If you love moist, chocolaty cake you have to give our Gram's Easy Wacky Cake Recipe a try! This old-fashioned recipe is made without any eggs, milk, or butter.
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My grandmother's recipe
This chocolate wacky cake recipe comes from my grandmother Ruth Riley's recipe box. My grandfather John loved desserts so much that he had one pretty much every night. According to my mom, this wacky cake was one of his favorites.
Yes, this is my grandmother's recipe.
I'm stating this clearly, firmly—and proudly. Why? There's a popular and unfortunate tendency on social media and the interwebs for some folks to crab about food bloggers who share family and personal stories along with their recipes.
To be clear, I am lucky and grateful because my readers and fans are lovely, generous, positive, and supportive—and they would never do that.
I mean, what could be more natural than telling the stories of holidays at grandparents' houses, discovering new ingredients on a trip abroad, of cooking from a young age at a parent's side, or falling in love over a sumptuous dinner?
And yet, there are people who seemingly have nothing better to do than to spend time tapping out mean-spirited (and frankly unimaginative) jabs at creators, trying to chip away at their happiness and hard work.
Well, I love the food and food stories from my family. And everything I make and cook for my own family and friends today began with them. So I will share stories—and I hope you share yours, too!
(And incidentally, if my grandmother Ruth Riley were alive and heard folks saying mean stuff like that, she'd sure as hell have given them a high-volume earful!)
What is a Wacky Cake made of?
This old-fashioned recipe goes by several names: wacky cake, crazy cake, Depression cake, and goofy cake. It's thought of as a World War II-era recipe but may have been created even earlier, in the 1930s during the Great Depression.
When ingredients like butter were strictly rationed, scarce, or difficult to afford for many households, home cooks got creative and came up with ingenious dessert recipes.
This recipe has some expected ingredients, like flour, sugar, and cocoa, but the reason this cake is "wacky" is that it's made with:
- No eggs
- No milk
- No butter
Is Wacky Cake good?
Yes! Even without any eggs or dairy, Wacky Cake is really moist and delicious. It has a rich, chocolaty flavor that can stand on its own, but is, of course, also very good with frosting or a dusting of powdered sugar.
I like to store Wacky Cake in the fridge because the cold makes the cake taste even more chocolaty somehow. You really won't believe how good this simple cake is!
Why you'll love this recipe
There are many reasons to love this simple, homemade Wacky Chocolate Cake. First off it is made with no eggs, butter, or milk. This is handy when these ingredients are unavailable, or if you happen to be out of one or all of them.
No eggs, butter, or milk also means this cake is vegan. That means it's a chocolate cake that everyone can enjoy!
The cake batter comes together quickly and easily. It's almost a kind of dump cake because the cake batter comes together right in the cake pan. It's a fun dessert to make with kids.
(See below—you won't have to ask twice for kids to poke holes in something!)
The simplicity of this chocolate cake makes it perfect any day of the week, for an afternoon snack or an easy, after-dinner chocolate dessert.
🔪 How to make Gram's Easy Wacky Cake Recipe
Cake Recipe Ingredients:
- All-Purpose Flour: King Arthur Flour is my go-to brand
- Sugar: Use white granulated sugar
- Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: Use natural cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
- Baking Soda: This works with the cocoa to make the cake rise
- Salt: Just a pinch
- Oil: Use a neutral oil like canola or grapeseed
- White Vinegar: This ingredient also helps give the cake a light texture
- Vanilla Extract: Use a quality extract like Nielsen-Massey
- Water: Tap water will do!
Step 1: Prepare the dry ingredients
Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, and other dry ingredients. Pour them into a greased, square cake pan and spread them into an even layer.
Step 2: Poke some holes
Poke three holes into the dry mixture—one of the holes should be larger.
Step 3: Add liquids
Pour oil into the larger hole. Vanilla and vinegar get poured into the other two holes. Pour the water into the pan and whisk everything together.
Step 4: Bake!
Bake the cake for about 30 minutes: a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Once the cake has cooled completely on a wire rack, you can frost it, dust it with powdered sugar, and most importantly eat it.
Use your favorite frosting on this cake. Some flavors that go really well with chocolate include peanut butter, vanilla, strawberry, caramel, coconut, marshmallow, and, of course, more chocolate.
