The Poor Man’s Chocolate cake or Depression cake was popular during the Great Depression as it uses the most frugal of ingredients; butter, milk and eggs being expensive or hard to come by in those days. In spite of all those omissions, the cake turns out beautifully with a rich, slightly dense texture, making it a very comforting dessert during wars and crisis situations. The recipe, from Chocolate Chocolate and More, can probably be traced back from those troubled times when rations were scarce and housewives had to do with any substitution they could afford to feed their families. We can still enjoy this budget friendly cake today while we marvel at the resourcefulness of women who managed to beat the odds as they struggled to keep their kitchens running even with their country’s economy at its lowest.



For the Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white granulated sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 teaspoon kitchen salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup lukewarm water

For the Chocolate Frosting

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon low fat milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Combine flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, salt and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.

  • In separate bowl, combine vanilla, vinegar, oil and water. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.

  • Mix until completely combined and no lumps remain. Pour batter into a greased 8×8 square pan.

  • Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes till skewer comes out clean from centre.

  • Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack. For the frosting, melt the butter in a small saucepan.

  • Stir in cocoa powder to form thick paste. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a medium sized bowl.

  • With mixer on low speed, add the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla, then turn mixer to medium.

  • Beat about 5 minutes till frosting is smooth and creamy. Spread on top of cooled cake and serve.

Poor Man’s Chocolate Cake