Wacky Cake

“If we had a little ham, we could have some ham and eggs, if we had any eggs.” So, goes an old Depression Era joke. Our forebearers kept their sense of humor and their ingenuity and their care for their neighbors. Women made clothing from flour sacks, and when manufacturers found out about it, in an act of sheer kindness, they started to use colorful patterns on the cotton sacks.  Women invented meals using beans and seasonings and a bit of fat. They learned to bake without eggs and use sourdough for preparing bread.

One of my favorite cake recipes has its origin in the Depression. It’s a deliciously moist chocolate cake that uses no eggs or milk or butter. Here is the recipe. It’s fun for kids to do; it’s like making mud pies!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

4 Tablespoons (rounded) unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon vinegar (white or apple cider–I’ve even used red wine vinegar)

I teaspoon vanilla

6 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350

In an ungreased 8 inch square pan (better not to use metal, but I have) sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt directly into the pan and stir it around with a fork.

Make three wells in the mixture. Into one well put the vinegar, into the second the vanilla, and to the third the oil.

Pour the water over the whole thing and mix with a fork until combined and no dry ingredients remain.

Bake about 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

That’s it! I don’t even ice it; if I have confectioner’s sugar, I dust some on top.

My dad loved this cake though he wasn’t fond of sweets, and my older son always requests it for his birthday in May.

What are your favorite easy recipes that can use up staples in your cupboard? Let’s get cooking today!

13 thoughts on “Wacky Cake

  1. Oh I have that recipe, I’ve used it many times and never knew its origins, thanks for that information. My kids just loved the name! It’s a great cake and so simple, though I do mix it in a bowl, not in the actual pan.

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  2. This sounded so good that I copied and printed your ingredients and your recipe. I am going to try to make it over the weekend. I need flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and vanilla. I will make a store run early Saturday morning. Ralph will love this, Diane. Thanks for the recipe!

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  3. What a great recipe and reminder that hard times bring out our creativity. I’ve thought a lot lately about my grandmother’s Depression and WWII-rationing stories. Apparently there was always money for Hershey’s Kisses for there’s a picture of my dad as a toddler covered with their chocolate. It was one of Grandma’s favorites. Wonder what she made with those Kisses (she called them “silvertips”) or if she just bought them for her baby. Must research Depression-era recipes … thanks for this idea!

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  4. Diane, I wrote about wacky cake yesterday, (3/30). Celia told me you had as well. I had to come read it! This cake was a staple to my early baking days in my childhood. I loved this cake. Reading your slice brought more memories into the forefront for me. I was trying to remember how all the liquid and the wells worked together. You reminded me! Thanks for this. My wacky cake was just as delicious as I remember it.

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