Total Time
Prep 10 mins
Cook 30 mins

Ultra moist and easy cake from Cook's Illustrated: While the name implies comical roots, Wacky Cake was actually born out of the seriousness of wartime rationing. At various times during the world wars, eggs, butter, sugar, and milk were all in short supply, so inventive home cooks and home economists did their best to create dishes with limited ingredients. Wacky cake is a moist chocolate cake prepared, miraculously enough, without eggs or butter. Despite the omissions, the cake tastes great.


  1. Important NOTE: The cake relies on the last-minute combination of vinegar and baking soda for leavening. The reaction between the two causes the batter to bubble vigorously, and thus, rise. The cake has to be prepared in its baking pan; otherwise it doesn’t rise nearly as well. Make wells in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients--oil, vinegar, and vanilla--to the wells, and then add water and stir quickly (but not too much) to blend the batter just moments before you put it into the oven. Streaks of flour should remain.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 8-inch-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in pan. Using a spoon, make 1 large and 2 small craters in dry ingredients (the large carter needs to deep enough to hold the oil). Add oil to large crater and vinegar and vanilla separately to remaining small craters. Pour water into pan, using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix the batter, taking care not to overmix; the batter should still contain a few streaks of flour. Immediately put pan in oven.
  4. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan, then dust with confectioners’ sugar. (If tightly wrapped, cake will keep for 3 days at room temperature.)
  5. Great with ice cream or whipped cream or both :-).
Most Helpful

I agree with the previous review surprisingly moist, easy to make. I frosted it with a chocolate hazelnut spread. However I notice the same day it had a tiny bit of baking soda taste -I was the only one who said that - however the next day it was still very moist and the baking soda flavor was gone. I would make it again!

Liz The Chef May 11, 2011

A classic chocolate snack cake. Quick to put together when you want something sweet in a short amount of time. The cake is surprisingly moist. Great cake for kids to make.

Marie Nixon February 12, 2011

Excellent recipe for a quick chocolate cake. I did add a couple teaspoons of instant coffee for extra oomph, and it turned out perfectly. I agree with Liz that it is better the next day. I noted that some recipes vary the amount of vinegar, from one teaspoon up to one tablespoon. I have found that 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon vinegar works best for me; it rose beautifully, whereas one I made with lesser portions did not rise well. If you are a fan of this chocolate wacky cake recipe, you should try other flavors, such as lemon. You will not regret it.

bidness44 March 15, 2015