Wacky Cake is an old fashioned cake that dates back at least to the 1930s. It’s made with pantry ingredients, which means it has no eggs, no milk, and no butter. In this version, we add a colorful addition to create a Vanilla Wacky Cake with Sprinkles that the whole family will love.
Wacky Cake. Depression Cake. Crazy Cake. War Cake. Cockeyed Cake. Poor Man’s Chocolate Cake. Boy Scout Cake.
This cake goes by SO many names because it is so loved! When I published the recipe for Old Fashioned Wacky Cake (the chocolate version), readers went wild on Instagram telling me their stories about the cake.
The central theme to the stories was that the cake was made for generations by their grandmothers, mothers, aunts, etc., and quite a few people enjoy it as their birthday cake each year. You can read more comments and stories on the wacky cake reel on Instagram, if you like.
While I love the chocolate version, I had some request for a vanilla version.
So here it is! This Vanilla Wacky Cake with Sprinkles is absolute perfection. It’s a moist, tender cake that uses the original “wacky” method: no eggs, no butter, no milk, and we’ll mix the ingredients right in the pan.
I added an old fashioned buttercream frosting + sprinkles to this one to amp up the fun factor, and it delivers the perfect topping for this old fashioned cake.
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What makes this cake “wacky”?
There are several reasons to believe that the cake was named Wacky Cake:
- It contains no eggs, no butter, and no milk.
- It’s mixed in the pan that it’s baked in.
- You’ll mix the dry ingredients with a fork, then create three wells for the wet ingredients.
Most cake recipes contain eggs, butter, or milk (and sometimes all three). This recipe was born out of necessity when families either couldn’t afford those ingredients (during the Great Depression) or those ingredients were rationed (during WWII).
Since this cake doesn’t contain those ingredients, it’s dairy-free and vegan.
Why do you make wells for wacky cake?
The original (or most popular) recipe for wacky cake instructs you to mix the dry ingredients with a fork, then create three wells for the wet ingredients.
Oil goes in one well, vinegar in another well, and vanilla extract in the final well.
While this step isn’t necessary (you can just mix everything together and get the same result), the technique is yet another reason this cake is “wacky”.
Head to the pantry/cupboard for these ingredients—there’s nothing from the refrigerator here!
- All purpose flour makes the base of the cake.
- Granulated sugar lends the perfect amount of sweetness.
- Salt balances the sweetness nicely.
- Vanilla extract enhances the flavor of the cake.
- Baking soda and vinegar create the “lift” that eggs typically create in a cake (since this has NO eggs!).
- Vegetable oil (just 5 tablespoons) adds richness without making it too heavy.
- Sprinkles! We’ll mix sprinkles right into the batter. You’ll need to use jimmies here for best results.
How to make Vanilla Wacky Cake with Sprinkles
Wacky Cake has an interesting preparation. We’ll prepare the entire cake in the pan that it’s baked in. There’s no need to grease the pan.
However, if you’d rather mix everything in a bowl and grease the pan, then go right ahead!
Place the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in an 8×8-inch baking dish. Mix with a fork until combined. (A fork is how the original recipe was mixed—feel free to use a whisk, of course).
Make three wells in the dry ingredients. Pour the oil into one well, the vinegar into another well, and the vanilla extract into the final well.
Pour one cup of water over the top, and mix with a fork to combine.
Make sure to get the edges of the pan all mixed—sometimes the dry ingredients can hang out there and not get mixed in.
Stir in the sprinkles.
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 or frosting.
How to make vanilla frosting
You can serve the cake as-is, or add frosting! This is an old fashioned frosting recipe from a 1950s Betty Crocker cookbook.
You’ll need room temperature butter for best results (I leave the milk out for an hour or two, too). Room temperature ingredients create the creamiest frosting!
Place all the ingredients in a glass bowl, and mix with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
Spread the frosting over the cooled Vanilla Cake Cake, and top with additional sprinkles.
Tips for making vanilla wacky cake with sprinkles
- Make sure the ingredients are mixed well in the pan. Sometimes the dry ingredients get stuck in the corners.
- Use jimmies sprinkles for the best results (other types of sprinkles can bleed into the batter).
- When making the frosting, start with room temperature ingredients to create the creamiest frosting.
- Chill the cake for one hour (or more) before slicing. Chilled cakes make the cleanest slices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Double the ingredients to make this in a 13×9-inch pan. Check the cake at 30 minutes and bake for additional time as needed, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Yes! Divide the mixture into a muffin tin (filling ¾ of the way up) and bake for 18–20 minutes at 350°F.
Wacky Cake can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Either way, cover it tightly before storing.
Vinegar reacts with the baking soda to create the lift that’s normally created by eggs in a traditional cake recipe.
Toppings for wacky cake
Here are a few ideas for topping wacky cake:
- Enjoy it plain—it’s delicious on its own!
- Homemade frosting or canned frosting (many cans of frosting are non-dairy like the cake—just check the label, of course).
- Top it with whipped cream.
- Sprinkle powdered sugar on top.
More old fashioned cakes
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!
Vanilla Wacky Cake with Sprinkles
For the cake:
- 1½ cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons oil (such as vegetable oil or canola oil)
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup sprinkles (use jimmies for best results)
For the frosting: (see notes below for a non-dairy version)
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) softened butter (substitute non-dairy butter if desired)
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1–2 tablespoons milk (substitute non-dairy milk if desired)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Additional jimmies (sprinkles) for the top
For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in an ungreased 8×8-inch pan. Stir with a fork to combine.
- Make three wells in the flour mixture, and pour the vanilla into one well, the vinegar into another well, and the oil into the final well.
- Pour the water over the top, and stir with a fork to combine.
- Stir in the sprinkles. Check the edges of the dish to make sure no dry ingredients have gathered there, and mix just until combined.
- Bake the cake for 30–35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
For the frosting:
- Place the softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk into a large bowl.
- Mix with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Spread over the cooled cake, and top with additional sprinkles.