Old Fashioned Depression Cake

Old fashioned Depression cake is a World War II era, chocolate cake that uses pantry staples to create a timeless treat you’ll love. It is super easy to make this easy homemade dairy and egg-free chocolate cake and dress it up with your favorite flavors.

a slice of rich chocolate old fashioned depression cake topped with fudgy ganache and served on a white plate

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I love this old fashioned chocolate cake.

It is so simple and uses ingredients I almost always have on hand but creates a decadent dessert we all love.

There’s no need to scour the shelves at the store or search online to find them.

Plus, it’s a safe recipe to serve to people with egg allergies since there are no eggs at all in this recipe.

And it is so easy to dress up with nuts, flavors like orange or pineapple, ice cream, whipped cream, or your favorite toppings and mix ins.

Because it’s so simple, you won’t mind when your family asks you to make it over and over again!

a slice of rich chocolate depression cake topped with fudgy ganache and served on a white plate

What is Depression cake?

No this is not cake you eat when you are sad, but it could definitely boost your mood with its feel good chocolatey flavor.

Depression cake is a type of cake that was popular during the Great Depression and World War II eras.

It uses only pantry staples and doesn’t need any milk, butter or eggs to make, which may come in handy now.

Ingredients

You’ll need two sets of ingredients.

They include for the cake and chocolate ganache.

For the cake, you’ll need:

  • All purpose flour – Bread flour works in a pinch, but you may need to add a small amount of extra water because it is drier.
  • Sugar – Just granulated sugar here.
  • Salt– To balance the sweetness.
  • Baking soda – This gives the cake some lift.
  • Cocoa powder – This provides the chocolate flavor.
  • Canola oil – Olive oil will work too but may produce a fruitier flavor.
  • Vinegar – Distilled white vinegar works best but apple cider vinegar works too. Don’t skip the vinegar! You need it with the baking soda for leavening.
  • Vanilla extract – This adds just a bit of extra flavor.
  • Water – Water provides the moisture for the cake.

close up of a thick slice of chocolate depression cake topped with rich chocolate ganache

For The Chocolate Ganache

  • Powdered sugar – Make sure you use powdered sugar, granulated sugar will get gritty.
  • Cocoa powder – This provides the chocolate flavor to the ganache.
  • Water – The water adds the moisture.
  • Vanilla extract – Vanilla adds a bit of extra flavor.

How to make

For this recipe, you will need to make both the cake and the ganache.

To make the cake, add the flour to a sifter and sift it into a large mixing bowl.

Next, add the sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder to the bowl and whisk them together until evenly combined.

In a smaller mixing bowl, add the water, vanilla, and vinegar and then set aside.

Pour the oil into the large mixing bowl with the combined dry ingredients and give it a brief stir.

Next, give the water mixture another stir to combine and then pour into the large mixing bowl.

Whisk until the batter’s almost completely smooth.

You will want to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, as needed, to make sure the batter’s completely mixed.

chocolate depression cake batter being poured into a prepared baking dish

When the batter is ready, lightly spray an 8×8″ square baking dish with non stick cooking spray and then pour the batter into the dish.

Use a spatula to scrap down the bowl.

Use the same spatula to gently spread the batter out evenly into the baking dish.

Once the batter is added, bake the cake at 350° for 35 minutes.

To see if it is done, insert a wooden skewer into the center of the cake, and if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked throughout.

Set the chocolate cake aside to cool.

You can serve it warm, or wait until it cools completely and add the chocolate ganache.

baked chocolate depression cake shown sitting and cooling with a blue dish cloth in the background

To make the chocolate ganache, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract until evenly combined in a large bowl.

Add the water a single tablespoon at a time, stirring, until the mixture’s thick, but still pourable.

You shouldn’t need more than 3 tablespoons of water MAX.

Don’t let the icing sit, as it will begin to dry out quickly.

