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Kathy P's Wacky Cake

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Recipe Information

Category: Cakes
Recipe Created By: Kathy Przywara

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Egg-Free Cake

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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.

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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 :)

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 -

just made the cake! it is really yummy for a wheat dairy egg free cake! but i did some modifications depending on what i had in the kitchen: i used oat flour, baking powder instead of baking soda, no vanilla. must try

I made them this evening as a triall for my sons bday in may. the cupcakes came out a bit thicker than normal cupcakes, like dense, but also very moist. i used 1-1 ratio for the oil. i substituted applesauce for the oil. is that the reason they did or is there something else that i can do?! thanks

Kathy P - KFA Admin 3/28/2016 12:09:00 PM

It may be from the applesauce. They are a bit more dense than most box cakes if that is what you are used to. Is there a reason you swapped out the oil? Are you using wheat flour or non-wheat flours?

I would just like to say thank you for sharing this recipe. I am a baker from England. I was asked to make an egg free,dairy free, nut free and soya free cake. I tried and tested 3 recipes and yours was by far the best. I quadrupled the ingredients to fill a 10 inch circle cake tin which is 2 1/2 inches deep. The cake turned out fantastic. I also made marshmallow fondant and covered the cake and then went on to design Toothless from "How to Train a Dragon". I am confident my customer is going to love the cake love the cake. I will be posting a picture on my Facebook page as soon as I've delivered it on Sunday. I will be sure to give you a shout out. Thanks again. Kind Regards Rebekah :-) xx

Hi Kathy,

I will be baking this on a Thursday to serve on Saturday. How would you recommend I store it?

Thank you

Kathy P - KFA Admin 4/7/2016 11:19:25 AM

Hi Nathalie - You could freeze them (after frosting) if you have room in your freezer. Just put them on a tray and pop in the freezer. Once they are frozen solid, you can put them in a sealed hard-sided container. To defrost, just leave the container (closed) on the counter for an hour or so.

If you can't freeze them, then keep them, covered, in a cool dry place.

Helen Wright 4/23/2016 6:19:43 AM

I would like to try this recipe for my daughter, however I'm not quite sure which type of vinegar to use. Could you enlighten me, please ? We live in the UK.

Kathy P - KFA Admin 4/23/2016 10:45:14 PM

You can use any kind of vinegar. It doesn't really affect the flavor. It's there as a acid to react with the baking soda as the leavening. Apple cider or distilled vinegar work just fine. So does red wine vinegar or rice vinegar.

Karrie D - Gluten free newby 5/3/2016 7:47:42 PM

I attempted to make this recipe using 1-3/4 cup of Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour in place of the 1-1/2 cups of flour and followed the rest of the recipe as instructed. The cupcakes didn't turn out well. They looked as if they were saturated in vegetable oil in the middles, but the outsides and tops looked cooked. What did I do wrong?

I would like to make cup cakes to keep around for my granddaughter. Can you freeze these? If so, how long can you keep them frozen?

Kathy P - KFA Admin 5/17/2016 2:04:09 PM

You can definitely freeze them! We have a great topic on how to bake and freeze cupcakes - including the frosted/unfrosted debate - You need to join or login to our free community to view the topic.

Your cupcake recipe is my go to. Just love them. Simple ingredients and easy to make. There's a batch baking as I write this. My kiddo who has a dozen food allergies love, love them! One problem though: how did you manage a smooth surface top?? Mine turn out rugged. Btw, I also make adjustments. For my batch now, I subbed skim milk for water, added walnuts and since I didn't have enough sugar added a teaspoon agave. Your advice will be helpful. Thank you!

Sorry if I missed this somewhere... What frosting recipe do you use? I currently make one with palm oil but would like to get away from that.
Thank you for all the variations!! I have always made the chocolate version and didn't realize how easy it was to change it up!!

Kathy P - KFA Admin 5/20/2016 11:28:40 AM

Carmelita - I'm glad the recipe works so well for you! I have not had issues with the tops being rugged. I've had that issue with "thicker" batters like muffins especially with gf - batter does not seem to "flow" like it does with wheat. Are the tops like that before you put them in the oven? One thing to try would be to gently tap the pan on the counter to settle things. Or use a small offset spatula to smooth the tops before putting in the oven.

Using milk definitely changes the texture a bit and I'm not sure what liquid sweetener like agave will do.

Kathy P - KFA Admin 5/20/2016 11:43:17 AM

Danelle - I generally use a buttercream frosting. You can find lots of options here in the frosting catagory. Most American buttercream frostings need some type of solid fat. So, if you are trying to get away from a solid fat, there are a few options.

There is icing made with oil - But this will be a soft, spreadable consistency.

I've done a poured fondant before which can be very elegant. Poured fondant is a boiled sugar syrup that is then coaxed into a fine crystalline structure. It sounds harder than it is! I used this tutorial when I did it - I can't seem to find where my photo was posted.

