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Chocolate Wacky Cake

If you’re looking for a simple moist chocolate cake recipe, this Chocolate Wacky Cake has you covered! With a short list of ingredients, this wacky cake recipe uses NO eggs and NO dairy for a vegan chocolate cake that’s so good that you’ll say, “That’s wacky!”

Tender, and chocolatey with a perfect crumb, not only does this wacky cake recipe call for a simple list of ingredients, but the batter for this 8×8 chocolate cake recipe mixes up entirely in the pan – that’s just how easy it is!

I make this cake all the time. It’s my kid’s fave! Though I’ve iced it in the photos you see here, oftentimes I leave it unfrosted with only a dusting of powdered sugar and/or serve it up with a dollop of whipped cream.

This simple chocolate cake is so good with a cup of coffee or tea, or for a easy dessert after dinner.

Table of Contents

What is Wacky Cake and Why is it Called That?!

The Story Behind the Recipe

Why You’ll Love This Chocolate Wacky Cake Recipe


Recipe Variations & Substitutions

How to Make Wacky Cake

Frosting Ideas for Chocolate Wacky Cake

More Chocolate Cake Recipes

What is Wacky Cake and Why is it Called That?!

Wacky Cake is an American classic that dates back at least 100 years. Some claim it originated around the time of World War I, others say it took off during the Great Depression or even World War II.

What most can agree on is that it came about during times when eggs, butter, and milk were in short supply or simply not available, so traditional cake recipes weren’t possible. And this inventive chocolate wacky cake was born! (learn more about the origin of Wacky Cake here.)

The Story Behind the Recipe

Like many of you, I’m sure, I grew up on this cake. My mom called it “Crazy Cake,” and it pains me the nostalgic side of me to not call it the same thing. But in the interest of inclusive language, I’m going with the other popular name: Wacky Cake. It’s also sometimes called Depression Cake. Whether you call it crazy cake, wacky cake, or depression cake, it’s a chocolate cake that’s easy and delicious!

My mom made this cake at least once per month. She served up the big fluffy squares with a generous dollop of Cool Whip, which is a serving suggestion I highly recommend.

But it’s excellent with a light layer of chocolate buttercream, too.

Why You’ll Love This Chocolate Wacky Cake Recipe

It’s super easy to make. Like ridiculously easy! The batter for this simple chocolate cake recipe mixes together right in the pan. It doesn’t get easier than that.

It’s delicious. Chocolatey, tender, moist. Everything you want in a chocolate cake from scratch recipe.

It’s dairy-free and vegan. It wasn’t designed for the vegan diet, but it is one of those awesome recipes that’s happily vegan just as it is.


All-purpose flour – bleached or unbleached both work well.

Sugar – plain old granulated.

Baking soda – the leavener in our wacky cake, the baking soda reacts with the vinegar to make the cake rise.

Salt – I like to use fine-grain sea salt for baking. Table salt works, too.

Cocoa powder – I use plain ol’ Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder for chocolate wacky cake

Canola oil – for a moist, melt-in-your-mouth cake. Vegetable oil works, too.

Vinegar – I use white vinegar, but apple cider vinegar will work, too. Don’t leave this out or substitute! It’s a strong acid that reacts with the other ingredients to help the cake rise, and is crucial to the success of this recipe.

Pure vanilla extract – for sweet vanilla flavor.

Water – not usually considered an official ingredient, but crucial to the formation of wacky cake batter.

Recipe Variations & Substitutions

Enhance the chocolate flavor by replacing the water with a cup of strong brewed coffee.

To make it a vanilla wacky cake, omit the cocoa powder and double the vanilla extract.

Go frosting-less – it’s still delicious! I provide a recipe for small-batch chocolate frosting with this wacky cake recipe for a chocolate frosted wacky cake, but you can omit the frosting and dust with powdered sugar and/or serve with whipped cream. Or, if you’re all about the frosting, scroll down for a bunch of suggestions.

How to Make Wacky Cake

If you’ve never made chocolate depression cake, a.k.a. wacky cake, prepare to be amazed! It’s just a matter of mixing the dry ingredients together, making indentations and pouring in the wet ingredients, mixing it all together, and baking it.

Add the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, and salt to an 8×8 pan. You don’t even need to grease the pan first.

2. Mix the dry ingredients together with a whisk, and create three indentations. I like to make a larger indentation for the oil, which, if you want to channel your inner child, naturally creates a happy face! Score!

