Quick and Magical Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake Recipe

Slice of Chocolate Crazy Cake on white plate  by Bake This Cake

If you’ve got a half cup of cocoa in your pantry and a splash of vinegar, you’ve likely got what it takes to make this cool vintage moist chocolate cake. No eggs, no milk, no butter, no electric mixer, no boiling water and as easy as a cake mix! And it’s fun and magical. And it’s quick and easy. Did I say dark, moist and yum? Well, add that too. haha! I’d say 10 minutes tops of your counter time will do it for this 1930’s era recipe for chocolate “depression cake” from scratch. I guess it’s a science thing — the vinegar with the baking soda. yeah. But it works like a charm — and it’s a quick little ride down history lane.

White Potted Daisies Bake This Cake

Cake history comes alive! This type of cake is still very popular — oh ’bout 80 years after first hitting the streets. πŸ™‚ The most common “other” name for this type of cake is Wacky Cake (and its cousin, the Dump Cake) where all unmixed ingredients get, well, dumped, right into the baking pan for mixing AND baking. Although it was around earlier, it was a good recipe to have handy during World War II because folks were short on dairy products and time — with so many home workers out at the factories twisting widgets and riveting (go Rosie!). No time for fancy dessert. And the Lip Smackin Snackin Cake was revived — with a scientific twist (that bubbling brew of vinegar and baking soda). ooooh magic!

Flower Pyramid photo by Leslie Macchiarella

“Best For” Uses: The Chocolate Crazy Cake travels well in the pan so it is awesome for Potluck dessert. It’s a Stress-Free Cake and way-light (or zilch) on cholesterol so it’s pretty healthy as caking goes, which makes it a nice PTA Cake or Classroom Cake (provided you don’t go hog-wild with the Double Fudge Frosting recipe below). πŸ™‚ It ALSO makes a nice great serve-from-the pan Picnic Cake or Tail-Gating Party Cake. So, go ahead, haul it outside and have your dessert on the lawn. πŸ™‚

Grass photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Our twisted cake notes: This cake usually bakes in one large cake pan (or coffee cake pan or High Heels in the Grass photo by Leslie Macchiarellacasserole dish) without frosting, or with powdered sugar on top or with frosting on the top layer only. But we did it in 2 cake pans just cuz. And we wanted to test out some variations to see if we could frost it like a layer cake. It’s almost like a Puddin’ Cake (it’s that moist) so it’s quite tricky to layer and frost. We gave it our best shot (twonky, but possible) and we now have some amazing “cake wreck” photos. haha! Although we reduced the heat and baking time for our 2 smaller cakes, we recommend baking one solitary cake –so we’ll give the directions for that. And, although we made a boiled Double Fudge Frosting for it, I found it quite sweet for this cake BUT our testers loved it and they recommend it — BIG TIME! πŸ™‚ I think a better choice might be — Just-Plain-Naked Crazy Chocolate Cake or a Just-Plain-Naked Crazy Chocolate Cake With Whipped Cream as a dollop on each slice. Plus a frosty tall glass of milk. πŸ™‚ OR you COULD go with the testers and boil up the Double Fudge Recipe below. Oh, and we’re using a mixing bowl. But you could try mixing and baking and serving all in the same pan (and let us know how it goes, send photos too).

Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake Recipe Card Bake This Cake

Okay, let’s go cah-ray-zee for Vintage Crazy Cake!!!

(Time yourself for prep time under 10-minutes! Maybe you could even bake this quick cake even faster! haha!)

Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake

Tools Needed for Cake:
One 10″ round x2″ deep baking pan (or 2 – 9″ round pans or other shapes & sizes for at least 6 cups of volume)
Parchment paper (not wax paper, for lining the cake pan)
Cooking spray
Large Mixing Bowl
Measuring Cups and Spoons
Optional: Temperature Probe
Optional: Electric Mixer

Chocolate Crazy Cake Ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon Vinegar (we used Cider Vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, fine quality
1/2 cup vegetable oil (we used Sunflower Oil)
1 cup cold water

Chocolate Crazy Cake thick slice fudge frosting BakethisCake


Place oven rack in center position and pre-heat oven to 350.

Spray cooking spray in baking pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment, spray the top of the parchment and set the pan aside.

