Kitchen Fun With My 3 Sons

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.


deep depression cake on a white plate


deep depression cake with chocolate frosting

Chocolate Depression Cake - No Milk, Eggs or Butter

Published By Jill
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.
5 from 188 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 10
Calories 216 kcal


  • 1 1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 teaspoon White Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 cup Water
  • Chocolate Frosting of your choice
  • Rainbow Sprinkles optional


  • 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!


Calories: 216kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 2gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 6gSodium: 228mgPotassium: 64mgFiber: 1gSugar: 20gCalcium: 6mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @kitchenfunwithmy3sons or tag #kitchenfunwithmy3sons!

Wacky Cake - No Milk, Eggs or Butter!

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I am a mom of 3 awesome boys that love to get crafty with me in the kitchen. Our blog is full of all sorts creative food ideas for the Holidays, Party Ideas, Free Printables, Featured DIY Ideas, Recipes, & Kids Craft Ideas! Read more...

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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.

Don’t make it complicated. Any table salt will work just fine.

I’d prefer to mix it like any cake.  The wells don’t always work well!

This is great for people who have food allergies5 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.5 stars

Is the nutritional info for frosted or unfrosted?

Sounds spectacular & delicious!5 stars

Surprisingly gppd. Fooled everyone.5 stars

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.

Loved it with the coffee, thanks

My grandmother used to put black coffee in the chocolate frosting also.

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

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. 5 stars

Our family calls this “Crazy cake” – it’s been a family staple forever!

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.

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!!!

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 . 

this turned out wonderfully!5 stars

Been making this for years, so easy so good.

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. 

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.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.5 stars

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! 

Parchment paper

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


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