In this article, we will describe depression cake, its origin, everyday ingredients, and we will present one of the recipes.
What is Depression Cake?
Depression cake is a type of cake that was made during the Great Depression.
It is also known as “Crazy Cake,” “Wacky Cake,” “Milkless, Eggless, Butterless Cake,” “Poor Man’s Cake,” or “Boiled Raisin Cake.”
It is egg-free and dairy-free for people with allergy issues.
Depression cake includes no eggs, milk, or butter.
There are also other cakes called “War cakes,” because when people make them, they do not use ingredients that are a scent or were preserved for soldiers to use.
The History of Depression Cake
Depression cake’s origin goes back to the Great Depression.
In a brochure called “War economy in food,” distributed by the United States Food Administration, in 1918, Depression cake is listed under “Recipes for conservation sweets.”
During this period, people had to use cheap ingredients in cooking.
Desserts were luxury for them, so depression cake was a good alternative, as it is made without milk, eggs, and butter.
Depression cake is a famous cake and is baked in the USA nowadays too.
The Depression Cake Ingredients
The common ingredients that are used for depression cake are:
- Unsifted all-purpose flour,
- Rye flour,
- Baking soda,
- Baking powder,
- White sugar,
- Brown sugar,
- Corn syrup,
- Water, strong coffee, or apple juice,
- Shortening (butter used to make bread or pastry),
- Dark raisins or prunes.
A Depression Cake Recipe
There are different recipes for depression cake. Below is one of them:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- One teaspoon baking soda
- One teaspoon vanilla extract
- One teaspoon white vinegar
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup of water.
Instructions for making depression cake:
- Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, combine vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined and no lumps remain.
- Pour batter into a greased 8×8 square pan.
- Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let cake cool completely before frosting.
The original cake does not have frosting, but if you want, you can use it for decoration.
Ingredients for the frosting of depression cake:
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 Tablespoon milk (or cream)
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Instructions for the frosting of depression cake:
- Melt butter in a small saucepan (or in the microwave using a microwave-safe dish.) Stir in cocoa powder; the mixture will form a thick paste.
- Move chocolate mixture to a medium-size mixing bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add in powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla.
- Once ingredients are incorporated, turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat about 5 minutes, until frosting is smooth and creamy. Spread on top of cooled cake.
Reviews about Depression Cake
Chocolate cake is a mouth-watering dessert that everyone can enjoy after a meal. It is one of my favorite desserts. 🙂
Despite my mom telling me about wacky cakes, I have yet to try it. I need to get on it! I have heard many stories from my grandmother about depression as well. My mom will joke with her a bit about how she always carries around a few crackers. The depression period of her life always stayed with her a little bit.
This cake was precious! Love that chocolatey flavor, yum!
I am 65 years old, and my mother made this cake for us as kids during our growing up years. I will bet she made it almost weekly. My husband likes it because it is a dense cake.
This cake, I made for my kids when they were little. I was a poor working divorced mother, and this cake did not require eggs or milk, so it was cheap to make. Well, cheap before the price of cocoa skyrocketed.
It is a delicious and oh moist cake.
This was way back in the 1970s when I was making this for my kids.
Try it; you will not be disappointed.
As a child growing up, my mom made this often. It was and is still one of my favorites! The only difference in my mom’s recipe was she added a cup of chopped pecans that had been floured (so they would not sink to the bottom), gently stirring them in at last before pouring into the pan for baking. (She made hers in a tube pan.) Also, something else my mom did was she would start this the night before. She would cool the shortening/raisins/water/sugar mixture with a lid on the pan, overnight. (She did this on top of our washing machine in the garage!) The next morning, she would spoon most of the hardened shortening off, and then proceed with the making the cake.
Recommended books and sources
- American Cake: From Colonial Gingerbread to Classic Layer, the Stories and Recipes Behind More Than 125 of Our Best-Loved Cakes: A Baking Book
- Chocolate Crazy Cake Recipe
- Depression Cake Recipe
- Depression Cake (Wacky Cake) Recipe
- HFNE “Depression Symptoms”
- HFNE “Depression Wallpaper“
- Saved by Cake
- The Honest Mums’ Club: Parenting. Depression. Cake.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
FAQs about depression cake
Why is it called Wacky Cake?
Depression Cake is called Wacky Cake or Crazy Cake because it does not contain eggs, milk, or butter, as other cakes do.
What does vinegar do in a cake recipe?
Vinegar reacts with baking soda, and starts a chemical reaction, producing carbon dioxide, which lifts cake batter.
That is the reason why vinegar is often used for baking cakes and cookies.
Why is eggless cake so expensive?
Eggless cake is expensive because if you bake a cake without eggs, you use more other ingredients, which “replace eggs’ features,” that is needed for the cake.
What is a dump cake Wikipedia?
Dump cake is a cake similar to a cobbler, made by dumping fruit or another filling into a pan and then dumping cake mix on top.
Any simple cake that can be prepared in a single bowl can be called dump cake (by extension).
How can I make my depression cake mix better?
To make your cake mix better, you could try the following:
– Milk – use only milk instead of water,
– Eggs – use 3-4 eggs instead of 2 for a richer taste,-
– Sugar and flour – add 1/4- 1 cup sugar and flour to your cake mix,
– Vanilla and salt – add a teaspoon of vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon of salt,
– Butter – use melted butter,
– Coffee – baking chocolate cakes, for an intense taste you should use strong brewed coffee instead of water,
– Sour cream – add to the mix ½ cup sour cream,
– Pudding – add a small box of instant pudding to increase moisture,
– Add a handful of nuts, fruit or chocolate chips,
– Make a homemade buttercream frosting.
Do dump cakes have to be refrigerated?
Dump cakes do not have to be refrigerated.
It is a matter of taste; you can serve hot or can leave it in the refrigerator for a while and eat cold.
Depression cake or Crazy cake originates from the years of Great depression, connected to the living conditions.
It is a cake without eggs, milk, and butter.
The original recipe does not have frosting, but fortunately, we do not live in those years so that you can use it.
Depression cake has different recipes; you can try some of them using the one in our article and from those presented in recommended sources.
What we recommend for depression
If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.
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