Skip to Content

Depression Cake – A Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake Recipe

Depression Cake – A Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake Recipe


Often called a “Depression Cake”, this delicious chocolate cake recipe is made without eggs, milk or butter. A one-bowl recipe, it’s ideal for beginning bakers and perfect for anyone needing a chocolate fix! This amazing vegan cake is made only with pantry ingredients so you probably already have everything you need to make it now. I’ve included the optional chocolate frosting recipe as well.

Mom Rewritten uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through the links in these posts. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see the Privacy Policy and Disclosures tab.

Depression Cake

“You’ve been holding out on us!”, we told our office mate Tina when she brought this cake to work. All those years working together and she’d never brought that cake into the office before! How could we have known her for so long and she’d not once shared this amazing cake?! (Can you tell I’m giving Tina a hard time?)

Called simply, “Chocolate Crazy Cake” on the handwritten recipe, Tina brought us all a copy. She said it was given to her by her mother when she was first married. Tina was kind enough to pass it along to me and allowed me to share it with my readers. I went home and made it for my family to rave reviews. It’s now become a staple at our house, whenever anyone needs a chocolate fix!

Cake without Eggs, Butter or Milk

Chocolate Crazy Cake is a simple and easy dessert recipe that satisfies the chocolate craving, doesn’t have a million ingredients and will handily please a crowd. Is it called “crazy” because of the amazing chocolate taste? Is it “crazy” because that’s the reaction you get from your family when you serve it? Or is it “crazy” because the recipe has some unique ingredients?

I think it’s the latter reason, in that dairy-free recipes like this without butter, milk or eggs were made popular during the depression era. If you’re running low on dairy items, you can still make a decadent vegan dessert using basic pantry items.

Serve the Depression Cake as is, or with a light dusting of powdered sugar on top! Tina’s mother also included a simple recipe for the rich chocolate frosting, which includes milk and butter with semi-sweet chocolate chips. I’ve added the recipes for both below.

Chocolate Cake in a Baking Dish 

You will love that the recipe calls for simple ingredients that you probably already have on hand. Noticeably absent are the eggs, milk and butter which means this is a vegan cake recipe. The addition of vinegar is also something you don’t usually include in a cake recipe. This one-bowl chocolate cake recipe goes together fast. Mix together the dry ingredients then create three wells for individual wet ingredients. Cold water is poured over the entire thing then gently mixed together.

Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish or two 9″ rounds before adding the batter. Check the cake with a toothpick to check doneness. The cake is incredibly moist by itself and could be served with whipped topping or fresh fruit.

Depression Cake - Chocolate Cake Recipe

Depression Cake - Chocolate Cake Recipe

Yield: 9" x 13" pan or two 9" rounds

Moist chocolate cake made without eggs, butter or milk.


  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup oil (can use vegetable, canola, olive or melted butter)
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla


1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.

2. Grease pans, using either a 9" x 13" pan or two - 9" rounds cake pans.

3. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa).

4. Create three holes in the combined dry ingredients.

5. Into each hole, add a wet ingredient (oil into one hole, vinegar into another hole, vanilla in the third hole).

6. Pour two cups of cold water over the contents of the entire bowl.

7. Gently stir with a spoon until thoroughly combined, but DO NOT beat.

8. Add batter to prepped pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Test center with toothpick to check doneness.

9. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving or top with optional frosting recipe.


Add optional chocolate frosting recipe, shared in original post on

Chocolate Cake Frosting

The delicious frosting recipes goes together quickly on the stove top. It’s made with semi-sweet chocolate chips, so it’s not overly sweet and you can adjust the amount of powdered sugar you add, as well. Heated in a pan on the stove top, use a whisk to make it smooth. 

This Depression Cake is a must-have for a birthday party at home, dessert treat after Sunday dinner, vegans or anytime we need a serious chocolate fix. Pair a slice of cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some sliced strawberries and it’s heaven on a plate…crazy!

Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate Frosting

Rich stove top frosting pairs perfectly with chocolate cake. Will cover a 9: x 13" cake or two- 9" rounds.


  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar (or less, to taste)


  1. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan. Bring almost to a boil.
  2. Remove from heat and add in vanilla and chocolate chips.
  3. Stir constantly with a whisk until chocolate is completely melted.
  4. Add in sifted powdered sugar half-cup at a time, whisking in between additions until smooth.
  5. Allow frosting to cool before topping cake.


Use this frosting to top the Depression cake recipe, found on

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to Recipe