Chocolate cake with a simple vanilla frosting – this “wacky cake” recipe, which uses no butter, eggs or milk, was popular during WWII when rationing was prevalent.
Last month, I made Chocolate Dump-It Cake, which is a one-pot cake recipe dating back to the 1930’s or 1940’s, and it has quickly become one of the most popular recipes I’ve shared recently. A reader left a comment on that post about “wacky cake”, and another reader, Nancy, emailed me her family’s recipe for this one-pan, light-as-air chocolate cake.
The premise of the cake – the reason it’s “wacky” – is that there is no butter, no eggs and no milk in the cake. Everything is mixed together right in the pan, using only a fork. After doing some reading, I found that this was a popular recipe during World War II because of the rationing of those ingredients. Those ladies knew what they were doing, because this is a phenomenal cake! My family couldn’t believe the cake lacked all of those typical cake ingredients, and happily devoured it, commenting over and over about how delicious it was.
This cake really could not be any easier to throw together – grab your favorite 8-inch square baking dish, put all of the dry ingredients in there and mix together with a fork.
Then, make three wells and add the vinegar, vanilla extract and oil into each… Pour water over the entire mixture and stir with a fork until well combined.
Voila! Ready for the oven!
Nancy’s recipe said to top the cooled cake with your favorite vanilla frosting, so I did just that. It’s my standard vanilla that I use for any vanilla-topped cupcakes (like the homemade funfetti cupcakes); I was running low on vanilla extract, so I used vanilla bean paste in its place, and oh my! The flavor and all of those little bean specks – loved it!
The reviews were unanimous among my family – everyone loved the cake. It turned out wonderfully light, moist and full of chocolate flavor; the vanilla frosting was a great contrast and a big hit.
This recipe deserves to be in everyone’s recipe box – it’s so easy, super quick, and makes a wonderfully delicious chocolate cake suitable for any dessert occasion!
One year ago: Dark Chocolate Chip & Walnut Banana Bread
Five years ago: Peach Cobbler
Seven years ago: White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
For the Cake:
- 1½ cups (187.5 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 4 tbsp (4) (rounded) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup (250 ml) water
For the Vanilla Frosting:
- 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2½ cups (300 g) powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In an ungreased glass or ceramic 8-inch square pan (do not use metal), add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt, and stir to combine with a fork.
- Make three wells in the mixture and to those wells add the vinegar, vanilla extract and vegetable oil. Pour the water over the entire mixture and mix with a fork until thoroughly combined and no dry ingredients remain.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 26 to 30 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- Make the Vanilla Frosting: Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.
- Using a spatula, spread the vanilla frosting evenly over the top of the cake. The cake can be stored, covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature, for up to 4 days.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
I loved this cake and made it recently. I used to make it when I was around 18 – 19!yrs old . I loved it !
We had my brother in-law and his fiance’ for dinner tonight. I made this cake and it was a hit!! So super easy to make and the frosting is divine!!!!
What can be used instead of 6T of vegetable oil?
I’ve made this cake for fifty plus years, at altitudes from zero to a mile high with no adjustments…it’s kind of fail safe. It might sink in the middle but is always delicipus. I do add a sprinkling of chocolate chips on top to add more chocolate and contrasting texture – it also takes the place of frosting, if you get lazy. Which I am.
1Cupmof sugar for me it’s too much, can I replaced it with something else. Like 1/3 or 1/2 cup of Maple Syrup?
Can I double this recipe for a 9×13 size ?
Well I currently have a doubled batch in my oven right now and I’m pretty confident it’ll be fine.
Hi Joyce! I doubled the recipe when I made it, and it turned out perfect. It did not fall.
Super easy to bake and so tasty
I love this cake! My elementary age kids can help me make it and it comes out moist and so flavorful! I’ve made it twice this month. Highly recommend!
This is one of my favorite cakes
My wacky cake recipe is a little different than yours. 3 cups flour. 2 cups sugar 6 tbsp coco 2 tbsp vinegar 2 tsp baking soda 2 tsp vanilla 2 cups water 1 stick of melted butter. Bake in 13 x 9 cake pan on 350. About 30 mins. When you smell it start checking it.
