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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_4604-e1612293090234.jpgDepression Chocolate Cake reaches back to a time when, with very little, people made some pretty delicious things…necessity being the Mother of Invention and all.  This is one of those delicious things.  Peg Bracken, in her iconic “The I Hate to Cook Book” (you can get an updated version here), had pretty much the same version of the one in my file. Because, as you know, The Goddess has been going through ‘Ye Olde Recipe Box’, and she ran across this recipe.  Of course, you also know, she can never leave anything alone.  Even in her misspent youth, she made changes…and yet again, more changes!  But, I think you might be happy with this “Update”…very happy, in fact!

As I kid I used to make Peg’s (we’re on a first name basis!) cake frequently.  But, I learned pretty quickly to mix it in a bowl, not the pan…it just never seemed as good, when I mixed it in the pan.  It also had a tendency to stick to the pan.  And really, I couldn’t wash a bowl?  Even The Goddess isn’t that lazy busy.  That’s what we’re going with anyway….

The “Update” adds a few things that would clearly not have been available during the Depression…dates, nuts, olive oil.  But I have them, so I wanted to use them…and it’s my cake, so there!  The Goddess is in a mood today, I think….

A bowl, a whisk and a few everyday ingredients, and your on your way to a great little everyday cake!  You know, like a little black dress…we all have one…or should have one!  You’ll note, in the recipe, I’ve put some things in ()…those are the changes…otherwise it’s pretty much the basic recipe. 

Here it is in pictures…

See.  It really is that easy…now go wild!  By the way, this is my favorite birthday cake.

Great Depression Chocolate Cake-Updated

  • Servings: Makes 1 8- or 9-inch cake
  • Difficulty: Easy-Peasy
  • Print

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (see NOTE)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 handful coarsely chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
  • 1 handful diced dates (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil–the olive oil is so much better!)
  • 2 teaspoons toasted walnut or sesame oil (optional)
  • 1 cup cold water (or cold coffee)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour an 8-inch baking pan; set aside.

Place the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Use a whisk…Don’t go wild, but run the whisk about and mix everything together well…you’re also aerating the flour and coating the nuts and fruit bits, so they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake.  Make a well in the center; set aside.  Combine the wet ingredients; pour into the dry ingredients.  Gently mix until just combined.  Pour into the prepared pan; smooth the top with an off-set spreader.  Bake on middle rack of oven, for 30-35 minutes. Check with a toothpick after 30 minutes.  It should come out with just a few crumbs or clean…don’t over-bake.  Cool to room temperature.  Sprinkle with icing sugar or your favorite frosting.  Wrap tightly with plastic wrap…will keep at room temperature for several days.

NOTE:  I substituted 1/3 cup oat flour for an equal amount of all-purpose flour.  Dried cranberries, figs, cherries, etc. can be substituted for the dates.  Also, grated orange zest is a nice addition.

Great Depression Chocolate Cake-Updated Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2021.  All rights reserved.