Rich, moist, and chocolatey, this Chocolate Wacky Cake is made with no eggs, no butter, and no milk! It’s a dairy-free chocolate cake that’s also known as Depression Cake, because it became popular during WWII’s rationing. This easy-to-make cake has always been “the birthday cake” in my family. Topped with creamy chocolate buttercream, it’s the ultimate chocolate dessert!

Overhead view of a pan of chocolate wacky cake with buttercream frosting

Easy Chocolate Depression Cake

I’m excited to share this Chocolate Wacky Cake recipe because it’s one that I grew up on. It’s always been “the birthday cake” in our family, definitely a recipe that’s considered a family tradition.

Mom would bake this cake for every birthday or celebration in the house – and ever since I was little, I’d always help her make it. I was fascinated when Mom then got out her piping tips to decorate our birthday cakes – she did an amazing job and her personalized cakes always made us feel so special.

Wacky cake is also special because it’s made without a few ingredients that we think of as baking “essentials” – and you don’t even need a bowl or mixer! All you need to make this easy chocolate cake is a cake pan, a fork for stirring, and a few very common ingredients. This delicious cake is truly the easiest chocolate cake recipe out there!

A spatula serving a slice of chocolate wacky cake

What is Wacky Cake?

Wacky Cake, also known as Crazy Cake, Depression Cake, and War Cake, is a chocolate cake made without butter, eggs, or milk. So that actually makes it a vegan chocolate cake, for anyone on that kind of diet. The cake became popular during the Depression Era when those baking staples were difficult to find.

So how does this crazy cake work without those ingredients? Vegetable oil replaces butter, and water is used instead of milk. And the magic happens when the vinegar reacts with the baking soda, causing the cake to rise. This cake is wonderfully moist, I love its texture and flavor!

Chocolate wacky cake ingredients

What You’ll Need

This chocolate-crazy cake is made with just a handful of pantry staples, and no dairy products or eggs. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Cocoa powder – Be sure to use unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Baking soda – When this interacts with the vinegar, it gives rise to the cake.
  • Vegetable oil – The oil replaces the need for butter and helps to keep the cake moist.
  • White vinegar – This gets the baking soda working!
  • Cold water
  • Vanilla extract

How to Make Chocolate Wacky Cake

One reason to call this a “wacky cake” or “crazy cake” is how absolutely simple it is to make. It’s so easy it’s crazy!

  • Combine the dry ingredients. In a 9×13 pan, mix the dry ingredients together with a fork. Then make 3 large holes.
  • Add the remaining ingredients. Combine the oil and vinegar, then divide it among the holes in the dry ingredients. Pour water over the entire mixture. Stir with a fork, add the vanilla, and stir again.
  • Bake. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the center is set.

You can surely eat the cake without any frosting, but I say, “What fun is that?!”

Especially when there’s a rich, creamy chocolate buttercream recipe that’s so easy to make. I also love to sprinkle with my favorite sea salt flakes – those pops of salt are ridiculously good!

Angled view of half a pan of chocolate wacky cake
A slice of chocolate wacky cake on a plate

Tips for Success

With a cake this simple, there are only a few things to keep in mind.

  • Use a metal baking pan. A metal pan just conducts heat better and bakes this cake more consistently.
  • Choose the right cocoa powder. Use regular unsweetened cocoa powder in this recipe, not dutch process.
  • Add the ingredients as directed. Follow the directions to add the oil and vinegar into the three holes, and then add the cold water. This gives the vinegar a jump start to interact with the baking soda.
  • Don’t overbake. This cake is supposed to be very moist. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean, but be careful to not overbake.

Can I Make These As Cupcakes Instead?

Absolutely. I make wacky cupcakes just as often as I make wacky cakes! The same ingredients are used, but instead of combining them right in the cake pan, you’ll combine them in a bowl. The process is still the same – combine the dry ingredients, then make the holes for the vinegar and oil – it’s just done in a bowl instead of the pan. Then evenly divide the batter into 24 cupcake liners (the batter will be thin). And adjust the baking time to 20 to 25 minutes.

A fork in a slice of chocolate wacky cake

Serving Suggestions

Personally, I love to top this chocolate crazy cake with a generous amount of my favorite chocolate buttercream frosting. Chocolate on top of chocolate is my favorite combination – and I’m sure all chocolate lovers would agree!

You can also use any other kind of frosting you prefer. Here are a few more tasty options you might like:

If you’d prefer something a little less sweet, you could also top this cake with a dusting of powdered sugar and serve it with some fresh berries. Or how about a spoonful of fluffy whipped cream?!

How to Store

Unfrosted chocolate wacky cake can stay at room temperature for up to 4 days. If you add the buttercream frosting, you can keep it at room temperature for a day or two, but if your home is warm and/or humid, you may want to store it in the fridge instead. Cold chocolate cake is always a win in my book anyway! :)

You can also freeze wacky cake. Allow it to cool completely, then place the cover on the pan. Wrap the pan in two layers of plastic wrap. Then tightly wrap it in heavy-duty foil as well, ensuring it’s all completely covered. Freeze for up to 2 months. Allow to thaw on the counter and then frost before serving.

More Cake Recipes:

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Overhead view of chocolate wacky cake with buttercream frosting in a pan

Chocolate Wacky Cake

Yield: 12 servings
prep time: 10 minutes
cook time: 35 minutes
total time: 45 minutes
Rich, moist, and chocolatey, this Chocolate Wacky Cake is made with no eggs, no butter, and no milk! It's a dairy-free chocolate cake that's also known as Depression Cake, because it became popular during WWII's rationing. This easy-to-make cake has always been "the birthday cake" in my family. Topped with creamy chocolate buttercream, it's the ultimate chocolate dessert!
4.4 Stars (10 Reviews)
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Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  • For 9" x 13" pan: Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • In a 9" x 13" metal baking pan, combine dry ingredients with a fork. Then make 3 large holes in the dry ingredients.
  • Combine vegetable oil and vinegar in a small bowl, and divide this among the 3 holes in the dry ingredients. Then pour the water over the entire mixture. Mix with a fork. Add vanilla, and stir again to combine.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until center of cake is set and toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Take care to not overbake. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Frost with my favorite chocolate buttercream, if desired.

  • For cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 2 standard cupcake pans with 24 paper liners and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients with a fork. Then make 3 large holes in the dry ingredients.
  • Combine vegetable oil and vinegar, and divide this among the 3 holes in the dry ingredients. Then pour the water over the entire mixture. Mix with a fork. Add vanilla and stir again to combine. Divide batter evenly between the 24 cupcake liners.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Take care to not overbake. Remove pan from oven and let cool for 20 minutes before removing cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  • Frost with my favorite chocolate buttercream, if desired.

Notes

From Mom's recipe box – I grew up on this cake, it was always our birthday cake!

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 1 Calories: 379kcal Carbohydrates: 59g Protein: 4g Fat: 14g Saturated Fat: 1g Polyunsaturated Fat: 12g Sodium: 317mg Fiber: 2g Sugar: 33g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Spoonacular. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your own favorite calculator.
Did you make this recipe?Please leave a comment below. And share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #afarmgirlsdabbles or tag @farmgirlsdabble!

Overhead view of chocolate wacky cake with buttercream frosting in a pan