Great recipe! I used vegan butter for the icing, making this a completely plant-based dessert. I made this for a get-together and everyone loved it.
I have not used this particular recipe where I went to school they used to make this cake and it was delicious and I never could get enough of it my cousin that worked at the school in the cafeteria her giving me the recipe and she has passed away and I did not remember it so I called it up but I have not baked it yet but I will thank you
I have a friend who has dairy, egg and gluten allergies. Can this cake be made with gluten free flour? Would it work?
I always make this cake for my friend who is lactose intolerant
We also grew up with the cake with thick chocolate frosting. We love it plain now. We only had metal pans so not sure why recipe says no metal.
I really love this cake, but I’ve baked it twice now and the middle has sunk both times. This second time, I baked it 5 minutes longer and the toothpick came out clean, and the middle was perfect. I checked back 20 minutes later, and it had sunk. It’s not that big a deal because I’m going to frost it with a Greek yogurt whipped cream frosting and I’ll just disguise the middle, but. I do open the oven halfway through to turn the cake so it cools evenly, but I do this with other recipes and they don’t sink, so IDK. Delicious anyway! I add 2 teaspoons of espresso powder which bumps up the chocolate flavoring.
I wonder what type of cocoa you use? dutch or regular? I use the dutch type and also have had this problem so read online that if you use a bit of cream of tarter, it might help.
I did try this and added about 1/4 tsp and the cake came out much better… has something to do with correcting acidity.
Also I try to be more accurate when measuring out the oil and liquids as I tend to overdo.
oops! spell check…cream of tartar (not tarter)
I made this on 25 June 2022 exactly as written, and it is perfect as is, no frosting or whipped cream needed. This was very liked by the family and will be a regular now. Thank you Michelle, for this great recipe 😀
Mandy, vinegar is acidic and it binds with the proteins in the flour to set the cake, also reacts with the baking soda to produce the carbon dioxide, the lift or rise to the cake.
Can anyone explain to me what does the vinegar do?
This was light and fluffy but not falling apart and I recommend this frosting for anything else too it is beautiful! I honestly just think it could be chocolate-r if you know what I mean.
It is the best chocolate cake frim scratch there is period!
My grandfather taught me how to make it and told me how and why his mom made it. The times were very hard and sometimes traditional chocolate ingredients wasn’t available, so someone found a way around that and invented the wacky cake. It doesn’t really need frosting!
Do you have a frosting suggestion that also has no dairy or egg?
BEST CAKE EVER!!!!! My mom made this when we were kids. I have made it several times since. And it’s just as good without frosting. Thanks for the memories.
My mother called this “mix-in-a-pan cake” and my sister and I still make it today.
LoL, when I was growing up, my grandmother called this ‘crazy chocolate’ cake! The three C’s. In fact, I still have my childhood cook book with it in it. Now it’s being renamed but has been around for ages… Fun memories.
A friend of mine gave me your recipe. I made it the next day. I loved it. I didn’t put any frosting but added some fresh raspberries and made a crème anglaise to go with it. It works really well together.
I cooked it in a round ceramic bowl (flat bottom). Thank you for a wonderfully easy and yummy recipe.
I only put 1/2 teaspoon of salt though.
I remember my mother baking this cake in the 1940s & 50s.. I baked it yesterday & only used 1/4 tsp.salt; i added chopped walnuts to the batter & added brewed coffee as a replacement for the water & used 1/2 brown sugar & 1/2 white sugar. I mixed it per recipe directions with a fork but in a glass mixing bowl & then poured it into a well-greased pyrex baking dish. I then topped it with pecans. My husband asked why I haven’t made this luscious, delicious cake before ~ so thanks for reminding me of this terrific, & simple cake recipe !
I have made this Wacky for our anniversary for the last 56 years, as of today. I was given the recipe right after we were married. My husband loves it!
I made this cake 60 years ago, the first time with the help of my mother, and thereafter by myself except for lighting the oven. So easy and good enough to eat! 😊
We used to make this cake all the time when I was a kid. I am 69 now and this brings back memories.
I have made this so great when we go in our RV in the toaster oven 8×8 Is perfect. I take basics with us and this is perfect. Started using Serbia going to try that instead of sugat
I live in AZ what do I need to add for high alt for this to work
Can this be made into cupcakes?? Can you use a metal cupcake tin with liners?
