★★★★★

Wacky Cake

A delicious chocolate cake with minimal ingredients that just so happens to be dairy free, egg free and vegan! Wacky Cake is just as easy as using a boxed mix and so tasty that it might become your new go-to chocolate cake recipe.

Big slice of chocolate cake made with no eggs, milk, or butter. On a white plate with a silver fork.

A scrumptious chocolate cake without butter, eggs or milk? You bet.

Like any other baker, I’m not shy about baking with butter and eggs.

But when baking ingredients are scarce or you need a cake you can serve to your friends with allergies, you need a chocolate cake recipe that’s just as good as those traditional ones.

That’s where Wacky Cake comes to the rescue!

What is a Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake. . .crazy cake. . . depression cake . . . this chocolate cake recipe goes by a lot of names. The “wacky” moniker is my favorite because it makes me feel like I’m baking some whimsical treat from Wonderland.

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In reality, there’s nothing too crazy about this cake.

It’s a moist and sweet chocolate cake that can be frosted with thick buttercream or garnished with a simple dusting of powdered sugar.

What makes it “wacky” is the lack of traditional milk, butter or eggs found in many chocolate cakes.

Another thing I love about this cake is that you mix the batter together right in the cake pan!

That makes this cake the gold standard for those of us who loathe doing dishes (or those of us who forgot to run the dishwasher and have no clean bowls).

With only a few pantry-staple ingredients and only one dish to wash, this Chocolate Wacky Cake will save the day anytime you need a chocolate dessert at the last minute!

It tastes like all the best chocolate cakes should. You’ll never notice it’s a dairy free, egg free and vegan cake.

Slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting on a spatula being lifted out of the cake pan.

Chocolate Depression Cake

The origins of Wacky Cake can be traced back to the Great Depression, when items like butter and eggs were rare in many home kitchens.

So, innovative ladies came up with this method for mixing flour, sugar, cocoa powder, oil and vinegar with water to create a satisfying chocolate cake for all occasions. And peace and harmony were restored.

(That’s my theory, any way.)

And, did I mention? It tastes amazing, you won’t even miss the dairy and eggs!

There aren’t any hard to find ingredients that’ll have you running all over town to track down! Just staples you probably already have stocked in your cupboard.

Once you try it, you might even like it so much that this will become your new favorite basic chocolate cake recipe. I

Chocolate wacky cake is a versatile, easy, one bowl recipe with an irresistibly chocolate-y taste!

Slice of chocolate wacky cake with buttercream frosting on a white plate, with cake in background.

Chocolate Wacky Cake Ingredients

If you have these ingredients in your pantry, you can make wacky cake:

{Ingredients at a glance; scroll down for full recipe with amounts]

  • Flour
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Sugar
  • White Vinegar
  • Oil
  • Baking Soda
  • Vanilla
  • Salt
Step by step directions to make a chocolate depression cake IN the pan with no mixing bowl.

How to Make Chocolate Wacky Cake

Making this Wacky Cake recipe is unbelievably easy.

STEP 1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8×8-inch baking pan with shortening and flour (or homemade cake release). In the pan, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt.

STEP 2. Make 3 wells in the dry mix and add the vanilla, white vinegar, and vegetable oil (2 small wells for the vanilla and vinegar and 1 large for the oil).

STEP 3. Pour the water on top and whisk all ingredients until combined. You may use a spoon or spatula to get into the corners of the pan.

STEP 4. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely.

Sprinkle cooled cake with powdered sugar or top it with buttercream frosting.

Step by step photos to make chocolate buttercream frosting for crazy cake recipe.

Buttercream Frosting

Traditional Depression Cakes were served naked or dusted with powdered sugar in lieu of buttery frostings, but I opted to ice mine with this rich chocolate buttercream frosting.

For the frosting you need:

  • Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • Unsalted Butter (softened, room temperature)
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract

STEP 1. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave or double boiler. Let cool completely .

STEP 2. While chocolate chips are cooling, place butter into a medium mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.

STEP 3. Add ½ cup of powdered sugar. Beat until smooth. Add the rest of the powdered sugar. Using a spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl. Continue beating about a minute until all the powdered sugar is incorporated.

STEP 4. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy and has a smooth texture.

Chocolate frosted wacky cake on a white plate with a mug of milk.

Recipe Notes

  • Mix the cake right in the pan NOT a bowl.
  • This cake is best eaten within 3 days. Store it covered at room temperature (or wrapped in plastic wrap).
  • I added buttercream frosting this time but it’s just as delicious topped with just powdered sugar to keep things dairy free.

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More Easy Dessert Recipes

Yield: 16 servings

Wacky Cake

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

A delicious chocolate cake with minimal ingredients that just so happens to be dairy free, egg free and vegan! Wacky Cake is just as easy as using a boxed mix and so tasty that it might become your new go-to chocolate cake recipe.

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For the Frosting (OPTIONAL)

  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease an 8x8-inch baking pan with shortening and flour (or baking spray).
    2. In the pan, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt.
    3. Make 3 wells in the dry mix and add the vanilla, white vinegar, and vegetable oil (2 small wells for the vanilla and vinegar and 1 large for the oil).  
    4. Pour the water on top and whisk all ingredients until combined.  You may use a spoon or spatula to get into the corners of the pan.
    5. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool completely.
    6. Sprinkle cooled cake with powdered sugar or top it with buttercream frosting.
    7. To make the frosting, place chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the chips are completely melted and are a smooth consistency.  Cool completely to room temperature.
    8. While chocolate chips are cooling, place butter into a medium mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  
    9. Add ½ cup of powdered sugar.  Beat until smooth. Add the rest of the powdered sugar.  Using a spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl. Continue beating about a minute until all the powdered sugar is incorporated.
    10. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla.  Beat for 2 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy and has a smooth texture.
    11. Frost cooled cake and enjoy.

Notes

  • Wacky cake is also commonly called Depression Cake. The Cake itself has no butter, eggs, or milk.
  • I paired my cake with a buttercream frosting, but to keep it simple you could also sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  • Cake is best eaten in 3 days. Can be stored at room temperature.
  • MIX the cake in the baking pan (not a bowl).

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 243Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 147mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 1gSugar: 22gProtein: 2g

*Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietitian for special diet advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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With this Wacky Cake, you’ll never have to forgo chocolate cake just because you’re low on ingredients. Make it today for a delightfully simple and delicious dessert everyone can enjoy!

Aimee

About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

Affiliate Disclosure:**There may be affiliate links in this post! By clicking on them, or purchasing recommended items I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love! Thank you for supporting Shugary Sweets! See my disclosure policy for more info**

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Posted on April 8, 2020

Comments & Reviews

  1. Could I use coconut oil in the frosting instead of butter? My done can’t tolerate any dairy and margarine is less healthy. Thank you!

  2. I have not used this recipe yet, but I remember always making crazy cakes when I was a kid in the 80s. It looks like the same thing that I remember.
    I’m going to let my 7 year old make this ( under my supervision) We will see if he can do it 😀

  3. My sister and I made this cake on Easter Sunday for our dinner guests…made it in a bundt pan and baked in a convection oven…turned out perfect…love the frosting…will frost everything with that frosting..no more store bought… thanks again…(can’t taste the vinegar)

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