Chocolate Depression Cake (egg-free, dairy-free)

$2.41 recipe / $0.27 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.88 from 80 votes
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Depression as in The Great Depression, not depression as in “this cake will cure your depression.” 😅Since a lot of us are experiencing ingredient shortages right now, I thought there was no better time to post this Chocolate Depression Cake (also known as Crazy Cake or Wacky Cake), which was also born out of a time when ingredients were in limited supply—The Great Depression. This unique cake is rich and chocolatey without using any eggs, milk, or butter. A cake without butter?? So “wacky,” I know.

A white casserole dish with chocolate cake, one slice on a white plate and a glass of milk near by.

How Do You Make Cake Without Eggs or Butter?

Butter usually serves to keep cake soft and tender by coating the flour molecules in fat and preventing them from developing a tough gluten matrix. In this recipe, butter is replaced with the cooking oil of your choice, which can achieve the safe effect, but with slightly less richness.

Eggs usually help leaven cakes by creating steam that puffs up the batter, then giving structure to the risen cake as the proteins firm up. In this cake, the eggs are replaced with a combination of vinegar and baking soda, which foams up quickly, making the cake light and fluffy. It’s almost like a giant version of my Chocolate Mug Cake, if you’ve ever tried that. Anne Byrn’s 1917 Apple Sauce Cake also uses a similar no-egg, no-butter style batter.

Is This the Best Chocolate Cake?

Haha, let’s be real, this cake doesn’t have butter. So while it’s probably not the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had, it’s a damn fine treat when your cabinets are bare. Not to mention it’s incredibly easy. Anyone can make this cake, and with very little cooking equipment or ingredients. For those two reasons alone, this is a good recipe to keep tucked in your back pocket (or your browser’s bookmarks). Also, it just happens to be vegan!

How to Serve Depression Cake

I made a super simple dairy-free chocolate icing to top my cake, but be aware that this type of dairy-free icing is super sweet because there is no fat to kind of mellow out the sweetness. If you’re not into super sweet icings, I suggest skipping the icing and just dusting your cake with powdered sugar after it cools (if you do it while the cake is still hot the powdered sugar will dissolve). Or, if you do have butter on hand, you can go with a more traditional chocolate buttercream frosting. A scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of an icing free slice of this cake would also be divine.

One slice of chocolate depression cake or "crazy cake" viewed from the side, a glass of milk in the background
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Chocolate Depression Cake (No Eggs, Butter, or Milk)

4.88 from 80 votes
This unique Chocolate Cake recipe, popularized during the great depression, is rich and chocolatey without the using any eggs, butter, or milk!
One slice of chocolate depression cake or "crazy cake" viewed from the side, a glass of milk in the background
Servings 9 1 slice each
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
Cooling Time 1 hour
Total 1 hour 50 minutes


Chocolate Cake

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour ($0.23)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar ($0.80)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 1 tsp baking soda ($0.02)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ($0.21)
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil* ($0.21)
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar** ($0.06)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract ($0.30)
  • 1 cup water ($0.00)

Chocolate Icing

  • 1.5 cups powdered sugar ($0.10)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder ($0.16)
  • 3 Tbsp water ($0.00)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract ($0.30)


Chocolate Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder until well combined.
  • Add 1 cup water to a liquid measuring cup, then add the vanilla extract and vinegar to the water.
  • Add the oil to the bowl of dry ingredients, followed by the water mixture. Stir until the chocolate cake batter is mostly smooth. Make sure no dry flour remains on the bottom of the bowl.
  • Pour the cake batter into an 8×8" or 9×9" baking dish. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake the cake for 35 minutes.

Chocolate Icing

  • If using the chocolate icing, let the cake cool for at least an hour after baking before adding the icing.
  • Wait until the cake is cool, then prepare the icing. Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract to a bowl. Begin adding water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it forms a thick but pourable icing (about 3 Tbsp total). If you let the icing sit, it may begin to dry, but you can add a splash more water to make it moist again.
  • Pour the icing over the cooled cake and spread until the cake is evenly covered. Slice the cake into 9 pieces and serve.

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*Use any neutral cooking oil of your choice, like canola, vegetable, grapeseed, safflower, corn, or avocado oil.
**Any light vinegar will work, like white vinegar, rice vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.


Serving: 1sliceCalories: 319.77kcalCarbohydrates: 59.44gProtein: 3.09gFat: 9.07gSodium: 272.58mgFiber: 2.71g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Chocolate Icing being Poured over the baked chocolate cake

How to Make Chocolate Cake with No Butter, No Eggs, and No Milk – Step by Step Photos

Chocolate cake dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk on the side

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl combine 1.5 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, and ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Stir these ingredients together until they’re well combined.

Wet ingredients being poured into dry ingredients in the bowl

Measure 1 cup water in a liquid measuring cup, then add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 Tbsp vinegar (any light vinegar, like white vinegar, rice vinegar, or apple cider vinegar). Add ⅓ cup cooking oil and the water mixture to the dry ingredients.