Love smaller portion recipes and definitely easier ones, this one is just right on both categories. Thank you.
This has been a long time favorite in our family passed down for generations. Another name for it is depression cake, but wacky cake sounds so much better and that’s what we’ve always called it. We also top ours with gob icing. A light fluffy custard based icing, again with minimal ingredients and contains no powdered sugar.
Such a great recipe when you’ve got that chocolate cake craving but are short on ingredients. It comes together very quickly and while its baking you can whip up the very tasty icing. I stayed true to the recipe, I did add a pinch of Maldone sea salt to the icing. I’m sure coffee would be a great addition but I skipped it, too lazy to bother with it. Next time I make it I will mix it up in a bowl instead of the pan. It was a time consuming mess making method to combine the ingredients in the pan with a fork. I strongly suggest putting it in a bowl and using a whisk.
All in all a very good, very wacky cake!
My mom’s side of the family made these cakes without end.
My only suggestion is to use chilled coffee or espresso instead of water.
My Mom found this recipe back in the early 1950s in a small magazine called Workbasket. Having 4 kids she loved making it because it was simple and easy. I have been making it for 60 years and think it is the best chocolate cake ever. I double the recipe because 9×9 wouldn’t be enough…lolololol
Love it, it’s the recipe that my Grandma used.
Great and easy to prepare. I used avocado oil for the cake and it was fine! Thank you for sharing!
The cake I’ve been making for many years with my family I could not find my mom‘s recipe that she had which was double the size of yours which fits in a 9 x 13 cake pan just fine I’m glad it was easy to find online and your recipe is exactly like my moms was thank you so much for bringing back a good memory to me it’s a wonderful chocolate cake to make and very easy
YES!!!! Exactly this! Ours growing up was double this! And when we moved it got lost. So excited to pass this on to my kids now!
I made this cake and it was awesome! My only problem was that there wasn’t enough! Could the recipe be altered for a regular 8×11 cake pan?
I’ve been making this cake for years and my ingredients are just doubled of the one online here for my 9×13 pan. The cook time may increase by 5 mins depends on your oven.
I just made one today it was done in 32 mins at 350
Delicious! I did not have a glass or ceramic pan so I used a metal 8×8 and it turned out wonderfully! My mom used to make this every so often growing up and we would just eat it warm with butter. I was craving her Wacky Cake when I came across your recipe. Tastes just like I remember. Also, I added the frosting which takes it to a whole new level. Thank you!
This is the first cake my mother taught me to bake! We use a butter, brown sugar, coconut topping and broil it on the warm cake. Yummy!
Thank you for this recipe. It came in super handy while we are staying at home during this coronavirus pandemic. I made a few changes, use coconut oil and ghee. And made it gluten-free. I’ve made it twice and everyone is loving it! Perhaps a re-post” for everyone while they’re staying at home with kids/limited supplies? Just a suggestion, thanks again!
What GF flour did you use? And when subbing with coconut oil, could you taste the coconut? Thx!
This is the EXACT same cake my mother used to make! It really doesn’t even need frosting, almost like a fluffy brownie. Thanks for sharing.
I made this recipe and it is moist and tastes great but the middle fell. I followed recipe exactly and baked for 30 minutes. Any clue as to why it fell?
Hey! What sorts of adjustments can be made for high altitude baking?
Here is a great resource page on high altitude baking adjustments: https://www.browneyedbaker.com/high-altitude-baking-tips/
Do you think you can use a foil pan? Trying to make things in to take and drop with neigh ors and friends during quarantine so using foul baking pans to minimize dishes being all over town. Anyone tried in a foil baking pan?
Yes, definitely! And what a wonderful thing for you to do :)
Growing up, I remember my daddy telling me about an eggless, butterless, milkless
cake that his mama always made when he was little. Well, I just laughed in disbelief. Then he made it for us and it was
unbelievable! So when I found this recipe, it brought back those incredible
memories. I couldn’t wait to make it and it was wonderful!
So glad I found it! Will be making it often.
Can you use almond or olive oil.?
