Chocolate Cake Recipe From the Depression Era

Nebraskan talks about how her family got along during the depression era, and offers her chocolate cake recipe from that time

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During the depression era, we didn't have much of a variety of food to eat during the winter. Mama made large dishpans full of hominy which she would cook different ways. We always had lots of cottage cheese, home-baked bread and beans. Dad would buy peanut butter in five-pound cans and Karo syrup by the gallon buckets. When he would get some of the hay sold he would buy gunny sacks full of Irish potatoes. But with that many mouths to feed, food just seemed to vanish.

In the summer time we picked bushels of sand plums and wild grapes, but Mama didn't have sugar to make jelly and when she had sugar there was no such thing as Sure Jell or Pen Jell so her jelly turned out like syrup.

Here is a recipe from a cookbook that I made during the Depression era.


2 eggs
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup molasses
21/2 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. soda
1 cup hot water

Beat eggs, add melted shortening, molasses and mix well. Sift dry ingredients together, add alternately with water. Bake in two nine inch greased layer pans at 350 oven for 30 minutes. Spread with Depression frosting.


1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Sweet Cream to moisten.

Sift flour, cocoa, sugar and salt together, add cream gradually, stirring constantly until icing is of right consistency to spread. Beat hard until smooth. May add 2 Tbsp. orange juice.

Mildred Parker
Atkinson, Nebraska

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.