butter, eggs or milk, this cake was inspired during the Great Depression.

Our 5-Minute Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is perfect with this chocolate cake recipe.

deep depression cake with chocolate frosting

Deep Depression Cake Recipe

While deep depression cake started back in the Great Depression, it doesn’t mean it isn’t still loved today. This cake has been a classic for years and for good reason. This cake is extremely easy to make. It requires only the pan you will be baking in and a fork. It couldn’t be easier. The ingredients are extremely inexpensive.

Why Is This Called a Depression Cake?

This cake was created during the Great Depression. The cake is made with no butter, no eggs, and no milk. This is because during the Great Depression these ingredients were hard to come by. Since it was hard for many families to have enough food, dessert was a treat. By making it as inexpensive as possible.

Can I Freeze This Chocolate Cake?

If you want to freeze this Depression Era Chocolate cake, it is easy to do. Once the cake is cooled, you can slice it into pieces. You can freeze the cake as a whole or in individual slices. You can freeze the cake frosted or unfrosted. If you are freezing the cake frosted, you might want to freeze it on a plate before wrapping it. This will prevent the frosting from sticking to the plastic wrap.

deep depression cake

Ingredients You Will Need

(full amounts in recipe box below)

  • All-purpose Flour
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • Sugar
  • Baking Soda
  • Kosher Salt
  • White Vinegar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Vegetable Oil or Canola Oil
  • Water
  • Chocolate Frosting
  • Rainbow Sprinkles

How to Make a Wacky Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 13×9 baking dish with butter.

Using the pan as a bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

Using a fork, whisk together the ingredients.

Make 2 small wells on the sides and one larger well in the center in the dry ingredients.

make weels in the dry ingredients

Pour the vanilla and vinegar in each of the small wells and then oil in the larger well. Don’t worry if it overflows.

cake batter in a baking dish

Pour water over everything and whisk to combine thoroughly.

deep depression cake ready to bake

Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake is done. A toothpick will come out clean when it is done.

Cool the cake completely and frost the cake with your favorite chocolate frosting.

chocolate cake with chocolate frosting

If desired, sprinkle rainbow sprinkles over the top.

Enjoy!

deep depression cake on a white plate

 

deep depression cake with chocolate frosting
4.97 from 214 votes

Chocolate Depression Cake - No Milk, Eggs or Butter

There is nothing easier to make than a Deep Depression Cake. A cake that dates back to the Great Depression, it is easy to make, a moist and inexpensive cake that has an amazing flavor. Made without butter, eggs or milk, this cake was inspired during the Great Depression.
Servings: 10
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Total: 45 minutes

Ingredients
  

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Grease an 13x9 pan with butter.
  • In the greased pan, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  • Whisk lightly with a fork or small whisk to combine.
  • Make two small wells on the sides and 1 large well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the vinegar and vanilla into the small wells then pour the oil in the big well, if they spill over the wells that's perfectly okay.
  • Pour the water over the top and whisk again to combine thoroughly.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Cool completely.
  • Frost the cake with your choice of chocolate frosting. Our 5-Minute Chocolate Buttercream Frosting is wonderful with this cake!
  • Optional; sprinkle rainbow sprinkles on top.
  • Enjoy!

Last Step:

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Nutrition

Calories: 216kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 228mg | Potassium: 64mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 20g | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg

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Wacky Cake - No Milk, Eggs or Butter!

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139 comments on “Chocolate Depression Cake – No Milk, Eggs or Butter”

  1. 5 stars
    I made 2 of these. One as written. It was dryer & more cake like. The other one I used coffee instead of water & grated dark chocolate into it. It was rich & fudgie. That one got rave reviews! The original was bland compared to. I didn’t use icing for either. I just cut them into squares like brownies. Note I used a 9 x 13 disposable pan. Both versions came out very thin like brownies. Not thick like a cake.

  2. I am going to make this…..question: will it come put on if I combine it in a bowl, then put it in a cake tin.

  3. Elizabeth Hernandez

    5 stars
    That’s what we call crazy cake, I learned from my aunt it’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made delicious best by far then any cake mix.