Hi Patricia, I do not recommend as I don’t think they are a neutral enough oil. Grapeseed may work, though.
I’ve been making this cake for 30+ years. You can use alternative oils, like olive oil, but there is a flavour (strength depends on your oo). I just put one in the oven with olive oil, in fact.
Try this with peanut butter frosting or sauce 😉
My grandson is allergic to lots of things so this recipe is a lifesaver! The whole family uses it now. It is easy to make, which is great, because everyone likes them.
This is a long-known American recipe, which given its age is amazing in that it hasn’t changed over these many years. It is a great starting point to teaching children how to make a cake. Since I use vinegar for dressings (and for other things such as cleaning windows), I always have that and all of the other ingredients on hand. One of those yum and easy gems!
I remember eating this cake as a kid. It’s also wonderful for my great granddaughter, who is horribly (think epi-pen) allergic to all dairy! Adjustment: I like a deeper chocolate flavor, so I add 1 large tablespoon of cocoa, and I double the apple cider vinegar. It’s still just as light and moist! My family topped the wacky cake with 1/3 cup brown sugar and 2 T. Flour, and if you can 2 Tablespoons butter. Make crumbs. They sink to the bottom of the pan and make marvelous craters! We don’t use sugary frosting…
This cake was so easy, so yummy, and I had everything in my pantry (which is why I chose it)! Perfect!
My 3yo insists on cupcakes for her birthday. I want to use this recipe as her sister cannot have dairy. Have you or anyone ever baked this recipe as cupcakes? Advice on cooking time/temp? 350 for 15ish minutes??
I Have made this as cupcakes most all of the time. I makes a generous 10. You can also frost with chocolate frosting made by melting chocolate chips in the micro with half and half slowly checking periodically and stirring until spreadable.
Too much salt! Please update the recipe to reflect this. 1/2 tsp is what’s needed. Every time I make this recipe I forget there’s a typo and add the whole teaspoon of salt which tastes awful. Do I throw it away and start over. :(
Speaking of typos….😄
**So I throw it away….
Love this recipe we have a few minor tweaks to ours, but its the first thing anyone in my family has learned how to cookall by themselves. My grandmother at 9, dad as a 10 year old, myself at 10, my brother at 8!
I have made this cake for years, I have always made Chocolate Pudding instead of frosting.
Especially good when the Pudding is still warm.
Interested in trying this for my son’s birthday; he and his wife are vegan. What could I do for a yummy frosting? They don’t use butter or milk, but they love coconut oil. Any ideas?
Hi Patti, You could get a can of cream of coconut and whip it to make coconut whipped cream! If you google it, there are tons of tutorials for doing it. I hope they enjoy it! :)
Oh my goodness!!! My mom used to make this cake YEARS ago and I loved it! This recipe was absolutely just as fabulous as I remember!!!!!! Thank you!! Easy and super delicious!
My mom made this for years for our birthday cake.
Some other simple topping thats good instead of frosting, is Cool Whip! A yummy ,easy
ready made alternative. Good memories, great cake !
As a child we were served wacky cake every Thursday at school. It was by far the favorite lunch day. Chili Beans, Cornbread, and Wacky Cake. Everyone from that city remembers the incredible wacky cake.
Thank you for sharing the recipe.
Me too! We had this in elementary school and Ive been looking for it ever since! I had no idea what it was called though, I just kept googling school lunch chocolate cake with white frosting.
Oh man I was just sharing this same thought !
Thanks for this great recipe for vegan chocolate cake. I have tried many of your recipes and all turn out perfect. Can you please post a vegan vanilla cake recipe? Thanks in advance..
Could I use sweetened cocoa and just half the amount of sugar?
Hi Casi, I’ve never used sweetened cocoa so I’m unsure how much sugar content it has, and how it might affect the reaction with the leavening ingredients.
Thanks so much for this great recipe. I am nearly 80 YO & have made this cake since I was a child. I have ALWAYS used a metal pan & never experienced a problem w/taste, etc. This is the first time I have ever heard of using a glass pan because of taste, etc.
When I moved to AL in 2010 I lost 99% of all my recipes & cook books. So I am very appreciative to the internet & your site for helping me recover a favorite recipe.
