Wacky Chocolate Cake

Wacky Chocolate Cake

We are going back to the basics for the semester break with an easy-bake vegan chocolate cake! The deliciously perfect wacky chocolate cake is one of the easiest, even for a beginner. This moist layered chocolate cake with a basic buttercream frosting is what we have attempted today, and just in time for world chocolate day!

A chocolate cake is the epitome of deliciousness, one that most of us aim to perfect. It doesn’t just come out perfect unless you try a few different recipes and see the one that suits you! Whatever you do, if you are doing any bit of cooking, this chocolate cake is the one for you. The cake we are attempting today is popularly known as the Wacky chocolate cake, Ration cake or the Great depression cake! Why is it wacky? Well, because of the way it is made of course!

Depression Cakes and the Wartime.

The Great Depression was a prolonged global downturn in economic activity. It lasted all the way from 1929 to 1939. An economic depression is when the value of stock and money along with commercial activity declines. Millions of companies and families lost income. Large amounts of people were left without jobs to pay for their utilities until the Second World War began. Military funding contributed to raising the economy and stock prices. Slowly, the world began to go back to normal. The Great Depression was named so because of how much of an impact it had worldwide and how long it lasted (a whole decade!).

How did the Wacky chocolate cake develop?

After food prices dropped, many people still struggled to purchase common household items since there was such a shortage of jobs. Stock markets had collapsed and the economy was struggling to survive. Many families could not afford ingredients like eggs, butter and milk. Then, during World War II, rations were put in place. The average adult had a sugar ration of 8 ounces per week! So American households started trying a new method. They began replacing their typical ingredients like eggs and butter with substitutes. With this, came many new creations, one of which was the wacky chocolate cake! In this Ration cake, the egg is replaced with vinegar and baking soda and butter by oil are absent. That is what makes the cake so wacky!

The Chemistry of a Wacky Cake

Have you ever heard the phrase baking is like chemistry? Well, this is exactly what it means! Many components of baking and cooking depend on the chemical reactions that take place between ingredients. in this wacky cake, the baking soda or bicarbonate soda and vinegar in our wacky cake form a reaction called an acid-base reaction or a neutralisation reaction.  When these two chemicals react (food is all about chemistry too!), in the presence of heat they form bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. The gas rises through the batter and lifts the cake. Cool, right? Now you know what to expect, let’s gather the ingredients. 

Let’s gather the ingredients

Whole wheat flour- the cake flour is the glue of the cake. We used whole wheat flour that was available in our pantry. You can use all-purpose flour here instead to get a smoother finish to the cake.

Cocoa powder-I am unsure where the cocoa powder came from in the wartimes. I believe, most mothers have a secret source. I certainly tapped into my mum’s sources of Dutch-processed cocoa powder. If you are experimenting with natural cocoa, let us know how it turns out.

Sugar- is essential to make the cake sweet.  use simple white sugar. Remember, this is key to any cake and was the ration that made this cake possible. 

Oil- lightens and fluffs the batter. Oil is much lighter when used in this cake. Any neutral cooking oil would do. You can use olive, coconut or sunflower oil. If you are using butter make sure that it is at room temperature, otherwise the cake will be much harder and will lose its softness.

Vanilla– all things chocolate work best with vanilla. We have used an alcholic extract of vanilla seeds. Don’t worry the alcohol evaporates when being baked.

Coffee- the instant hot coffee brings out the chocolate flavour and makes the cake all the more delicious! The hot water is the one that activates the chemical reaction. You can skip the coffee, but not the hot water.

Baking soda-this along with the vinegar replaces all those eggs. That bubble reaction with vinegar is what makes this cake action. 

Vinegar – the basic cooking white vinegar or apple cider vinegar is an unavoidable ingredient in this recipe. the reaction of vinegar with baking soda in the presence of the heat from the hot water is the one that makes this moist cake. No alternates! 