  4. Would love to try it. Looks great! Has anyone used splender instead of sugar to help lessen sugar ? I need to be careful on sugar but it looks so good! Lol

  5. 5 stars
    This was simple to make and delicious!! There was not a single piece left. I ended up making a cream cheese buttercream because that’s what I had in my fridge. I will be making this again for sure!

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve made this lots of times for a restaurant I was a baker at and would put homemade chocolate cream cheese frosting on it. Making it for my fiancé as he likes sweets and is okay to try it without frosting.

  7. 5 stars
    I made this and loved it. Somewhere I read you can substitute Applesauce for the Oil. Has anyone tried this?

  8. Looks great! I wonder, may I make it in a bowl and pour it into the pan? I am worried about trying to mix it thoroughly in a baking pan. Thanks for any help here.

  9. 5 stars
    I used to live near a family that had not much money because there dad had severe health issues and only had one leg . God bless him he did some work for a church by filling in for the pastor when he unable to be there on Sundays . Imagine having to walk on crutches in all kinds of weather. He only was given a small amount of money for his service but he felt as if was doing all he could and it was all he could do. His wife and daughters.made all homemade goodies and this cake was one of them . And I found out how to make it and trust me it was delicious. It is so so moist and had a delicious flavor to it . You folks should try it . You will love it .

  10. States frosting but there’s no recipe? I mean I do I have my own but I’m old so that means I have my own chocolate cake recipe too, I just wanted something different. I am going to look through the site?

  11. George Hertzog

    5 stars
    I love this depression cake recipe my mom used to make it and I helped too. Memories I will never forget thank you for sharing this. ❤️

  12. Hi – this might be quite a silly question, but when you make the 3 wells for the wet ingredients, does vinegar go in one well, vanilla in the second well, and oil in the middle (as stated)? Or do you combine half the vinegar and half the vanilla together in each well? Ok, I’m probably being OCD about this, but I want to make it right! ;+)

    1. Hey Cindy, since it will all be whisked together you can really do it either way as long as the ingredients are in there. Hope that helps!

    2. When I first made this cake my recipe told me to use bacon drippings instead of oil because they used melted lard instead. The water was lukewarm

  13. 5 stars
    I’ve made this since I was about eight. My mother passed it down from her mother and her mother before her. It’s the best cake there is. Trust me we don’t add icing. There is no need for it. Delicious on its own

  14. 5 stars
    I can’t stop eating this stuff! It’s soooo moist and spongy! I made it with hot cocoa powder instead of cocoa powder and used Mayo instead of vinegar but oh my gosh! I think I found a new pregnancy craving!!

  15. I make the same type cake but use mayonnaise instead of the vinegar and oil. Family makes it for all birthdays

    1. How much mayo do you use when swapping for the vinegar and oil? Thank you in advance.

  16. NO Depression Here After Savoring This “No Depression Cake” !!!

    David G Zamora
    Edinburg Texan
    ⭐️ !

  17. Hi, can you taste the vinegar after the cake is baked? Want to tey thus recipe but I’m scared the vinegar will come thru as I dont like vinegar.

    1. The vinegar is combined with the baking soda in lieu of eggs to make the cake light and fluffy. You do not taste vinegar at all. I have made several times and my daughter loves it more than other chocolate cake. Try it, I do think you will be disappointed. With the price of eggs and ingredients these days, it is a true depression cake winner for me and my family!

    2. There is vinegar in red velvet cake as well, but you don’t taste it at all.

  18. 5 stars
    10/10 would recommend this it was delicious the only thing that kinda made me upset was that cake wasn’t level so next time I’ll make it In a bowl so it’s level

  19. 5 stars
    My  grown kids love this with a chocolate ganache and a drizzle of homemade caramel sauce. Sprinkle a little espresso cocoa salt over that for a decadent dessert.

  20. We grew up eating this cake. We called it Wacky Cake. My mom just made it for us the other day and brought it over! Cant believe I came across this❤️

  21. Hello- are the nutrition stats for the whole cake? My daughter has a very special, restricted diet and this looks like a great option for her! Im so excited!