I used PERO (a coffee sub.) instead of water in the cake I just made. Thanks & XOXOXOXOXOX
I just pulled the wacky cake out of the oven & will frost is w/my favorite choc frosting: 2 T cocoa, 2 T melted butter, 2 T hot strong coffee (or PERO in my case) & enough sifted confectioners sugar to make a good icing. Many, many thanks again!
Thanks so much for the comment, I’m so happy you found the recipe. Your frosting sounds delicious!
I saw this post while doing some extra searching on wacky cake recipes to answer my daughter’s question on if there were really any recipes out there with distinct variations. I thought you’d like to know that another name for this cake is Depression Cake because of it’s start during the Great Depression, which firmly puts its beginning in the 1930s. This is certainly the most decadent way to work around a lack of ingredients!
I made this cake last night. I let it sit overnight. When I looked at it this morning the middle of the cake sunk. What did I do wrong?
Hi Janet, The most common reason for the center sinking is that it wasn’t baked completely when it came out of the oven.
I have made this cake for years and it’s a family favorite. I have more consistent results when I sift the dry ingredients together to remove any clumps of cocoa and baking soda and mix it in a bowl with a whisk to remove lumps. I also use 1/4 cup cocoa which is easier to measure than 3 heaping tbsp. (about the same amount). I bake it in a 9-inch square pan or a paper lined muffin tin (for less time) and really check the middle for doneness before removing it from the oven. Frosting is certainly great and I sometimes add chocolate chips or nuts without adding frosting or just top it with powdered sugar. I’ve also played with other variations with good results (basic formula, omit cocoa and add back 3 tbsp. dry ingredients using flour and/or spices) or substituted fruit juice for some or all of the water and exchanging different extracts for the vanilla.
We used to make this cake when I was a kid. This recipe is great except for the salt. 1 tsp is way overpowering. I’m wondering if the tsp of salt is a typo. All other recipes I looked at called for 1/2 tsp.
I’ll try it again with the adjustment and see what happens.
I agree. My recipe for this cake uses 1/2 tsp. salt.
Amazing recipe, thanks for sharing! Because I don’t have glass ir ceramic pans, I sifted the dry ingredients a few times over, and made the wells in a bowl, then whisked in the water. My substitutions were: brewed coffee in place of vanilla extract and a simple ganache in place of frosting (with no powder sugar or vanilla). This was the perfect quick recipe for a dessert craving!
Has anyone ever doubled the recipe and then used a glass 13×9 inch pan vs. a square 8×8 inch? If so, what if any modifications to the recipe may be necessary to achieve the same wonderful result?
The recipe handed down from my grandmother IS doubled from what is on line. Just double every thing.
I have been making this cake for around 112 years now. My son is allergic to Eggs and all dairy products. A girlfriend gave me the recipe to make a birthday cake he could actually eat. NO ONE ever believes me that it has no egg’s in it! It is the best and all the ingredients are staple items in the pantry….. Easy to always have everything you need to wip this little number up.
My 18 year old nephew made this cake, his first Brown Eyed Baker cake and my sister sent us a piece. He made it because he loves all things military and you had said it was a WWII cake. It was delicious and so I made it, too. Thanks!!
I made this cake last week and it was great! I was searching for a vegan cake for a friend’s bridal shower and this was perfect. Since she’s vegan I made a different frosting using melted chocolate chips and coconut milk as a ganache. It was a huge hit!
I doubled the recipe and used coffee in place of water and felt that it slightly intensified the chocolate flavor.
Will there be a problem if I bake it in a metal pan??
I mentioned in an above comment that that the original author of the recipe said that the vinegar in the recipe can react with a metal pan, she said she would get a thin sludgy layer on the bottom of the cake when using a metal pan. Hope that helps!
My family fights over that “thin sludgy layer” left on the bottom of the metal pan. It’s the most moist part of the cake!
I made this cake for my birthday this week. I didn’t ice it, but served it with powdered sugar and fresh sliced strawberries. It was amazing!
Hi. So I made the cake with whole wheat pastry flour and think that’s why it didn’t stay as high as it was right outnod the oven but it was very easy and tasty. At an attempt to be more health conscious I halved the frosting and was short a stick of butter so made up the difference with coconut oil. OMG it was awesome!!!
