Chocolate Crazy Cake

This vintage cake recipe requires no eggs, milk, or butter, and instead relies on pantry ingredients for its success. Make it when you’re fresh out of fresh ingredients!

Wacky Cake

Hello friends! I hope everyone is navigating this strange season of life with hope and optimism. Since baking is my happy place, I’ve been making small batches of essentials I know we’ll eat up with no waste (these are next for breakfast!). I’ve also been cleaning my kitchen and taking pantry inventory. My husband and I have made the decision to self isolate and make the best of what we’ve got on hand for as long as possible.

That’s why this recipe is so timely! It requires nothing from the refrigerator and whips up by hand – you won’t even need an electric mixer.

Wacky Cake

The recipe has roots from The Great Depression, when ingredients like butter and milk were expensive or heavily rationed. It goes by a few names you may recognize – ‘Wacky’ Cake, Poor Man’s Cake, or Depression Cake. There’s a vanilla version floating around in my recipe folder that I plan to dig out and share soon.

The glaze is my addition to the cake. It relies on pantry staples also, and really makes this cake decadent. I added pecans and flaky sea salt on top because I have plenty on hand, but you could use practically anything – peanuts, baking chips, dried fruit, seeds, pretzels – you name it!

Wacky Cake

 

 

A single layer cake like this is plenty for our small household, and stored air-tight the very last slice is still fresh 5 days later. Making this recipe is a great way to have comfort food while conserving your more perishable ingredients.

Stay well, friends!

Update 6/25/20: I made this cake with Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour with excellent results. It baked in about 28 minutes, which is less time than it takes for the wheat flour version.

Chocolate Crazy Cake

Heather Baird
This vintage cake recipe requires no eggs, milk, or butter, and instead relies on pantry ingredients for its success. Make it when you’re fresh out of fresh ingredients!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 8

Equipment

  • 8 inch cake pan

Ingredients
 
 

Chocolate cake

  • 1 1/2 cups 180g, or 7 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup 28g unsweet cocoa powder (I used dark cocoa)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup 200g granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water

Glaze

  • 1 cup 115g powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweet cocoa powder I used dark cocoa
  • 2-3 tablespoons brewed coffee or water
  • Chopped nuts and flake sea salt *optional

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan, or an 8-inch square pan.
  • Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; whisk until well blended. Add the vanilla, vinegar, oil, granulated sugar and water. Whisk together until well combined. Pour into the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
  • For the glaze, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa in a large bowl. Whisk in coffee or water 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze is smooth and pourable.
  • Place the cake on a rimmed serving plate and pour on the glaze, allowing the glaze to drip over the sides. Top with chopped nuts and flaky sea salt, or use whatever delicious thing that inhabits your pantry. Dried fruit, pretzels, crumbled cookies are all good choices– anything goes!
  • Store cake at room temperature in an airtight cake keeper or Tupperware for freshness.

Notes

Update 6/25/20: I made this cake with Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour with excellent results. It baked in about 28 minutes, which is less time than it takes for the wheat flour version.
Keyword dairy-free, Depression era recipe, sea salt, single layer cake, wacky cake
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

This cake is so gorgeous! I love how it doesn't require very much flour since the stores are cleared out of it at the moment and the oil means that this will be super moist. Thank you for creating such a lovely dessert, will be making it this weekend. Your photography and recipes are uplifting! Thank you and best to you and your family. E

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Our stores are completely out of flour here, too. It really makes you mindful of how to stretch what you've got! All the best to you, too! Take care.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Thanks for posting such an ingredient friendly chocolate cake. The glaze definitely takes it to the next level. I’m pretty sure this is what I’ll be making to celebrate my 60th birthday next week. Stay well!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Oh my goodness, I hope you have a great birthday despite the state of current affairs. I'd definitely call this cake birthday-worthy – and I think you deserve it for this wonderful milestone. Best birthday wishes and good health to you!

Debe
Debe
1 year ago

This sounds yummy and I love that it is a single layer. Just my hubby and me here most of the time. Can't wait to try it….today!!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  Debe

I hope you love it, Debe!

karen608
karen608
1 year ago

This is lovely. More recipes using no milk and eggs please.

GiGi
GiGi
1 year ago

This sounds great…do you have a Vanilla version? Thanks!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  GiGi

Hi GiGi, I'm hoping to share a vanilla version next week. Thanks for asking!