  22. So the frosting not depression? Lol.  I make this all the time , if a treat is desired. Just use a cereal bowl, for one serving. Many flavors, apple/sauce, jam, cinnamon. Kind of like mug cakes. Another way us just use cake mixes and use water. No oil needed either. No sugar, if u  want to top with a sweet.

  23. We called it Wacky Chocolate Cake and mom frosted it with 7 minute frosting. So good! I’m curious, what type of frosting is spread over the cake in the photo? Looks like a whipped topping. Your 5 minute recipe looked different. Thanks! 

  24. Charles Fermeglia

    Why Kosher salt? You mean sea salt? I don’t mind a salt with a blessing, but what makes it so special?

    1. Kosher salt has different size granules than other salts. You can use different salts but you may need to convert. For example a teaspoon of table salt is typically far more salt than a teaspoon of kosher salt because the granules of table salt are so small. Weight/mass measurements in baking avoid this tricky issue! It’s not important that the salt is blessed, but it is important information that the recipe writer used that particular type of salt and not another 🙂

  25. 5 stars
    I was happy to find this recipe. We made this when I was a kid as we did not have a lot of money. We loved it and I am excited to try it again. I love it with chocolate peanut butter icing on top.

    1. Joannie Kimmett

      Wow awesome idea ” baked in ice cream cones “. I’d love to try that. Any specific cone, directions ?? Share any details please. Want to try with my gbabies. Thank you in advance.

  26. I grew up with this cake but in my family it was known as “Wacky Cake”. Would love to know what the frosting recipe is on the cake that’s pictured.

  27. Kailee Michelle

    5 stars
    This is BY FAR the only cake I have successfully made. And it tastes AMAZING ! I subbed the brown sugar for date sugar and it still tasted sooo good. I have sent this recipe to my grandma to try. My whole family loves it. This is definitely going to be my to-go cake. Thank you.

  28. Tess Pederson

    5 stars
    I grew up in the 50’s and I have always loved this cake. We always called it “Crazy Cake” You just throw it together, bake and eat it warm right out of the oven. Add Whipped cream or Ice Cream is also wonderful to serve with it. Its great frosted or un-frosted. Thank You for bringing the recipe back to life. Its been a long time. It sreally great when your low on groceries/baking ingredients. My mother always used apple cider Vinegar and table salt. Same-Same I guess.

  29. I love this because it is VEGAN! Thanks for sharing and this showe that vegan doesn’t have to be expensive or uneasy! Cant wait to try it!

  30. My mom makes this cake. Her recipe is called “One pan cake”. She tops it with cinnamon and sugar after cooling. 

  31. You say this Depression cake calls for no milk, eggs or butter, yet you say to butter the pan. Is there anything else to use to keep it authentic? Thank you! 

  32. 5 stars
    OMG is this good! I did not even put frosting on it just some cool whip. It was so moist, quick and easy to make. I used dark chocolate because thats what I prefer and mixed it in a bowl instead of the pan. I cant wait to try the spice cake version someone posted next.

  33. Vickie L Smith

    5 stars
    My 4-H
    ABC’s of Food cookbook from 1966 has this recipe. It’s named Funny Cake. I made it many times for my family when I was learning to cook.

    1. My Mom always made a dessert passed down from her side of the family in Maine. It was called Funny Cake, but it was a pie crust with a cake batter poured in, then a chocolate sauce poured over, topped with chopped nuts. When baked, the chocolate sauce ended up between the cake and the pie crust. So good! I believe it is also known as Tollhouse Pie. ‍♀️

  34. I’ve made this cake several times. I use an 8X8 square pan. Then this cake is thicker like a regular cake (just my preference). And I use vanilla buttercream. And this taste exactly like the chocolate cake w/white icing we had in school years ago. 

  35. I’m 73 and my mother made this in a 9 x 9 pan and we called it Wacky Chocolate Cake. She made a chocolate frosting with what she had. It’s a favorite with our children and grandchildren. Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. My friend used to make this for her birthday in the black oven panel so that there was enough for everybody that came to visit her as a team. She called it a wiki wacky cake and topped it with caramel.
      I recently discovered this recipe again and made it for my children and they loved it. my 14 year old bakes is now too . 

