How to Make Easy Wacky Cake

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What makes this treat "wacky" is also what makes it super easy to whip up if you're craving chocolate! Here's how to make a quick wacky cake with pantry staples.

Wacky Cake deserves a permanent home in your recipe box. It’s “wacky” because unlike traditional cakes, it’s made without eggs, milk or butter.

What Is Wacky Cake?

This soft, moist and chocolaty recipe has been around since the 1930s, and was still popular a decade later, when food staples like butter and dairy were rationed during World War II. (It has other names too, like Crazy Cake and Depression Cake.) It’s also a lot faster to make than regular cakes. It’s so easy that my grandmother used to bake Wacky Cake for my grandfather almost every night!

Whip one up anytime you want a quick dessert or after-school snack. How you top your wacky cake is up to you: it’s lovely with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar or swirls of homemade frosting.

How to Make Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake ingredientsNancy Mock for Taste of Home

This recipe was shared by Beulah Sak of Fairport, New York, who says this dessert is her favorite to bring to potlucks. It takes only 10 minutes to mix and 30 minutes to bake.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons baking cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cold water
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Tools You’ll Need

Directions

Wacky Cake flour siftingNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Step 1: Combine the dry ingredients

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick spray. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Step 2: Mix in the liquids

Make three wells in the dry ingredients. Pour the oil into one hole, vinegar in the next one and the vanilla into the last hole. Slowly pour the cold water over the whole thing. Whisk everything together (or use a hand mixer) until everything is combined into a smooth, thin batter.

Step 3: Bake the cake

Wacky Cake liquid ingredientsNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Pour the cake batter into the greased pan and spread it to an even layer. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire cooling rack. When it’s completely cool, dust the top generously with confectioners’ sugar.

Wacky Cake.toh.nancy Mock 5 Ad EditNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Cover any leftover Wacky Cake with plastic wrap or Bee’s Wrap and store in the fridge for up to three days. By the way, it tastes good when cold, too!

Wacky Cake Recipe Variations

Make Vanilla Wacky Cake

To make a vanilla version of this easy cake, omit the cocoa powder and increase the vanilla extract to 1-1/2 teaspoons. (Here are some good vanilla substitutes in case you run out.)

Add Mix-Ins

Stir in 1/2 to 2/3 cup of extras like chocolate chunks, white chocolate chips, chopped nuts or sprinkles into the batter right before baking. You can also give extra depth with coffee. Simply replace some of the cold water in the recipe with strong coffee that’s cooled.

Wacky Cake with frosting and sprinklesNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Top with Homemade Frosting

A dusting of confectioners’ sugar works beautifully on this cake, but you can also ice it with your favorite frosting. The sky’s the limit here: use a brown sugar-coconut frosting and a sprinkle of chopped pecans to make an easy German chocolate cake. The flavor of strawberry cream cheese frosting pairs so delectably with the rich chocolate in the cake. And you can always double the chocolate indulgence by spreading on some chocolate buttercream.

When fresh berries are available, spoon them over a slice of Wacky Cake topped with fresh whipped cream. Or, serve slices with scoops of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of hot fudge for Wacky Cake a la mode.

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Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.