Chocolate Depression Cake
I’m really excited about today’s baking adventure. I found this recipe ages ago and had forgotten all about it until I came across it again yesterday. Let me start off by saying I love boxed cake mixes. You can make a cake (obviously), or cupcakes; or half the mix and make both cake AND cupcakes; or you can use the mix to make cookies (that’ll be a post for another day)! As much as I love how easy it is to use cake mix, there’s nothing better than a cake made from scratch. They have this quality about them that’s different from a cake made from boxed mix. Today’s recipe is made from scratch.
As you probably know, during the Great Depression, many families struggled to scrape the money together to eat a decent meal. Because ingredients such as milk, eggs, and sugar were a precious (and rare) commodity, many recipes exclude them. In fact, most cake recipes “avoided ingredients that were scarce or were being conserved for the use of soldiers.” Similar cakes are known as “Eggless, Milkless, Butterless Cake,” or “War Cake.”
I’m excited to be making a cake from scratch, but I’m more excited about using an old-fashioned cake recipe. We are fortunate to live in a time where we aren’t lacking like our older generations were. Looking at the recipe, I know without checking that I have all of the ingredients necessary to make this cake, which is a stark contrast to those who originally used this recipe all those years ago.
1 c. brown or white sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 c. oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. vinegar
Grease and flour 8×8 inch pan (9×13 inch for doubled recipe). Thoroughly mix together all ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 30- 35 minutes. Can sprinkle powdered sugar on top while cake is hot if desired.
As you’ll notice, this recipe doesn’t have milk or eggs. You may be asking why it has vinegar. I’d never heard of using vinegar while baking until I found out my grandmother’s pie crust recipe uses vinegar. Apparently, “as an acid, vinegar is often included in cake and cookie batters to react with baking soda and start the chemical reaction needed to produce carbon dioxide and give those batters a lift as they bake.” Makes sense. In terms of sugar, I’ve decided to use 1/2 of each.
Let’s remember those who went before us and lived during the Great Depression. They certainly provide us with an example of having a lot, in spite of having nothing. Happy baking!