3. Then, pour the vanilla extract into one small indent, the vinegar into another, and the canola oil into the large indent.

4. Pour the water over the top.

5. Stir until combined. I like to use a flat whisk so I can really get into the corners, but a plastic spatula works great, too.

6. And then, it’s time to bake your wacky cake! Bake just until the middle is set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Frosting Ideas for Chocolate Wacky Cake

Really, the sky’s the limit for how you want to frost this simple moist chocolate cake recipe. I’ve provided a recipe for chocolate frosting, and that’s what’s photographed here. But you should make it your own! Here are a few ideas:

Vanilla buttercream

Cream cheese frosting

Peanut butter icing

Nutella buttercream frosting (especially good!)

Strawberry buttercream (and garnish with strawberries!)

My mom used to serve up plain squares of this 8×8 chocolate cake recipe with a big dollop of Cool Whip. Highly recommend! Whipped cream or vegan whipping cream are great too.

More Chocolate Cake Recipes

We love chocolate cake here in the Kitchen Treaty house! Here are my other recipes:

Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake – this is a deep, dark Devil’s food cake recipe with layers and lots of chocolate frosting. Dairy free and entirely vegan!

American Flag Sheet Cake – the base of this sheet cake recipe is actually based on chocolate wacky cake! Finished off with a vanilla buttercream and a berry flag.

Chocolate Mint Mug Cake – for when a chocolate craving hits and you need a single-serving cake – NOW!

Deep Dark Hot Fudge Pudding Cake – Another one my mom used to make. So good with ice cream!


Chocolate Wacky Cake

Moist and chocolatey with a tender crumb, this delicious and simple 8×8 chocolate cake recipe defies the laws of baking with NO eggs and NO butter or milk! Plus, the batter mixes up right in the pan. 🤯
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword 8×8 chocolate cake recipe, crazy cake, depression cake, simple chocolate cake, simple moist chocolate cake recipe, wacky cake, wacky cake recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes minutes
Total Time 39 minutes minutes
Servings 9
Calories 244kcal
Author Kare


1 8″ x 8″ baking pan


For the chocolate wacky cake:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour1 cup granulated sugar1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder1 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt1/3 cup canola oil can substitute vegetable oil1 tablespoon white vinegar can substitute apple cider vinegar1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract1 cup water

For the chocolate frosting:

1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder1 cup powdered sugar1 tablespoon milk1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


To make the cake:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
To an 8-inch by 8-inch baking pan, add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Use a rubber spatula or whisk to combine the ingredients.
With a spatula or wooden spoon, create three impressions in the flour mixture. I like to make one a bit bigger to contain the oil when we pour it in.
Add the oil to the larger impression, the vinegar to another impression, and the vanilla to the third impression.
Pour the water over the top.
Use a whisk or rubber spatula to mix the batter together, taking care to scrape the flour in from the corners of the pan. Stir just until combined.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the top springs back when you touch it and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Place on a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Leave plain, sift some powdered sugar over the top, or frost with the chocolate frosting recipe provided here or another favorite frosting.

To make the frosting:

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer, whip the butter until light and soft, 1-2 minutes.
Add the cocoa powder in two or three batches, whipping until incorporated after each addition. This helps prevent a cloud of cocoa powder dust.
Add the powdered sugar in three or four batches, whipping for a few seconds after each addition. Continue whipping until combined.
Add the milk and the vanilla. Whip until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
If the frosting seems too thin to spread, add a little more powdered sugar until it’s the consistency you like. If it seems too thick, splash in more milk, a teaspoon at a time, and mix until your desired consistency.
Frost the cake after it has completely cooled to room temperature. You can use a butter knife, spatula, or I love using an offset spatula for the easiest application.


Nutrition calculation is for cake only, without frosting or toppings.

Vegan option:

The cake recipe as written is vegan and dairy-free, but the buttercream frosting needs a couple simple swaps to keep this a vegan recipe. To make it vegan, swap in a vegan butter and plant-based milk. 


As written, wacky cake with chocolate frosting will keep at room temperature, covered, for about 4 days. If you use a cream cheese frosting or another frosting that needs refrigeration, I suggest storing it in the fridge. 


Serving: 1g | Calories: 244kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Sodium: 253mg | Potassium: 72mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 22g | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg

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