You Need This Depression-Era Baking Hack
They don't call them Crazy Cakes for nothing!
Remember early on in the pandemic when no one knew what was happening so people started planting Victory Gardens, everyone was canning their produce, and some were even going as far as to regrow their scallions on their windowsills? It’s actually pretty common for people fall back on good old fashioned resourcefulness during tough times. Things like growing our own food and preserving the fruits of our labor gives us a sense of control in a chaotic world that is… well… not in our control. In fact, many of those popular tips and tricks were actually borrowed from other hard times in history, including times of rationing like during both World Wars and the Great Depression.
I was right there with all of the Victory Garden, excessive canning, scallion regrowing party people. I took it a step further by growing Target Brand black beans in my garden. I even studied up on antique rations cookbooks, which taught me a lot of neat cooking and baking hacks, one of which is for something called “Crazy Cakes.”
Crazy Cakes, or sometimes called Wacky Cakes, were named such because they didn’t use eggs, butter, or milk. During the Great Depression, ingredients like eggs and dairy were hard to come by, but it didn’t stop people from making delicious sweets! Crazy Cakes replaced eggs with vinegar and baking soda which made the cakes airy and fluffy much like eggs do in our baking. It also called for vegetable oil as a replacement for the fattiness of dairy. Because of the lack of eggs and dairy, these cakes are vegan, and as I learned through a comment on my TikTok, it’s a perfect alternative for folks who have an allergy to eggs. Baking is SCIENCE!
I used the concept of Crazy Cakes to create a fancy chocolate hazelnut and pear olive oil cake, and I am still blown away by how well it turned out! Not only was it gorgeous, but the texture was on point, it was sweet and satiating, and friends - I didn’t have to use a lot of ingredients or time to make it.
Chocolate Hazelnut and Pear ‘Crazy Cake’
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3/4 cup maple
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon apple cider
- 2 pears, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped hazel nuts
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease or line a 9 inch springform cake dish with parchment paper. I like to do both.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking soda, salt, and cardamom.
3. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, water, oil, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Gently Fold some of the chopped hazelnuts into the cake (save some for the top), then put the batter into the pan. Top with the pear slices and remaining hazelnuts.
4. Transfer cake onto baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. The top should feel springy when touched. Remove it from the oven. Allow it to cool 10-15 min in pan then release it from the springform pan. Put in a cooling rack. Let it cool completely before slicing. Slice and enjoy!
To Phil Korshak bagels are a life philosophy. I sit down with the bagel maestro himself to chat about bagels, poetry, and life, and I also got to take a whiff of his infamous nine-year-old sourdough starter, Helen Mirran. Check out the hilarious sniff reaction video here!
Celebrate Black cuisine year-round by ordering take out from one of these must-try spots. My latest for Thrillist explores some of the best Black-owned restaurants to order from — we’re talking Ethiopian feasts at Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant, aromatically spiced Caribbean dishes at Reggae Reggae Vibes, and BBQ from Barkley’s BBQ.
Check, Please! Philly is coming back to WHYY! We’re looking for guests for season 2 so if you’re from the Philadelphia region (Philly, Philly burbs, Delaware, or South Jersey) fill out this form to recommend your favorite restaurant. Hope to see you at the table!
A whole lot of TikTok. I get why people are getting into this app. I feel like people are creating some really interesting content. And as the app learns your interests, it’ll start to refer you to things that are valuable to your interests like tutorials, new hobbies, humor that tickles your fancy, and new perspectives that you didn’t expect. I appreciate the creators on the app. I know TikTok needs to do a lot better when it comes to compensating creators who are part of the Creator Fund. But as a creator myself who has worked against algorithms for a very long time, I feel like it’s easier for people to find your content. It’s easier to discover new creators, and there’s more of a chance to go viral organically on TikTok than say on Instagram or YouTube.
So if you’re in TikTok, HIT ME UP! I want to see what you all are creating!
I read a chapter of Atomic Habits every morning. I’m all about how small changes in your day to day compound into bigger changes over time. The book is a good reinforcement of things I’ve already felt, but also gives words and research to contextualize the concept.
It’s a great read so far. Every chapter is full of value and actionable steps to help make good habits easier to incorporate in to my day to day. The goal is to create systems where the good habits I want to develop are more automatic and take less energy to complete. So far so good! I’m learning a lot!