Place the following ingredients into a large mixing bowl:
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Dry Ingredients for Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake2  BakeThisCake

Whisk the dry ingredients thoroughly to fully blend. πŸ™‚

Whisked Dry Ingredients for Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake 2 BakeThisCake

Using a spoon (or the back side of your whisk) make 3 gentle holes in the dry ingredients as follows:
1 small hole (for 1/2 teaspoon)
1 medium-sized hole (for an “expanding” 1 Tablespoon)
1 large hole (for 1/2 cup)

Making holes liquids Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake Bake This Cake

Measure out the following ingredients and get them ready to rock:
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, fine quality
1 Tablespoon vinegar (we used cider vinegar)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (we used sunflower oil)

Okay, here comes the magic part

Pour the vanilla into the small hole.
Pour the vinegar into the medium hole (it will bubble up).
Pour the vegetable oil into the large hole.

Filling holes liquids Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake Bake This Cake

Using a fork, stir the ingredients well, using the fork tongs to try to fully moisten the flour mixture.

Tip: Many folks skip this pre-water stirring step and you can too by just jumping to the water ingredient — but we wanted to show you what it looks like for all you pre-water stirring fans.:)

Mixing 3 hole liquids Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake Bake This Cake

Continue mixing with the fork until the batter looks like pie crust dough before it is rolled out with pea-sized lumps of dark dough.

Well mixed dough before water is added Bake This Cake

Pour over the moistened batter and whisk for about 3 minutes until mostly smooth:
1 cup cold water
Tip: You can use an electric mixer for this stage to get the batter smooth, but what the heck, this is vintage cake baking so go for it with a whisk (or just use a fork). πŸ™‚

Adding cold water to dough Bake This Cake

As you continue to stir the water into the mixture (this will take a few of minutes and maybe a hundred strokes), the batter will transform right before your eyes and become rich and smooth with little bubbles bursting here and there.

Fully stirred batter Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake Bake This Cake

Pour the batter into the prepared pan (remember, we used 2 pans but you can use just one 10″ round x2″ deep pan, or a 6-cup casserole dish).

Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake batter in cake pans Bake This Cake

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 to 35 minutes. (If you bake this cake in 2 pans as we did, we reduced the time to about 25 minutes).

Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cakes into the oven Bake this Cake

The cake will be ready when the center top springs back lightly when gently touched at top center and the center is gently puffed (but not cracking) and the toothpick test shows clean (internal temperature of about 180 degrees).

Baked Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake in the oven Bake This Cake

Cool the cake in the pan if you want to serve this cake vintage-style right from the pan — even warm. yum!

Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cakes hot from the oven Bake This Cake

Let’s get a little better look at the lovely texture.

Single Hot Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake Bake This Cake

Notice how the cake flattens to a perfect level as it cools down.

Nice flat tops of bake Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake Bake This Cake

If you want to serve this cake on a platter, you should remove it when the cake is still warm and you must take care when removing this moist little darling from the pan (or it will break) so take your time and do as you are told here. πŸ™‚ haha!

Gently cut around the edges right at the pan line so as not to tear the cake (maybe run that knife around twice).

Cover the cake-in-the-pan with a flat cake-sized plate that has a big hunk of aluminum foil on top of the plate.

Now flip and slam that sucker down on the counter (without breaking your plate please) because we want some momentum to kick that cake right out of its setting. It is not spongy enough to stab at from the sides with a spatula but it should release from the parchment with a nice little oopmph flip. (Don’t lift off the cake pan from the flipped cake until you’re sure the cake has successfully released from the pan…test by knocking on the pan to listen for a hollow sound). If it seems stuck, try banging on the bottom of the pan with a spoon (I know, right?) or placing a warm wet dish towel on the bottom of the cake pan (weird, but it works sometimes) or gently tugging one side and scooping the cake out with a large pancake spatula if you think the bottom will release. And good luck!

