piece of delicious chocolate cake

I love to bake, especially elaborate recipes. Four layers with two fillings and frosting, anyone? My only training was from my great-grandmother. She taught me to make a deep well in the flour and cornmeal for the perfect cornbread and to chop apples into small pieces for her Christmas gingerbread cakes.

While we baked, she told me stories about the Depression when millions of people lost their jobs, and it became difficult for families to support themselves. Many stood in charity sponsored soup or bread lines that stretched for miles.

Fortunately, people of the depression era were more patient than me. Americans adapted to the days of shortages and “just made do.” Some of the recipes created during the Depression survived through today, but others are long lost.

Crazy Cake appeared during the Depression when many ingredients were hard to find or expensive. The recipe is unusual but suspend your disbelief and bake one. The recipe yields a moist, chocolatey treat. It’s vegan with no milk, eggs, or butter.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 18
Yield 1 – 9x13 inch cake



  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cold brewed coffee



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a 9x13-inch ungreased baking dish; form 3 wells in flour mixture. Pour oil into the first well, vinegar into the second, and vanilla into the third. Pour cold brewed coffee over all and stir well with a fork.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Frost with your favorite icing.


—Susan Abramovitz