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These simple and classic Depression Era Vanilla Cupcakes are a part of the Plant-Based on a Budget Cookbook with some minor tweaks, and it’s our go-to cupcake recipe whenever we are craving some treats, or a fun celebration is approaching. We are all about minimalist baking so when a recipe with simple and easy-to-find ingredients comes along, we hold on to it and never let go.

Depression era vanilla cupcakes with pretty flowered frosting.

Depression Era Vanilla Cupcakes

5 from 16 votes
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 24 cupcakes
This classic vegan Depression Era Vanilla Cupcakes recipe will be super handy whenever you are looking to whip up a quick dessert! You can decorate with this vanilla frosting and sprinkles if you're feeling festive


  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ cups of granulated sugar depending on your sweet tooth
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons of white or apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of water


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 degrees C). Line two cupcake tins with silicone or paper baking cups.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a large bowl using a handheld electric mixer), mix together all the ingredients until smooth.
  • Pour the batter into each baking cup until it’s three-quarters full.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Test a cupcake by sticking a toothpick in the middle. If the toothpick comes out dry, the cupcakes are done. 


These are easily vegan from the era when animal products were rationed.


Calories: 141kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 2gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 190mgPotassium: 56mgFiber: 2gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 1IUCalcium: 6mgIron: 1mg

Disclaimer: Although attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

Additional Info

Author: Toni Okamoto
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keywords: buttercream, easy frosting, vanilla frosting, vegan cake, vegan cupcakes, vegan frosting
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂

Why Depression Era?

The name makes reference to that time of history where ingredients were so scarce, people had to get very creative in order to still be able to cook the classic recipes they loved so much. Milk and eggs were especially hard to come by, therefore absent in this recipe.

These Depression Era Vanilla Cupcakes are a great example of how to replace milk and eggs in a traditional recipe, you can still achieve a moist, spongy and delicious cupcake without using those traditional ingredients.

How to Top Your Vegan Cupcakes?

There are so many fun options when it comes to topping or adding some finishing touches to these cupcakes! Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Homemade Frosting: This is another simple and fully plant-based recipe we cherish and it is the perfect topping for any cupcake recipe you make (or even store-bought ones!). You can add vanilla or natural food coloring and play around with colors.
  • Store-Bought Frosting: Believe it or not, there are several accidentally vegan options out there, so keep your eyes open and check the ingredient list.
  • Powdered Sugar: If you’re short on time or simply don’t have the ingredients to whip up your own frosting, there’s always the classic powdered sugar dusting everyone loves. If you want to level up, you can also put a halved strawberry atop the powdered sugar.
  • Biscoff Spread: Have you ever tried this caramel-tasting smooth spread before? It tastes like cookies with the same name. You can easily find it in grocery stores and it could be an amazing addition to these vanilla cupcakes. This spread only uses plant-based ingredients.

Recommended Equipment:

Photos by Alfonso Revilla


Toni Okamoto

“They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
‘Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways…
we got to start taking better care of ourselves ” – Dead Prez

More about Toni Okamoto

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