Old Fashioned Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake, also known as Depression Cake or War Cake, is a light and fluffy chocolate cake made with no eggs, butter, or milk. It’s even mixed in the pan that it’s baked in!

slice of wacky cake on a white plate, surrounded by strawberries and topped with whipped cream.

Ever tried an Old Fashioned Wacky Cake? It has a slightly wacky method and wacky ingredients. Or rather, it’s the ingredients that are missing that makes it wacky!

It’s also known as Crazy Cake, Depression Cake, or War Cake.

Wacky Cake is a moist, chocolatey cake that is perfect for a quick and easy dessert. It is also a great option for people with dietary restrictions, as it is egg-free, milk-free, and butter-free (so yes, it’s vegan!).

You can also make a vanilla version—see my Vanilla Wacky Cake with Sprinkles for the recipe!

Wacky Cake is a far cry from Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake and Turtle Cake from more recent decades, but dare I say that sometimes, simple can be just as delicious? I was pleasantly surprised by how truly tasty Wacky Cake is!

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Why is it called wacky cake?

The origin of wacky cake is a bit murky, but it is thought to have originated during World War II, when rationing made it difficult to find certain ingredients, such as eggs, milk, and butter. It may also have dated back to the Depression era, as a way to make do with ingredients on hand.

Wacky cake is a simple, one-bowl cake that does not require eggs, milk or butter, making it a popular choice during that time.

There are several different versions of the wacky cake recipe, but they all share the same basic ingredients: flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, oil, vinegar, salt, and vanilla extract. The cake is mixed in an 8×8-inch square baking dish, and then the cake is baked in that very same dish.

Tips for making wacky cake

  • The combination of baking soda and vinegar create the lift that mimics the lift that eggs typically provide in a cake, so don’t skip the vinegar!
  • Use a spatula to check the corners of the pan before baking—sometimes the dry ingredients hide in the corners, and you’ll want to get them all incorporated.
  • Don’t want to mix the cake in the pan? You can use a mixing bowl instead. Just stir everything together and then pour into the pan.
  • The cake will not slice cleanly when warm (though it will still taste good!). I chilled the cake for a few hours before slicing it to get nice, even slices.


flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and other ingredients on a white table.

Everything can be found in the pantry—no need to open the refrigerator for this cake! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (white vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup water

How to make old fashioned Wacky Cake

Grab an 8×8 inch square baking pan. I used a glass Pyrex dish.

Place the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the dish. Whisk or stir with a fork to combine.

Make 3 wells into the dry ingredients. Pour the vinegar into one well, the vegetable oil into another, and the vanilla extract into the final well.

flour mixture with three wells, filled with oil, vanilla, and vinegar.

Pour the water over the top, and mix with a fork or whisk to combine.

Make sure to check the corners of the pan to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated!

chocolate cake batter in a square glass disk with a whisk.

Now, can you just whisk the cake together in a bowl and get the same results? Yes! Some cooks prefer that method. It does dirty a bowl, so if you don’t mind the extra dish, you can definitely mix everything in a bowl.

Bake the cake at 350°F for 30–35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Let the cake cool completely before slicing.

Serving suggestions

To serve, run your knife along the edges of the cake to release it from the pan. Cut it into squares and serve. I find that the cake slices the most neatly when it is refrigerated for an hour or two before slicing.

Here are a few ideas for topping the cake:

  • Add whipped cream
  • Spread with your favorite homemade chocolate frosting (like the one from my Cocoa Drop Cookies)
  • Top with a can of frosting
  • Sprinkle with a dusting of powdered sugar
  • Enjoy it plain!

Wacky Cake does not need to be refrigerated. You can either store it at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

slice of wacky cake on a plate, surrounded by strawberries and topped with whipped cream.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to grease the pan?

You do not need to grease the pan. You can if you’d like, but I find that it’s difficult to mix all the dry ingredients when the pan is greased.

Can wacky cake be made into cupcakes?

Yes! Spoon the batter into a cupcake tin, about ¾ of the way full. Bake at 350°F for 18–20 minutes.

Is wacky cake vegan?

Wacky Cake is indeed vegan—it doesn’t not contain milk, eggs, or butter.

Can you freeze wacky cake?

Wacky cake can be frozen for up to 3 months. Let the cake cool fully, then wrap in plastic wrap. Slide into a resealable freezer bag and let all the air out. The cake can be defrosted overnight at room temperature.


Over the years, cooks have adapted this recipe in many ways. Here are a few of them:

  • Replace the water with a cup of coffee (room temperature or cold, NOT hot!)
  • Add a handful of chocolate chips to the batter
  • Add a handful of chopped nuts to the batter
  • Use apple cider vinegar in place of white vinegar
  • Top the cake with frosting (canned or homemade)
chocolate wacky cake slice topped with whipped cream on a white plate next to a few strawberries.

More old fashioned chocolate desserts

Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!

📖 Recipe

slice of chocolate wacky cake on a white plate, topped with whipped cream.

Old Fashioned Wacky Cake

Published by Kate
Wacky Cake, also known as Depression Cake or War Cake, is a rich and moist chocolate cake made with NO eggs, milk, or butter!
4.82 from 16 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 9 servings
Calories 236 kcal


  • cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup water


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in an 8×8 inch pan. Whisk to combine.
  • Make 3 wells in the flour mixture. Pour the oil into one well, the vinegar into another well, and the vanilla into another well. Pour the water over everything.
  • Whisk the mixture until a cake batter forms. You may need to use a spatula on the corners of the pan to make sure all of the dry ingredients get mixed in.
  • Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Let cool, slice, and serve. You can top the cake with powdered sugar, whipped cream, or your favorite chocolate frosting.


Wacky Cake can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months (wrap in plastic wrap first, then place in a resealable freezer bag). 
You can use one cup of brewed coffee (room temperature or chilled) in place of the water. You can also substitute apple cider vinegar for the white vinegar.
Don’t want to mix it in the baking dish? Use a mixing bowl instead, then pour it into the dish.


Calories: 236kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 2gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.03gSodium: 253mgPotassium: 49mgFiber: 1gSugar: 22gCalcium: 7mgIron: 1mg
Keyword wacky cake
Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a star rating and comment below!

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