GiGi
GiGi
1 year ago

This sounds yummy…do you have Vanilla version? Thanks

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Thank you for this recipe, indeed perfect timing! All the best to you and your loved ones! Have a nice weekend and stay safe!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Best to you, too! xo

JudyR
JudyR
1 year ago

Sounds yummy. Do you think this would be able to be made into cupcakes?

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  JudyR

Hi Judy! Yes! Someone commented on Facebook that they made this recipe into cupcakes. I'm guessing it would yield about 10-12?

Baker Chick
Baker Chick
1 year ago

Hey Heather! That is very similar to the Vegan Chocolate cake I've been making for years that makes absolutely everyone swoon- I have tweaked it by using a cup of coffee instead of water- brings out the chocolate flavor!! Stay safe and sane and post that vanilla one soon please!!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  Baker Chick

That's a great tip to swap in the coffee. Hopefully I'll get the vanilla version up next week. You stay safe also – take care!

Unknown
Unknown
1 year ago

Can you substitute almond or coconut flour ?

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  Unknown

You could probably get a decent result with almond flour, but I wouldn't recommend coconut flour. If you're looking for a gluten free option, you'd probably get the best results with a 1 to 1 flour.

Debe
Debe
1 year ago

A follow up…..my husband thinks all scratch cakes are dry….this one, he gave me a huge thumbs up. Best cake I ever made!! Thanks so very much for this recipe. A keeper for my family, especially because, again, of the single layer! Perfect for a family dessert but not too much!! Kuddos!!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  Debe

Thanks for the feedback, Debe! I'm so pleased it was a hit!

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

I love that is one bowl and easy. I whipped it up for a friend’s kids birthday that will now be celebrated from many households over zoom since we can’t be together. I said if we are all going to sing, we need cake! It is cooling now, it might be hard to wait until tomorrow!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago

It's so great that you've all found a way to be together, and singing together (apart!) will be fun! Sounds like a beautiful memory in the making. I hope you love the cake!

Carolyn Mustopa
Carolyn Mustopa
1 year ago

I made this today — it's great! I used hot coffee instead of water in the batter, and used vanilla bean paste instead of extract, because I had it. Otherwise, followed to the letter and loved it. I think my oven would have been better off at 350, though, since the edges were a little tough and it humped too much in the middle. Thanks for giving me a way to treat myself in these crazy times, without using up my precious perishables!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago

Hi Carolyn! So glad you liked it. Thanks for trying the recipe! I agree – 330° -350° might help you avoid some tough edges, and keep the cake from crowning too much. Well wishes!

Colette (Coco)
Colette (Coco)
1 year ago

No dairy! This is perfect for vegans, but also for everyone else since dairy is so hard to find now.
Thanks, Heather! Hope you guys are safe & sane. xo

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  Colette (Coco)

Thanks Colette! We're doing well here. I hope the same for you and yours! xo-h

Coffee Diff
Coffee Diff
1 year ago

My favourite three words 🙂 – chocolate, crazy and cake 🙂 And, my favourite ingredients – chocolate, nuts and I see some coffee there too 🙂 nice. Definitely works with coffee, this one, mmm.

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Hi Heather,

This recipe looks great and I plan to make it sometime in the next week or two while we are hunkered down. Just curious- what exactly does the vinegar do/add to the cake?

Love your website and recipes 🙂

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Hello! The vinegar activates the baking soda. This helps the cake rise as it bakes! Thanks for asking – hope you enjoy!

🙂

Jolene La
Jolene La
1 year ago

I've made this cake for years and it's wonderful. My daughter even did a 4-H presentation on the history. Letting you in on a bit of a secret: Mix the cake IN the cake pan, by hand, with a fork. If you over mix once that vinegar is added, the bubbles could all pop and you'll have brownies instead of cake. Of course, this means you can't take it out of the pan and have it look lovely, BUT it's less clean up! Can't wait to try the vanilla version!!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
1 year ago
Reply to  Jolene La

Hi Jolene! Thanks for your comment! I have tried mixing it in the pan, but I find it weirdly uncomfortable, and it makes the edges of the pan messy. Am I just picky? YES! Haha! Thanks so much for letting us know about over-mixing. That is very helpful. The chocolate version is my favorite of the two cakes, but the vanilla is nice when you're not looking for a super-rich cake. xo-h

Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

Randomly stumbled upon this wonderful recipe. Cake is moist and chocolatey, and perfect for these days when every ingredient is precious. It requires basic stuff almost everyone has. 🙂

Unknown
Unknown
1 year ago

Wahoo, this cake looks good.Am a fan.love your creativity skills.bukky