Love your site and recipes. Have a great weekend!
In our family it is called a Screwball Cake. The recipe filled a 9 x 13 pan or made 30 cupcakes, just about double yours. It is a great starter cake for children to “help” make. Instead of three holes, make a smiley face–the eyes are for the vanilla and vinegar, the mouth for the oil. Applesauce can be substituted for half the oil without compromising the quality or taste.
What a great idea…making a face!
I’m going to try this recipe using GF flour, may increase the baking soda. Guessing it may turn out very dense, as it will lack elasticity.
My mom has been making this cake my entire life! She always uses a brown sugar frosting.
Hi Lori I’ve never heard of a brown sugar frosting. How does she make it?
I just made this cake and subbed milk for water and used less sugar in the frosting and it was absolutely delish!! My favorite part was the one dish and how super easy it was to make. Thank you!
I’ve been making this cake for at least 40 years ever since I learned to bake. But I never knew it’s origin just that it was my grandmothers recipe. She was a Rosie the riveter during the war.
This is a great cake and a staple in our house. I found the cake out if necessity because of food allergies ( needed egg, peanut, tree nut and milk free recipes until my child outgrew the egg and milk allergies). This was my go to for a treat that we could all enjoy. I always mixed it in a bowl and baked either in a pan or as cupcakes. My kids still prefer this to other cake recipes!
I just made this today. When I went back to frost it, it had sunk. Badly. I’m a pretty experienced baker and can’t figure where I went wrong. Any ideas? BTW it does taste great!
Hi Patty, The most common reason that cakes sink in the middle is that it’s not cooked the entire way through. I would be sure that’s it’s thoroughly cooked in the middle. Other reasons could be old baking soda, oven temperature that isn’t correct, and letting the batter sit for too long after mixing, before baking.
oh my gosh happy memories indeed! this is the first cake my Mum ever taught me to make! Wacky cake rocks!
we always had it with a rich chocolate fudge topping, being lactose intolerant was never a problem as we were always asked to bring a wacky cake to any party we were invited to!
so happy to have the recipe again, i never got the recipe from my Mum.
many thanks Nikki x
I love the history! Bring it to church tomorrow. thx k
I’ve also been making this cake for years, primarily because it is non-dairy, but it is really just a good, easy cake. Great birthday cake if you want layers, etc. When I first found this recipe, the person who posted it suggesting adding a handful of chocolate chips to the batter, which I do almost always now, just before the water. Not too many though, or it won’t work well. Just a handful. I also love this cake because it really isn’t fussy – I frankly don’t bother much with the wells anymore, or rather, just make the faintest pretense at making them. I just mix well once everything is in and there’s no problem. I do grease my pan(s) by the way, for the poster above, but never flour, and if there is any stickiness, it is just the smallest bit. I do grease well though!
How easy is it to cut and get out of a pan that has not been greased and floured ??
Hi Mamie, No issue at all – it’s a really moist cake!
Wacky cake is one of my family’s favorite cakes! Love the vanilla bean frosting on this one!
OMG this looks incredible!
This is a firm favourite in our household – but we know it as ‘Wicky-Wackey Cake’ -not quite sure how it got that name! If I have to take a tray bake to a function I double the recipe- everybody enjoys it as it is so moist.
My husband actually made this for me about a month ago, but we decided to make peanut butter frosting with it. It was rich and delicious! So happy to see other people enjoy this cake recipe. You seriously can’t go wrong!
My family has been making wacky cake for years! It is our go-to birthday cake because it is so easy to make and so tasty. It’s perfect with cream cheese icing. :)
This looks yummy and I’m definitely going to try it – now to decide which frosting to use…lol
This sounds great, but I usually make cake with applesauce instead of oil. Could this substitution work for this cake?
Hi Judy, I haven’t tried it, but if you do, let me know how it turns out!
