People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (2024)

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As someone who loves to bake, I often find myself scrolling through social media to find new recipes to try. During one of my recent scrolls, I came across people on TikTok and Reddit making a chocolate cake recipe that apparently dates back to the Great Depression. Some people call it "Wacky cake" — and after learning more about it, it literally made me sit up, dramatically gasp, and further investigate. The reason for my dramatic reaction is that this cake is made without milk, eggs, or butter — key ingredients in most baking recipes. Although it's popping up all over social media now, this chocolate cake isn't anything new. As mentioned, it first originated during the Great Depression — which explains why it omits the most expensive ingredients you typically need when making a cake. Considering we're living during a time when inflation is up 6% from a year ago and the price of groceries continues to soar, it's fitting that people are once again following this recipe for an inexpensive treat. Being the inquisitive little baker that I am, I immediately checked my cabinet to make sure I had the few ingredients required to make this cake so I could get to baking it. Here's how it all went down. First, I took out the ingredients: STEP #1: After preheating your oven to 350ºF, sift all of your dry ingredients — flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda — into a ungreased baking pan. Once all ingredients have been added, mix them. STEP #2: Before adding in the wet ingredients, make one large well and two small wells — I created mine with the back of a spoon. From there, I poured the oil into the large one, then the vanilla extract and vinegar into the smaller ones. STEP #3: Next, I poured 1 cup of water over the entire mixture and stirred everything together with a fork. So far, so good! STEP #4: Once the mixture was thoroughly mixed, I put it in my preheated oven for 25–30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick came out clean. After my timer went off, I let the cake cool before I dug in and took a bite. The verdict? It was...not quite sweet or rich enough for me. When I think of a chocolate cake, I picture a super rich cake that will satisfy a sweet tooth, full of deep chocolate flavor. Unfortunately, this cake wasn't as sweet or chocolatey as I personally would have preferred or what I'm used to. Sweetness and chocolatey flavors aside, the cake's texture was super impressive — it was spongy, moist, and very cake-like. Judging it just on its appearance, I thought it was going to be more on the dry side but I was pleasantly surprised. Also, this cake was probably the easiest and quickest dessert I've EVER baked. From start to finish — including measuring and mixing all the ingredients together right in the dish before popping it into the oven — took me about 15 minutes. So if baking usually intimidates you, this is a great recipe to try. True to its roots, it's also probably one of the most inexpensive cakes you'll ever make — and it just so happens to be vegan. If you feel inspired to make this cake too, let me know what you think of it in the comments below. Or if you have tried it before and have any creative modifications for it, feel free to share those as well! 👇 Trending Recipes Trending Recipes More Tasty Guides

The recipe dates all the way back to the Great Depression — and it's probably the easiest, fastest, and most inexpensive cake I've ever made.

As someone who loves to bake, I often find myself scrolling through social media to find new recipes to try.

During one of my recent scrolls, I came across people on TikTok and Reddit making a chocolate cake recipe that apparently dates back to the Great Depression. Some people call it "Wacky cake" — and after learning more about it, it literally made me sit up, dramatically gasp, and further investigate.

@eatwithreen / Via TikTok

The reason for my dramatic reaction is that this cake is made without milk, eggs, or butter — key ingredients in most baking recipes.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (2)

@eatwithreen / Via TikTok

Although it's popping up all over social media now, this chocolate cake isn't anything new. As mentioned, it first originated during the Great Depression — which explains why it omits the most expensive ingredients you typically need when making a cake.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (3)

Fotosearch / Getty Images

For a brief history lesson, the Great Depression took place from 1929–1939. It was a time of economic hardship that impacted most of the world. Milk, eggs, and butter were all ingredients that were hard to come by during this time so people got creative and created a cake without them.

Considering we're living during a time when inflation is up 6% from a year ago and the price of groceries continues to soar, it's fitting that people are once again following this recipe for an inexpensive treat.

Being the inquisitive little baker that I am, I immediately checked my cabinet to make sure I had the few ingredients required to make this cake so I could get to baking it.

