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Small Chocolate Wacky Cake Recipe

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Call it a chocolate wacky cake, Depression cake, or the easiest chocolate cake – whichever you choose, this small 6-inch chocolate cake is incredibly moist, rich, and made with simple pantry staples. No butter, eggs, or milk are required for this chocolate cake recipe!

Slices of chocoalte wacky cake with whipped cream frosting on a white plate.

Small Chocolate Wacky Cake

Ok, what’s the deal with a wacky cake?  I mean, why do we call a cake wacky (hello, chocolate cake for two is anything but wacky!)  Well, the wacky cake has a bit of history.  You may also see this easy chocolate cake called a Depression cake, crazy cake, or WWII cake.  Essentially, the cake came to be when families couldn’t afford or were rationing, ingredients like butter, milk, and eggs.  

The bakers back then were incredibly sharp in realizing that oil and vinegar work as great substitutes for dairy and eggs.  Vinegar combines with baking soda to make the cake soft and lofty, while oil makes the cake incredibly moist

This Is A Pretty Special Cake

And what makes this easy chocolate cake recipe so special is that it yields a small cake perfectly sized to satisfy those chocolate cravings.  I see you, chocolate lovers!  Plus, the cake stays moist for days after baking.

So, while I love a cake full of the indulgences of dairy and eggs, (small vanilla cake please!), this little chocolate cake has a special place in my heart because it may be the easiest cake you will ever make!

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients for the easiest chocolate cake in measuring cups.

This should be easy – all of these ingredients may already be in your pantry! Flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, oil*, vinegar, vanilla extract, and water (not in your pantry per se …), and that’s it! No eggs or dairy are needed!

*I like to use coconut oil because of its neutral flavor, but any other neutral oil will work (like canola oil, grapeseed oil, or even avocado oil.

Step-By-Step Instructions

1. Whisk Together all the Dry Ingredients

In a medium mixing bowl, add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and give a good whisk. I like to mix these ingredients first to remove any cocoa powder lumps. Then you whisk in the sugar.

Dry ingredients for a chocolate cake in a mixing bowl.
Flour and sugar ready to be mixed in a mixing bowl.

2. Make Little Wells For the Wet Ingredients

Once you have the dry ingredients combined, make 3 wells. These will hold the vinegar, vanilla, and oil.

What is the purpose of these 3 wells you ask? Well … it really is just a nod to the original wacky cake recipes. The reason is likely because when baking soda combines with vinegar, the reaction is immediate. The wells will delay this reaction slightly.

However, if the wacky cake goes into the oven right away, there really is no reason you can’t make one well for the wet ingredients. I’ve tested it, and the result is the same.

Wells made in dry ingredients that are filled with liquid ingredients.

3. Pour Over The Hot Water

Now, pour on that hot water! You will see the mixture gets bubbly (thanks to the baking soda + vinegar), and you just want to give the batter a good mix until no dry streaks remain.

Wet and dry ingredients in a bowl for a cake ready to be mixed.
Smooth chocolate cake batter in a mixing bowl.

4. Bake The Wacky Cake

Pour your batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for 22 to 24 minutes at 350F degrees. You will know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch, and the ol’ toothpick in the middle comes out mostly clean.

Small chocolate wacky cake batter in the cake pan ready to be baked.

5. Frost With YOur FAvorite Frosting

And some cute sprinkles, because, why not?! Just make sure the cake is completely cool before you start slathering on the delicious topping. For reference, I frosted my chocolate wacky cake with marshmallow whipped cream frosting – similar to my strawberry whipped cream recipe, and the whipped topping on my hot cocoa pudding. Just without the strawberry or peppermint.

Fresh baked easy chocolate cake on a white cake platter topped with whipped cream frosting and sprinkles.

Recipe FAQ

Can I double the recipe to make a larger wacky cake?

Yes! Especially since there are no eggs, butter, or dairy in the cake! I recommend an 8-inch cake pan and the larger cake may take 25 to 30 minutes to bake.

I thought the wacky cake was typically made in a square cake pan.

Typically, yes. However, you can make the easy chocolate cake in any shaped pan you like! Just keep in mind it is a small cake recipe and the pan should accommodate the small batch batter.

Why do the 3 wells in the dry ingredients before you add the wet ingredients?

This method is simply a nod to how the wacky cake was originally made. Likely, the bakers chose to make the wells to delay the reaction of the vinegar and baking soda. However, you can make 1 well for the wet ingredients since the cake goes in the oven right away.

Is natural cocoa powder or Dutch processed cocoa better for this chocolate wacky cake?

This may be one chocolate cake recipe that I say is your choice. I prefer Dutch cocoa because it is less acidic with a rich cocoa flavor. Though, natural cocoa will work just fine.

A small chocolate wacky cake cut into slices on a white plate.
Slices of chocoalte wacky cake with whipped cream frosting on a white plate.
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5 from 5 reviews

Small Chocolate Wacky Cake Recipe

Yield: 4 Servings
Call it a chocolate wacky cake, Depression cake, or the easiest chocolate cake – whichever you choose, this small 6-inch chocolate cake is incredibly moist, rich, and made with simple pantry staples. No butter, eggs, or milk are required for this chocolate cake recipe!
Prep15 minutes
Cook22 minutes
Total37 minutes

Ingredients
 

Chocolate Wacky Cake

Instructions

Chocolate Wacky Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Line the bottom of a 6-inch round cake pan with a piece of parchment cut to fit. Lightly grease the pan.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk in the sugar. Then, make 3 wells in the dry ingredients.
    ¾ cup all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch process, ⅓ teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt, ½ cup organic cane sugar
  • Add the oil in one well, the vanilla in the second, and the vinegar in the third. Then, pour the hot water over the top and whisk together until all ingredients are combined.
    3 tablespoons cold pressed refined coconut oil, melted, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1½ teaspoons white distilled vinegar, ½ cup hot water
  • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean.
  • Cool the cake in the pan set on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes. Then, flip the pan over onto the wire rack to remove the cake and let it cool completely. If needed, run an offset spatula or sharp knife around the edge of the cake to release it from the pan.
  • Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. The cake can be stored covered at room temperature for up to 3 days. If using whipped cream or meringue frosting, I recommend refrigerating the cake.
    Chocolate Fudge Frosting, Chocolate Butter Free Frosting, Strawberry Whipped Cream, Marshmallow Meringue Frosting
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RECIPE NOTES

  • Serving Size – This is a small batch recipe that is easily doubled.  Use an 8-inch cake pan and start checking the cake at 25 minutes.
  • Yield – The recipe as written will yield 1 6-inch cake that can be cut into 4 to 6 slices.
  • Cake Pan – You can also bake the small cake in a 6-inch square cake pan.
  • Cocoa Powder – I prefer Dutch process cocoa because it is less acidic with a strong cocoa flavor.  Natural cocoa will also work.
  • Storing – The cake can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Beyond that, and it  may start to dry out.  If using a whipped cream based frosting, I recommend refrigerating the cake.
  • Freezing – The un-frosted, baked cake can be frozen for up to 3 months.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bake.  Thaw the cake in the refrigerator.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Erin Cernich

NUTRITION ESTIMATES

Calories: 281kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 240mg | Potassium: 72mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 25g | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 2mg
Nutrition information is calculated by a third-party and should only be considered an estimate and not a guarantee.
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I'm Erin and I'm all about desserts - and a little bit of butter!

I've tested, written, and photographed hundreds of recipes on my website. Here you'll find the tastiest small batch desserts - all homemade, all simple, and all for you! Click here to learn more about me!

5 from 5 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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