Wacky Cake Recipe — Easy Chocolate Cake

This moist chocolate Wacky Cake recipe is so good! It’s basically a simple vegan cake that’s been around for nearly a hundred years. If you’re into chocolate, you’ll love this light and fluffy goofy cake that’s topped with a rich, indulgent, wacky cake frosting.

A slice of chocolate wacky cake has a fork with a bite taken out sitting in front of it. There's another slice sitting behind it.

We are loving this chocolate wacky cake because it’s rich and delicious, but oh-so-easy to make. If you haven’t guessed by now, I love a good cake!

What’s surprising is just how moist this cake is considering the limited ingredients and the minimal steps involved. Did you think the only way to a great cake was through a mixer? Think again!

When my mom first started talking about wacky chocolate cake recipe I was like, Wahhh??? Or, actually, I might have been a little more like, yeah, yeah, whatevs. But then one day my mom gave me her old recipe book, the one she’s been using for years. And then I started flipping through it and sure enough, there was a recipe for Wacky Cake and there it just so happens to be vegan!

What is Wacky Cake?

The wacky cake has an interesting history. It’s been around since the Great Depression of the early 1900s, which is why it’s also referred to as Depression Cake. During the Great Depression, people didn’t always have access to milk and cream, eggs, and even sugar, so they made do. The wacky cake is made without eggs or milk, and yet it’s moist and delicious.

Interestingly enough, it’s the combination of ingredients like sugar, vegetable oil and the gluten in the flour that gives this cake such rise and keeps it moist too. Of course, you could add up to a half cup of applesauce to make it even more moist. I’ve done that from time to time myself, but mostly, I find this cake is plenty moist exactly as is.

A slice of chocolate cake has frosting and sprinkles on top. Another slice sits behind it.

My mom tells me how sometimes for Christmas they’d get an orange and that was really special. It certainly makes me look at the oranges I eat differently. We have so much to be thankful for.

Anyway, my mom and I took that crazy cake recipe from her book and adapted it a little bit.

 

How to Make Wacky Cake

I couldn’t believe how easy it is to make this wacky cake chocolate. No mixers, exotic ingredients, or even egg replacers. Just mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet ingredients in another bowl and then combine them together and, Eureka! You’ve got a rich, moist, and delicious vegan chocolate cake!

Wacky Cake Ingredients

You’ll need these ingredients for your wacky cake:

  • flour — I typically use all-purpose flour, however, you could also use whole wheat pastry flour (not the same thing as whole wheat flour). If you want to use whole wheat flour, just do half and half with all-purpose flour. Alternatively, you can sub gluten-free flour as well.
  • cocoa powder — I use natural cocoa powder for this cake, but you can use dutch-processed flour for a darker cake.
  • sugar — You can use granulated sugar, raw sugar, or even coconut sugar here and all will work fine. I have experimented with reducing the sugar to 3/4 of a cup and it still works. Sugar plays a role in building structure and creating a more moist cake, so reducing it too much can make a dryer cake.
  • baking soda — The only thing I have to say here is to make sure your baking soda is fresh. You can test it by adding a bit of vinegar to it in a small bowl. If it bubbles, you’re good to go.
  • water — Are you surprised to see water in the list of ingredients? You may think you need to use something like a creamy plant-based milk. But, this cake gets its moisture from the vegetable oil, so using water is just fine. In fact, it’s preferable.
  • vegetable oil — Any vegetable oil should do here. I typically use canola oil.
  • apple cider vinegar — If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, a white vinegar will work as well. The purpose of vinegar is to interact with the baking soda and create rise in the cake as it bakes. I would call it a miracle, but it’s actually science.

I have previously used vanilla extract in this recipe, but I have learned recently that adding vanilla to a cake is not necessary. In fact, I think we do it mostly out of habit. I have a guess that if you taste tested two cakes, one with vanilla and one without, even the pickiest of tasters wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. So, I say, leave it out.

Step One: Combine Dry Ingredients

To begin, stir together in a large mixing bowl the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Set this aside.

Ingredients for a cake are in a mixing bowl.

Step Two: Combine Wet Ingredients

In a smaller bowl stir together the vegetable oil, water, vinegar and vanilla.

Pour the water mixture into the flour mixture and then stir until combined. This recipe is so simple, it doesn’t even require a mixer!

A hand holds a bowl of wet ingredients pouring it into a bowl with cocoa infused flour ingredients.

Step Three: Pour into a Prepared Pan and Bake

Pour the batter into a prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

You can either serve the cake in the pan, or allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes and invert it onto a serving plate. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar or top with vegan chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Ganache

For an even more elegant presentation of your cake, top it with a sultry chocolate ganache.

