Not So Depressing Cake

While the depression of the 1930’s certainly presented everybody at the time with great challenges, some were actually met with quite a bit of genius and ingenuity. Some fancy food synthesis falls into this category. It’s a good thing too, because when World War II came along just a decade later, these clever foodies didn’t even miss a beat, continuing to tackle the challenge of cooking with restricted ingredients with great aplomb.

Some of their concoctions were pretty logical, while others really require a head scratch while speculating what on earth they were thinking. Some notable eyebrow-raising recipes of this era include Mock Apple Pie, a pie made almost entirely of Ritz crackers its proponents swear taste like the real thing, Campbell’s Tomato Soup Cake, a (sometimes) vegan spice cake with a very unusual ‘secret’ ingredient, and of course, my absolute favorite, Wacky Cake, a sublime chocolate cake with a moist crumb to rival that of a commercial mix. Best of all, unlike most cake mixes, it’s completely parve!

Wacky cake gets its lift from the acidity of the cocoa and vinegar combining with the baking soda. This is a fast reaction, and some even insist that this cake be mixed and baked in the same pan. However, you’ll do just fine opting to mix in a bowl, if you do some fast mixing followed by a speedy transfer to the pan and directly into a hot oven.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup oil (I like to use coconut or grapeseed, but any light, mild-flavored oil will do)
1 cup cold water

Prepare a 8 or 9 inch baking pan, and make sure your oven is preheated to 350 and ready to go. Thoroughly mix dry ingredients in either a mixing bowl or the baking pan. Combine liquid ingredients and then add to dry ingredients, quickly whisking together. If batter is mixed in a bowl, quickly transfer to baking pan. Place cake into oven immediately and bake approximately 30 – 35 minutes, or until cake springs back after pressed lightly. Cool completely before frosting.

Make a parve frosting with margarine, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, salt and soy milk, or simply whip together cocoa powder, marshmallow fluff, and additional powdered sugar to taste. For a more sophisticated look, top with a chocolate ganache by combining parve chocolate chips, margarine, and Mocha Mix or soy milk over medium low heat and cooling slightly before pouring over the cake. Enjoy your slice of history!

~ Recipe submitted by Allaya Diep

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