  36. 5 stars
    I used to make this cake for my Step-daughter (she had an egg allergy) and she loved it! She could finally have cake like everyone else, so it made her very happy. She’s outgrown her allergies but still loves this cake.

  37. Diana L. S. Richard

    5 stars
    As a child, my mother used to make this cake that her mother used to make. I lost this recipe several years ago and am glad to see this online. And we called it a Wacky Cake.

  38. JEANNE HANSON

    Great cake. Some adjustments that I have made over the years that has improved the original recipe.
    1) add 3/4 cup black cofffee to a 1 cup measure and fill the remaining 1/4 cup measure with water.
    2) Add 1 1/2 Tbls of dark cocoa powder to the 1/3 measuring cup and fill the remaining measure with regular cocoa powder.
    3) Use good oil. I use Sunflower Oil. It never has that rancid oil smell.
    4) And most important….use the Betty Crocker Recipe “Chocolate Glaze” that is used in the Boston Cream Pie recipe.
    It is like chocolate fudge!
    5) Refrigerate the cake. It is so much better served chilled.
    Trust me on these improvements. My sons and all of their friends can attest to the greatness of this little gem.

    1. hi. what will i look for in the store..is it BETTY CROCKER CHOCOLATE GLAZE? can u please share the recipe for your chocolate glaze,,please and thank u

  39. Elizabeth Quan

    5 stars
    We baked this depression cake today, along with the chocolate buttercream frosting. So delicious! We added almond extract to the cake and frosting, along with vanilla. I’m amazed at how moist and tender this turned out.

  40. This is one of my favorite cake recipes. In fact, I just had a piece about an hour ago. This was the recipe that my mom would use when a child, boy or girl, found their self in the kitchen with nothing to do. As a boy, it was a joy to wipe-out the three holes of ingredients with a big flood of water, stir the mess together and then be amazed at the final product that tasted so good.
    Often we made it with a peanut butter/milk/powdered sugar frosting(approximately 1 Tbsp, 1 Tbsp, 1 cup, respectively). Personally, I feel a store bought peanut butter cup can not hold a candle to this concoction. As one of your other commenters pointed out, not too heavy and not too sweet. I was from a large family, so we always made a double batch in a 9 X 13 and baked 35 to 45 min. or even longer(toothpick test). Also, double ingredients when making the peanut butter frosting.

  41. 5 stars
    I made this in under 15 min using Krusteaz brand 1:1 gluten free flour & a tablespoon or so more water (because gf flour absorbs more) and I cannot express how much I LOVE it! I have allergies to dairy, wheat, eggs and some nuts, so this is a dream come true! GF tends not to rise as much so this is not terribly high, but super light, fluffy, tender, moist, and delicious! I’ve eaten a third of it and haven’t even put icing on it yet! Outstanding! 
    The only thing I will do differently next time is to use table salt because some of the crystals of kosher salt didn’t get a chance to melt, (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing;). Also thinking a German chocolate coconut icing or even just caramel syrup, would be amazing on it. 
    Thanks again for posting! I think I found my new go-to potluck dessert

  42. I believe it was the old Betty Crocker cookbook that had an eggless, butterless, milkless spice cake recipe. I used to make it all the time for my kids when times were tough. Sometimes that was all we had to eat.

  43. David F Moyer

    Can this recipe be successfuflly cut in half? I live alone and it seems the whole cake is too much for just one person.

    1. Freezing cake is always an option! Then you don’t have to make it again so soon 🙂 
      Just double wrap it, (my mom always does a layer of Saran Wrap and a good tight layer of tin foil), and it’s ready to go for the next time you want it!
      My grandma told me one time, “You know, I think my cakes are more moist after I freeze them, I think I’m always going to make them ahead and freeze them before I need them.” And she did… And people LOVED her cakes!

  44. Hi there!

    Just out of curiosity here regarding the wells… Is this for keeping it to one pan instead of an extra mixing bowl to wash? Or does the well help somehow on a chemical level for flavor or density vs mixed in a bowl?

