I stumbled upon Wacky Cake as a youth quite by accident.

My parents were very frugal, especially my mom. I’m sure she learned this from her parents who lived through the Great Depression. I remember visiting my grandma in Cuyahoga Falls, OH and finding bags filled with bags, boxes filled with wrapping paper she had carefully peeled from gifts, and baggies filled with twist ties.

My mom’s rule was that I could embark on cooking and baking projects as long as I bought the ingredients we didn’t have. Although this rule seems misguided in hindsight, I think her intention was to teach me to appreciate the food we had in our kitchen.

Therefore, I baked a lot since our pantry was typically stocked with typical baking supplies and if we were missing something, they were cheap enough to buy with my babysitting money or allowance.

I was an avid reader and loved reading cookbooks. One day, I baked Wacky Cake from a recipe I found in our church’s cookbook since we already had all of the ingredients. Later, I learned that Wacky Cake possibly originated during the Great Depression or as a result of wartime food rationing since it does not contain dairy or eggs.

Oops, I made a vegan cake!

My family enjoyed my first Wacky Cake experiment so much that my mom made it for special occasions or to share with friends in need. We frosted it with a white icing, but the church cookbook recipe recommends peanut butter icing. My husband would have been sad to find an empty jar of peanut butter (he eats PB regularly, I do not), so I made a coffee-cocoa glaze.

Wacky Cake isn’t intensely chocolatey, but it’s light and airy and sweet. If you want to keep the vegan thing going, don’t add half and half to the glaze. Either way, you can’t go wrong but you might go wacky.

Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake
Adapted from Bettemae Ramsey’s recipe in Favorite Recipes, Faith Lutheran Church Women, Akron, OH, date unknown. Glaze adapted from The Weary Chef’s recipe for Easy Mocha Glaze Icing

Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cocoa powder
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (had to swap in about 1/2 whole wheat flour)
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. vinegar (I used apple cider)
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cold water

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350℉.
  2. Grease a large baking pan.
  3. Sift the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda together into a large bowl. Stir in salt.
  4. The original recipe instructs one to make three holes in the dry ingredients. Add the vinegar to one, vanilla extract to another, and oil to the third.
  5. Pour over the cold water and lightly whisk until the ingredients are incorporated.
  6. Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until you can stick a toothpick into the middle of the cake and cleanly remove it.
  7. Cool completely before frosting (or hack off a steaming piece of cake and frost for immediate consumption, like me).

Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. of coffee
Half & half: Enough to provide a nice consistency

Instructions:
Mix the cocoa, powdered sugar, and liquid until you like the flavor and consistency. I made this cake to share with kids, so I only added a hint of coffee and thinned it out to a proper consistency with half and half. You could use all coffee, or just use milk/cream/half and half as a liquid.