You can also skip the frosting and top the cake with a dusting of confectioner's sugar dollops of fresh whipped cream.
- Whisk or sift the dry ingredients well before adding them to the pan, to be sure the baking soda and salt are evenly distributed.
- When mixing the wet and dry ingredients together don't forget to check the corners of the pan for pockets of dry stuff that need to be mixed in.
- If the baked cake comes out with an uneven top, don't stress over it: just spread some extra frosting over the uneven spots!
Ready to get wacky? I really hope so, because this is one tasty Chocolate Wacky Cake.
Find our Gram's Easy Wacky Cake Recipe below. And if you have a massive sweet tooth as my family does, here are more sweet treats to consider:
💬 What do you think of this chocolate wacky cake? Scroll down to leave a comment and a star rating!
Gram's Easy Wacky Cake Recipe
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour, unbleached
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral flavored vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup water
- Frosting of your choice, or confectioner's sugar to dust
Mix the dry ingredients:
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Use nonstick cooking spray or shortening to grease an 8-inch x 8-inch baking pan.
- In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour this dry mixture into the greased pan. Spread it into an even-ish layer.
Add the wet ingredients:
- Use the handle of a wooden spoon (or your finger!) to make three holes in the dry mixture - one of the holes should be a little larger than the other two.
- Pour the canola oil into the larger hole. Pour the vinegar into one of the smaller holes, and finally pour the vanilla extract into the last hole.
- Pour the cup of water over the whole thing and whisk everything together, mixing the dry ingredients with the wet until the cake batter is smooth. Use a rubber spatula or spoon to check the corners of the pan - sometimes pockets of dry ingredients will be hanging out there, and you'll want to stir these in. A few lumps in the batter is totally fine.
- Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let it cool completely.
- Once the cake is cool you can frost it with the frosting of your choice. Or you can dust the top with confectioner's sugar.
- Slice the cake and serve - with a glass of cold milk! Topping slices with a dollop of whipped cream is also very good.
- You can store this cake wrapped at room temperature or in the fridge for up to three days. It does taste very good chilled, so storing it in the fridge is my favorite.
- To add some extra flavor or extra chocolate to this cake, stir in ⅔ cup of chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, or peanut butter chips.
- If the top of the baked cake is uneven, don't stress over it: just spread some extra frosting into the uneven areas!
- When mixing the wet and dry ingredients together don't forget to check the corners of the pan for pockets of flour that need to be mixed in.
The Armchair Squid
No stories? Somewhere, MFK Fisher is turning over in her grave!
The ladies are baking a lot these days. Perhaps I can subtly suggest this recipe...
Yes, exactly. I think your ladies would enjoy this recipe - quick, chocolaty, wacky... what's not to like?
Lori L. MacLaughlin
The cake sounds delicious! Keep on telling those stories. I enjoy reading them.
Thanks Lori ❤️ I hope you and the kids get to try this cake!
I loved hearing the story behind this cake! I have an almost identical family recipe and we call it Steve's Chocolate Cake. Our recipe doesn't call for the 3 holes, but the ingredients are almost exactly the same! I don't know who "Steve" is, but this is a recipe passed around by some of my aunts and cousins. The frosting that we make to go with it is a chocolate sour cream frosting that is so rich and creamy. We also store ours in the fridge and I agree with you that it's so tasty this way. Everyone in my family loves this cake! I like your recipe as it makes a smaller cake (ours is 13 x 9 which is a bit much for just my immediate family). I'll have to give this a try!
See? Everyone has a story behind their favorite foods - I’m so glad you shared yours!! I love that your family has a version of this cake recipe that they’ve passed down as well. It would be a fun project to unearth who Steve was! I think these frugal recipes were a lifesaver for families during lean times, and so not surprisingly they were made pretty frequently. I agree that the smaller size of this cake makes a perfect amount for a couple of days of dessert and no cake going to waste. Thank you for sharing this Heidi! 😍
What is that pretty pink frosting on top? Do you have a recipe for that? Looks yummy!!
Indeed I do! I wrote an article for Taste Of Home, How To Make Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting, and used that frosting on my Wacky Cake. Here's a link to the frosting recipe: https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/how-to-make-strawberry-cream-cheese-frosting/ Enjoy it!