Thursday, October 04, 2007

ode to wacky cake




Long before bookstores and libraries displayed an abundance of vegan cookbooks, long before the Internet had a cornucopia of vegan recipes ready at the touch of a button, long before you could pick up decadent vegan treats from the market on your way home from work, and long before geniuses like Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Dreena Burton were creating their mouthwatering sweets, we had the humble wacky cake.

Wacky cake is a creation most likely borne of lack- perhaps during the Great Depression, perhaps long before, when people did not have an abundance of luxury items like eggs, milk, or butter to bake with. As a result, wacky cake was created, a rich chocolate cake that belies its humble roots, and just happens to be vegan as well.

The secret to wacky cake is vinegar, or rather the reaction of baking soda with vinegar to create fluffy light cake. If you google "wacky cake," you are sure to come up with 100's of recipes, but this is how we make it:

Wacky Cake

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 1/2 cups minus 1 TB unbleached all-purpose flour (I find that whole wheat pastry and spelt flour, or any combination of those work well as well)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup icy cold water
  • powdered sugar for garnish, optional

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, soda and salt. Make three wells in the flour mixture. In one put vanilla, in another the vinegar, and in the third the oil. Pour the cold water over the mixture and stir just until moistened. Pour into 8 x 8-inch pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it springs back when touched lightly.



Voilà- a quick, easy, delicious vegan cake, possibly the ancestor of all vegan chocolate cakes. I love giving this recipe to non-vegans, because it doesn't have any "scary" or exotic ingredients such as soymilk, flax, Earth Balance, etc. It is the essence of simplicity.



In the spirit of simplicity, top your wacky cake with something equally light and carefree- perhaps a bit of dark chocolate pudding?



Or a simple chocolate ganache made by melting some dark chocolate chips in the microwave with a couple of drops of soymilk for 10-20 seconds?

Wacky cake is also pretty flexible- one of my favorite versions was one Daiku baked with whole spelt flour, finely chopped cherries, and chocolate chunks in the batter.

Have you made a wacky cake lately?

One year ago today: On 4 October 2006, I was having Fun with Fufu


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32 comments:

Vegan Pi said...

My first vegan cake recipe was wacky cake! I still make it as my go-to chocolate cake (and got most of my family hooked on it too...much better than the boxed mixes they were using).

I'd never thought of adding extras to it. Cherries sound amazing!

Chris said...

Great post! I've actually never made one of these myself but I've had something similar that my mother-in-law made. She was so proud that there wasn't milk or eggs in it and therefore I ate it. A friend gave me a similar recipe a while back too (hey! you could actually make this cake! how about that?)

I really do need to try it for myself.

VeggieGirl said...

wow! I had no idea that the Wacky Cake had such a history - how interesting!! ooh, that slice of the wacky cake with chocolate ganache looks DIVINE!! mmm... :0)

Rural Vegan said...

And here I'd been making Wacky Cake for years, never knowing it's history and roots! I usually add canned cherries to the bottom of a 13x9 pan before pouring the batter in, and then you have an upside down cake!

Hannah said...

How nifty- I've never even made wacky cake before! Looks wonderful though... Especially when it's topped with even more chocolate!

aTxVegn said...

Oooh, that looks so chocolatey good!

I remember the fufu post...

SusanV said...

Mmmm, yummy photos!

I've never had wacky cake. I have a recipe called Crazy Cake that I've been making for decades, and it's similar, but more of everything and much more vinegar. It's the basis of every chocolate cake I do, every birthday cake I make for my daughter and others. You just can't go wrong with it!

Theresa said...

This is my favourite vegan recipe of all time, and I never knew that it had so much history. It's simple, delicious, and the lack of eggs makes the batter totally safe to eat. There were a few late nights at uni when we came home from the bar and made a batch just to eat the batter.

This cake always impresses non-vegans, and I love playing around with different flavours--choc banana, choc orange, choc mint, choc peanut butter....

Veganista said...

Wow, wacky cake. Yes, I remember it--not well. But yours looks much better than the ones my friend's mom served up (they were SO dry--probably baked too long). Josh's mother's wasn't great either, apparently. Maybe it was their recipe, which was from the "Jungle Camp Cookbook", a classic of missionary cooking. This post might persuade me to try wacky cake again, Bazu, but using your recipe. :)

Vivacious Vegan said...

