Ask anyone who lived through it and they will tell you - The Great Depression was a tough time. Money was scarce and food and supplies that we take for granted today were even harder to come by then.

If there is one thing we’ve learned about the folks who struggled and survived the 1930’s - they were creative. They made do with what they had with a bit of creativity. Some of the results are still popular today, especially recipes.

Take a look at the recipes listed in this article, and you will see how creativity and a bit of food science might look curiously odd, but the results are amazing.

Depression Cake

This little gem is also called crazy cake or wacky cake because there are no eggs, milk or butter because those items were often hard to come across. And vinegar? Weird, right? The vinegar works as a leavening agent when combined with the baking soda which replaces the eggs.

Another reason for the crazy/wacky name some recipes are mixed right in the pan, so no bowls to clean.

This cake comes out just as fluffy and moist as any other cake. There are many variations out there for Depression Cake. There are spice, vanilla, and all types of fruit recipes. Some variations have frosting, and some use powdered sugar. It’s the whole creativity thing again.

The great thing about Depression Cake is it a nice treat for those who don’t get to enjoy cake due to allergies.

Oh, and it’s vegan.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8x8 baking pan. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Then add all the wet ingredients, stir until well mixed. Pour into baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean, or the cake bounces back when you touch it.

Remove from oven and cool on a baking rack.

Notes: You can use any kind of oil, olive and coconut oil both work well. For a twist, substitute cold coffee for all, or half of the water Your cake won't taste like coffee, it just deepens the chocolate flavor.

Once the cake is cool you can frost or sprinkle powdered sugar on top. You can serve the cake right from the pan.


No-Bake Cookies

No bake cookies also became popular during the depression because, again, certain food items weren’t available. You’ll notice that these cookies don’t have flour or eggs. They are also easy to make and no hot oven to deal with.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, margarine, or Crisco
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter


Lay a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet.

In a pot, combine sugar, cocoa, butter, milk, and vanilla. Bring mixture to a boil and continue boiling for 1 minute. Add oatmeal and peanut butter, stir until mixed.

Drop by the spoonful on the wax paper. Let the cookies sit for 1 hour (or put them in the fridge) until they firm up. Finally, eat!

Store in fridge.

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