Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting

The Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting is also sometimes called “Wacky Cake” or “Crazy Cake”! Born out of necessity during the Great Depression, this cake is a marvel of cooking ingenuity.

Back then, ingredients like eggs, milk, and butter were luxuries many couldn’t afford. Resourceful home bakers invented a way to make a moist and delicious cake without these ingredients.

Today, it’s not just a slice of history but a testament to creativity in the kitchen. Perfect for anyone looking for a dairy-free, egg-free cake option that doesn’t compromise on taste.

Gathering Your Ingredients for the Chocolate Depression Cake

Before we start, let’s gather all the ingredients! This cake is wonderfully simple and relies on items you probably already have in your kitchen. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • All-purpose flour (1 ½ cups): The base of our cake. Flour gives structure to the cake, making sure it rises just right.
  • Sugar (1 cup): Sweetness is key! Sugar not only sweetens the cake but also keeps it moist.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder (¼ cup): This is what gives our cake its chocolatey goodness. Rich and full of flavor!
  • Kosher salt (½ tsp): Just a pinch to balance the sweetness.
  • Baking soda (1 tsp): Our leavening agent, gives the cake its lift without eggs.
  • Vanilla extract (1 tsp): Adds depth of flavor, enhancing the chocolatey taste.
  • White vinegar (1 tsp): Reacts with the baking soda to make the cake light and fluffy.
  • Vegetable oil (⅓ cup): Keeps the cake moist. Plus, it’s a great substitute for butter.
  • Water or coffee (1 cup): The liquid component. Coffee intensifies the chocolate flavor, but water works just fine.

For the Frosting

  • Butter (4 tablespoons, softened): Yes, the original cake is dairy-free, but if you’re not avoiding dairy, this buttery frosting is a delicious addition.
  • More unsweetened cocoa powder (4 tablespoons): For that double-chocolate delight.
  • Vanilla extract (1 teaspoon): Ties the frosting flavors together beautifully.
  • Powdered sugar (1 cup): It’s what makes the frosting sweet and smooth.
  • Whole milk or cream (4 tablespoons): Adjust the thickness of your frosting. If you need it dairy-free, your favorite milk substitute works great!

Now that we have everything ready, we can start making this amazing cake! It’s a breeze to prepare and even more delightful to enjoy.

Step-by-Step Recipe Instructions

Now, let’s get baking! Follow these steps to create your very own Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting. Trust me; you’re in for a treat.

Making the Cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). This ensures it’s at the right temperature by the time you’re ready to bake.
  2. Prepare your baking dish. Remember the 8×8-inch dish mentioned earlier? Line it with parchment paper or spray it with nonstick spray. This helps the cake come out easily after baking.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients. Take a large bowl and whisk together 1 ½ cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, ¼ cup of cocoa powder, ½ tsp of salt, and 1 tsp of baking soda. Making sure these ingredients are well combined sets the stage for a perfectly textured cake.
  4. Combine the wet ingredients in another large bowl. Mix 1 tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tsp of white vinegar, ⅓ cup of vegetable oil, and 1 cup of water (or coffee for a deeper flavor).
  5. Bring them together. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Avoid overmixing to keep the cake light and fluffy.
  6. Bake the cake. Pour the batter into your prepared dish and smooth the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Check it’s done by inserting a toothpick into the center; if it comes out with a few moist crumbs, it’s ready.
  7. Let it cool. After baking, remove the cake from the oven and set it aside to cool completely. It’s the perfect time to prepare your frosting.

Preparing the Frosting

  1. Mix the basics. In a bowl, start with your softened butter, adding 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1 cup of powdered sugar. Mix these on low speed to avoid a cloud of sugar!
  2. Adjust the consistency. Slowly add milk or cream, one tablespoon at a time, checking the frosting’s thickness as you go. Remember, you might not need all the milk, or you might need a bit more, depending on the consistency you prefer.
  3. Frosting the cake. Once the cake has fully cooled, spread your delicious frosting over the top. Smooth it out with a spatula or the back of a spoon.

And there you have it, folks! Your very own Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting. Easy to make, even easier to love. Slice it up, serve, and watch as everyone comes back for seconds. Remember, baking is all about enjoying the process and sharing the love.

chocolate depression cake with chocolate frosting

Variations of the Recipe

After mastering the classic Chocolate Depression Cake, why not experiment with some variations to keep things interesting? Here are some delightful twists on the original recipe that are sure to please a variety of taste buds.

Coffee Infused Chocolate Cake

  • Replace the water in the cake recipe with an equal amount of strong-brewed coffee. This not only deepens the chocolate flavor but also adds a subtle coffee undertone that coffee lovers will appreciate.

Spiced Chocolate Cake

  • Add a teaspoon of cinnamon and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the dry ingredients for a cake with a kick. The warmth of the spices beautifully complements the richness of the chocolate.

Orange Chocolate Cake

  • Incorporate the zest of one orange into the wet ingredients and replace the water with orange juice. This version offers a refreshing citrus twist that brightens the deep chocolate flavors.

