I come from a long line of women who wash their saran wrap and reuse coffee filters -- for coffee that's been cut with chicory. My take on this heritage of thrift can be economically expressed with the following Poor-Richardesque maxim: real privation breeds innovation, but miserliness breeds mold.
For example, there was a time when poultry and eggs were expensive commodities. So my foremothers raised their own or, when birthday time came around (11 times a year) invented eggless Wacky Cake. Innovation. Nowadays chicken is cheap because we've developed sufficient technology to cut our chicken with shit. Miserliness.
(A chef I worked for in Seattle refused to eat chicken because in culinary school he learned it could legally contain 7% shit by weight. I think he was full of it himself. Sure, a lot of chickens are treated unethically and taste bad, but chicken shit is fragrant enough you'd think we'd notice. And once I saw him pop a bite of chicken when he didn't think I was looking. But the Russians have weighed in on his side).
In any case, we've all got a couple of vegan housemates or Depression-era great-aunts who want their chocolate cake minus the eggs. And that's when you whirl into the kitchen and whip up Wacky Cake: the Retro-Vegan Wonder. My Mama used to make it for my birthday, decorated with a streublich-looking coconut cream cheese icing and wild roses. I also recommend it with peanut butter, but that goes for most everything.
In one large bowl, whisk together 3 c. flour (whole-wheat or spelt or whatever), 1.5 c. sugar (or your favorite sweetener -- I've used a smaller volume of agave nectar with success), 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. baking soda and cocoa powder to taste. My old recipe calls for 3 T, but that's borderline miserly. I like 1/3 c., or else melted dark chocolate added with the liquids.
Add the liquids to the bowl: 2/3 c. cooking oil (try coconut oil or even olive oil -- the tang tends to cook out just fine), 2 T. vinegar (yes, vinegar), and 1 T. vanilla. Pour 2 c. water on top and stir it all together. Toss it in a greased 9 x 13" pan and bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.