Cocoa Cake Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 10 min. Bake: 30 min. + cooling
What makes this treat "wacky" is also what makes it super easy to whip up if you're craving chocolate! Here's how to make a quick wacky cake with pantry staples.

Updated: Jan. 26, 2024

Wacky cake deserves a permanent home in your recipe box. It’s “wacky” because unlike traditional cakes, it’s made without eggs, milk or butter. Whip one up anytime you want a quick dessert or after-school snack. How you top your wacky cake is up to you: it’s lovely with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar or swirls of homemade frosting.

What is wacky cake?

This soft, moist and chocolaty recipe has been around since the 1930s, and was still popular a decade later, when food staples like butter and dairy were rationed during World War II. (It has other names too, like crazy cake and depression cake.) It’s also a lot faster to make than regular cakes, with only 10 minutes to mix it all up. It’s so easy that grandmothers used to bake wacky cake for their husbands almost every night!

Wacky Cake Ingredients

Wacky Cake ingredientsNancy Mock for Taste of Home

  • All-purpose flour
  • Sugar
  • Baking cocoa powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Vegetable oil
  • White vinegar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Cold water
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Step 1: Combine the dry ingredients

Wacky Cake flour siftingNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick spray. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Step 2: Mix in the liquids

Make three wells in the dry ingredients. Pour the oil into one well, vinegar in the next one and the vanilla into the last well. Slowly pour the cold water over the whole thing. Whisk everything together (or use a hand mixer) until everything is combined into a smooth, thin batter.

Step 3: Bake the cake

Wacky Cake liquid ingredientsNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Pour the cake batter into the greased pan and spread it to an even layer. Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire cooling rack. When it’s completely cool, dust the top generously with confectioners’ sugar.

Wacky Cake.toh.nancy Mock 5 Ad EditNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Cover any leftover Wacky Cake with plastic wrap or Bee’s Wrap and store in the fridge for up to three days. By the way, it tastes good when cold, too!

Wacky Cake Tips

How do you make vanilla wacky cake?

To make a vanilla version of this easy cake, omit the cocoa powder and increase the vanilla extract to 1-1/2 teaspoons. (Here are some good vanilla substitutes in case you run out.)

Can you add mix-ins to wacky cake?

Stir in 1/2 to 2/3 cup of extras like chocolate chunks, white chocolate chips, chopped nuts or sprinkles into the batter right before baking. You can also give extra depth with coffee. Simply replace some of the cold water in the recipe with strong coffee that’s cooled.

How do you serve wacky cake with frosting?

Wacky Cake with frosting and sprinklesNancy Mock for Taste of Home

A dusting of confectioners’ sugar works beautifully on this cake, but you can also ice it with your favorite frosting. The sky’s the limit here: use a brown sugar-coconut frosting and a sprinkle of chopped pecans to make an easy German chocolate cake. The flavor of strawberry cream cheese frosting pairs so delectably with the rich chocolate in the cake. And you can always double the chocolate indulgence by spreading on some chocolate buttercream.

When fresh berries are available, spoon them over a slice of Wacky Cake topped with fresh whipped cream. Or, serve slices with scoops of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of hot fudge for wacky cake a la mode.

Watch how to Make Cocoa Cake

Cocoa Cake

Prep Time 10 min
Cook Time 30 min
Yield 9 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cold water
  • Confectioners' sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Using a spoon, make 3 wells in the dry ingredients. Pour oil into the first, vinegar into another and vanilla into the third. Slowly pour water over all. Beat on low speed until thoroughly combined (batter will be thin).
  2. Pour into a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners' sugar.

Nutrition Facts

1 piece: 242 calories, 9g fat (1g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 272mg sodium, 39g carbohydrate (22g sugars, 1g fiber), 2g protein.

THIS CAKE is so moist it doesn't need frosting. I simply sprinkle powdered sugar over the top. It's my favorite dessert to bring for potlucks, and there's never a piece left to take home! -Beulah Sak, Fairport, New York