Vegan Chocolate Frosting

  • For a fully vegan option, replace the butter in the frosting with a dairy-free alternative and use almond milk or another plant-based milk. This ensures the entire cake, frosting included, is vegan-friendly.

Gluten-Free Adaptation

  • Swap out the all-purpose flour for a gluten-free flour blend to cater to those with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease. Just make sure to check the blend is suitable for cakes to ensure the best texture.

These variations on the Chocolate Depression Cake recipe not only add excitement to your baking repertoire but also cater to a wider range of dietary needs and preferences. Whether you’re looking for something vegan, gluten-free, or just a new twist on a classic, these ideas are a great starting point for culinary exploration.

Serving Suggestions

Once your Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting is ready and frosted, it’s time to think about how best to serve it. This cake is versatile enough to fit any occasion, from a casual afternoon tea to an elegant dessert after a formal dinner. Here are a few suggestions to make your cake serving truly special:

  • Add Fresh Berries: A scattering of fresh raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries not only adds a pop of color but also a tart contrast to the sweetness of the cake and frosting.
  • Dust with Icing Sugar: For a simple yet elegant touch, lightly dust the top of your cake with icing sugar. This works especially well if you’re serving the cake without frosting as a light dessert or snack.
  • Serve with Whipped Cream: Offering a dollop of whipped cream on the side of each cake slice provides a creamy texture and a slight richness that complements the moist, chocolatey cake wonderfully.
  • Pair with Ice Cream: A scoop of vanilla ice cream is a classic accompaniment to chocolate cake. The cool, creamy ice cream melting into the rich, warm cake creates an irresistible combination.
  • Coffee or Dessert Wines: Depending on the occasion, serving your cake with a cup of strong coffee or a glass of dessert wine can enhance the overall experience. The deep flavors of both beverages match the intensity of the chocolate, making for a memorable dessert course.

By considering these serving suggestions, you can elevate the presentation of your Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frostig and tailor it to fit your likes.

Preservation and Storing Tips

Keeping your Chocolate Depression Cake fresh and delicious over time is simple with the right preservation and storing techniques. Here’s how to ensure your cake maintains its flavor and texture, whether you’re enjoying it immediately or saving it for later.

  • Room Temperature Storage: If you plan to eat the cake within a couple of days, storing it at room temperature is fine. Keep it under a cake dome or an inverted bowl to protect it from air and moisture. This method helps preserve the cake’s moisture without altering its texture.
  • Refrigerating Your Cake: For a slightly longer storage time, refrigerate your cake. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or store it in an airtight container to prevent it from absorbing odors from the fridge. It’s best enjoyed within a week when refrigerated.
  • Freezing for Longevity: For long-term storage, freezing is the best option. Freeze the cake without the frosting if possible, as some frostings can change in texture. If already frosted, freeze briefly unwrapped to harden the frosting, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. Properly stored, the cake can last up to three months in the freezer. Thaw it overnight in the fridge or at room temperature before serving.
  • Reviving Your Cake: If your cake has dried out a bit during storage, an easy trick to revive it is to lightly brush each slice with a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar boiled until the sugar dissolves) before serving. This adds moisture and can help bring back some of the cake’s original texture and flavor.

By following these storing and preservation tips, you can enjoy your Chocolate Depression Cake for days or even months after making it, ensuring every bite remains as delicious as if it were just baked.


Exploring the versatility of Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting showcases the creativity possible in baking.

From its humble beginnings during a time of scarcity, this cake has evolved into a canvas for culinary expression, allowing both novice and experienced bakers to experiment with flavors, ingredients, and dietary accommodations.

Thanks so much for reading! If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my email newsletter. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a rating or review. I would love to hear what you think!

Happy cooking and bon appétit!

a slice of chocolate depression cake with chocolate frosting on a white plate

Chocolate Depression Cake with Chocolate Frosting

With just a few simple ingredients and one bowl, you can be ready to bake a chocolate cake and have it ready in about 30 minutes!
Prep Time 10 minutes
30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8


  • 1 Hand Whisk
  • 1 Hand-held Mixer


  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water or coffee


  • 4 tablespoons butter softened
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons whole milk or cream


Preheat Oven 350℉

  • Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with parchment paper or spray with nonstick cooking spray.


  • In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to combine.
  • In a large bowl combine wet ingredients. Vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water (or coffee). Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir using a spatula or whisk until ingredients are fully combined.
  • Pour batter into the 8×8 pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. When an inserted toothpick comes out with a few crumbs (not clean!) the cake is done. Prepare the frosting as the cake cools.


  • With a hand-held mixer, combine room temperature butter, cocoa, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar.
  • Turn mixer on low and let it combine ingredients for about 30 seconds.
  • Slowly add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until you reach desired consistency. You may not need all 4 tablespoons or you may need 1 more. This can vary due to the season, kitchen and preference.
  • Spread over cooled cake.


Nutrition Estimate
315 calories per piece
Keyword chocolate depression cake, chocolate frosting

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