As soon as it’s mixed together, pour it over the cooled cake. Use a clean spatula to spread it out evenly, as needed.

Serve the iced cake with whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.

thick, fudgy chocolate ganache being poured over a baked chocolate cake

Serving and storing

You can serve the cake when it is still slightly warm from the oven.

It goes great with ice cream, whipped cream, hot fudge, or your favorite toppings.

The ganache takes the cake to the next level.

You need to let the cake cool and then you can top with the freshly made ganache.

For added flavor and crunch, you can add nuts on top of the ganache before it sets.

You can also serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

To store, I recommend placing the cake in an airtight container. It can last about 5 days on the counter.

Tips and tricks

  • You can add creativity to the cake by using orange or pineapple juice instead of water.
  • If you prefer frosting, skip the cocoa powder and swap in more powdered sugar.
  • If you like dessert for breakfast, you could use coffee instead of water in the ganache.
  • For added flavor, stir in nuts into the batter or sprinkle them on top of the ganache before it sets.

a slice of rich chocolate old fashioned depression cake topped with fudgy ganache and served on a white plate

Other old fashioned dessert recipes you will love

This old fashioned depression cake is a great base recipe that uses pantry stables, so you can make it pretty much whenever you want. You will love this cake because it is so simple and allows you to dress it up easily.

If you like old fashioned dessert recipes, check out some of my other favorites:

If you’ve tried this OLD FASHIONED DEPRESSION CAKE, or any other recipe on my site, let me know in the comment section how it turned out, we love hearing from our readers! You can also follow along with me on PINTERESTFACEBOOK, and INSTAGRAM to see more amazing recipes and whatever else we’ve got going on!

a slice of rich chocolate depression cake topped with fudgy ganache and served on a white plate

Old Fashioned Depression Cake (No Eggs, Butter, Or Milk)

Old fashioned Depression cake is a World War II era, chocolate cake that uses pantry staples to create a timeless treat you'll love. It is super easy to make this easy homemade dairy and egg-free chocolate cake and dress it up with your favorite flavors.
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Rest Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 9
Calories: 329kcal

Ingredients

For The Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tbsp vinegar distilled white variety
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup water

For The Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

To Make The Cake

  • Add the flour to a sifter, and sift it into a large mixing bowl.
  • To the same mixing bowl add the sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder. Whisk them together until evenly combined.
  • To a small mixing bowl, add the water, vanilla, and vinegar. Set aside.
  • Pour the oil into the large mixing bowl with the combined dry ingredients. Stir briefly.
  • Give the water mixture another stir to combine, and then pour it into the large mixing bowl. Whisk together until the batter's almost completely smooth. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, as necessary, to make sure the batter's completely mixed.
  • Lightly spray an 8x8" square baking dish with non stick cooking spray, and then pour the batter into the dish. Use a spatula to scrap down the bowl, getting all of the batter into the dish. Use the same spatula to gently spread the batter out evenly into the baking dish.
  • Bake the cake at 350° for 35 minutes. Insert a wooden skewer into the center of the cake, and if it comes out clean the cake is cooked throughout.
  • Set the chocolate cake aside to cool. You can serve it warm, or wait until it cools completely and add the chocolate ganache.

To Make The Chocolate Ganache

  • In a large mixing bowl whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract until evenly combined.
  • Add the water a single tablespoon at a time, stirring, until the mixture's thick but definitely pourable. You shouldn't need more than 3 tablespoons of water MAX.
  • Don't let the icing sit, as it will begin to dry out quickly. As soon as it's mixed together, pour it over the cooled cake. Use a clean spatula to spread it out evenly, as needed.

Notes

recipe slightly adapted from Budget Bytes

Nutrition

Calories: 329kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 255mg | Potassium: 109mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 42g | Calcium: 12mg | Iron: 2mg

This post may contain affiliate links. As an amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See my full Disclosure Policy for details. As always, all opinions are my own.

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