“Less” Chocolate Cakes

20 September 2022

Ever think you could come up with a delicious chocolate cake without some of the basics like flour or dairy? It can be done.

Tales vary, but these recipe for the first cake was probably concocted during World War I when goods and supplies were diverted from home to the war fronts. The cakes grew to fame during the Great Depression when farms were foreclosed and the dust bowl added insult to financial injury, so there was a severe shortage of products. These cakes come with different names like a Wacky Cake or War Cake, but they are definitely real and amazing.

The second recipe here is a flourless cake often served during Passover Seder.

Depression Cake

This has the added advantage of mixing the cake in the same pan you bake it in.


  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Grease an 13 x 9 pan with butter.
  • In the greased pan, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  • Whisk lightly with a fork or small whisk to combine.
  • Make two small wells on the sides and one large well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the vinegar and vanilla into the small wells then pour the oil in the big well.
  • Pour the water over the top and whisk again to combine thoroughly.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Cool completely.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

This is also a good idea if you are gluten intolerant.


  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons espresso powder, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup cocoa


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a metal 8″ round cake pan; cut a piece of parchment to fit, grease it, and lay it in the bottom of the pan.
  • Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat until the butter is melted and the chips are soft. Stir until the chips melt, reheating briefly if necessary. You can also do this over a burner set at very low heat. Transfer the melted chocolate/butter to a mixing bowl.
  • Stir in the sugar, salt, espresso powder, and vanilla. Espresso enhances chocolate’s flavor much as vanilla does. Using 1 teaspoon of espresso will simply enhance the flavor, while 2 teaspoons will lend a hint of mocha to the cake.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating briefly until fully incorporated. Add the cocoa powder, and mix just to combine.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake the cake for 25 minutes; the top will have formed a thin crust, and it should register at least 200°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into its center.
  • Remove it from the oven, and cool it in the pan for 5 minutes.
  • Loosen the edges of the pan with a table knife or nylon spreader, and turn it out onto a serving plate. Allow the cake to cool completely before glazing.
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