Chocolate Wacky Cake

This is a very old cake recipe. It goes back to the depression era when eggs, butter, and milk were both expensive and rationed, so some genius (who is lost in the annals of history) developed this cake. I’ve seen it referred to online as the “Wacky Cake,” “Crazy Cake,” “Depression Era Cake,” and the “Less Mess Chocolate Cake” (in which the recipe suggests you mix it all in the cake pan. I forego this in favor of lining my cake pan to get it out easier.)

I got this recipe from my cousin, who remembered it from an American Girl Cookbook from her childhood (no doubt the American Girl character was from the depression era.) It’s a great cake, and one of our favorites. The batter is runnier than most cakes, and the resulting cake is a little denser, but unless you’re comparing cakes side-by-side, it’s unlikely that anyone will notice. In fact, I like the denser texture because I like to sculpt my kids’ cakes into fun shapes, and this holds up better than most egg-free cakes.

It’s also great for party guests with allergies because it’s free of 7 of the top 8 allergens (depending on what oil you use) and is also free of corn (depending on what oil, vanilla, and vinegar you use (substitute something else for white vinegar if you have a severe corn allergy.)) I’ve even made it with gluten free flour with reasonable results, which would make it free of the top 8!

This cake has been cut to shape for one of my son’s
birthday parties. This is the only un-frosted cake picture I have.

The Best Chocolate Cake


  • 1 1/2 cups flour (can be gf flour)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 heaping Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup cold water
(I apologize for not having step-by-step pictures this time, or even a good picture of an unfrosted cake.)
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 or 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly combined.
  3. Make three wells in the dry mixture. Pour the oil into one, the vinegar into another and the vanilla into the third.
  4. Pour the cold water over all and mix until thoroughly combined.
  5. Pour the batter into the lined cake pan.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool somewhat.
  8. Run a knife between the outer edge of the cake and the pan. Turn upside down onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper and allow to cool completely before frosting with your favorite allergy-friendly frosting. I have a great recipe for a chocolate “buttercream” frosting here!

This recipe makes one 8 or 9 inch round, or roughly one dozen cupcakes. Double it for a 9×13.

I quadrupled the recipe for this Preschool Graduation cake. It
is two 9×13 cakes put together.
In another week or two I’ll share more of the themed cakes I’ve made with this. For now, enjoy!

How do you like your cake?

Linking up at Allergy Free Wednesdays, Gluten Free Fridays, and Corn-free Everyday


7 thoughts on “Chocolate Wacky Cake

  1. Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays Party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! 🙂 I can't wait to see what you share next time!

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