Cooking with Solveig: Quarantine Cake

As a child, I really didn’t ever need to eat cake. The icing really threw me off. Is there something everyone else loves that you can live without? In recent weeks, we’ve all had to adjust to being without something - maybe flour, or yeast, or eggs, more likely you’ve had to be without your friends.

I’m grateful for all the ways there are today to keep in contact with my family, friends, and work associates. How fortunate I am to have the time to write a letter, type a quick hello in a text, or share on social media a dish I’ve created for my family. I feel a bit spoiled that our two youngest daughters, Greystone alums, are here to hunker down. If there is a gift to any of the days we are experiencing today, it is that we can reach out to those we live with and learn something new about them and share with them something new about ourselves.

My idea here is to inspire you to use the ingredients you might have at hand and learn to make something most people love without all the usual ingredients. I’m sharing a few recipes that I depend on regularly to make fast, easy cakes. Flavors can be changed easily with a few simple tweaks.

These recipes are referred to as “cake pan,” “depression,” and/or “water” cakes created during other times when ingredients could be sparse. The positive is that we as a community have recovered many times before from trying circumstances and during them, we’ve been able to create wonderful treats and traditions that are shared for generations. So, let’s get baking and share our inspirations on how to change flavors, decorate, and create wonderful memories with this time we’ve been given to love our families!

Original Chocolate Depression Cake from World War II


  • 1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa or natural cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar, cider or white wine
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water - juice, coffee, milk - whatever flavor you like
  • Feel free to add some spice and change things up - this is really versatile!
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a cake pan, 8 or 9-inch, or a square 8 or 9-inch pan.
  2. The traditional method for this cake reminds me of a dump cake, all in the pan. You put the flour in the cake pan, make wells to place the wet ingredients in and then whisk in the water. I think we can do what we do at camp by either sifting or whisking the dry ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. 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.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. You don’t want to overbake this cake, so shy on the few crumbs on the toothpick.

Water Cake


  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour approx 240g
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water approx 200g - coffee (needs spice, then), citrus juice, sweet juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil approx 100g
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar approx 150g
  • 1 T plus 1 1⁄2 teaspoons cider or white vinegar approx 20g
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract - be careful switching up extracts. Replace 1⁄4 -1⁄2 t for most other flavors for vanilla
  1. Follow the instructions above.

Cake can be frozen! My favorite way to eat cake because it lasts LONGER - but still, no icing, please for me! Oils can be replaced, just think of their profile. Avocado and EVOO are heavy, but pair very well with lemon. Canola can be substituted too, it’s a personal thing. Sunflower oil is wonderful for baking, but not usually in our pantries. Just a tip, I love to add a bit of cayenne pepper to my chocolate cake with some instant coffee or espresso powder or both!