Pandemic Profs: Baking Depression Cake During Social Distancing

A chocolate cupcake with powdered sugar on top on a plate.

Welcome to our series to give you a glimpse into Rowan University, our campus culture, and the lives of our students, while we’re practicing social distancing to protect society from the spread of COVID-19. Today’s story is from Rachel Rumsby, a freshman holed up in her house in Bergen County, NJ, during spring break. Rachel is a dual major in communication studies and public relations who normally lives in Mimosa Hall. 

My favorite ways to spend my time are baking and eating baked goods. I like to make sweet treats in any kind of weather or circumstance. The recipe I am going to share with you today is called the Depression Cake. The recipe’s ingredients would have been accessible during the Great Depression, hence the name. From my current experience during the coronavirus outbreak, most shelves are bare, so this is the perfect time to make this cake! This cake is dairy free. It can be made as a full cake, cupcakes, mini cupcakes, or a layer cake. In this instance I have made cupcakes!


Ingredients for the cupcakes laid out on the table.

  • 1 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • Powdered sugar or preferred icing


  1. Wash your hands often!Author washes her hands.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Put all dry ingredients into a bowl.
  4. Add all wet ingredients into the bowl and mix well. Mixed ingredients
  5. Grease pan with butter, cooking or baking spray, or alternative.
  6. Pour batter into the pan.The batter is in the pan.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until done. 
  8. Let cool.The finished cupcakes before garnish.
  9. Top with powdered sugar or preferred icing. Bon Appétit!The finished cupcake topped with powdered sugar.

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Story and photography by:
Rachel Rumsby, freshman communication studies and public relations double major