Here’s how to make chocolate ganache: place 1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl, add 1/2 cup rich, creamy plant-based milk (like coconut milk or thick and creamy vegan creamer). Heat this in the microwave for about one minute. Allow it to sit for another minute or so.

Then stir until all the chocolate is melted and the milk is incorporated into a creamy, chocolate mixture. Pour this over the cake and allow it to sit until the chocolate has firmed up. Or, you can eat it while the chocolate is still warm — it’s great that way too!

Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see a slice of cake with chocolate ganache frosting. It really is elegant!

A fork sits beside a slice of wacky cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles. Another slice of cake sits on a plate behind it.

Expert Tips

I’ve made this cake so many times — it is definitely a go-to favorite! Here are some tips and tricks along with variations to make your vegan wacky cake recipe extra special:

  • Be sure to prepare your pan before you combine the wet and dry ingredients. This helps take advantage of the chemical reaction of combining the acid from the vinegar with the baking soda to make the cake nice and fluffy
  • I do like to add a piece of parchment paper to the bottom of the pan, simply because it makes removing the cake from the pan much easier. However, if you intend to serve it in the pan, you won’t need parchment paper
  • You’ll also want to have your oven pre=heated before combining wet and dry ingredients
  • You can add chocolate chips to the batter to make a double chocolate cake
  • Chopped walnuts added to the batter or even on top of the frosting is very tasty
  • Make wacky cake cupcakes by lining a cupcake pan with papers and filling each with the batter until about 3/4 full. For cupcakes, I bake them about 20 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • This recipe is for a single round or square cake pan. but if you want to make a wacky cake 9X13 size, simply double the recipe, pour the batter into a greased 9X13 cake pan, and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Personally, a cake has to have amazing frosting to make my list of favorites. But if you want to skip that step, you can always just give it a sprinkling of powdered sugar.
  • Be sure to let the cake cool completely before frosting it
  • Also, I love using coconut oil in this chocolate wacky cake recipe. Simply measure out coconut oil instead of the vegetable oil. I find it helps to melt the coconut oil first.

Great Vegan Frostings

I think the key to a great cake lies in its frosting. I’m a corner-piece, frosting loving gal! So, if you’re looking for great frosting for this cake, here are my favorites:

Love Vegan Cake Recipes?

Sure you love chocolate wacky cake recipes! But doesn’t that leave you wanting more vegan cake recipes? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

A hand holds a fork digging into a slice of chocolate cake.

I hope you love this recipe as we do! Have you tried it? Be sure and leave a comment and a rating of this recipe below and then take a quick photo and share it with me using #namelymarly on Instagram. I love seeing your creations!

A slice of chocolate wacky cake has frosting and sprinkles on top.

Chocolate Wacky Cake Recipe

Vegan Chocolate Wacky Cake – a super simple, delicious chocolate cake that will leave you ready for another slice of this delicious chocolate dessert.
5 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chocolate Wacky Cake Recipe
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 9
Calories: 239kcal
Author: Namely Marly

Ingredients

  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Vegan Chocolate Frosting

Instructions

  • Heat your oven to 350F. Spray a round cake pan with vegetable spray. You can also place a piece of parchment paper at the bottom of the pan and spray the sides with vegetable oil.
  • Combine in a large mixing bowl the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Stir to combine.
  • In a smaller bowl combine the vegetable oil, water, and vinegar. Stir to combine.
  • Pour the water mixture into the flour mixture. Stir until combined.
  • Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar or top with Chocolate Frosting.

Notes

The nutritional estimate for this recipe is for the chocolate cake without frosting.
Nutrition Facts
Chocolate Wacky Cake Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 239 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 7g35%
Sodium 254mg11%
Potassium 71mg2%
Carbohydrates 40g13%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 22g24%
Protein 3g6%
Calcium 7mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

No eggs cakes recipes are pretty amazing! Here are some other delicious vegan chocolate cakes to try:

Whatever cake you’re polishing off, enjoy!

The photos for this post were recently updated. Here’s an example of the old photos.

Vegan Chocolate Wacky Cake - a super simple, delicious chocolate cake that will leave you ready for another slice of this delicious chocolate dessert.
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33 Responses to Wacky Cake Recipe — Easy Chocolate Cake

    • Since white sugar is filtered through charcoal made from cattle bones, what sweetener do you recommend?

    • Some vegans elect to not eat white, refined sugar. Not me. I decided a long time ago that it felt too restrictive. First of all, there are some sources of white refined sugar that are not made via the process you describe, and it’s not always easy to tell which kind you’re getting. I wrote a post on 10 Ways to Be Vegan where I point out that you cannot be 100% animal cruelty free, so somewhere along the vegan spectrum, you are making choices. I respect people and the choices they make for the degree of veganism they choose for their lives. I’m sure you already know, Ella, there are lots of choices for sweeteners, including coconut sugar, sugar in the raw, etc. It’s typically sold in health food stores or in the health food sections of most grocery stores.

