Sunday, January 29, 2012

Depression Era Chocolate Cake

A friend recently sent me a recipe for a depression era chocolate cake,  a dessert created during a time when many people watched their wealth disappear and had to learn to make do on a very meager budget.

Interestingly, she sent this recipe at the same time our family decided we needed to define and stick to a budget. Bear with me here, I feel I need to rant a little bit but I will eventually get to the the chocolate cake recipe, I swear!

I have never really had a set budget before, especially when it comes to grocery shopping. I typically go to the store without a list, put whatever looks good in the cart and come home with not only the basics but also all sorts of other wholesome goodies. I always buy organic and look for natural, non-GMO, certified fair trade and vegan foods.

Shopping on a budget has been a real eye opener.  Now that I am looking more closely at price tags I realize that the system that supplies our food is egregiously flawed.  The fact that it is cheaper to buy processed, calorie dense, nutritionally deficient food the likes of fat and sodium-laden frozen meals, chips, and cookies manufactured using all sorts of nasty, unpronounceable chemicals instead fresh, organic wholesome food, including fruits and vegetables is, well...backward.  No wonder our nation is nutritionally challenged and obese.

Our system desperately needs to be revised to reward farmers for producing nourishing food instead of crops intended primarily for livestock feed and the manufacture of ingredients that produce empty calorie food additives (i.e. high fructose corn syrup).

Thankfully I am in a position to be able to adjust a budget to include fresh, organic and wholesome food. However, much of the U.S population is not and the fact that their ability to regularly eat healthfully is hindered is just plain wrong.  I mean, of course, people  who are struggling to make ends meet will choose less expensive things they can afford.  I can remember as a kid my Mother would stock up on fresh produce because she did shop on a  budget, was concerned about healthy eating,  and that is what was cheap.  My, how times have changed.

So, that brings me around to the depression era cake recipe which was, no doubt, created out of a need to eat frugally. While not necessarily healthy it does fit into the budget and is certainly better than the prepackaged, high fructose corn syrup, fat and cholesterol laden desserts that are found in your grocer's freezer. And it is out of this world delicious. Probably the best vegan chocolate cake I have had!

The chocolate ganache icing was not part of the original recipe, that is my own. I decided it would be a nice addition but you can finish your cake any way you desire.

Depression Era Chocolate Cake

For the cake:
3 cups flour (I used all-purpose but whole wheat will work, too)
2 cups organic pure cane sugar (you could also use brown sugar)
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup oil (I used canola)
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups water

For the ganache:
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli Semi Sweet)
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp strong brewed coffee (I used French Vanilla flavor)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients until combined.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir with a whisk until there are no lumps.

Pour batter into a lightly greased 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan.

While the cake is cooling, heat the ganache ingredients in a double boiler until very smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

Ice the cake (while still in the pan) with the ganache by pouring onto the cake and spreading with a cake spatula.

Serve once cake and ganache have cooled completely.


  1. I could not agree with you more about food costs in this country. It's truly tragic, particularly with the number of unemployed and impoverished Americans today.

  2. I'm very excited to try this out tonight! I have been vegetarian for almost five years now, and just recently my husband and I decided to try out the vegan lifestyle. It has been a week and we feel great about it!

    1. Congratulations on giving the vegan lifestyle a try! I am sure you will love it and if I can help at all please let me know. I hope you like the cake- it is a big hit in my household!

  3. The fact that one can buy unhealthy processed foods "buy one get one free" has been a pet peeve of mine for years. Coupons for produce are rare to find. But we all have to put our money where our mouth is to make a change. I am glad to see more and more people spending their food dollars in a healthy positive manner.

    1. I SO agree with you!!!! I don't care if peppers cost more than Oreos, I will pick the peppers every time!