‘Depression Cake’ Is Making a Comeback While We’re All Stuck At Home

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Before lockdown started, many people didn’t realize how long it would last. We didn’t realize how low our food supplies would become at times since we’ve been limiting our trips to the grocery store. We didn’t realize how long we would be helping our kids with distance learning. We didn’t know what new hobbies we would decide to take up.

If you weren’t a home baker before the coronavirus pandemic started, chances are that you are now. Many people quarantined inside their homes have been whipping up cakes and cookies to stay busy, to avoid going out, and to have some comfort food to enjoy.

The problem with doing a lot of baking is that you eventually start to run out of ingredients that are found in a lot of recipes. Yeast is definitely an ingredient that’s hard to come by right now. Dairy items like milk, eggs and butter aren’t always available at the grocery store either.

If you’re lucky enough to have some flour and sugar on hand, you can still make a delicious chocolate cake even without butter, eggs or milk. “Depression Cake” is a recipe that was popular during the Great Depression, another time when home bakers didn’t always have common dairy products on hand. It is also known as “Wacky Cake” or “Crazy Cake” because the recipe is a little wacky.

The cake itself is rich and full of chocolate flavor. The cake is moist and the perfect comfort food. It’s also really easy to make since you don’t need a mixer. You just need one bowl.

This isn’t the first time we’ve shared a recipe for Crazy Cake, but the recipe we’re sharing today has the added benefit of brewed coffee as one of the ingredients. According to Emily Luchetti, Executive Pastry Chef for Park Tavern, Marlowe, and The Cavalier Restaurants in San Francisco, adding coffee to the recipe makes it extra intense. She told TODAY, “You can add chocolate chips and cover it with whipped cream, ganache, peanut butter cream cheese frosting. Pretty much anything works.”

We love versatile recipes. Tracy Wilk is the lead chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, and she told TODAY, “Once you understand the science of baking, recipes are merely just suggestions.” So, take this recipe for Depression Cake from Salon.com as a “suggestion.”

You’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or black cocoa)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cooled brewed coffee

Start by preheating your oven to 375°F and greasing an 8-inch round or square pan (a brownie pan would work).

Mix the first 5 ingredients and poke three holes in the mix. Pour the next three ingredients into the holes. Then add the coffee (or water if you don’t have coffee) and stir until well blended. 

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes, or until the top of the cake is set but springy. 

Let the cake cool in the pan and if you would like, you can top it with frosting, whipped cream or powdered sugar. It’s also delicious without any topping.