Old-Fashioned Great Depression Cake

When it comes to vintage recipes I often gravitate towards those between the 1930s and 1950s. I just love how women did things back then. This cake is called Great Depression cake and was adapted during a very difficult time for many people in our country. Can you imagine not having enough money to buy food and not knowing when funds would again be coming your way for life’s basic necessities?

Many of these folks had a lot of mouths to feed and it was all very, well, depressing. Because this cake was introduced during the Great depression era, this tells me that even during hardship, people found ways to persevere.

I mean, who makes a cake if they are feeling down in the dumps? However, the folks back then knew they had to keep pressing forward. Plus, this cake was very economical to make and most families had the ingredients in their cupboards. So, with that, I’m off to try my hand at Great depression cake.


Recipe and photo courtesy of Recipe Lion and Recipe Great.




Quick Tip: This cake tastes best when served warm out of the oven.



This recipe reminds me of another recipe called Applesauce Cake, which my Grandma and me use to make .It too is a recipe from the 40’s and 50’s, with lots of spices and a sprinkling of powered sugar cause it was so moist and
flavor you didn’t need icing plus sugar was a commodity hard to come by back in the Depression Era.

My Grandmother & Mother use to make an applesauce spice cake with a homemade carmel icing that was so good!!

I have my grandmothers recipe books, hand written, it has Applesauce cake in with spices too. Her recipe book also has many depression era recipes in, especially cakes, pies, muffins, cookies and canned items. I don’t put icing on just powered sugar. My grandmother–born 1905 in Hungary–recipe came from her mother-my great-grandmother had this recipe she was born around 1879 in Europe. They came to Canada back in the early part of the 20th century. Anyhow I just love Applesauce cake it is so delicious. Sometimes I will put a thin layer of butter icing on.

My mom, born in 1915, gave me this tecipe years ago. I baked and served these cakes following her memorial servive when she died at the age of 99, as a special tribute to her. Simply stated, i love this cake!!

I would love to try it but I can never find the actual receipt. I am just going to stop trying to look for any of them.

Have you ever heard of a depression era recipe called “Butter Rolls ” I can’t type the recipe tonight but please remind me tomorrow . Very easy and economical, my grandchildren love it!

I’ve never heard of any recipe from that era that contained “vegetable oil”. It seems like, originally, it would have been made with lard. Since sugar was rationed during the depression, I also wonder if an entire cup was used. Just food for thought. (Pardon the pun.)

My grandmother’s applesauce cake is made with shortening and no eggs, and she probably used lard back then.

This recipe is so similar to one we call “Grandma Barnett’s Raisin Cake”. The ingredients are the same but our recipe calls for larger quantities of some. We bake it in a Bundt pan and drizzle icing made from powdered sugar, cream and vanilla extract. A real family favorite.

Leave a Reply