World War II-Era Chocolate Cake

If this World War II-Era chocolate cake recipe had been part of the curriculum, I probably would have remembered more from history class. The ingredients, or lack of the use of dairy ingredients, are said to reflect food rationing during World War II. This uber dark, extra chocolatey cake is tender, moist, and airy, but packs an intense dark chocolate punch due to the addition of espresso powder (which I assume is an updated add in). It’s delicious with or without the thick, gooey chocolate ganache frosting, but I always say if you’re going to go chocolate, you might as go all the way.       Chocolate Cake Pan Cake- KAF1 Chocolate Cake Pan Cake- KAF4

World War II-Era Chocolate Cake

(from King Arthur Flour)
Makes 16 servings



1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (3/4 ounce) Dutch-process cocoa or natural cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional (I always use espresso powder when I see it listed in a recipe)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) vinegar, cider or white (I used cider vinegar)
1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) canola oil
1 cup (8 ounces) cold water.  While the original, non-dairy version of this recipe calls for water as the liquid, feel free to substitute milk, for a slightly richer cake. Or try cold coffee, for a mocha version; or even 3/4 cup water mixed with 1/4 cup rum, for an “adults only” cake.

Quick and Easy Chocolate Frosting (optional)

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup of half-and-half or heavy cream



  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly grease an 8″ square or 9″ round pan that’s at least 2″ deep. If you don’t have a 2″-deep pan in either of those sizes, use a 9″ square pan.
  3. WWII-era method: Measure all the dry ingredients into the prepared pan. Blend the ingredients together thoroughly with a fork or whisk and scoop out three holes, or indentations. Pour the vanilla into the first hole, the vinegar into the second, and the vegetable oil into the third. Take the cup of water and pour it directly over everything in the pan. Stir all the ingredients together with your fork until well blended.
  4. 2015 method: Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk the vanilla, vinegar, vegetable oil, and water in a separate bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, stirring until thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.
  6. Cut the cake into squares and serve right from the pan; warm from the oven.

Frosting (optional)

  1. To make the frosting, in the microwave, heat 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips with 1/2 cup half & half or heavy cream until the chips melt.  Stir until smooth.
  2. Once the cake is cool, pour/spread the frosting over the cake.

2 thoughts on “World War II-Era Chocolate Cake

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