Chocolate Wacky Cake is an old-fashioned recipe from the Great Depression that still tastes amazing in modern times. Requiring NO eggs or dairy, it’s supremely moist and soft with a tender crumb and happens to be naturally vegan!
I love a good and easy cake recipe in my arsenal, and this is a fun one to have on hand when your pantry ingredients are running low.
Especially in this date in time, lots of grocery staples like eggs, butter, and milk aren’t as widely available as they used to be which rules out most cake recipes. Even other oil-based cake recipes require eggs or buttermilk. So when your pantry is paltry at best, it’s time to break out a tried-and-true recipe that will see to it that your craving is quelled.
This is hardly an original recipe. In fact, I can’t really take credit for it at all since even my parents weren’t born when the recipe was conceived. It started out in the Great Depression because it was hard for folks to come across dairy staples. Sometimes the cake is known as “depression cake” or “crazy cake” because it hails from that time period. Thankfully nowadays finding dairy and cold-case products are a bit easier to find, but this cake still has stood the test of time for being an easy, moist and delicious cake.
It’s made in one bowl, comes together quickly and is one of the more moist cakes I’ve tried thanks to the oil as the predominant fat instead of typical butter. However, I did change one teensy thing about the recipe to add more flavor, and I think you’re going to love it. One of my fave tricks about my Best Ever Chocolate Cake with Fudge Frosting is that the cake is made with brewed black coffee for ample flavor. Even if you don’t like coffee, you should still use it because it deepens the chocolate flavor so it is super concentrated and rich tasting. It does not make the cake taste like coffee or mocha.
Since a lot of our flavor (butter, buttermilk) is gone in this cake recipe, I wanted to add in the brewed black coffee to really bring out the flavor from the cocoa and add a rich complexity to the chocolate. I think you’ll agree, this was a smart change!
As far as frosting goes, most frosting is made with butter and/or heavy whipping cream, so to stick with the dairy-free aspect I made a chocolate glaze out of powdered sugar, water, vanilla extract and cocoa powder. Of course, you could break the dairy-free streak and make a homemade chocolate buttercream, top with fresh whipped cream, or even dust it with powdered sugar and serve with berries.
One last cool thing about this Chocolate Wacky Cake is that it happens to naturally be dairy-free and vegan!
So who wants a slice?!
Chocolate Wacky Cake (Depression Cake)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated white sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 2 cups room temperature brewed black coffee this will deepen the chocolate flavor without tasting like coffee. You can always substitute with cool water instead, but I love the richness the coffee adds
- FOR THE CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
- 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-3 Tablespoons water or coffee
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally grease a 9x13 rectangular baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and granulated sugar until combined. Add in the oil, vanilla, vinegar and room temperature coffee OR water and whisk together until a soft, smooth batter comes together. Pour into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean or with moist but not wet crumbs. Cool completely.
- For the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and 2 Tablespoons of coffee OR water until a soft, pourable glaze comes together. If glaze is too thick, add more water, one Tablespoon at a time. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and spread it into an even layer. Allow the glaze to set, about 20 minutes, before cutting into squares.
Super moist, ultra fudgy and definitely decadent!
Craving more chocolate recipes? Check these out!
Brownie-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
Best Ever Copycat Cosmic Brownies
Have a great week!
ronak mehta says
Baked this cake for my birthday and it was an absolute hit! So moist and tasty. Thank you for doing what you do
I made this for my sons birthday and it was a huge hit! Moist, rich, and delicious! Super easy to make and rose beautifully. Thank you Hayley for making the best.
I made this cake and it was absolutely divine! Can you give me tips though as to how to make it stick less to the pan and crumble? Thank you so much ?
Hi Elaine! I would grease it really well with nonstick cooking spray OR shortening and cocoa powder! Just rub a stick of shortening over the pan (you won’t use all of it, just enough to coat the pan’s sides and bottom) and then dust in about 1/4 cup of cocoa powder, tilting the pan so the cocoa powder coats the shortening. Tap out any excess cocoa and add in the batter!
Did you use dark cocoa powder or the normal kind?
Hi Sierra, you could use either but I used regular unsweetened.