Easy Dairy-Free & Egg-Free Chocolate Cake

I’ve been playing this game the past few days where I don’t spend any money — cooking from the pantry, eating from what’s already in the fridge. I’m doing it partly to cut costs (how does one person spend so much money on food?) and partly to avoid waste (we’re heading back to Chicago for a few days on Tuesday anyway), and I have to tell you: nothing shows you how much you enjoy spending money like telling yourself you can’t.

An image a glass baking dish.

It’s bad. But it’s good.

I’m just telling you right now I won’t make it to Tuesday. So anyway, yesterday, wanting to find something to bake that wouldn’t require a trip to the store, I found myself Googling such strange combinations as “flour, sugar, cocoa,” “baking with no eggs” and even “recipes from the Great Depression.”

An image of glass mixing bowl with dried ingredients ready for mixing.

It was the final option that landed me on this cake, posted by Alice over at Sweet Savory Life, a version of which I had actually previously posted here.

A top view image of a glass baking dish with chocolate cake mixture ready for baking.

This time, I did a little more research on the cake, partly because I remembered it being just ho-hum before, looking for tips and tricks other people had posted about changing it up.

An image of a hand holding a freshly baked chocolate cake.

I saw someone used brewed coffee instead of water, another person added extra cocoa, someone liked to add vanilla extract (I thought about adding almond?) and a few people emphasized cream cheese frosting, which, between us, is exactly what I would go for if I made this again when I was, say, able to go buy some cream cheese beforehand.

An image of a newly baked chocolate cake.

Of course I made a few obvious adaptations to ingredients because of personal preferences regarding nutrition — whole-grain spelt flour, avocado oil, Sucanat — and so, I wasn’t expecting much from the cake when it emerged from the oven, even when it was soft and springy, fragrant with cocoa.

After letting it cool, I sprinkled it with organic powdered sugar I also had on hand (I know, right? I’m really suffering here) and sliced a small square to sample.

An image of chocolate slice with frosting.

As for how it tasted, I’ll just say this: I baked it yesterday morning, and we polished off the last morsel of it last night. Tim says we should make layers next time, putting berries and maybe a whipped cream or marscapone inside between.

An image of chocolate cake with frosting in a baking dish and a slice on a white plate.

But even on its own, this wacky Depression-era cake is just slightly sweet, moist, perfect for pairing with something else like maybe ice cream or coffee, and it’s so crazy simple, so easy to make with what you already have, that I have to say I am sold.

An image of a newly baked chocolate cake.

Easy Dairy-Free & Egg-Free Chocolate Cake

  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 8 pieces
  • Category: Cakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Desserts


This Depression-era cake is fast, easy, delicious and, most importantly, easy to make with what you already have on hand. Perfect for hose with egg or dairy allergens. It is just slightly sweet, moist, perfect for pairing with something else like ice cream or coffee.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I used whole grain spelt)
  • 1 cup sugar (I used Sucanat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)
  • 1 cup brewed coffee or water
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 pan.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together by hand. Add all the wet ingredients except vinegar until well combined.
  3. Add the vinegar, stir and immediately pour into the prepared 8×8 pan. Bake for 30 minutes until done.
  4. Allow to completely cool before serving; top with organic powdered sugar if you like.


Adapted from Savory Sweet Life.

Keywords: egg-free, dairy-free, chocolate cake, depression-era recipes

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

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19 thoughts on “Easy Dairy-Free & Egg-Free Chocolate Cake”

  1. It was simple, not too sweet, and surprisingly light for whole grain spelt, and that is why I like it. Lots of s’s.

  2. Hold me back!! If there’s one thing our house has been missing lately, it’s chocolate. This…might get made tomorrow night and then hidden from Brad.

    p.s. Inspired by your post on cane sugar, I got some in Colorado a few weeks ago. I just sampled it a few nights ago while making mojitos and I love it! It’s so much less sweet and has a subtle plant flavor. Yum!

  3. The Depression-era baked goods I’ve seen always seem to involve mayonnaise. And the ones I’ve tried, well, they’ve never shot to the top of my must-try-this-myself lists. I live for pantry recipes, and I’ve got to say, this one looks like it’s going to be number one with a bullet.

  4. The perfect thing to bring to a low-key potluck that I don’t wait to put much time, effort, money into. Thanks!

  5. I kind of like the challenge of using what I have on hand, I always come out with something new. Of coarse, it doesn’t always come out exactly as good as it maybe could have been, but it gives room for inspiration to change it when I do go to the store!

  6. Well done! That’s a pretty good looking cake to whip up with your pantry contents. I try and do the no-spend thing too. It’s amazing what you can whip up from your pantry, fridge and freezer.

  7. Tim, I like the way you think.

    Joanna, Ha! The average person would probably find this very ho-hum chocolatey, but I loved it. : ) And hey, by cane sugar, do you mean sucanat? If so, yay! I notice is has a strong molasses quality, too. Or if you’re talking about palm sugar, even better! : )

    Molly, This is really my only Depression-era recipe, so I had no idea about the mayo–that’s interesting. I guess that was still easy to get back then? The only other recipe I’ve seen involves a sweet 80-something-year-old lady making peppers and eggs in a video online. I kind of want to try that, too.

    Anne, Right? Enjoy!

    Lan, : )

    Jacqui, I like it, too. I think it helps me simplify my wants and be more thankful… side benefits I wasn’t really after, but that have been nice nonetheless.

    Richard, Great! You’re welcome!

    Claire, I know! I love pantry cooking!

    Wandering, Ha! Indeed.

  8. I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not the only person who plays food games like this. We’re having one of those weeks at our house where we’re trying not to spend any grocery money. So far it’s working, but wow. Changes your perspective on things, doesn’t it?

  9. Oh, that looks delish. I have been on a craze like that too- cook and bake with what I have to avoid waste… Crazy what desperation comes up with ! ! ! 🙂

  10. Nice recipe, Shannalee! I bake a similar chocolate cake but I’ve never done it with avocado oil so I’m super curious now. And I think this would be really nice with barley flour…maybe a little bit heavier crumb but nice with the cocoa. I like Tim’s berry layer idea…heeeeellllo, summer!

  11. I spend a FORTUNE on food and I try to be thrifty. I can’t wait to talk to you about using alternative flours and sugars for baking. See you Sunday.

  12. Lo, Ha! It really does!

    Sue, Seriously. You should have seen my breakfast-lunches this week.

    Megan, It was my first time using avocado oil, actually. I’d heard great things, and so when I saw a bottle at TJ Maxx (go figure, they have great grocery stuff), I had to get it!

    Angela, Me too!

  13. I absolutely love what you’ve done here and that you have found an interesting way to put some ingredients together without having to go to the grocery store. And you sound exactly like my husband and I before we made our big move from Nashville down to Louisiana. We just tried to combine random things/looked up a LOT of random recipes so that we didn’t have to take so many pantry and refrigerated items with us.

    Nice work!

  14. Thanks, Erin! And that makes so much sense especially when you’re about to move. I’ll probably do the same thing in a couple months all over again!

  15. A little late to the game here – just catching up on my google reader. This looks pretty identical to my wacky cake recipe. I make it frequently this time of year, as it is a PERFECT base for whipped cream & fresh berries. I have to admit I prefer it to the traditional shortcake!

    Love that I always have the ingredients on hand for it, and it takes only 1 bowl & no prep ahead of time (i.e. setting out butter to soften, etc). Bonus – it’s vegan, with no subs needed, which isn’t always easy to find in baked goods.

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