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Kathy P's Wacky Cake

Rate Kathy P's Wacky Cake

4 starsAvg. rating: 4 from 68 votes.

 Recipe Information  
Category: Cakes
Recipe Created By: Kathy Przywara

Kathy P's Wacky Cake


1 1/2 cup flour (see below for gluten-free options)
3 Tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vinegar
5 Tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.

Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl and stir to combine.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until you get a smooth batter. Do not beat.

Pour into greased and floured pan (8" square or 9" round) or 12 cupcakes. Bake in oven until tests done - about 35 minutes for cake, about 20 minutes for cupcakes.

Wacky Cake is a classic recipe from the Depression era because of the rationing of butter and eggs. The original recipe I saw mixed it right in the pan. You mix the dry ingredients, make 3 holes and pour the wet ingredients in. You can not screw this up. I even accidentally left out the oil one time and they were still OK - a bit dense, but OK. I've made it in several versions and even gluten-free.

The vinegar cannot be omitted, unless another acid ingredient (see below for orange or lemon alternative flavors) is substituted, since the acid is crucial to making this rise.

Vanilla: Omit cocoa. Double amount of vanilla.

Spice: Omit cocoa. Add 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice.

Orange: Omit cocoa and vinegar. Substitute orange juice for the water

Lemon: Omit cocoa. Substitute lemon juice for vinegar. Some lemon extract can be added.

Gluten Free: Substitute 1 3/4 cups Gluten-Free Flour Mix for wheat flour. Add 1 tsp xanthan gum. Works well with Kathy P's All Purpose Rice Flour Mix.

Others have used the following rice free Sorghum Flour Mix for Wacky Cake:

1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup potato or cornstarch
1/4 cup tapioca starch

If you prefer using bean flours, you can also use:

3/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup bean flour (garbanzo)
1/2 cup potato or cornstarch
1/4 cup tapioca starch

From Lynn in Denver at 5280ft ... my wacky cake cupcakes were delicious but a bit flat and even sunken, so I dug out my cookbooks to read up on baking at high altitude, and based on that info made the following adjustments to the recipe:

1) reduced the baking soda to 3/4 teaspoon
2) reduced the sugar by a couple tablespoons
3) increased the baking temperature to 375 degrees
4) reduced the baking time a couple minutes (cupcakes I do about 18 min)

Gluten: Gluten is a protein found in specific grains (wheat, spelt, kamut, barley, rye). Other grains are naturally gluten-free but may have cross-contact with gluten-containing grains. Look for certified gluten-free products if you need to avoid gluten. Find out more about wheat and gluten substitutions.

 This recipe is free of:
 Milk  Peanut  Egg  Soy  Tree nut
 Gluten  Wheat  Fish  Shellfish  Sesame

 Keep in Mind  
  1. Always read labels! Product ingredients can change without notice. Do not assume a recipe or product is safe for you. Contact manufacturers to confirm safety for your allergy needs.
  2. A check in a box on a recipe means you can make a recipe "free of" that allergen. You may need to use a substitution or alternative product to make that recipe safe for the allergies you are managing.
  3. If you need assistance with a recipe or ingredient substitution, post on our Food & Cooking support forums. You will receive personal help to alter a recipe to make it allergy-free for your child’s needs.
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Comments (20) -

Bless you, Kathy! You have given me cake! We found out a month ago that my one year old daughter is allergic to the Top 8 allergens, among other things. I'm still nursing her so we both went on an allergen free diet, and I have to admit, I was really missing cake. I tried and failed making vanilla cupcakes from another recipe. Then I found this one (the chocolate cake) and made it with Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Flour (using your advice to add an extra 1/4 cup), and the cake came out great! I baked it in a square 8x8 pan. For icing I poured on some Enjoy Life chocolate chips after the cake came out of the oven. When they were melted I spread around the chocolate with a knife - perfect icing, both warm and later at room temp. Thank you so much for giving me cake again. My outlook on life has improved greatly!

Kathy P - KFA Admin 7/23/2015 4:54:39 PM

Yay for cake!  I'm glad the recipe works well for you.  As a nursing momma on a restricted diet, it's the little treats that can be so important!  

Be sure to check out our on-line community forums as well to connect w/ other parents going through the same day to day struggles as you are -

Just wanted to make a side not to those with severe allergies that xanthum gum can be derived from common allergies like wheat, soy, corn, and dairy

I am excited to try this recipe with almond flour arrowroot starch!

My grandmother used to make this cake when I was younger,  and I today make this for my kids as me and one of my sons have a lot of food allergies this is the go to cake and it's vegan friendly which is great.

I have another recipe for wacky cake that is quite similar, but I am trying to make something gluten free and dairy free for a girl scout friend who cannot eat either substance..... I see a comment from a few weeks back, asking about using almond flour in this recipe.  Does that work?  I have used almond flour before for paleo recipes, and I like it.  Do I need the xanthan gum in that case?  What does xanthan gum do for the mixture?  Also, do you have any particular suggestions for icing that would not include dairy products?  Thanks for any help you've got to offer.  This is all new to me!

Hi I'm a baker and have been struggling for some time to find a sponge recipe that will work without eggs. Everything I tried had been a disaster!
Until now.... I tried your recipe as cupcakes. They looked a bit pale, but they rose well and were light and fluffy like cake and most importantly they taste like cake!
I'm so pleased to be able to offer cake to people with allergies it's so brilliant to be able to say "yes I can make cake for you" ☺️ Xx

Kathy P - KFA Admin 10/5/2015 9:24:03 AM

Hi Meili - I have not tried almond flour in this recipe. There are several gluten free options in the substitutions section that people have tried.  We have a several blogs with great cakes and frostings highlighted.  You'll be able to find a dairy free frosting idea in there.

Kathy P - KFA Admin 10/5/2015 9:26:16 AM

Hi Gemma - that's exciting that you've found a recipe that works for you!  This is a great naturally egg free cake.

How many cupcakes would this make?

ooops, I just saw that it makes 12 cupcakes Smile

Has anyone tried this with coconut flour? If so, how much coconut flour do I use?

Thank you for this!  My soon to be 1 year old has severe milk protein and dairy allergy but I don't want him to miss out on the fun of tearing into a cake for his 1st birthday.  Will definitely be making this for him.  

Instead of any gums for gluten free baking, as the same amount of ground flax seed, ground psyllium husk, or ground chia seed as a replacement.  I reserve a coffee grinder just for that purposes, bought just for a couple of bucks at Salvation Army.  These can be found at most grocery stores. Just grind as needed, and stir into flour with dry ingredients, then mix as per recipe.

Also, if you are out of baking soda, 2 - 4 tsp of baking powder omit the vinegar.

Kathy P - KFA Admin 12/17/2015 5:03:04 PM

Sarah - glad your little one will have cake!

Rosa - great tips! Thanks for sharing!

My son can't  eat maida & eggs.So can I make this cake with  wheat flour? ?

Kathy P - KFA Admin 1/19/2016 11:08:36 AM

Sangeeta - the original is written for wheat flour. Did you mean whole wheat flour? I'm not sure it's been tried w/ whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose wheat flour.

You mention that your son is allergic to maida - isn't that a type of wheat flour? Do you need to avoid all wheat?

My son is turning 1 soon and he's allergic to dairy, eggs, and chocolate. I'm excited to be able to make him a little cake that he can actually have!

Kathy P - KFA Admin 1/28/2016 7:51:43 PM

Happy birthday to your little guy! Hope he enjoys his cake. Let us know how it comes out and post a pic to our Sweets & Treats photo album -

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