Wacky Cake with Easy Chocolate Frosting (Egg- & Dairy-Free with GF option)

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This clever cake mixes up in a single bowl without the need for eggs or milk, making it ideal when ingredients are low or working around dietary requirements. The size is perfect for smaller celebrations, although the foolproof recipe can easily be doubled.

This clever cake mixes up in a single bowl without the need for eggs or milk, making it ideal when ingredients are low or working around dietary requirements. The size is perfect for smaller celebrations, although the foolproof recipe can easily be doubled.

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrations of all kinds have taken decidedly different twists and turns over the past month or so. Birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weddings, Easter, end-of-school-year events, and so many other meaningful moments have looked a lot different in the face of this ongoing health crisis. (Dinner for two, Zoom, FaceTime?)

But in some form or fashion, these celebrations must go on. Enter Wacky Cake, otherwise known as Depression Cake, a recipe that came to be during the Great Depression, when when eggs, milk and butter were often scarce. People were pretty resourceful during those hard times. (Does anyone have a relative who picked watermelon rinds? For the record, they’re rather tasty!)

Of course, it took some baking science and ingenuity to create a cake without eggs or butter. The result, however, has stood the test of time for a reason. This cake has a light, tender crumb and a delightful chocolate flavor.

But there’s more!

This clever cake mixes up in a single bowl without the need for eggs or milk, making it ideal when ingredients are low or working around dietary requirements. The size is perfect for smaller celebrations, although the foolproof recipe can easily be doubled.

Because this cake is made without those traditional ingredients, it happens to be dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, and can easily be made gluten-free. (I’ve subbed all-purpose GF flour and taste testers couldn’t tell.) Accordingly, the recipe will accommodate virtually any dietary restriction.

Over the years, I’ve shared this recipe with several pediatricians who requested a reliable recipe they could give parents of their young patients with all-too-common egg or dairy allergies.

The trust recipe will also come to the rescue when certain grocery store staples are scarce (snow storm, quarantine?), or when you simply don’t have one of the usual ingredients on hand.

For even more convenience, this cake mixes up in one bowl and yields one single-layer chocolate cake. The smaller size is perfect for smaller celebrations-or maybe just because-although the recipe may be doubled.

Note that the pictured cake was baked in an 8-inch square pan, but a 9-inch round works, too.

Oh, and no mixer is required! See how easy?

This clever cake mixes up in a single bowl without the need for eggs or milk, making it ideal when ingredients are low or working around dietary requirements. The size is perfect for smaller celebrations, although the foolproof recipe can easily be doubled.

 

Reasons to make Wacky Cake

  • Mixes up in a single bowl, without the need for a stand mixer or hand blender
  • Relies on basic pantry ingredients-with no need for eggs, butter or milk
  • Easy to make dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, gluten- free and nut-free
  • Recipe yields a small, single-layer cake but can easily be doubled and/or made into a two-layer cake
  • Delicious with any icing-or a sprinkle of chocolate chips*, squirt of whipped cream or dusting of powdered sugar

*If you prefer more of a snack cake, you can sprinkle the surface with chocolate chips prior to baking. OR you can sprinkle the chips over the cake as soon as you remove it from the oven. Wait a few minutes for the chips to melt, and then spread them over the surface as you would with icing.

 

More frosting ideas

 

Since we’re on the topic of celebrations, I’ve include a brief glimpse into our recent weekend below the recipe cards. 🐰

Wacky Cake
Yield: 8-9 servings
This clever cake mixes up in a single bowl with no need for eggs, butter or milk. It's ideal when ingredients are low or you're working around dietary requirements. Of course, it tastes great, too!
Ingredients

1½ cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour (or gluten-free baking blend)
1 cup (192 grams) sugar
¼ cup (20 grams) cocoa powder (I use regular, not Dutch process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar
⅓ cup (75 mL) safflower oil (or mild-tasting oil of choice)
1 cup (227 mL) freshly brewed coffee (may use decaf or water*)
For serving: Easy Chocolate Frosting (recipe follows) or frosting of choice, whipped cream, or confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350℉. Lightly grease an 8-inch square or 9-inch round cake pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt.
3. Stir in the vanilla, vinegar, oil, and coffee, taking care not to over-mix. There is no need to beat.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. (When using a gluten-free flour blend, I like to let the batter rest in the pan for about 10 minutes. This is particularly helpful when white rice flour is a primary ingredient in the blend.)
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the center is just cooked through. (For those who have trouble determining doneness of baked goods, you can also take the temperature with a quick read thermometer. The reading should be between 200 and 205℉.)
6. Cool the cake completely. Frost as desired and enjoy!

