This is NOT your average, common place, every-day, garden-variety cake. Frankly, it’s not normal or even respectable. It doesn’t play by the rules.
If you are Merriam-Webster, you might call it bizarro, wacko, crazy, curious, eccentric, far-out, odd, kooky, offbeat, outlandish, peculiar, quirky, screwy, strange, or weird.
In other words, this unassuming little snack cake is seriously out-there.
And what makes this cake so outlandish, you might ask?
Consider this. It has no butter.
No big deal you say? Well, how about no eggs?
Still not in the CRAZY category? How about no milk?
You’re starting to waver, right? To push you over the edge, how about no bowl?
It gets weirder. You dump the dry ingredients into a cake pan and make one large and two small indentations in the mound. You pour vegetable oil into the large indentation and vinegar and vanilla into the two small indentations. Then, you pour water over the whole shebang, and stir the mess until smooth. At this point, you may want to toss the whole thing in the garbage. But you’re curious, so you bake it.
And as you watch the suspicious cake rise through the oven door window, you wonder how it can possibly taste like anything you might want to eat.
But that’s the crazy thing, it does. You’re going to eat the whole thing, possibly at one sitting. You’re going to lick your fingers and look around for more. I guarantee it.
P.S. Don’t worry about the vinegar. You won’t taste it in the finished cake.
Chocolate Snacky Wacky Cake
Wacky Cake is a lingering remnant of the depression, when butter, eggs, and milk were scarce. The cake was initially known as Depression Cake, and it was intended as a compromise in difficult times. It’s a miracle of resourcefulness, baking science, and love to create a cake without butter, eggs, and milk. The result is mind blowing—moist, slightly dense, slightly chewy, and delicious.
Development Note I created a recipe grid for Wacky Cake to see how much latitude cooks are taking with the original concept. Not much, as it turns out. So I kicked things up, adding warm winter spices, brown sugar, and coffee to the basic formula. I love the result. But if you want a standard Wacky Cake, use all white sugar, skip the spices, and swap water for coffee.
Technique Note It’s traditional to mix this batter in the baking pan, but it’s fine if you prefer to mix in a bowl instead. In the latter case, you might butter the baking pan as well.
1½ cups (7 ounces) unbleached, all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur Flour)
½ cup sugar
½ cup golden brown sugar
¼ cup natural-process, unsweetened cocoa (not alkalized)
2 teaspoons Warm Winter Spice, optional
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or fruit flavored vinegar)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1¼ cup warm water (or fresh brewed coffee or tea)
powdered sugar in a shaker
your favorite chocolate icing
- Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F.
- In a 9-inch square ceramic or metal baking pan (no need to butter), mix flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
- Level the dry ingredients by shaking the pan back and forth a few times, and then make three indentations–one large, two small.
- Add vegetable oil to the large indentation and vanilla and vinegar to the two small indentations.
- Pour the warm water over the top of the cake, and whisk until smooth. (With no eggs or milk to help with protein formation, it is important to activate some of the gluten in the flour.)
- With a damp paper towel, clear the batter from the edges of the cake pan.
- Bake cake on the middle rack of the oven for 30-33 minutes. A wooden pick will come out almost clean (not gooey) when the cake is done. Don’t over bake this cake; it will be dry. (If cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, remove immediately from the oven.)
- Remove cake from the oven, and let cool on a wire rack.
- To serve, warm or at room temperature, either dust the cake in the pan with powdered sugar (my preference) or frost with your favorite chocolate frosting.
Makes one 9-inch square cake; serves 6-8.
More Chocolate Cakes from LunaCafe
- Bittersweet Chocolate & Cabernet Butter Cake
- Chocolate Almond Pound Cake
- Chocolate Ginger Chipotle Stout Cake
- Heavenly Chocolate Beet Tea Loaf & 3 Variations
- Mad Dash Chocolate Cake (Fast & Easy)
- Mexicano Chocolate Pudding Cake (Hot, Easy & Good)
- Spicy Chocolate, Banana & Fresh Ginger Tea Loaf
- Warm-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cake
Cookin’ with Gas (inspiration from around the web)
- A Kitchen Addiction: Chocolate Wacky Cake with Fudge Frosting
- Bakerette: Crazy Cake Wacky Cake
- Big Red Kitchen: Wacky Cake
- Epicurious: Wacky Chocolate Cake
- Homesick Texan:
- LA Times: Mad for Crazy Cake
- Savory Sweet Life: Chocolate Wacky Depression Cake
- Sweet Little Bluebird: Crazy Cake
Copyright 2014 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.