My family's favorite is the Orange variation: Omit the cocoa and vinegar and substitute orange juice for water.
Delicious and so moist! Thank you!

I would like to try the orange version - do you think it will work with juice from a carton, or would freshly squeezed be better? Thank you.

Kathy P - KFA Admin 5/26/2016 1:13:27 PM

I've only ever used bottled was my daughter's favorite flavor, so we made it often!

Thanks so much for this recipe, I had no idea that free-from cakes could be so easy and so nice! I made the orange version with juice from a carton, this made them quite sweet so I reduced the sugar to 3/4 of a cup for the second batch, maybe even 1/2 a cup might be enough. They went down a treat at our school cake sale!

Kathy P - KFA Admin 5/31/2016 1:31:09 PM

Glad they were a hit! Yes, the orange can be quite sweet depending on the OJ you use.

I'm excited to try this recipe for my baby's first bday as he has a milk protein intolerance. Do you think coconut oil would work well for the oil used?

Kathy P - KFA Admin 6/1/2016 10:46:30 AM

I would think so - melt it first and measure like liquid oil.

I made this for my egg, milk, rye, wheat, and tree nut free friend during a going away party. It was chewy but good. She felt so happy to not be left out. I will use this for the future. Thank you! 🍰

Kathy P - KFA Admin 6/2/2016 6:33:20 PM

Glad it worked! Wheat free stuff does tend to have a bit different texture.

Just wondering if anyone has tried an alternative to sugar? I was thinking either stevia or honey, or both? I'm making it gluten free, and using coconut oil for the oil and would like to omit sugar as well... For a 1st birthday smash cake.

I made my son's first birthday cake using a non-sugar, natural sweetener. maybe it was honey. I don't remember now but I know it was gluten, dairy, egg, soy, and nut-free as well as corn-free, too.

Cybele Pascal has a cake sweetened with only honey in her Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook. I think her newer baking book that is all top 8 allergen free and gluten free has some that are sweetened with agave. Just checked and there are things including cake/cupcakes that are sweetened with just agave and some with just maple syrup. :) It's called the Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook.

Hi, oh my goodness I'm panicking! I just found this recipe and spent 2 hours and went to 2 stores to get everything and got home to start making the cake for my sons 5th bday party tomorrow and have just realized that I have only a bundt cake pan, 1 8in round pan, 2 loaf pans (doesn't say the size) and 1 sheet cake pan (doesn't say the size either). Someone please help! I am an extremely inexperienced baker, my mom was a baker and my grandmother bakes but everytime I do it theres problems. Last year I had the same problem another woman on here had, I had tried to make my sons bday cake for his 4th bday party and used applesauce, he loved it but no one else would eat it! I'm hoping to change that outcome this year as I cannot afford to buy everyone else a separate cake. Which pan should I use and would the portions need to be changed?

Has anyone tried the orange recipe (or any of the others I guess) with applesauce instead of sugar? I have had a lot of luck with this with baking in the past, but the only time I tried it with an allergy friendly cake it turned out horribly. I think that cake was just too bitter without the large amounts of sugar they added. I'm hoping this one will work with applesauce as we don't do sugar with our son and have friends with severe allergies coming to his party. I don't think I'll have time to make a second batch so I'm a bit nervous. Also, does this recipe come out okay as a cake instead of cupcakes? Thank you!

Kathy P - KFA Admin 7/28/2016 6:06:44 PM

I have not tried swapping out the sugar. I'm not sure how it will work. Let us know how it goes.

Hi, I made this cake tonight as a test run for Saturday but I found the cake to be very sweet. Can I use something to tone it down.?

Kathy P - KFA Admin 8/15/2016 9:11:56 PM

What flavor did you make? Some tend to be more sweet than others - the orange for instance. You can try cutting back on the sugar a little. I would not cut back more than 2 Tbsp though or you will throw off the chemistry of the cake.

Hi Kathy just wondering if I could add Canned pumpkin to the basic recipe I really am trying to make a gluten free pumpkin cake? Im figuring I'd probably have to add some spices to it though or maybe just follow the spice cake recipe? Any advice?

Kathy P - KFA Admin 11/16/2016 10:04:07 PM

Lauren, my recommendation would be to use Cheryl's Pumpkin Muffins - I made them recently using Trader Joe's gluten-free flour and they came out great! I would try that recipe with your favorite gluten-free flour mix.

Thank you so much for this recipe! I have been making dairy & egg-free baked goods for my sons for about 8 years now, and this is my new favorite recipe for vanilla cake (I've tried quite a few!). I do find I prefer it with slightly less oil (4 Tbsp instead of 5). It's been a big hit at our birthday parties! :)

I made the cake with gf option #1 with sorghum flour. It was funny like thick milk . I then added more of the same flours but crumbled and tasted like sand .... so sad! Was looking Forward to cake:( what do you think happened?