Notes

*We think the chocolate flavor of this cake is enhanced when coffee is used in place of water, but water may absolutely be used. The coffee can be your favorite light to medium roast, or a bolder brew if you prefer. My grandmother’s original Depression-era recipe called for water, less cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon of vinegar. When using water instead of coffee, I recommend using the full tablespoon of vinegar to achieve the proper acidity and resulting rise.

A few more things:
You can double the recipe and bake it in two 9-inch round pans to create a layer cake.
Some people mix the ingredients right in the baking pan, but I think it’s easier to thoroughly incorporate the ingredients in a mixing bowl-and less messy, too!
One friend with whom I shared this recipe likes to sprinkle about ⅓ cup of chocolate chips over the top before baking. She has also added the chips upon removing the cake from the oven, allowing them to soften for several minutes before spreading the melted chips over the surface of the cake like icing.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/
Easy Chocolate Frosting
This easy-to-make recipe is classic chocolate frosting at its best!

Yield: about 1 cup (Enough to frost one 8- or 9-inch square pan or one 9- or 10-inch round pan. You will likely have some leftover when using the smaller pans or if a thin spread is preferred.)
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter (may substitute vegan butter if needed)
  • ⅓ cup (27 grams) cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups (180 grams) confectioner’s sugar
  • 2½ – 3 tablespoons milk (nonfat, 2% or whole may be used, as can your preferred plant-based milk)
Instructions

1. In a mixing bowl, stir the cocoa powder into the melted butter. (Tip: a quart-size Pyrex measuring cup works well with many hand beaters, and the butter can be melted in it first.) Stir in the vanilla, and then add half the sugar and half the milk.
2. Stir to partially incorporate (I use the turned-off beaters-this prevents a powdered sugar dust cloud), and then beat on medium speed, adding the remaining sugar and enough milk to achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. If necessary, add more milk by the scant-teaspoon.

Notes

The frosting may be prepared several days in advance, covered with a piece of plastic wrap pressed onto the surface, and refrigerated. Before spreading on the cake, bring the frosting to room temperature and give it a good stir.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

Because you’re never too old for decorating Easter eggs (and it’s a great activity during a quarantine!), I boiled two dozen eggs for my sons to decorate. My husband stole two eggs from each boy, so next year he might get his own dozen!

Easter eggs!

Thankfully, we have plenty of ways to enjoy the hard boiled eggs, like this tasty twist on the typical egg sandwich⇩⇩ The first photo shows a recent batch about to go in the oven…

Not your usual egg sandwich, the flavor-packed topping can be made in advance and then baked on the bread when ready to eat. Creamy, crunchy and so so good!

…and the photo below shows the creamy, crunchy, cheesy, open-faced sandwiches when done. (They reheat well, too.)

Not your usual egg sandwich, the flavor-packed topping can be made in advance and then baked on the bread when ready to eat. Creamy, crunchy and so so good!

Perhaps my favorite photo from Easter came via text. My youngest niece ⇩⇩, who we weren’t able to see in person, delighted everyone with her unintentional chocolate whiskers! 💕

Loving that Easter chocolate!

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Comments

  1. Jenny Post author

    My family loved it! I followed the recipe exactly and made the chocolate frosting. Delicious! We ate the cake to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 94th birthday and listened to God Save the Queen while we ate it! I think she would have loved it too! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      That is the best, Jenny! I love how you created such a fun celebration for your family and that this cake was a part of it!

      Reply
  2. Gina Post author

    This is the cake I’ve been making my whole life. I think it’s probably the only cake my mom made when we were kids. She taught us how to bake with this recipe, and yes, we licked the beaters. But I had never tried to make it GF!! I used King Arthur’s GF flour and your suggestion to let it rest before baking. I added a peanut butter frosting and it was fantastic! Thanks so much for always adding extra tips and suggestions.

    Reply
        1. Ann Post author

          Almond milk is a perfect substitute, Linda. Thank you for mentioning and I’m so happy the cake is a hit with your grandson!

          Reply