Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake is an amazing, delicious chocolate cake recipe that is mixed, baked and served in the same pan.

It is an old fashioned cake recipe that you will make again and again.

The novelty of it is that it contains no butter, eggs or milk.

Vinegar gives it rise, softness and a unique taste.

The original Wacky Cake was not frosted.

Today, this quick and easy cake is often frosted with a yummy, uncooked Chocolate Frosting... that contains butter!

Here's the recipe... and my Roller Coaster Review.

Wacky Cake Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup granulated white sugar

  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used non-virgin olive oil)

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, butter and nut flavoring

  • 1 cup water, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. before mixing.

It is very important that the batter be put in the oven at once, after mixing.

Sift together sifted flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a 9" square x  2" deep baking pan.

I like to sift together mixed ingredients onto a sheet of waxed paper once to ensure they are evenly mixed, then sift a second time into the baking pan.

Make a hole with the back of a spoon in the center of the baking pan that is large enough to hold the oil.

Make 2 more holes, one on each side of the center hole for the vinegar and flavorings.

Pour the oil into the center, larger hole.

Put the vinegar into one of the smaller holes and the flavorings into the other small hole.

Pour the water over all it.

Quickly mix all the ingredients together with a spoon, but do not beat.

Use the spoon to get into all the corners and you see no remaining dry ingredients. 

You will see bubbles forming in your batter almost instantly, because of the chemical reaction of the baking soda mixed with vinegar.

This chemical reaction is what makes your cake rise into a light, soft cake.

It is imperative that you work fast to get this cake into the heat of the oven, because the bubbles will start to dissipate very quickly.

The batter will be thin. However, using the spoon to smooth the top or shaking the pan a little from side to side will assure the top is level.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until it is lightly browned and tests done when touched lightly with fingertips in the center.

Also, use a toothpick to see if it comes out clean, but not as dry as a regular cake.

The batter should still be a little moist.

This is a gooey, Chocolate Wacky Cake recipe that is generally served from the pan.

As you can see from the images, I cut it into serving size pieces and scooped them up with a strong, metal spatula.

To do that, you need to let it set for at least a day. Otherwise the slices can be so moist and tender that they literally, fall apart.

Chocolate Wacky Cake Frosting

  • 2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, broken into pieces

  • 2 teaspoons corn syrup (I use Karo Syrup)

  • 1/4 cup (1/2) stick butter, softened at room temperature

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, butter and nut flavoring

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar (preferably 10X sugar)

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans for sprinkling on top (optional)

Place broken pieces of chocolate and corn syrup in top of a double boiler and melt.

You can melt the chocolate in a microwave oven, according to package instructions.

When melted remove from heat. Let set 4 or 5 minutes to cool slightly.

Stir in flavorings. Add softened butter and stir until well mixed.

Do not beat.

Stir in sifted powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time until of spreading consistency.

If frosting is too thick, thin with a little warm water using about 1-2  teaspoons at a time.

If it becomes too thin, stir in a little powdered sugar at a time until it reaches right consistency to spread.

Be aware that this frosting gets firmer as it sets and gets thoroughly cold.

Cool cake before frosting.

Sprinkle with nuts, if desired.

Do not refrigerate this frosted cake unless absolutely necessary because the frosting with loose it's fluffy softness.

You will note in the images I did not sprinkle finished cake with nuts.

That was because we had consumed so much of it in testing various phases.

The added nuts, mingled with the taste of the vanilla, butter and nut flavoring will take this cake from delicious to extraordinary!

Wacky Cake Serving Suggestions

In addition to serving plain, warm or cold, and serving frosted you may like these ideas.

Serve with favorite fresh fruits or drained canned fruits on top or as a side.

Spoon thin puddings, warm or cold over cake in serving dish.

Vanilla Pudding is delicious! Banana Pudding is delicious, too! Recommended.

Sprinkle top with powdered sugar.

Sprinkle top with an equal amount of light brown sugar and ground cinnamon on top.

Serve with a dollop of Homemade Whipped Cream which is not as sweet as store bought.

Sprinkle it with cinnamon, if desired. Recommended.

Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Serve with Caramel Sauce spooned over.

Serve with vanilla, strawberry or chocolate ice cream.

Or Neapolitan ice cream if you desire. Recommended.

Makes 9 square servings or 18 servings if you cut the squares in half as the second image shows.

