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A Slightly Wonky, Depression-Era Cake That's Stood the Test of Time

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Tra-la-la, it's The Fall Cookbook Cake Parade: a new cake from a new cookbook every single day. Are your costumes cake pans ready?

Today: An oddball cake from 1930s America (and The Short Stack Cookbook).

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Chocolate Chicory Cake
Chocolate Chicory Cake

Vintage cakes are regularly a little strange by modern standards: Rations on things like eggs, butter, and coffee forced bakers to be creative, and resulted in cake recipes full of things like tomato soup, or made tender with vinegar, or full of mayonnaise. And in many cases, the "substitute" recipe, the one intended for filling the void during hard times, stuck—like this one, a Depression-era cake from The Short Stack Cookbook by Nick Fauchald, Kaitlyn Goalen, and the contributors of Short Stack Editions.

You'll notice that it has no eggs, only 3/4 cup of brown sugar, 4 tablespoons of butter (in the icing only), and chicory instead of coffee. As the recipe's headnote says:

"Cooks got creative to make ersatz versions of their favorite dishes. Store-bought mayonnaise suddenly had newfound value in baking as a substitute for eggs. Although we no longer need to use mayonnaise as a placeholder, this cake is an instance in which the understudy outperforms the lead. Not only does mayonnaise add the richness and leavening, but the oil in its makeup also acts as the fat that brings the batter together. Chicory is another nod to the days of rationing; it was used as a substitute for coffee, except in New Orleans where, in many kitchens, it’s still preferred over coffee."

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Chocolate Chicory Cake

E3ea7eb5 8980 4518 9012 fa5d2c3a42ab  stringio Nick Fauchald
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Makes 8-inch cake

For the cake:

  • Butter or nonstick cooking spray, for greasing the pan
  • 1/4 cup (60g) granulated, roasted chicory (available in spice shops or online)
  • 1 cup (240ml) boiling water
  • 3/4 cup (165g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) store-bought mayonnaise
  • 1 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (30g) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the icing:

  • 12 ounces (340g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick/55g) salted butter, chopped
  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream

For more recipes like this one, check out The Short Stack Cookbook.


See more of our Fall Cookbook Cake Parade

Tags: chicory, depression, short stack, chocolate cake