I've made wacky cake twice now and both times turned out dry. I like the simplicity, and as you said, no scary ingredients. I'll give your recipe a try. Great idea for the simple ganache!!

Peace, Love and Veganism said...

Looks beautiful and delish! I have always wanted to make Wacky Cake :) Love your past posts and enviro-conscious theme, too. I'm adding you to my blog! Gotta' love green!!

vko said...

Wow for Wacky Cake! I need to make me some of that. I mean the name alone could be worth it, but how can you resist a simple chocolate cake recipe too?

LizzyQ ~ Vegan Mother said...

Oh how I love wacky cake. My mom always makes it for every family gathering or celebration. She puts choc. chips in it too! She even made it for our wedding cake!

theONLYtania said...

This looks delicious! I actually think I'm going to make it this weekend! If I do you'll see how it turns out!
Oh yeah, I like your "One year ago today" thing! I know you've had it for a while now.. but just saying.

Mihl said...

What a beautiful cake! I never heard that story before, so thanks for sharing. Lack isn't always bad.

Vegan_Noodle said...

Ahhh, yes wacky cake.... The first I'd heard of this was when a friend came over for dinner with a chocolate cake that she assured me was vegan, but kept saying that it might not taste good because it had vinegar in it. But we both thought it was delicious! I think I've made it once since with rave reviews. And ganache could make cardboard taste heavenly...

The Little Vegan said...

I have NOT made a wacky cake lately (read: ever)... but now I want to! And that pudding/icing looks divine-- what a good alternative to frosting!

urban vegan said...

I think Sarah Kramer has a recipe in one of her cookbooks.

I am ashamed to say I've never made a wacky cake. Can I have a slice of yours, please? (With chocolate ganache, of course.)

Gaia said...

Have I made a wacky cake lately?
No, I haven't. I must be completely insane !

;-) Thanks. Sort of looks like the Moosewood cake recipe...

Melody Polakow said...

I love me some wacky cake... I have many variations of it..

Just catching up on your blog... love the peaches you scored! What a deal! ...also, the baby plums and bbq... everything looks fabulous as usual... and the spinach... wow.. I adore spinach and green smoothies.

laura jesser said...

Wow, very cool! I've certainly made vegan cake that was based around these ingredients, but I never knew it was so "wacky," hee hee. I love how you made it look so elegant!

dreamy said...

Chocolate wacky cake! Yum yum! :d

textual bulldog said...

wow this looks amazing! i've never even heard of wacky cake... what rock have i been living under? i'll have to try it though, and i love the great depression history. very interesting.

Pink Theory said...

I am like textual bulldog..wacky what? I've never heard of this phenomena, but it looks very yummy!

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...

I knew it growing up as "War Cake" because my mom made it during the depression - and the war...and I'm sure I'd never heard the word vegan...

Isn't this sort-of the same recipe concept that the "Vegan Cupcakes..." cookbook uses?

Johanna3 said...

looks totally yummy!

Celine said...

I love this homage to wacky cake! nothing tastier than this stuff, really.

Jackie said...

Thanks for the recipe.

I used quite a few British WW2 recipes when I first became vegan as they had no eggs or dairy in them due to the rationing.

Sarena Shasteen said...

I love this cake! I totally shocked my husband when I made cupcakes with this recipe. I love the history of food and that was a great way to pay your respects to a great recipe!

runswithdog said...

I got this recipe from my children't grandmother who was an adolescent during WWII (she was German). We always knew it as War Cake and it is still a staple in this house!

KathyF said...

Oh yes, I make this all the time, but topped with peanut butter chocolate frosting.

It's yumm! But I'll definitely try your ganache frosting next time!

Canaduck said...

I've been making wacky cake with more-or-less the same recipe as yours for a few years now. I got it out of one of the food allergy cookbooks I've had since I was a child. (See, I'm a vegan with food allergies, so...) Everybody who has tried it has loved it, and though I knew its history to some degree, I learned even more through reading your post and these comments! War Cake? Who knew? I'm still amazed to see it here under the name I know it as.