    • Hi Cathy! I made this cake using an all-purpose gluten-free flour last week and it worked fine. The batter was a little thick so I added an additional quarter cup of water. Make sure to include that chocolate frosting. It’s so good!

    • You could try using coconut sugar which has a lower GI. I haven’t tried this myself but am a big fan of Truvia. Just a note though, whenever I’ve used sugar substitutes in a recipe, it tends to make it a little dry, so be aware of that. Let me know how it goes!

  1. I just made this cake……. it’s just gone in the oven, yum!!!!!!!!! I can’t eat chocolate so I substituted the cocoa powder for carob powder & it tastes amazing. Thank you for sharing this recipe!!!!! I look forward to cooking more of your recipes

    • Oh, I’m so excited…and kinda of jealous too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this recipe…and now I want to make it again! 🙂 Also, great idea for the carob powder. Check out my Peanut Butter Wacky Cake recipe too – where I used peanut butter powder instead of cocoa! 🙂

  2. Hi Marly! Thanks for the recipe, I baked it just now, haven’t tasted yet, but I have a question. I followed your recipe, really tried to get the measurements just right, but when I took the cake out of the oven – it was risen unevenly and had deep cracks all over. Do you maybe know what could have caused this? Thanks!

    • Hi Goda. Thanks for your comment. Typically deep cracks in a cake can indicate the oven was too hot. And if it is raising unevenly it can be another sign of issues with the oven. Here’s a link to an article I found on cake baking issues and tips for resolution. We’ve enjoyed this cake recipe so many times – my mom makes it for us too – and haven’t experienced cracks or uneven rising. I even made a gluten-free version of the cake (using all purpose gluten-free flour) and it turned out great as well. I hope this is helpful. https://thelavonneblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/basics-of-baking-with-chef-avin/

  3. Thank you for the reply! I really loved the cake (had icing sugar on top instead of the frosting), so I’ll have the oven issue in mind next time I’m making it (with the frosting). By the way, I used coconut sugar instead of usual sugar and the taste was lovely!

  4. Love this cake for my son who has many allergies. Will definitely be making it for his birthday!
    Have you used this recipe for cupcakes? Wondering how it changes the cooking time?

    • I’m so glad to hear this cake will work for your son and his allergies, Megan! I would set the timer for 18 minutes or so and then check the cupcakes by inserting a toothpick (or piece of spaghetti) in the center of one of the cupcakes to see if they’re done. Hope you love them!

  5. I have made this cake twice in a week. The second time I tripled the recipe because someone wanted a vegan cake for a graduation. I substituted the water with unsweetened almond milk and used 3/2 c of date sugar instead of regular sugar. The first one I made I followed your recipe but used less sugar since I used frosting. It was delicious!!

  6. I made this chocolate wacky cake and it was a hit! Everyone in my family just loved it and is waiting for the next one!!! Thanks for such mouth-watering recipes.

  7. Thanks, Marly for this awesome and delicious recipe. Chocolate Wacky Cake is one of my favorite cake. It is very yummy.

    After switching to veganism, I have faced many problems like what to eat or what to not. Especially some foods taste are not satisfactory.
    I have made the cake by following your recipe. It tastes awesome. I just love chocolate cake.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Thanks, Samia! I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe. I experienced the same thing — my taste buds changed so much after switching to a vegan diet. In fact, one of the things I hated giving up was mozzarella. But after awhile eating vegan mozzarella, then one day I ordered a pizza with vegan mozzarella, but they accidentally brought me a pizza with cow dairy mozzarella. It was gross! I couldn’t stand it! So, I get what you’re experiencing. Finding good vegan recipes helps so much. Sending you hugs and happiness!

  8. Hey, Marly. I really love the vegan Chocolate cake. I have made the cake by following your recipe. I wish I could send you the pic. It looks amazing. It was delicious.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe!!!

    • Hi Melissa! Thanks for your comment — I’m so glad you like this recipe! It is definitely my go-to favorite too!

  9. Hi, Marly. Wow, awesome tasty recipe. I am doing a vegan diet and facing a lot of problems. I am being confused about what to cook cause I don’t want to compromise with my taste bud.
    Your recipe is fantastic. I love chocolate, I can’t think to quit this!
    I am bookmarking the article.
    Thanks a lot for your recipe!

    • Thanks, Lorraine! So glad you liked it! Easy and budget-friendly are some of my favorite ingredients! 🙂

  10. This is a great cake. I have friends and family with allergies and its great to know there is a cake I can make that we can all celebrate with. Thanks for a brilliant recipe.

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