    1. I usually mix mine in a bowl. For me it’s just easier getting it mixed together. And you can make cupcakes. 

  45. Is there a recipe for this particular frosting? That’s what drew me to the cake. The frosting looked amazing!

  46. Joyce M. Jeffries

    In 1958, My Mom bought me a “Mary Alden’s CookBook for Children” and this cake recipe was in it, and never has failed yet. I’ve been making it since I was 12 years old. Sometimes if I put chocolate frosting on it, I will add a couple of teaspoons of peanut butter to the frosting just for a different flavor. I also like it just warm and with only a bit of butter spread over it. (No frosting). It’s also really good with a cream cheese frosting.

  47. Great for lactose intolerant people.
    it would be nice if you have more of these recipes that you could be posting thank you for this one.

    1. Hi
      Can the sugar be replaced with a sweetener instead or will this affect consistency of cake ?
      Thank you

    1. Make this for my vegan friends…combine it with vegan chocolate frosting made from refrigerated coconut cream, unshaken and liquid drained to use for something else, beaten with raw chocolate powder and fine sugar to taste. Like adding Cinnamon and or cardamom for extra pep.

  48. Patricia Baughman

    I have made this cake many times. It was called a cockeyed cake. My recipe calls for 1 tablespoon vinegar not 1 teaspoon. We love this cake!

  49. They had canola oil or other similar vegetable oil during the depression? I’m suspicious that they would be more apt to use lard for the fat in it.

  50. Confirming what size dish to bake in. The recipe calls for 8×8 square pan but the dish in the pictures looks like a 9×13. What should we use?

    1. 4 stars
      Thanks for the recipe! It’s in the oven now. Mixed it up with child care children for a birthday. It seemed to difficult to spread the amount of batter in the 9×13 pan though so I put it in a smaller glass pan. Just took it out and it looks great!

  51. I use different abbreviations for T. And tsp so I’m confused as to what yours are. is TSP teaspoon or tablespoon

    1. Hi Carol, I usually use tsp. for teaspoon or spell it out. I use T. or Tbsp for Tablespoon. Hope this helps!

  52. My mom made this every year for my brothers’ birthdays as it was their favourite. She got the recipe from her grandmother, who also called it Crazy Cake. It’s a family treasure!

  53. In the 1960’s my mother was making a double recipe of this cake for our dessert. She had some of the ingredients in the bowl already when she found there was no cocoa in the cabinet. Not wanting to waste what she had put together she turned it into a spice cake and wrote down the directions for what she had done. Chopped walnuts and raisins are an optional addition. My mother called the original cake “Chocolate Crazy Cake” and her changes she named “Spice Snack Cake”

    Follow instructions as for Chocolate Depression Cake:
    SPICE SNACK CAKE
    (created in 1960’s from Chocolate Depression Cake recipe when no cocoa found in cabinet)
    Recipe for 8 inch square pan:
    1-1/2 CUPS FLOUR
    1 TEASPOON BAKING SODA
    3/4 CUP SUGAR
    1/2 TEASPOON SALT
    3/4 TEASPOON CINNAMON
    1/2 TEASPOON GROUND CLOVES
    1/2 TEASPOON NUTMEG

    5 TABLESPOONS COOKING OIL
    1 TABLESPOON VINEGAR
    1 CUP COLD WATER
    1/2 CUP CHOPPED WALNUTS (OPTIONAL)
    1/2 CUP RAISINS (OPTIONAL)

  54. 5 stars
    My mother-inlaw called this Crazy Chocolate Cake. I have been making fow 50 years as well. It’s great.

    1. I’ll be making this as I am allergic to eggs and mom was a Depression baby-we share the same birthday so guess what mom…..

  55. Sybil Nassau

    A classic recipe I remember well from my childhood (WWII) Thank you for the reminder – I remember the ingredients but not the amounts. We used to have it with ice cream, no frosting. It is neither too heavy nor too sweet.

    1. My mom grew up then as well.My step daughter shared this as I am allergic to eggs and I never get to enjoy with everyone else at parties.But I will try this and since I make desserts each week for mom (80) so this next week-she gets this! Happy times.Connie here.