Kathy P - KFA Admin 3/2/2017 5:54:14 PM

April - was it like thick milk before baking? The batter for this is very thin and not like regular cake batter. If you added more flour, that is probably why it got dry and crumbly.

Just made cupcakes for my grandsons second birthday. Turned out delicious! And I'm not much of a baker. Very easy. Thanks so much

Rachel Whitley 4/11/2017 7:54:45 AM

I have just made this with option 1 sorghum mix too and it was like a very thin, thin batter. Ive put it in the oven and will see what happens!

Kathy P - KFA Admin 4/12/2017 11:41:53 AM

How did it turn out Rachel? The batter is very thin.

Question: I want to make a 13x9 size cake. Do I need to double these ingredients?

Kathy P - KFA Admin 5/16/2017 7:03:08 PM

Jen - yes, you would need to double the recipe for a 13x9 cake.

I've made these as cupcakes a couple of times for my sone but I use Domata Gluten Free flour (Rice Flour, Corn Starch, Tapioca Dextrin, Xanthan Gum, Rice Extract) instead; no cocoa powder and rice vinegar. Every time I've made them, the flavor has been pretty good but they fall in the middle. I've tried decreasing the oil, increasing the baking soda a little and I've tried cooking them longer with little positive results. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Update... I just made the cupcakes, I used 1 3/4 cup of the Domata flour and added 1 tsp of xanthum gum, since Domata has xanthum gum, I wasn't sure if I should add more. I baked the cupcakes for about 24 minutes, the fell a little but are very tacky/gooey especially toward the bottom. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Tiffany Smith 6/24/2017 7:52:41 AM

Can I use apple sauce instead of oil?

Kathy P - KFA Admin 6/26/2017 5:10:39 PM

Cori - I recommend checking your oven temperature. This recipe, especially when using gluten free flour, sometimes has issues if the oven temp is too low. If you don't have an oven thermometer, you could try just bumping the temp 25°F

Tiffany - I don't recommend substituting applesauce for the oil in the recipe. Applesauce can make it too heavy.

Anna Grabrian 7/7/2017 10:33:38 PM

This is a fab recipe! I made cupcakes with the sorghum flour mix as we are gluten free and cannot use rice flours. I have changed my basic GF mix to use this sorghum mix now as it holds up so well!!! YAY, new cake recipe and new basic flour mix in one! Thanks for posting!

Kathy P - KFA Admin 7/12/2017 3:26:04 PM

That's great Anna! I'm glad you have a new cake recipe AND a new flour blend!

Delicious recipe! I used the Pillsbury Gluten Free Flour Mix, and even added some Enjoy Life chocolate chips to the batter. They came out perfectly moist and fluffy! My son and husband LOVE them! Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipe! This is definitely a keeper for my books!

Thanks for the recipe. I was really happy to find this recipe for my 5 yr old son who has multiple food allergies. I am using sorghum flour mix , not sure what went wrong but when i mixed all the ingredients its more like a cookie dough consistency instead of I need to use more water with the sorghum flour mix. I used lime juice instead of vinegar.

I love this cake, made it a few times now. It is so simple to make and is very delicious It's hard to believe that it tastes so great without the usual ingredients like eggs...5 stars from me

Kathy P - KFA Admin 2/19/2018 1:56:19 PM

Hi Maddie - Not sure what happened with using your sorghum mix. Is this a premixed flour or something you mix yourself? One thing I've noticed about gluten free flours is that it's really easy to measure "heavy". The consistency whould be fairly thin. Maybe keep the flour amount at 1 1/2 cups insteads of 1 3/4 that I needed for gluten free.

Etsa - glad you've found a new recipe!

Kathy P - KFA Admin 11/5/2018 2:24:56 PM

Melissa - these do not need to be kept in the fridge and can be store according to what the frosting requires.

Hi Kathy-

We use this recipe all the time due to my daughter's food allergies. She is going in for some allergy food testing tomorrow (a milk challenge) and wondered if you can substitute the water for cow's milk?
Thank you!

Do you have to add xanthm gum if the GF flour mix already has some in it?

Kathy P - KFA Admin 11/19/2020 12:32:04 AM

Nee - best of luck with the milk challenge! I have not tried milk in this recipe, but Vegan Zebra Cake is similar and does use milk -

Kathy P - KFA Admin 11/19/2020 12:33:26 AM

Mary - if your flour mix has xanthan gum, you do not need to add more.

Susan Davies 2/1/2021 11:39:20 AM

Unfortunately this cake did not turn out as expected from the ratings it was given? Very greasy, heavy & like chewing gum? In the bin. Sorry not a winner.

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