History Of Wacky Cake Recipe

If you research the history of this cake online you will find claims that this cake is called by several other names in addition to Wacky Cake, including Crazy Cake, War Cake, Depression Cake and Eggless, Milkless and Butterless Cake.

You will also see various dates this cake was invented.

I challenge much of the information, to a degree, of the main reason why this recipe and the method of mixing and baking it was developed. 

My personal theory is based on conditions of the times and personal experience.

Wacky Cake Recipe was probably named this because of the weird ingredients for a cake or the method of mixing it.

I don't think mixing in the pan seemed weird or wacky when this cake recipe was developed because the Dump Cake was already in existence.

I think the wackiness was because the cake didn't contain eggs, butter or milk, but contained baking soda and vinegar to give it rise during baking.


                     Dump Cake

Dump into a dish all together the following articles:

One cup butter, two cups sugar, three eggs, four cups flour, one pound chopped raisins, one teaspoon soda in a cup of cold water, two teaspoons cream tartar.

Any other spice you choose.

Mix well.

Bake in two deep pans.

    ---Tried Recipes, Christian Science Monitor, January 31, 1912 (p. 6) 

Source: www.foodtimeline.org/foodcakes.html

Eggless, Milkless, and Butterless

I cannot believe my cake recipe was called by this name either, because even though it omits some of the same ingredients, it calls for seeded raisins, broken nut meats in the batter, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and water to be boiled 3 minutes.

This mixture is added to more water with baking powder and mixed into the flour and poured and baked in a loaf pan.

Source: Victory Edition, Burndt Toast, Published by the Women's Auxilliary of the Children's Hospital. Los Angels, California. 1942, (page 60)


Depression era...

Crazy Cake:

Contained cocoa, milk, egg, lard and boiling water. It was mixed and beaten 3 minutes in a mixing bowl and baked in a layer pan that was greased and lined on the bottom with waxed paper.

Source: www.foodtimeline.org/foodcakes.html


Wacky Cake

Quote: "Several sources suggested that Wacky Cake was invented during the 1940s, but we couldn't understand how it earned it's name until we read the recipe in The Times Readers Book of Recipes, compiled by editors of Time magazine.

Mrs. Donald Adam of Detroit, Michigan, had submitted this strange recipe".

Source: The Cook's Country Cookbook, Rediscovering American Home Cooking, 1st Edition, 2008, Distributed by Americas Test Kitchen, 17  Station Street, Brookline, MA 02445 (Page 471).

Wacky Cake Review

Just a few days ago, I announced to my Social Media friends that I was planning to add 12 more Old Fashioned Cake Recipes to this website.

I asked for their suggestions on which cakes to add.

To my surprise, the Wacky Cake was most suggested.

Although I have had the recipe for a long time, I had never tried it. Probably because butter was not an ingredient.

The recipe looked so simple, which it is, so I chose to make it first.

I saw some images of the mixing process online and was expecting an eruption of a bubble mass when I started stirring dry ingredients and wet ingredients together.

I got no eruption.

What I did get was bubbles in the mixture sort of like when you beat an egg with a fork.

Small bubbles floating around not really going anywhere.

From some online images, I was expecting a thick, normal cake batter.

What I got was a very thin batter like you get when you add water to a cake as the last ingredient.

I liked that!

I knew that when you add extra water to a cake batter you get a thin batter that is smooth and level with no cracks in crust.

Plus you get a really moist cake.

So far, so good! Right?

My recipe instructions were to cook the cake 30-40 minutes.

That is a long difference in timing, especially a one pan cake.

So, I did what you are supposed to do when baking, checked it at the first listed timing, 30 minutes.

Sure enough, at 30 minutes it was done!

It was beautiful, smooth with no cracks, so chocolaty brown and smelled so good, I had to taste it right a way.

First disappointment.

I could not cut a slice.

Every time I tried, no mater the slice size I chose, it was so tender it fell apart before I could pick it up.

So I waited.

After the cake cooled I cut another slice that held up enough to get a bite.


That was the worst tasting cake I have ever tasted in my life!

I almost threw the cake out the door and the recipe in the garbage, but I was too tired.

So, I went to bed... a one disappointed old lady.

The next morning I awoke to a family member saying, "That was a delicious cake, wasn't it? I liked that."

It seemed the strong, nothing-but-vinegar taste was morphing.

It turned into a moist, delicious Chocolate Wacky Cake with a delectable frosting, that I will make again and again.

Related Pages

Cocoa Cake Recipe

Texas Sheet Cake

Return to Old Fashioned Cake Recipes


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