Chocolate Wacky Cake is the easiest scratch cake you will ever make! (No eggs, no milk, no butter, no clean-up.) Made exclusively with pantry staples, this surprisingly moist, delicious snack cake mixes up in a jiffy, right in the pan!
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Chocolate Wacky Cake was the first “scratch” cake I ever baked all by myself. (I think I was eight.) So named because it requires no eggs, no milk, no butter, and is mixed directly in the pan, Wacky Cake is a surprisingly moist, delicious chocolate cake that is easy enough for a child to make.
Wacky Cake is dead simple to make, but the origins of the recipe – also known as Crazy Cake, War Cake, Depression Cake, Magic Cake, and even 3-Hole Cake – are somewhat murky.
Wacky Cake is a recipe created for difficult times, passed down from one generation of frugal bakers to the next. There are references to similar cake recipes dating back over a hundred years; clear back to World War I, when War Cake could be found in a 1918 Food Administration Department pamphlet entitled “War Economy in Food,” under “Recipes for Conservation Sweets.”
After The War to End All Wars ended in 1918, Crazy Cake recipes made their way into 1930’s Depression Era kitchens, when budgets were tight, and milk, eggs, and butter were luxuries. Still later, mothers on the home front during World War II relied on this unusual cake recipe as a way to deal with wartime shortages, when milk and eggs were scarce, and other staples (like sugar and coffee) were rationed and in short supply.
Wacky Cake is the easiest scratch cake you will ever make. It is mixed in one pan with a fork. The trick to this cake is the three-hole method of mixing that allows the vinegar and baking soda to combine at the last moment and act as a leavening agent.
Six Simple Steps for Chocolate Wacky Cake
Start your cake now, and it will be ready to eat in less than an hour!
[Actual amounts can be found in the recipe card below]
- Sift together the dry ingredients into a greased 8×8 (or 9×9) cake pan.
- Form three wells in the sifted mix.
- Fill the depressions with  Oil,  Vanilla, and  Vinegar.
- Flood the pan with 1 cup of water.
- Stir with a fork until thoroughly mixed. (Check the corners! I use a spoon to do the initial mixing, and finish by whisking it with a fork.)
- Bake in a 350°F oven for 25-30 minutes.
That’s literally all there this to it. If you work super slow, you might need 15 minutes to mix it up.
BONUS POINTS: No raw eggs in this batter! Go ahead and let the kids lick the fork!
So what does Wacky Cake taste like? It is an exceptionally moist, delicious chocolate snack cake. Surprisingly so, in fact. It’s perhaps not as quite as rich as a true, butter-filled Devil’s Food Cake, but it will definitely satisfy those chocolate cake cravings.
For 1970’s Kids Only: Remember Betty Crocker’s Snackin’ Cakes? Wacky Cake is a lot like those little cakes as far as texture goes, and it tastes something like a Hostess Cupcake without the cream filling, only a little softer and richer.
Recipe Updated March 12, 2020 (Originally published July 30, 2013)
Chocolate Wacky Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F [177°C].Spray an 8x8 pan (or 9x9) with cooking spray.
- Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together directly into the pan.
- Flatten the sifted dry ingredeints and form three depressions in the top - one large and two small.
- Pour oil into the large depression, vanilla into the second depression, and vinegar into the third.
- Pour water over the whole thing.
- Stir with spoon or fork until thoroughly mixed. Be sure to check the corners.
- The cake batter will produce bubbles on the top of the cake.
- Gently tamp the cake pan on the countertop once or twice to release gas. Bake at 350°F [177°C] for 25-30 minutes, until the top springs back when touched.
- Allow cake to cool. Wacky Cake can be served as is, or with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, or iced with your favorite frosting.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
Looking for a good STEAM activity? Consider Wacky Cake as a great opportunity to demonstrate the power of baking soda and vinegar outside a volcano! (Whoohoo kitchen science!)
P.S. If you love baking cakes, be sure to try my scratch-made Triple-layer Strawberry Cake. It’s amazing!
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