Life Hacks: The Depression Cake

by Feb 12, 2017

Depression cake (or Wacky Cake) is a quick and easy recipe developed during the Depression Era when there was not as ready access to eggs, butter or milk. These days it is a great recipe for households with allergies.
And even better – no bowls or mixers! You just make it in the cake pan and throw it in the oven! How easy is that?




  • 1 1/2 Cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 3 Tbsp. cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 1 Cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp.  salt
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp.  pure vanilla extract
  • 5 Tbsp. vegetable oil 
  • 1 Cup water 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

Mix first 5 dry ingredients in a greased 8″ / 20cm square baking pan.  Make 3 depressions in dry ingredients – two small, one larger. Pour vinegar in one depression, vanilla in the other and the vegetable oil in third larger depression.  Pour water over all.  Mix well until smooth.

Bake on middle rack of oven for 35 minutes.  Check with toothpick to make sure it comes out clean.  Cool.  Top with your favourite frosting.  Enjoy!

Note:  Oven cooking times may vary, be sure to check your cake to make sure you do not over bake.

Dairy Free 3 Ingredient Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Makes 1 & 3/4 cups


  • 1 can (400 ml) full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 bag dark, non-dairy chocolate chips (approx 285 grams)


Chill can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. When ready, flip can over and open with can opener. Pour off the water (you can save it for a smoothie or discard). Scoop only the solid white coconut cream into a pot. Add the chocolate chips into the pot as well and gently melt the coconut cream and the chocolate chips together over low heat. Stir frequently and be careful not to burn.

Transfer this mixture into a bowl (cover with wrap) and then into the fridge for 2-3 hours (or overnight) until it firms up enough to whip into frosting. You really just have to eyeball it as I expect the timing for individual batches will differ depending on how cold your fridge is. I put it in the fridge overnight and then left it on the counter for the entire morning until I was ready to frost the cupcakes in the afternoon.

When it’s firmed enough to your liking, whip it with electric beaters until smooth and creamy. If it’s still too firm, you can leave it out on the counter for a bit longer. I didn’t need to add any milk to thin it out or any sugar to sweeten – it was just perfect as is! If your batch tastes bitter, you can always add a bit of sweetener to your taste. I also like to add a small pinch of fine grain sea salt to make the flavours pop.

Depression Cake Recipe from

Chocolate Fudge Frosting Recipe from:


About Rachael

Rachael is a stay at home Mum to 2 lovely (tho noisy!) boys, born 17 months apart. Previously an IT consultant, she now focuses on her new love of sewing (making lovely homewares, children items and the occasional thing for herself!), attempting to be semi-self sufficient on their lifestyle block, and the occasional foray into web design and photography. Phew! A previous Pregnancy and Childbirth class attendee, her antenatal coffee group is still going strong after 4 years, meeting occasionally and celebrating a lot of the big milestones for their children.
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