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Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake is a spongy chocolate cake that contains no butter or eggs and is topped with an optional rich chocolate frosting. Also known as depression cake, this recipe was created during the Great Depression as an inexpensive dessert for people who were struggling to feed themselves and their families.

Bite of chocolate cake on a fork.

Wacky Cake (Depression Cake)

The Wacky Cake has been attributed to several different bakers, all of whom claim to have invented it independently. One story claims that a woman named Bertha Wacky created the cake in response to egg and butter shortages during the Depression.

Another version of the story credits a man named Robert Crazy for inventing the cake in an effort to help his mother save money on groceries. Regardless of its true origins, the Wacky Cake has been a popular dessert for generations and is still enjoyed by people today.

Wacky Cake contains no butter or eggs and is usually made with water, oil, and vinegar. However, you can also use coffee or soda in place of the water. The cake is flavored with cocoa powder and typically contains sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.

It can be served as an enticing treat for those on diets or those who cannot tolerate dairy products, or simply as a delicious after-dinner snack!

How To Make Wacky Cake

  1. Prepare for baking: Preheat the oven to 350°F, and spray an 8×8-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until fully mixed and turns a pale brown color.
  3. Add the wet ingredients: Stir in the coffee, oil, vinegar, and vanilla just until combined then pour it into the prepared baking pan. Do not overmix and stir just until no white streaks of flour remain.
  4. Bake the cake: Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
  5. Cool and frost: Allow the cake to cool completely in the cake pan. Remove the cake when cool and frost with chocolate frosting. Slice, serve, and enjoy!
Collage showing how to make wacky bars.

Recipe Tips

  1. When mixing the wet and dry ingredients, make sure you do not overmix, this can toughen the flour leaving a texture that is less spongy.
  2. If you do not have brewed coffee on hand, you can use instant coffee granules or dissolve them in hot water instead.
  3. Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan and frosting. If the cake is not cooled and set, it may crumble.

Variations

  • Instead of chocolate frosting, use vanilla frosting, strawberry frosting, Nutella frosting or any other flavor you like.
  • Add a layer of Nutella, peanut butter, or jam between the cake and frosting for an extra layer of flavor.
  • Add texture and crunch by folding in nuts, chocolate chips, or shredded coconut into the batter before baking.
Top down view of a slice of wacky cake on a plate.

Can Wacky Cake be made into cupcakes?

Yes, Wacky Cake can easily be made into cupcakes. Just fill a standard muffin tin with about ⅓-cup of batter and bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Can Wacky Cake be made without coffee?

Yes, Wacky Cake can be made without coffee. Replace the brewed coffee with hot water or additional oil. The flavor of the cake will change slightly but it will still taste delicious.

Can Wacky Cake be made into a layer cake?

Yes, Wacky Cake can easily be turned into a layer cake. Just double the batter and use an additional baking pan for each layer to create two thin layers. Frost in between using chocolate frosting and add another coating of chocolate on the top and sides before slicing.

Storing and Freezing

Storing: Wacky Cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Freezing: Since Wacky cake has a delicate texture, freezing must be done carefully. Freeze the cooled unfrosted cake on a sheet pan overnight until solid. Then carefully wrap in plastic wrap and place it in a sealed freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months. Let it thaw overnight in the fridge before frosting and slicing.

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Yield: 1 (8x8-inch) Cake

Wacky Cake

Slice of wacky cake with chocolate frosting on a plate.

Wacky Cake is a spongy chocolate cake that contains no butter or eggs and is topped with an optional rich chocolate frosting.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Cool Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cup coffee
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Optional: chocolate frosting

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and spray an 8x8-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. Stir in the coffee, oil, vinegar and vanilla just until combined then pour it into the prepared baking pan.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
  5. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.
  6. Slice and serve or ice the cake with your favorite homemade or store-bought chocolate frosting once it has cooled completely.

Notes

*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and a serving size of 1 slice of wacky cake. Actual calories will vary.

*For more information, tips, and answers to frequently asked questions, please refer to the post.

*Photos courtesy of Karla Rae Photography.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

9

Serving Size:

1 slice

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 289Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 251mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 1gSugar: 25gProtein: 3g

*The calories are an estimate and are based on the ingredients and serving size listed. The calories can vary depending on the brand of product purchased.

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Barbara

Tuesday 25th of January 2022

Have been making this cake for years. Got it from King Arthur Flour. Considering the ingredients, one wonders how it is so decadent, even without frosting! I add a tablespoon of Espresso powder to the batter.

Kimberly

Tuesday 25th of January 2022

Hi Barbara!

These vintage recipes are some of my favorites! It is interesting how this one works so well considering some of the basic cake ingredients are missing. Have a great day! :)

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