WWII Era Chocolate Cake

Let me start by explaining that, for once, we did not make this recipe up. We adapted it from a recipe on the ever-helpful King Arthur Flour Company recipe site.

imageNot only do they have the original recipe, made vegan due to shortages of milk & eggs, but they also have a helpful explanation of how to adapt recipes for high altitude.

I don’t know exactly why we decided to make a chocolate cake, but I do know that members of the household have forbidden me from ever making it again.

Why? Is it too dry? Does it taste weird?

Actually, it’s too good. We just can’t stop eating it and nobody needs to eat half a chocolate cake in one sitting!

I adapted the recipe for what was in my kitchen and to work at 6,000 ft. My goal was a nice smooth cake with no collapsed section in the middle.


I accomplished the goal with a few tricks:

  • I used 3/4 of the leavener called for (baking soda)
  • I used extra water & less sugar
  • I turned up the heat by 25 degrees and shortened the cook time

Why does this help? Because our baking problems at altitude are caused by the thin air. Really! It sounds crazy, but it’s true. The air isn’t as heavy as it is at sea level and baked goods rise too fast. Quick breads and cakes tend to rise larger than the structure can support and they collapse like a soap bubble blown by an enthusiastic kid.

Reducing the leavener decreases the rising power. Using extra water thins the batter and reduces the rising potential. The sugar, interestingly enough, tends to weaken the cake structure and turning up the heat causes the batter to set more quickly, giving it less time to over-rise.

That’s the science behind the smooth cake top, in a nutshell. Now, let’s get to my version of the recipe.



1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon vinegar
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 1/8 cup water


1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips
1/3 cup cold coffee

1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Lightly grease an 8″ square or 9″ round pan that’s at least 2 inches deep. I used an oval shaped casserole pan because I’ve used all the metal pans to water the chickens.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Use your favorite method to mix in the liquids. I like to make a well in the center and add the liquids before stirring & transferring to the baking pan, but the original recipe has an interesting method for mixing right in the pan.

3. Bake the cake for 25 or 30 minutes. It’s done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

4. Make the frosting by melting the chocolate chips with the coffee on the stove or in the microwave. I had twice as much frosting as I needed with this recipe, but you might like a thicker frosting layer. Try very hard not to dip a fork in the frosting to taste it. I ate about an eighth of a cup this way.

5. Let the cake cool a bit, frost and serve.




©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2015

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