Depression-era desserts are making a comeback - here are 5 to try this summer

Depression-era desserts are making a comeback - here are 5 to try this summer

Some of the most beloved recipes were born from the worst of times. Through the stock market crash in October of 1929, the Depression and World War II moms all over the world stood in food lines hoping there would be enough to put together and feed the family.

The current reality is that there are millions of people who have filed for bankruptcy and cannot make it financially right now. We’ve heard it said that something good always comes from something bad and that seems to apply here as we are home a lot more, our kids are home with us and our grocery store visits are limited. In the wake of all of this we’re seeing a great return to the recipes of the Great Depression and World War II eras. We’re stockpiling flour, sugar and yeast and vegetables with hearty shelf lives just as our recent ancestors did.

Baking has become the new cool thing to do in lockdown as millions of people rise to the challenge of trying old recipes anew.

Why bake recipes from the Depression Era?

Spend less money. Check.

Limit grocery store visits. Check

Reduce or eliminate added preservatives. Check

Keep long storage life ingredients on hand. Check

Take time to be nostalgic and reminisce. Check

Keep memories alive. Check

We’re getting creative in the kitchen finding new ways to use the same ingredients in several recipes. Here’s a look at what’s happening in some Covid-19 kitchens where classics from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s are the new 2020 hits across the world.

Chocolate-Mayonnaise Cake

 Now, that’s creative! How does a mom bake cakes when eggs are so scarce it’s impossible to get your hands on some? Why, she subs mayonnaise, of course! Born out of the scarcity for fresh eggs, this weird-sounding recipe was a hit back in the 30’s and like many of the desserts and breads of days gone by, is enjoying new life during our current hard times. And the bonus? You only dirty one bowl.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup creamy salad dressing Miracle Whip or mayonnaise
  • 1 cup lukewarm water


  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 2 tsp baking soda
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  6. 1 cup creamy salad dressing Miracle Whip or mayonnaise
  7. 1 cup lukewarm water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch baking dish.&
  3. Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Pour into prepared baking dish.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Bread

This uncomplicated recipe with its super simple instructions reportedly originated in a Great Depression-era cookbook that was first published in the Five Roses Flour Cookbook in 1932. How bad can it be… peanut butter baked into bread? It’s a quick and easy bread enjoying a comeback in quarantine and people making it all agree that it’s a keeper.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter


  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl.
  3. Add milk to the flour mixture and then mix in peanut butter.
  4. Pour the batter into a greased bread pan and bake for one hour.

Vanilla Depression Cake

A classic that boomers might remember being served when they were kids. Its popularity rose for being so easy to make during the Great Depression when milk, butter, and eggs were scarce but also because it’s such a winner.


  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups water


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 2 – 9 inch round cake pans.
  2. Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt to a large bowl.
  3. Add the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Mix with a whisk until well-blended. Do not overbeat. It will still turn out even if there are a few small lumps.
  4. Divide the batter between the 2 greased cake pans.
  5. Bake on a middle rack of the oven for 35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Oatmeal Cookies

Hang onto that bacon fat because you just never know when you’re going to be baking with it. This is the Depression-era oatmeal cookie recipe with bacon drippings instead of butter. Why? Well, not too many kitchens during the depression had the luxury of having a supply of both eggs and butter at the same time since both were extremely hard to get. What must a mom do who wants to treat her family to a dessert? She improvises.

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup bacon drippings at room temperature
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats>
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 pieces of bacon, fried and chopped (optional)
  • 6 oz. of chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the white sugar, brown sugar, egg and bacon drippings. Add the oats, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, flour and mix well. If you like, then gently fold in the bacon and chocolate chips.
  2. Using your hands shape the dough into 1 1/2″ to 2″ cookies. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for ten minutes or until done.

Poor Man’s Pudding

And now for something super sweet and completely Quebecois. This is a French Canadian Depression Era classic that’s still enjoyed today in many homes. Pudding Chomeur is a dessert that deserves to travel far and wide for it’s warm and gooey sweetness.



  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  1. 3/4 cup Maple Syrup
  2. 1 cup Brown Sugar
  3. 1 cup boiling water
  4. 1/4 cup butter


  1. In a bowl sift flour and baking powder together… in another bowl, cream butter and sugar and add vanilla… then slowly add the milk and flour in alternating 1/4 cup increments until all together and smooth… spread in a buttered baking dish.
  2. In a saucepan, mix all the sauce ingredients together and bring to a boil. Boil for a few seconds and then pour over the cake batter (do not mix)
  3. Bake in a 325 preheated oven for 45 min.

During these difficult times that are putting a great strain on our financial and emotional wellbeing we can take inspiration from the elders who have lived through their own hard times. We have much to take from them; their creative and tenacious ways of turning basic ingredients into delectable desserts that live on. It must be true; home is where the heart is.

This way for savings

Download the app that helps you save on fresh surplus products.

Fight food waste, save money and help Mother Earth. Don't wait, download the app now.

a blue sign that says stop food waste