The buttercream ingredients – The wartime wacky chocolate cake was devoid of any frosting, or so I think, coz butter was not available. We thankfully have that luxury today, so I did not want to miss the fun of whipping up the frosting and layering up cakes. The cake tastes amazing without the frosting itself, With the frosting, it tastes decadent and indulgent, just like a chocolate cake should. If you are not a big fan of buttercream, try the ice cream glaze to pour over and have it instantly. 

The detailed process of making this cake is outlined in the recipe card. To be honest I had super fun digging the wells in the dry mix and watching the cake rise in the oven. The wait time was hard, but the cake was worth the wait.

Wacky Chocolate Cake

Wacky chocolate cake

The deliciously perfect wacky chocolate cake is one of the easiest, even for a beginner. This moist layered chocolate cake with a basic buttercream frosting is what we have attempted today, and just in time for world chocolate day!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert, Sweets and savories
Cuisine Baking, International, One pot, Vegan, Vegetarian


  • cake mould
  • baking oven


Dry ingredient mix

  • 3 ½ cups wholemeal flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder

Wet ingredients

  • ¾ cups cooking oil unflavoured
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 2 cups hot water

For the buttercream

  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • ½ tbsp milk
  • ½ drop vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt


  • Preheat oven to 170°C.
  • Prepare 2 cake pans, grease and dust the pan or line with parchment paper.
  • Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt) in a large bowl.
  • Create three wells in the mixture.
  • In one well, add the vinegar. In the second add the vanilla. To the third, add the oil.
  • In a seperate cup mix the coffee with a cup of hot water.
  • Pour the hot coffee over the entire mixture. Now add one more cup hot water.
  • Gently fold the batter until it is combined and no dry bits remain.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans.
  • Bake for 45 minutes or until you insert a toothpick into the centre of the cake and it comes out clean.
  • Remove cakes from the oven and cool them on a cooling rack.
  • After the cake is cooled, wrap the cake and place it in the refrigerator.

Buttercream frosting

  • Add the butter icing sugar and other ingredients into the mixing bowl.
  • Set the whisk mode and whisk the butter till they form soft peaks.

To assemble the cake

  • Place one of the chilled chocolate cakes on a turn table (make-shift plate on a cup)
  • Add a large scoop of the buttercream and spread evenly.
  • Place the second cake on the frosted first.
  • Now ice the second cake.
  • Once the tops are done, use the rest of the buttercream to cover the sides.
  • We have just added some chocolate shavings on top. You can use sprinkles, chocolate beads or cookie crumbs too!
  • The cake is now ready to be devoured. Enjoy!
Keyword chocolate recipes, christmas recipes, Winter warmers
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Stay connected

Leave us some of your likes and dislikes about the post in the comments so we can improve this page. We have tried out this chocolate cake for fun, the warmth of the bake and to watch as the chemistry unfolds. If you have any that I should try out as experiments, let me know. I am very excited to hear from you! Follow us on Instagram-coolbrain5 and please keep commenting. We have some exciting previous posts that you can try as well – click here to check the collection. 

Wacky Chocolate Cake

See you soon!

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1 year ago
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That was quite an education – I enjoyed reading through the narration listing the origin of the Wacky Chocolate Cake! And the Cake was Yumm!!!

Amanda Wren-Grimwood
1 year ago

I do love a good chocolate cake and this one looks so delicious with the buttercream on top.

Mari Ava
Mari Ava
1 year ago
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Oh wow, love recipes with a story, and this for sure has an interesting one! Can wait to try it. Gonna share the recipe with my sister right away, she loves chocolate cakes and she is always looking for new recipes to try.

1 year ago
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I love this wacky chocolate cake!

1 year ago
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I haven’t had a proper cake in such a long time. This recipe is amazing!

Aimee Mars
1 year ago

I’ve never had vegan chocolate cake but you make it looks so delicious! I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegan recipes into my diet, but have struggled with desserts. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

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