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What makes this easy, homemade chocolate cake “crazy”? It’s made without eggs or milk! This crazy inventive recipe comes straight from the Great Depression. Recipes were simplified out of necessity in the Depression Era, yet this one still results in a crazy delicious, and rich chocolate cake.
This Chocolate Depression Cake is often called “crazy” or “wacky.” While some ingredients were hard to come by during the Great Depression and wartime, this wacky cake makes use of more common, less perishable items such as vegetable oil instead of butter. This chocolate cake is so easy to make, anyone can do it, and you probably already have the ingredients.
Born in an era of limited food supplies, it manages to satisfy a craving for a decadent dessert without actually being laden with butter, eggs, or milk. In fact, it’s naturally vegan and great with or without frosting. (The buttercream frosting recipe included below is not vegan). A light dusting of powdered sugar adds an elegant finish, and many enjoy it plain.
Crazy Cake Ingredients
- Baking soda
- Vegetable oil
- White vinegar
- Cold water
These ingredients are likely always on hand in your pantry making it a perfect go-to recipe when you have an impromptu celebration. It’s sure to please any chocolate lover on their birthday with its rich, chocolatey taste even without the use of eggs or milk.
Traditional cake recipes use eggs as leavening agents. This recipe uses baking soda to help the cake rise. The white vinegar reacts with the baking soda creating carbon dioxide and giving the cake even more lift, resulting in a cake that is fluffy, yet moist.
How to Make Crazy Cake
FIRST STEP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
SECOND STEP: In an UNGREASED 8x8 pan add the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Using a whisk stir together the ingredients right in the panto kind of sift it all together.
THIRD STEP: Next using your fingers or a spoon make a good-sized well in the middle and two smaller wells one on each side of the center well.
FOURTH STEP: Place the vegetable oil in the center well.
FIFTH STEP: Place the vinegar in a small well and the vanilla in the other small well.
SIXTH STEP: Pour the cold water over all of the ingredients.
SEVENTH STEP: Using the whisk stir until combined. You can also use a spoon to get into the corners and further mix until smooth.
EIGHTH STEP: If there are bubbles in your batter, gently tap the pan on the countertop to release the bubbles.
NINTH STEP: Bake for 30-35minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
TENTH STEP: Remove from the oven to cool completely before serving.
ELEVENTH STEP: Ice with frosting or powdered sugar or plain.
Instead of an 8x8 pan, you could use two 8x4 loaf pans.
This depression cake can be easily doubled for a 9x13 pan.
The icing can be doubled, too, to cover a larger cake.
Instead of throwing away any stale cake (that is if it isn’t all devoured promptly!), use it to make cake balls.
Storing this Recipe
The cake will save at room temperature for several days.
To refrigerate a frosted cake, first chill it uncovered for 15 minutes so the frosting hardens, then cover in cling film and return to the refrigerator to save for 5-7 days. Let the cake sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
To freeze, place the cake on a baking sheet and freeze until frozen solid to the touch. Then, wrap the cake tightly in both plastic wrap and foil to freeze for up to 2 months. Keep the cake wrapped to thaw at room temperature.
- 1 ½ cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tbsp cocoa
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup cold water
- ½ cup butter melted
- ½ cup cocoa
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup milk or more if needed for desired consistency
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In an UNGREASED 8x8 pan add the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Using a whisk stir together the ingredients right in the pan to kind of sift it all together.
- Next using your fingers or a spoon makes a good sized well in the middle and two smaller wells one on each side of the center well.
- Place the vegetable oil in the center well.
- Place the vinegar in a small well and the vanilla in the other small well.
- Pour the cold water over all of the ingredients.
- Using the whisk stir until combined. You can also use a spoon to get into the corners and further mix until smooth.
- If there are bubbles in your batter, gently tap the pan on the countertop to release the bubbles.
- Bake for 30-35minutes or until cake tester comes out clean
- Remove from oven to cool completely before serving.
- Ice with frosting or powdered sugar or plain.
- Place the cocoa in a medium mixing bowl. Add the melted butter. Using a mixer mix together until smooth.
- Add vanilla, powdered sugar, and milk and mix until smooth beating for 2-3 minutes.
Kids LOVED it! Super easy. Frosting is too much for me but of course for children it’s nice and sweet. Tastes really rich without icing also .
Do you have a recipe for a depression white cake or instead of using chocolate can I substitute white all-purpose flour to make a white cake from this.
Layne Henderson says
Hi, Deniece - we haven't tried that, please let me know if you try it. Enjoy!
Is this self rising flour or all purpose flour? TIA
Yessi Santana says
All purpose flour
J Troyer says
My family has been making this cake for years, but without frosting because we call it Happy Cake ...when introducing it to friends. Among ourselves, we call it Half-Baked Cake because we bake it only until 2-3 inches of the edges are baked, leaving a hot liquid center. We serve it in a bowl with vanilla ice cream and have yet to receive anything but rave reviews!
Lois Ramaeker says
Can you use unsweetened applesauce in place of oil?
Hi Lois, Yes I think that would work just fine!
Où se trouve says
I want to try this recipe too. It looks really beautiful.