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Wacky Cake (Chocolate or Vanilla)

This super easy Wacky Cake is made entirely with pantry staples. There’s no eggs, no butter, and no milk – but this cake is so fluffy, moist and delicious, you’ll never miss them!

This recipe is an oldie but a goody! Baking a cake without eggs, butter or milk may sound wacky, but it’s totally possible and totally scrumptious!

With a well-stocked pantry, you can make this sweet treat – chocolate or vanilla – any time. It’s vegan too!

I first came across this recipe while I was looking through my grandmother’s recipe collection. It was written in her perfect cursive handwriting. It’s probably in your grandma’s recipe box too!

I have also seen this recipe called Crazy Cake, Depression Cake, War Cake, and Joe Cake.

Apparently, it came about at a time when wartime rationing and poor economic conditions resulted in shortages of eggs, butter, and milk. People made do with what they had!

This is also one of those recipes that you’ll see in just about every church and community cookbook (which, by the way, are some of the best cookbooks). Once you try it, you’ll see why it has stood the test of time and has been passed down through generations.

Some kind of wonderful baking/scientific magic happens between the vinegar, baking soda, flour and oil that makes an amazingly fluffy, moist and delicious cake.

Plus, it’s so easy. You don’t even need to bring out the mixer for this one!

chocolate wacky cake on a white plate with a fork dusted with powdered sugar

I finally tried this recipe one day when I was craving some chocolate cake but didn’t have enough eggs or butter in the house. It was the easiest chocolate cake I have ever made and so delicious that it instantly earned its place in my “keeper” file!

To keep it a simple, dairy-free pantry recipe, I just sprinkle the top of each serving of cake with some powdered sugar. It’s so yummy that you really don’t need more than that – although you certainly can frost it or top it with a dollop of whipped cream!

INGREDIENTS YOU NEED:

  • Cooking spray
  • All-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Cocoa powder (needed for chocolate version)
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • White vinegar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Water

HERE’S A QUICK LOOK AT HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE WACKY CAKE:

three images showing steps to make chocolate wacky cake
three images showing steps to make chocolate wacky cake
three images showing how to make chocolate wacky cake

TIPS & TIDBITS:

  • Original versions of this recipe call for mixing everything right in the cake pan. I personally find it easier to just mix everything in a bowl. If you want to mix it in the pan so you don’t have to wash a mixing bowl, here are the original instructions:
    • Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder (if making the chocolate version), baking soda, and salt in the greased pan.
    • Make 3 wells in the flour mixture – 2 small and one large. Put the vinegar and vanilla in the small wells and the vegetable oil in the large one.
    • Pour the water over everything and mix til until smooth. Bake as directed.
  • Lemon juice can be used instead of white vinegar.
  • You can use an 8 x 8-inch or 9 x 9-inch square pan instead of a round pan.
  • You can double the recipe and use two 9-inch round cake pans or a 9 x 13-inch pan. Baking time will stay the same.
  • For a delicious mocha variation of the chocolate wacky cake, replace the water with cold brewed coffee. YUM!
vanilla wacky cake on a white plate sprinkled with powdered sugar with a forkful being taken out

So which one are you going to bake first…the chocolate or the vanilla? I love them both, but I’ll admit that the chocolate is my favorite!

I hope you try this recipe for Wacky Cake and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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a piece of chocolate wacky cake and a piece of vanilla wacky cake dusted with powdered sugar on a plate with a fork

Wacky Cake (Chocolate or Vanilla)

This super easy Wacky Cake is made entirely with pantry staples. There's no eggs, no butter, and no milk – but this cake is so fluffy, moist and delicious, you'll never miss them!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Cooling Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings: 6
Estimated Calories: 349

Ingredients

Chocolate Wacky Cake:

  • cooking spray
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cold water

Instructions

Chocolate Wacky Cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
  • Spray a 9-inch round cake pan lightly with cooking spray.
  • Place the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
  • Add the vegetable oil, vinegar, vanilla extract, and water. Stir until smooth.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs (no wet batter).
  • Remove the cake from the oven; cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
  • Enjoy as is, sprinkle with powdered sugar, frost with your favorite frosting, or top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Vanilla Wacky Cake:

  • Omit the cocoa powder and increase the vanilla extract to 2 teaspoons. Follow all other instructions as directed.

Notes

  • The white vinegar can be replaced with lemon juice. 
  • You can use a 8 x 8-inch or 9 x 9-inch square pan instead of a round pan.
  • You can double the recipe and use two 9-inch round pans or a 9 x 13-inch pan. Baking time will be the same.
  • For a delicious mocha version of the chocolate wacky cake, replace the water with 1 cup cold coffee. 
  • Estimated calories shown of 349 are for the chocolate version. Estimated calories for the vanilla version are 343. 
Did you try this recipe? I’d love to see it!Share it on Instagram, tag @nowcookthis and use the hashtag #nowcookthisrecipes. Thanks!
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Recipe Rating




Joanne

Sunday 5th of September 2021

Can you grease and flour the pan instead of using cooking spray? (I am assuming back in the day your grandmother did not have cooking spray!) And can you take the cake out of the pan? I want to make a layer cake for my grandson’s birthday.......

Michelle

Sunday 5th of September 2021

Hi, Joanne! I think it would be fine to just lightly grease the pan with a little vegetable oil instead of using cooking spray (I think you could probably skip flouring the pan...but you could try it if you'd like). I've actually never taken the whole cake out of the pan, but don't see why you couldn't! If you try it, I would suggest waiting until the cake cools completely. Also, parchment paper on the bottom of the pan might help ensure the cake releases more easily. Let me know how it goes!