Chocolate Wacky Cake: Cheap Cake Recipe You Won’t Believe Is So Delicious

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Have you heard of this cheap cake recipe known as wacky cake or Great Depression cake?  This easy war cake recipe is called the Great Depression era cake (and wacky) because during the WWII era food rationing, these cakes were made without normal cake recipe ingredients: eggs, milk, and butter.  Due to our recent food allergy diet, I was desperate to find something that halfway resembled chocolate cake and was tickled to stumble upon this idea. I didn’t have my expectations very high for these cheap cake recipes, but I was shocked at how moist and delicious my revised chocolate wacky cake turned out! Who knew?  

close up of chocolate wacky cake with chocolate icing and sprinkles


I’d been baking for years and couldn’t imagine that this chocolate cake recipe that didn’t use what I thought were essential cake ingredients would work.  But I was desperate to find a treat after all the food allergy woes that had been plaguing our home!

Oh, AND this easy recipe is also all mixed IN the baking dish that you bake it in.  You don’t even use a Kitchen Aid mixer!

After I played around with the recipe and created one that would work for us – it all started making sense — during the Great Depression era, eggs, milk, and butter were hard to come by.  They did the same thing I did by making cakes without them but for different reasons.  As you probably know, I’m a bit obsessed with the 1920s,  30s, and especially the 40s.  Old school is always best in my book!

I included this as part of our 31 Days of Delicious Easy recipes series because it’s such a simple, cheap cake that really does taste fantastic.


All the exact measurements are on the printable recipe card below, but here are the ingredients at a glance.

  • All Purpose Flour
  • cocoa
  • sugar
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • vinegar
  • vanilla
  • vegetable oil
  • water


  • substitute melted coconut oil or vegetable oil at same measurement
  • don’t skip filling the “wells”
  • only mix this concoction once – after water is added

view of close up chocolate wacky cake with frosting and walnuts

Convert this chocolate cake recipe easily into wacky cake cupcakes by pouring this exact recipe into cupcake tins and adjusting the cooking time.  I would think a wacky cake 9×13 pan would work to serve a Texas sheet cake type of easy dessert as well.

Although this cake doesn’t need it, you can add a tiny bit of chocolate wacky cake frosting (wacky cake glaze), or a light dusting of sifted confectioners sugar on the top to make it even more spectacular.

My next experiment is to omit the cocoa and use only gluten free flour to make a yellow cake mix version of this wacky cake.  I’ll be sure to share my findings and I’ll have fun testing it out! 😉


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I hope you enjoy this lifesaver of a recipe.  I could see where it would be easy to incorporate easy wacky cake recipe variations. Whether you need to omit the eggs and other dairy or you need to pinch those pennies, honey, this simple chocolate cake is a keeper!


The exact instructions and a printable recipe card are below but here’s the basic idea I give when folks repeatedly ask me, “How do you make a wacky cake?”

You don’t even need to dirty up a bowl.  Preheat the oven.  Grease your 8 inch-ish bundt or square baking pan.  Add the dry ingredients (all 5).  Making a small well and add the vinegar.  On the other side of the pan, make another small well and pour the vanilla into it.  Make a slightly larger well and then pour the oil into it.  Pour the water over it all.  Stir with a spoon until well blended.  Put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

How easy is that?

Farberware Nonstick Bakeware 10-Inch Fluted Mold, Gray
Here’s your a printable recipe card for your wacky cake:
Wacky Cake: Cheap & Quick (31 Days of Delicious Easy Recipes Day 24)
  • 1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 Cup water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease your 8 inch-ish bundt or square baking pan.
  3. Add the dry ingredients (all 5) directly to baking pan.
  4. Make a small well and add the vinegar.
  5. On the other side of the pan, make another small well and pour the vanilla into it.
  6. Make a slightly larger well and then pour the oil into it.
  7. Pour the water over it all.
  8. Stir with a spoon until well blended.
  9. Put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Enjoy!

Her delicious recipe for Wacky Cake recipe that's egg free, milk free, butter free dairy free AND cheap!

Have you heard of or tried this wacky cake recipe? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments

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Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, and more, Shan is a Family Travel Journalist with a passion for helping women lose the overwhelm of planning family-friendly trips in the south. She shares travel reviews & insider secrets that Women REALLY want to know about Georgia, Florida, & the Carolinas vacations.

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  1. Sue at Book By Book
    September 4, 2016 / 9:16 am

    I love Wacky Cake!! My mom used to make it when I was a kid – not because of food allergies but just because it was so tasty. It was always a big hit. Thanks for bringing back happy memories!

    I found you through Small Victories Sunday Linkup (yes, I am a week behind!) –


    Book By Book

    • Shan
      September 4, 2016 / 10:39 pm

      Thanks, Sue! I always feel nostalgic when I’m baking it. My people sure seem to love it.


  2. Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories
    September 4, 2016 / 9:21 am

    Yum, I love that this cake has no dairy, I should avoid it for my Rheumatoid Arthritis. Thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday Linkup, pinned to our linkup board and hope you join us for this week’s party that just went live!

    • Shan
      September 4, 2016 / 10:37 pm

      Thanks so much, Tanya! I love it and I’ll be back!


  3. Amber
    September 27, 2016 / 8:16 am

    This looks amazing for a cake with no dairy or eggs !!

  4. Belle
    February 13, 2017 / 8:57 am

    That looks good and it looks so simple to make! I bet my kids will love this!

    Belle | One Awesome Mama website

    • Shan
      February 13, 2017 / 11:18 am

      Thanks, Belle! Yes, recently my daughter begged me for days to make her one. They gobble it up within a couple days! 😉

  5. Kim
    February 13, 2017 / 1:04 pm

    Yum! Wacky or not, it looks so delish!

    • Shan
      February 13, 2017 / 2:27 pm

      Thanks, Kim!

  6. Danielle
    February 13, 2017 / 10:36 pm

    One of my favorite cakes I make is a an egg free, milk free cake. It is the best! This seems really similar to it!

    • Shan
      February 16, 2017 / 5:20 am

      Awesome, Danielle. Makes them easier and cheaper, doesn’t it?! Love it.

  7. Mamaguru
    February 14, 2017 / 8:17 am

    I can’t wait to give this a try. My grandmother lived through the depression and I’m always interested in understanding what her life was like.

    • Shan
      February 16, 2017 / 5:24 am

      Awe, I love it, Mama Guru.

  8. Kellie
    February 1, 2023 / 3:24 pm

    I realize this is an older post but find it looking for the origins of the “cheap” cake my paternal grandmother made all the time! I am baking one now. In light of the egg shortage of increasing prices this cake seemed like the thing to do, in addition to the feeling of nostalgia today!

    Thanks for the information!

    • Shan
      February 15, 2023 / 4:05 pm

      Wow. Your sweet comment made my week. Yes, this is an old post. You are so right about the eggs! I think I’ll make this tonight myself. Thanks for taking the time to warm my heart!

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