apple, pecan, and raisin depression cake, gluten free

the depression cake

"Take away the milk, the eggs, the butter, and what do you have left? A great tasting cake that became popular after the stock market crash of 1929."

Born in 1928, my grandmother was 1 years old when the stock market crashed. I'd only heard bits and pieces from her of what it was like to grow up in that time. I did know that as a result of being a child of the depression (as I'd heard her refer to herself), she'd learned to be thrifty and make do with what she had both in and out of the kitchen. Growing up I remember how she never wasted ingredients in the kitchen. 

Scraps was not something we saw much of because there was always a use. Carrot heads and peelings frequently found themselves mingling with bones and other "leftover" meat bits in the makings of soups. Similarly, a stew might contain last night's left over salad, wilted and given new life. 

I'm chatting with her on the phone as she tells me about the depression cake. She tells me the card on which the recipe was recorded (possibly by her mother) is hand typed but has no attribution. She isn't sure where the recipe came from but thinks it must have been popular during that time period. 

I tell her to read me the ingredients and she does. "Strong coffee, apples, raisins, walnuts..." I pause, trying to imagine the flavors mingling in my mouth. I'm intrigued by the combination so I decide to give it a go.

apple pecan depression cake

The cake was simple to make and was relatively easy to convert to be gluten free. An ordinary coffee cake it wasn't. It had the true flavor of coffee, and was moist like no other cake I've had. I was amazed at what you can make without milk, eggs, or butter, but I shouldn't have been. My grand is one creative lady in the kitchen. 

apple, pecan, and raisin depression cake, gluten-free

For this recipe I used pecans because it's what I had on hand, but you could just as easily substitute in walnuts as was in the original recipe or any nut for that matter. Same for the raisins: using an equal amount of currents or chopped cherries meld well with the coffee and apples.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup palm shortening
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups strong black coffee, cooled
  • 2 cups gluten-free flour blend
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum (omit if your gluten-free flour blend already includes it)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • powered sugar for dusting

Grease and flour a 9 x 13 baking pan or two 8 x 2 cake pans and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream sugar and shortening together using the beater blade in a mixing bowl until well incorporated. Add in spices and cooled coffee and mix well. Sift in flour, baking powder, and xanthan (unless your blend already includes it) and mix well. Add in grated apple and dried fruit. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean. 

When cool, sift with powdered sugar if desired.

This recipe is part of this month’s Let’s Lunch theme of dishes inspired by grandma's recipes. Before you go, check out my fellow lunchers’ posts below. And if you’d like to join us, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag , or post a comment below.


Intriguing recipe for a very moist looking cake! Those children of the Depression have a lot to teach us.

I&;ve always wanted to make a Depression cake. What strikes me is that it doesn&;t seem like deprivation at all ~ dried fruit and nuts and coffee seem contemporary and delicious! Great pictures!

So cool that the cake has a story; my mother&;s parents were children of the depression too but all the recipes they passed down were pretty ordinary. The denseness of this cake sounds great.

This cake will comfort anyone suffering with depression.

I sure hope so! What a lovely thought!

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