Mixed cake batter in the bowl with a red spatula

Stir until a thick cake batter forms. A few lumps are okay, but make sure no dry flour remains on the bottom of the bowl.

Cake batter being spread into a square baking dish

Pour the cake batter into an 8×8 or 9×9 inch baking dish.

baked chocolate cake in the white square baking dish

Bake the cake in the fully preheated 350ºF oven for 35 minutes. If you plan to make the chocolate icing, cool the cake for at least an hour before making and adding the icing.

Finished chocolate icing dripping off a red spatula into the bowl

To make the icing, simply add 1.5 cups powdered sugar, ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa, and 1 tsp vanilla extract to a bowl. Starting with one tablespoon water, stir in water until it forms a thick icing (about 3 Tbsp total). The powdered sugar only needs a very small amount of liquid to melt into a thick icing. If you let the icing sit for a bit, it can dry out, but can be moistened again by stirring in another splash of water.

Chocolate icing being spread over the chocolate cake with a red spatula

Pour the prepared icing over the baked and cooled cake, then spread into an even layer. Cut the cake into nine equal pieces, then serve!

A piece of chocolate depression cake on a white plate with a fork and a glass of milk on the side

It’s also really good with a glass of milk or scoop of ice cream. ;)


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  1. I made this cake yesterday and loved it! I doubled the recipe since my cake pan was too big and it came out so awesome! Super moist. I didn’t do the frosting, but I am incredibly grateful to have found this recipe. BudgeBytes never disappoints!!

    1. All the recipes for this cake say ungreased 8×8 pan.

      I just took mine out of the oven. I’ll let you know if it sticks to the pan.

  2. Do you think I can use cake flour instead of AP flour. And would the ratio be the same>

    1. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried this with cake flour so I’m not sure if the ratios would need to be adjusted.

      1. I have made this with whole wheat flour [cause that’s what I had] and it works fine! I only add enough to make a soft batter, like for pancakes. I don’t measure!

  3. This is BY FAR the best tasting chocolate cake I’ve found. All other cakes are too complicated for the return. I probably make this cake on average 1-2 times per month and play around with different icings. I used this cake recipe for a tiered chocolate cake with peanut butter icing and everyone was shocked when I told them it had no eggs in it! Love love love love.

  4. Hi. I want to double the recipe too, but not sure what to double and what not to. I’m pretty sure it’s not all ingredients (*2). Please advise on how you did yours

    1. Hi! Yes, if you want to double the recipe you can double all of the ingredients so they stay in the same ratio. :)

      1. Yes, double ALL of the ingredients. But some things are not essential, such as vanilla. I’ve forgotten to add it and it still works…. it’s only for a bit of flavour, but who cares! I also add less sugar, ’cause I don’t like it so sweet, and I do add raisins, which are sweet [or other fruit].. You can do whatever YOU like! That’s the beauty of this recipe! But you MUST add in the vinegar and baking soda — won’t work without it!! So versatile!!!

  5. Have made this recipe 10+ times, always turns out perfectly. (Have used apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, avocado oil, coconut oil, canola oil). I’ve doubled the recipe and baked in a Bundt pan (350 degrees for 40-50 min)…perfect! That’s my new fancy go-to!

  6. This is an amazing chocolate cake. So easy, so moist and so yummy. It’s my quick go to dessert. It’s a great recipe to make with my granddaughters.
    I’ve used a cup of coffee in place of the cup of water. I’ve used applesauce in place of sugar. I’ve tossed in chocolate chips. I’ve even used gluten free flour and it’s still perfect. (I enjoy experimenting. That makes it fun.) This cake is always delicious. You got to try this probably have the ingredients on your shelf right now. You will not be sorry..happy baking!

    1. The best part of this is that children on any age can do this…. more fun with Grandma!! It is never-fail, and kids love saying how they made a cake! [They will always remember this experience!]

      And the kids can add in all their favourite things…. moms won’t let you do that!
      And it always works!!

  7. I made this before and loved it! I am curious, could I pour the batter in cupcake tins and adjust the cooking time?

    1. You can definitely do that! I’d suggest lightly spraying the tin or liners with oil. I’d also suggest shortening the baking time, but since we haven’t tested this recipe as cupcakes, I’m hesitant to make any specific suggestions that might not be as successful. However, since this recipe does not include eggs, the only thing you really are cooking is raw flour! ~ marion :)

    2. Oh, yes, you can! You can make it into ANY shape or size of pan you want! I have recently started adding chopped apples into the batter, and then pouring into a cookie sheet [with sides]. This makes a thin layer, which I cut into squares. Most of it disappears before it cools off! I think it is so dry here!

    3. Hi, have you tried to make cupcakes with the recipe? How long did you bake them for?