Thank you, thank you, thank you. When I mention to people that my mother makes a chocolate cake without eggs but with vinegar they think I am crazy and that it must taste awful. Glad I am not the only one who has heard of it! My mother has been making this cake for YEARS only she calls it “Chemical Cake” because she used to make it with her classroom (she is a retired elementary school teacher). It was to show the properties of the vinegar and baking soda combined. Of course, they loved it — chocolate cake in science class!? It is still her go-to chocolate cake! She frosts it with an easy vanilla glaze or warm with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream! HEAVEN!
I love the suggestion of your readers that posted they use coffee instead of water. I am wondering how that tastes. I will try it that way as well!
This looks brilliant! Can’t wait to try it, your recipes never fail to impress ☺️
Why should a metal pan not be used? I would love to try this recipe, but currently my only 8-inch square pan is metal, so just curious what the issue might be if I used that as opposed to buying a glass one.
I nearly always use a metal pan with no problems. My guess the reason to not use a metal pan is that you could scratch it while stirring with a fork. I always make the cake batter in a bowl, just like I would with any other cake, and then pour the batter into the cake pan.
Hi Susanna, Nancy (who shared the recipe with me) said that the vinegar in the recipe can react with a metal pan, she said she would get a thin sludgy layer on the bottom of the cake when using a metal pan. Hope that helps!
Yes, that is very helpful! Thank you :)
Sounds like my kind of cake…easy to eat and looks delicious!
Because of the lack of eggs, milk, and butter, this recipe is vegan until you get to the icing. A dusting of powdered sugar or a drizzle icing made with powdered sugar and almond milk would take it the rest of the way.
I love how resourceful those women were during WWII! Certainly, the combination of vinegar and baking soda provides the perfect leavening for this moist-looking cake! This is definitely one to try when pinched for time. Looks delicious!
I think I’m the reader who left the comment about Wacky cake! Wow I’m totally famous now! ;) In our family we make a marshmallow Fluff frosting for it which is also amazing. Here’s the recipe, I would halve it for an 8’X8′ cake or make all of it and save the extra. It’s really good spread on Graham Crackers.
¾ cup Crisco
2 cups Marshmallow Fluff
1 ½ cups confectioners sugar
¾ tsp. vanilla
Small amount of milk
Mix together the first 4 ingredients and add small amounts of milk until filling is fluffy, but not runny. Spread on cooled cake.
Sounds fantastic, Julie! I might have to file that one away for future reference! :)
Oooh sounds awesome, thanks so much for sharing that frosting!
LOVE this cake recipe….so easy and tasty….I don’t usually frost it, just sprinkle on some chocolate chips and chopped nuts…
I have a spice recipe from Sweet Little Bluebird…
1 1/2 cups flour plus 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
whisk the above in an 8 X 8 baking pan, make 3 holes in dry mix and pour in each hole:
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 tablespoons oil
pour 1 cup water over all and mix till smooth
bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes
I haven’t made this yet….but I sure make the chocolate cake recipe…
Oooh love this pumpkin spice version! Thanks for sharing!
Our family has used this recipe for over 60 years, we knew it as “crazy cake” and was the requested cake for all birthdays. The first cake I ever made for it is indeed a one bowl, mix it up cake. This has brought back many memories!
thanks for posting this on the Wacky cake. I was just talking to my husband about my first husbands aunt who made this all the time and it was so good. Back In the day those ladies used what they had to and make it work. She passed away this week and this was just a confirmation to me that she is in my thoughts..Thank you
Aww Ida, I’m so sorry for your loss. xo
Thanks for a great memory! This was the first thing I baked all by myself as a little girl almost 50 years ago!! I can picture my mom explaining how “wacky” it was and that it was like magic turning into a delicious cake! We often skipped the frosting in favor of whipped cream or made different flavor variations with chocolate chips or caramels, mini marshmallows, candy bar chunks like recees, etc. I’ll have to make this with my daughter (an accomplished baker) this weekend!
So fun! This looks like maybe the easiest cake ever to make! Thank you for sharing, Michelle – it looks delicious!
Hi Michelle, I made this years ago, and look forward to trying this yummy cake again…. Thanks for the great recipe and instructions!
We love this cake. If I need a larger cake for a crowd, I double the ingredients and put everything in a mixing bowl and beat. I pour it in a 9×13 pan and bake. It comes out wonderfully and is delicious.
If I don’t have a glass pan and use metal to make this, how badly will the cake be affected? Why do you advise against using metal?
