Depression Cake

Trapped in the house, unable to navigate the icy roads, my mood turned gloomy. I needed a “chocolate fix” … and I needed it right away! Rummaging through the pantry, I was delighted to find a chocolate brownie mix. But, when I read the ingredients, I screamed, “Aaargh!” That meant, “Dadgum it! I don’t have eggs!” Depression loomed.

Glancing out the window, I noticed the snow piled like a thick layer of confectioner’s sugar on the porch railing. My mother often piled that powdery sugar on top of a cake, because she didn’t like to make icing. Usually, it was thick enough to choke a horse. I remembered that she put it on a chocolate cake she called “Wacky Cake.” It was called that because the recipe didn’t require milk, butter, or eggs

Wacky Cake! That was the answer! In her battered metal recipe box, I found the stained index card with her Wacky Cake recipe and frantically pulled ingredients from the cabinet. In less than an hour, I satisfied my need for chocolate!

wacky cake

Do y’all turn to the foods of your childhood when you need comfort? I certainly do. This Wacky Cake recipe was one of Momma’s favorites, because after a hard day at the office she wanted to keep those four kids of hers quiet with a dessert that mixed up quickly. Wacky Cake does! Mix up quickly AND keep the kids quiet (if you share it). In fact, it takes me longer to lick the mixing bowl than it does to make the batter.

Since this is Friday (and I like to think about only the good on Friday), I’ll share the recipe. It’s my way of wishing you a happy Friday. I’m betting that some of you are familiar with it.

To make Wacky Cake, first you put on some music that you think is pretty wonderful. I either choose a CD by Keb Mo or one by Queen. Preheat the oven to 350°. Prepare a baking pan (grease and flour it). Gather the following ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water

Gently plop them all into a mixing bowl. It doesn’t matter what order you add the ingredients, but I like to put the dry ingredients first (with baking soda on top), then add the vinegar and the other liquids. Why? Because I like to see it fizz when the vinegar hits the baking soda. That thrilled me as a kid, and I still get a kick out of it.

Stir the ingredients until it is well mingled. The batter won’t look very dark, but once it’s cooked, the cake turns to deep chocolate. Put it into the baking pan and pop it into the oven to bake it until it tests done with a toothpick (usually 25-30 minutes).

While you wait for it to cook, lick the mixing bowl and dance around the kitchen a little. Perhaps even wash the dishes, so you can enjoy your chocolate cake with no worries.

You can put your favorite icing on the cake, or pile Confectioner’s sugar on top … or just eat it plain (or with ice cream). It’s delicious, and will cure your depression in a hurry.

Speaking of which, after looking on-line a bit I discovered that sometimes this cake was called “Depression Cake,” because during the Great Depression there were shortages of eggs and milk. Some brilliant soul discovered this recipe that Momma called Wacky Cake.

I noticed that in some recipes people add strange ingredients like coffee to the cake. I’ve considered adding bacon (the fifth major food group), but I figure you don’t mess with perfection.

So, have you had a cake like this before? What “in-a-hurry” dessert is your favorite?

  9 comments for “Depression Cake

  1. February 11, 2011 at 8:02 am

    thank you soo much, it made me think that if you want to run away from depression, you will always find an open door, you just need to know where to find it.

  2. Doris Noblet
    February 11, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Speaking of Depression Cake, I have a recipe somewhere for Milkless, Eggless, Butterless Cake. I made it once for a school bake sale, but as far as I know it didn’t sell. Talk about depressing! If anyone wants the recipe, I’d be happy to look it up!

  3. February 11, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    I’m having a rough week this week – my craving was for soda bread like my grandmother’s. Mine wasn’t quite right – never is, but the smell was comforting.

  4. February 12, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    my mil used to make something she called Commodity Cake – using the items we received as part of the government Commodities program (prior to food stamps) when hubbymoose and I were pre-teens.

    Heavy – and heartening – the perfect thing to get one out of a slump. I haven’t made that in years . . . hmmmm . . . 🙂

  5. February 14, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I’ve never had wacky cake, but it looks good to me! My mom’s about as good a cook (cough, cough) as I am so I don’t really have any comfort foods , so to speak. But I like chocolate. It always puts a smile on my face. Hope it did for you, too. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  6. February 15, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    My Mother used to make this cake too, and Wacky Cake was exactly what she called it! Thanks for the memories…

  7. Ann
    February 17, 2011 at 5:55 am

    Shelly, I cracked up when I read the comment about bacon – one of my best friends and my daughter were joking about adding bacon to brownies, and I called them on it – so they made them. They are DELICIOUS! Fry up the bacon, not crispy, but done, and chop and add to a brownie mix – about one slice per square inch of pan (9 in pan – nine slices). You can use the bacon grease to grease the pan, instead of PAM. The salty and the chocolatey are a perfect mix!

  8. February 21, 2011 at 12:38 am

    I made this last week. My husband and son were so impressed because it was just like a “real” cake. I frosted it with Betty Crocker’s vanilla frosting (from a white tub)…TOO sweet. It would have been better with ice cream! Thanks for the recipe. I’ll be making it again.

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