A “Depression” cake is a cake that was made during the Great Depression in the United States. It included little or no milk, sugar, butter or eggs, because they were expensive or difficult to obtain.

When the Great Depression hit America following the stock market crash of 1929, dessert quickly became a luxury. The “Depression Cake” was the only affordable alternative. It was carried out by substituting certain expensive ingredients (butter replaced by vegetable fat, milk by water and eggs by yeast). Examples of “Depression” cakes are “boiled raisin cake” or “cake without milk, eggs or butter”. “War cakes” are similar cakes, since they do not use rare ingredients reserved for soldiers. The General Mills company and its subsidiary Betty Crocker, very popular with American households, in the 1930s called on nutritionists and chefs to experiment and offer very affordable Depression cake recipes with impeccable taste and nutritional qualities.

Praised for its practicality and affordability, reputed to be “the most interesting cake ever made”, Depression cake is currently enjoying renewed interest in the United States.

Difficulty level : easy
Prep time : 15 min
Rest time :
Cook time : 35 min
Total time : 50 min
Yield : 4 servings
1 cup cold water
1 cup powdered sugar
1.5 cups flour 
3 fl oz oil 
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp white vinegar 
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Steps :

  • Preheat oven to 360° F.
  • Make three wells. 
  • Pour the oil in a well, the vinegar in the second and the vanilla extract in the third. 
  • Pour cold water throughout the mold and mix well with a fork until you get a homogeneous preparation.
  • Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a knife blade inserted in its center comes out dry.
  • Go out and let cool.
  • Sprinkle with icing sugar.
  • To taste!

It is possible to add a mirrored chocolate icing :

5 tbsp dark chocolate
4 tbsp fresh liquid cream
3.5 tbsp icing sugar
  • Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie.
  • Add the fresh cream liquid.
  • Add the icing sugar,
  • Mix well.
  • Gently pad the cake.
  • Refrigerate 1h.
  • Go out and enjoy !

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