New category: Things I haven’t cooked in ages.

By Anita Garner

Depression Cake
(Recipe below)

We made this as far back as I can remember.  Churchwomen shared the recipe. It showed up at every potluck.  They called it Depression Cake.  I wasn’t around during The Great Depression. i was born into post-war rationing and my family counted pennies but we always seemed to have the ingredients for this when we needed a treat.

The recipe requires no eggs or milk or butter or oil and the cake turns out soft and moist and delicious.  Mayonnaise is the magic ingredient. You won’t taste the mayo, but you may decide this is richer than most chocolate cakes.

Grandma made it in California.  Mother made it in the Deep South.  My brother and I cooked as soon as we could reach the stove and we made it too.  Leslie Ray and I made it Sunday night after church and ate it straight from the pan.  You get to call it snack cake when it stays in the pan, which means you can take a forkful every time you pass by and no one’s going to complain about the edges.

I didn’t frost this one.  We had a smidge of confectioners sugar left
in the baking drawer, so I sifted it on top.

You already know what frosted chocolate cake looks like, but here’s a picture anyway because cake with frosting is pretty.

This recipe isn’t super-sweet, therefore according to  snack cake rationale it isn’t only for dessert. I know someone who had it for breakfast this morning.

Bonus picture from a show-off who topped theirs
with cream cheese spread.


One big mixing bowl.  One spoon.  One pan.  I used 8 x 8.
Heat oven to 350.  Grease pan.  If you use a different size pan, watch your baking time.  Bake about 25-40 minutes depending on oven and depth/size of pan.

About a cup of boiling water. Include a splash of brewed coffee in this measure.
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
(Add a few chocolate chips if you like. I didn’t use any.)
2/3 cup mayo
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda,
3/4 cup granulated sugar. (May need a bit more)
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
I added some chopped walnuts. (I put them in everything.)

Bring water to a boil.  You may only need 3/4 cup, so make brewed coffee part of your first 3/4.  Save the rest of your water in case you need it.

Put cocoa powder (and chocolate chips if you’re using them) in a large mixing bowl. Pour 3/4 cup hot water over your chocolate and leave it to melt for a minute, then mix together.

Stir in mayonnaise, salt, baking soda, 3/4 cup granulated sugar until smooth.  Stir in vanilla, then the flour.  Mix it very well until lumps are gone.

This is where I taste and decide whether to add a bit more sugar.  I often need another sprinkle. If the mixture is too stiff to pour, drizzle water until it’s the consistency you know a thick cake batter should be.

Pour the batter into greased pan.  Bake until center springs back when lightly pressed.  Our oven is old and finicky so I set a timer for 20 minutes, use the toothpick test, then turn the pan to finish baking.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *