Chocolate Wacky Cake (Depression Cake)

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Wacky cake is a rich, moist vegan chocolate cake that you make without any eggs or butter. The recipe is SO easy to prepare, your kids can help you make it!

square slice of wacky chocolate cake dusted with powdered sugar

Why is it called Wacky Cake?

This cake recipe has been around since the depression era. For this reason, it is also known as depression cake.

In the years during and after the war, dairy products and eggs were difficult to come by. Also, when you could find them, they were very expensive.

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As a result, making versions of this vegan chocolate cake became all the rage. By making cake without dairy products, people were able to indulge in dessert without spending a lot of money to make it.

vegan chocolate cake in square baking pan

Additional depression cake history

Years later, as the recipe became more popular, some people said that making cake without eggs or milk was “whacky”. That’s most likely when the whacky cake was given its new, shorter name, Wacky Cake.

There are also recipes around that call it crazy cake. That’s appropriate too, because it’s definitely a crazy delicious chocolate cake!

square slice of chocolate depression cake with powdered sugar on top

Benefits of making this vegan chocolate cake recipe:

  1. Inexpensive – As mentioned earlier, the ingredients in this recipe are all very inexpensive. In fact, you can probably make an entire cake for around the same cost as buying a slice of cake from a restaurant.
  2. Less dishes to wash Aside from the low cost, another benefit of making this recipe is the fact that you can prepare it right in the baking pan. No extra bowls to wash is always a good thing!
  3. Customizable – If you’re looking for a sturdy cake that holds up well to frosting, this is the recipe for you! Go ahead and make a chocolate layer cake if you want to. Or, keep things simple! I like it with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. You could also make a quick sugar glaze, or even Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting for the top.

slice of rich chocolate cake on a plate, with piece on a fork

 

titled photo (and shown): Grandma's Wacky Cake

Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make this wacky chocolate cake:

  • All purpose flour – I use all-purpose flour. Honestly, don’t know of a wacky cake recipe using a different type of flour. You’re welcome to try it, of course. But, I can’t guarantee that you will have good results.
  • White sugar – If you would like to reduce the calories, your favorite cup-for-cup sugar substitute should work.
  • Baking soda – This helps the cake to rise.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder – There are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder available, natural and “Dutch processed”. The difference is that the beans for Dutch cocoa powder go through an alkaline wash during processing. You can learn more about the differences between the two cocoa powders in this article.

Important note: When you make this recipe, it’s important that you ONLY use natural unsweetened cocoa powder. If you use Dutch cocoa powder, your cake won’t rise!

  • Salt – Kosher salt or sea salt are going to give you the most flavor.
  • Vinegar – When you mix vinegar with baking soda, hydrogen bubbles form. As a result, the bubbles help the cake to rise. Unfortunately, the reaction doesn’t last very long. So, be sure to put your whacky cake in the oven as soon as possible after combining the ingredients.
  • Vanilla extract
  • Oil – Vegetable oil is the preference for most people, but any neutral flavor of oil will work just fine.
  • Water

ingredients to make a vegan chocolate cake recipe

How to make wacky cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Add the dry ingredients to an ungreased 8-inch square baking pan, then whisk to combine.

whisking flour, cocoa powder, salt, and sugar in a square baking dish

  1. Make three wells in the dry mixture. To do this, you can use the tip of your whisk or the back of a spoon.
  2. Add one wet ingredient to each well. The vinegar in well #1, vanilla extract in well #2, and the oil in well #3.

3 wells in dry cake ingredients filled with vinegar, vanilla extract, and vegetable oil.

  1. Pour water over everything and whisk to combine.

adding water to chocolate whacky cake ingredients

  1. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs.

rich vegan wacky cake in baking pan

  1. Allow the cake to cool, then frost or glaze if desired. Serve and enjoy!

slice of chocolate cake with powdered sugar on top, sitting on a plate

Storing instructions

To keep it moist, be sure to keep the cake in an airtight container. It does not need to be refrigerated unless you frost it with buttercream frosting or cream cheese glaze.

It will keep fresh for about a week. If there are no toppings, you can also freeze it for up to three months.

square slice of wacky chocolate cake dusted with powdered sugar
5 from 2 votes

Wacky Cake (Depression Cake)

By: Jen CIncyshopper
Wacky cake is a rich, moist vegan chocolate cake that you make without any eggs or butter. The recipe is SO easy to prepare, you kids can help you make it!
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Servings: 9 Servings

Ingredients 

  • 1 1/2 cup Flour
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 4 tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Oil
  • 1 cup Water

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • In an 8x8" ungreased pan, add flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt.
  • Sir until mixed.
  • Make 3 holes in dry ingredients.
  • Pour vinegar in one, vanilla in another and oil in third.
  • Pour water over all and mix until combined.
  • Bake 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Nutrition

Calories: 279kcal, Carbohydrates: 40g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 272mg, Potassium: 59mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 22g, Calcium: 6mg, Iron: 1mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

titled Pinterest photo collage of Grandma's Wacky Cake

titled photo (and shown): Grandma's Whacky Cake (no milk, eggs, or butter)

dark chocolate cake in a square pan

About Jen Cincyshopper

A lover of food and frugal living. A wife to a wonderful hubby, momma to 5 fun kiddos. Welcome to my blog. You will find REAL TASTY RECIPES. Be sure to subscribe to my email list and follow me on social media, to never miss a recipe.

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5 from 2 votes

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7 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I am very grateful you did share your knowledge here. It is an excellent post. Thank you so much for providing such useful content

  2. This is the perfect cake for the lockdown we’re in! I’m running low on butter and eggs, so I love that I can still make this! I’ll be giving it a shot soon!

  3. Fair. Easy to put together makes a nice size 8×8 small cake with a consistency of a moist brownie. The sourness is a little off-putting but it would do in a pinch.

  4. 5 stars
    I remember this recipe from when I was a kid. Not sure where my mom got the recipe from, but I had lost my copy years ago. I was just recently thinking about this cake. My mother is gone now and I was afraid I would never be able to make this again. Thanks so much!!

  5. I received this recipe in Home Ec in High School in 1957. I have been baking it ever since but I always frost with a chocolate frosting. My family loves it…..