My mom has always made this for me and it’s still my favorite cake TO THIS DAY! It’s so simple to make! Only problem is that I have a hard time not eating the whole thing in one sitting :)
I nearly always mix this cake in a stainless bowl and bake in a metal pan. If the cake is adversely affected by baking in a metal pan, I can’t tell you how. It’s still delicious.
Hi Avra, Nancy (who shared the recipe with me) said that the vinegar in the recipe can react with a metal pan, she said she would get a thin sludgy layer on the bottom of the cake when using a metal pan. Hope that helps!
I saved a chocolate cupcake recipe off the Simply Recipes site a few years ago that is almost identical to this recipe. Instead of water, the recipe calls for 1 cup of strongly brewed coffee and the oil used is light olive oil. The recipe makes one dozen of the most delicious, moist cupcakes ever. They are so easy and never fail to get raves. The first time I made these, it was with my 10 year old godchild. She took then home and had her parents try to uses what was NOt in the cupcakes…they failed the test!
I was just reading King Arthur Flour emails yesterday and say something called “Cake Pan Cake” and it was very similar. In reading the comments from their online recipe one of their bakers referred to it as a sibling of the “Wacky Cake”. Their Cake Pan Cake recipe was voted best recipe in the history. I was planning to make it but after reading your post…I think I’ll make both and look at them side by side. Thanks!
Let me know how they compare side by side!
Thanks so much for this recipe! It is difficult finding dessert recipes that do not include dairy for those (like me) who are allergic to dairy. If only the frosting were dairy free…any suggestions?
The cake is rich and moist by itself and doesn’t NEED a lot of frosting. I’ve served it with just a dusting of powdered sugar. I also make whipped “cream” for my niece who can’t eat dairy from coconut cream – drain the liquid from a can of coconut milk, whip the thick cream with powdered sugar and vanilla.
I’ve seen a mock-buttercream with shortening (coconut oil, vegan butter) and powdered sugar, loosened up with an alternative milk (almond, etc). A toasted meringue topping could work, as well.
In my family we frost this cake with marshmallow Fluff frosting which is dairy free if you substitute a different liquid for the small amount of milk used (almond milk or coconut milk would work and be delicious!). Here’s the recipe:
¾ cup Crisco
2 cups Marshmallow Fluff
1 ½ cups confectioners sugar
¾ tsp. vanilla
Small amount of milk
Mix together the first 4 ingredients and add small amounts of milk until filling is fluffy, but not runny. Spread on cooled cake
I make this cake with a chocolate ganache frosting made with chocolate chips (I usually use Ghiradelli bitterweet chocolate chips, but you could use dairy-free chips) and milk. I have used almond milk before, which works just fine! It’s really yummy.
Hi Meri, You could do a whipped coconut cream, a dusting of powdered sugar… those would be my two top picks!
I made a ganache with chocolate chips and coconut milk. Once the ganache was cool I whipped it in my mixer to make it a little fluffier. It was delicious! Very rich and chocolaty and totally dairy free :)
I’m a huge fan of quick, one-layer cakes and this is my favorite quick chocolate cake. I’ve been making it for years and it’s a very adaptable recipe.
Instead of water, try using strong, cold coffee. You can also use cider, red or white wine vinegar instead of white vinegar and olive oil instead of vegetable oil. Packed brown sugar can be used instead of white sugar. You can also make a dozen regular sized cupcakes from the recipe and it can also be used to make black bottom cupcakes.
I agree. I’ve been making this cake from a King Arthur Flour recipe for a few years. It is always a hit in my house. My favorite is to use a little coffee for the liquid, but mostly water.
I’ve also experimented with frosting, both with the cake warm and cooled. Dusting powdered sugar works on a cool cake. I just made this last week topping it with a quick ganache – had a bar of spiced chocolate in the pantry from a trip to Germany last Christmas that I melted with some cream. I poured the warm ganache over the warm cake. Yum. That gave me the idea to experiment with spices in the cake next time, or almond extract.
Hi Sally, Thanks for sharing some alternatives!
This chocolate cake looks delicious. Love how easy it is to make!!
Thanks for sharing the recipe! :)