Paramount Pictures

Here's how it all went down.

Note: Instead of trying to follow the TikTok videos, I did a quick Google search for Wacky Cake and followed this recipe from Southern Living instead.

First, I took out the ingredients:

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (4)

Fabiana Buontempo

You'll also need some water (not pictured).

There is some wiggle room with these ingredients — such as substituting canola oil forcoconut oil or vegetable oil and apple cider vinegar instead of regular white vinegar. This is based on personal preference.

However, the recipe must include baking soda and some sort of vinegar because supposedly the combo of these key ingredients is what helps the cake rise while baking and gives it its fluffy, moist texture.I used the exact ingredients listed in the recipe.

STEP #1: After preheating your oven to 350ºF, sift all of your dry ingredients — flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking soda — into a ungreased baking pan. Once all ingredients have been added, mix them.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (5)

Fabiana Buontempo

One of the most interesting (and easiest!) parts of this recipe is the fact that you don't need a mixing bowl for the ingredients and you don't need to grease the pan beforehand. I felt like I was making a lot of baking sins during this step!

STEP #2: Before adding in the wet ingredients, make one large well and two small wells — I created mine with the back of a spoon.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (6)

Fabiana Buontempo

From there, I poured the oil into the large one, then the vanilla extract and vinegar into the smaller ones.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (7)

Fabiana Buontempo

STEP #3: Next, I poured 1 cup of water over the entire mixture and stirred everything together with a fork.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (8)

Fabiana Buontempo

So far, so good!

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (9)

Fabiana Buontempo

STEP #4: Once the mixture was thoroughly mixed, I put it in my preheated oven for 25–30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick came out clean.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (10)

Fabiana Buontempo

After my timer went off, I let the cake cool before I dug in and took a bite.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (11)

Fabiana Buontempo

TBH, it looked like a sheet of brownies instead of a cake but either way I was eager to try it.

The verdict? It was...not quite sweet or rich enough for me.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (12)

Fabiana Buontempo

When I think of a chocolate cake, I picture a super rich cake that will satisfy a sweet tooth, full of deep chocolate flavor. Unfortunately, this cake wasn't as sweet or chocolatey as I personally would have preferred or what I'm used to.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (13)

Fabiana Buontempo

I also wanted it to taste richer — which didn't totally surprise me considering most cake recipes typically require a lot of butter.

Sweetness and chocolatey flavors aside, the cake's texture was super impressive — it was spongy, moist, and very cake-like. Judging it just on its appearance, I thought it was going to be more on the dry side but I was pleasantly surprised.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (14)

Fabiana Buontempo

Also, this cake was probably the easiest and quickest dessert I've EVER baked. From start to finish — including measuring and mixing all the ingredients together right in the dish before popping it into the oven — took me about 15 minutes. So if baking usually intimidates you, this is a great recipe to try. True to its roots, it's also probably one of the most inexpensive cakes you'll ever make — and it just so happens to be vegan.

People Love This Famous Chocolate Cake Recipe From The Great Depression — And After Making It, I Can See Why (15)

Fabiana Buontempo

It was also nice to not have to use any eggs or milk — which I'm lowkey rationing right now since they're both expensive at the grocery store.

Overall, I did like this cake — it just wasn't as sweet as I would've wanted it to be but that's my personal preference. I would definitely make this cake again, but next time I would add in things like chocolate chips or even make a frosting to spread on top to make the cake a little sweeter.However, if you're someone who doesn't like overly sweet desserts the original recipe is probably for you.

The recipe I followed did include instructions for frosting but it included butter and milk. I purposely didn't create it since I was trying to stay true to the original Depression-era recipe (that didn't include any eggs, butter, or milk).

Either way, this cake did not go to waste as I happily ate it as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream on top which gave me that sweetness I was craving and just overall brought the cake to another level.

If you feel inspired to make this cake too, let me know what you think of it in the comments below. Or if you have tried it before and have any creative modifications for it, feel free to share those as well! 👇

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