This is why this cake is often served straight from the baking pan with frosting just layered on top — ’cause it’s quite tricky to remove — but as you can see it is possible with some patience. πŸ˜€

Storing the cake: I think this cake is best stored with wax paper loosely tucked in at four corners top and bottom (one paper on top, one paper on the bottom, with gentle tucks to hold the paper in place). If you store it in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, it might get soggy — so let it breathe with wax paper (just like a nice loaf of bread needs a little air). πŸ™‚

Storing Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cakes Bake This Cake

Homemade Double Fudge Frosting:

Testers’ Choice + Sweetness warning! This frosting is only for those not faint at heart. It is Devil Writing photo by Leslie Macchiarellavery sweet and will make an excellent fudge if you just let it sit in a brownie pan to cool and harden. THAT’s how sweet it is! I was going to nix it altogether but I’m telling you my cake testers would not let me do it! All testers (maybe a dozen or more) insisted that this frosting recipe should be made available to those that are looking for a decadent style (devilishly sweet) chocolate frosting. So, even though I’m partial to a light whipped cream dollop for this cake, here goes! (yes, the devil made me write this up for you so be sure to serve the slices small and I won’t feel so bad if you suffer chocolate overload). πŸ™‚

When this frosting is done, it needs to go onto the cake right away so prep this frosting when your cake is cooled and ready to frost.

Tools Needed for Frosting:
1 medium pot
Spreading knife
Optional: Electric Mixer

Double Fudge Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 cube)
2 ounces (2 squares) of unsweetened baker’s chocolate (good quality)
1-1/2 cups golden brown sugar
1/2 cup milk (we used 2%)
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Recipe card for Double Fudge Chocolate Frosting Bake This Cake

Directions for Homemade Double Fudge Frosting:

In a medium saucepan, melt over low heat:
1/2 cup (1 cube) unsalted butter
2 ounces (2 squares) of unsweetened chocolate (fine quality) .

Melting Chocolate and butter for  Double Fudge Frosting BakeThisCake

Stir continuously until the chocolate and butter melts…

Melted butter and chocolate for Fudge Frosting BakeThisCake

Add into the pot, stirring with a whisk:
1-1/2 cups golden brown sugar

Adding brown sugar to fudge frosting BakeThisCake

Keep stirring the brown sugar until it is nicely incorporated…
Stirring brown sugar in fudge frosting Bake This Cake

Using the whisk, blend in until fully incorporated:
1/2 cup milk (we used 2%)

Adding milk to Fudge Frosting in process Bake This Cake

Blend in until smooth:
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Simmer for 4 minutes (low bubbling), stirring constantly…

Checking temp of fudge frosting BakeThisCake

Remove from heat and stir to cool (about 2 minutes).

As the frosting cools, you will see the consistency thicken so get ready to use it when it hits your preferred thickness. I’d say chocolate pudding consistency is best.

Cooling to thicken fudge frosting BakeThisCake

This final frosting is smooth and very sweet…so I recommend using it sparingly. πŸ™‚

Leftover Magic: If you don’t use it all on the cake, (add some chopped nuts if you like and even some mini marshmallows) and pour the leftover frosting into a square-shaped pan and it will (magically) harden on the counter into homemade fudge. Just cut into small squares for serving.

Thickened Fudge Frosting BakeThisCake

Because the cake is quite tricky to work with, I recommend just pouring the frosting over the cake top and, only if necessary, smoothing it without touching the cake or lifting your spreading knife. Don’t expect a gorgeous bakery look…expect amazing vintage-style decadence in a chocolate cake with double fudge frosting! πŸ˜€

Here’s a close-up of the still-warm and buttery Double Fudge Frosting on top of the cake…

Warm Double Fudge Frosting Bake This Cake

This cake actually holds and serves better the day after frosting so consider keeping it in a cake holder overnight on the counter before letting ‘er lose on the crowd. You may hear screams of delight but be ready to catch someone who faints at the sight of it. πŸ™‚

Chocolate Crazy Cake with Double Fudge Frosting red background  by BakeThisCake

It’s fun and easy and, indeed a magical cake recipe running high on popularity for the last 80 some-odd years!

Thank you for joining me for this crazy little vintage cake adventure. I do hope you get a chance to bake it. Send us your photos and let us know in the comments what you think. I love hearing from you!

If you’re not already, please consider joining us on Facebook, on Twitter or on Pinterest and see the cakes in their testing stages.

Oh, before you go, here’s another quick baker — for Homemade PIZZA. haha!

Homemade Teen Pizza Bake This Cake

Homemade Quick Pizza Recipe! Two packets of refrigerated rosemary pizza dough (rolled & baked at 350 to light golden about 10 mins). Top the baked pizza crust with Sauce: 1/2 c tomato paste, 1 c water, 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon, 1 t balsamic vinegar, oregano, thyme, herbs de Provence. Saute in olive oil: 1 minced shallot, 3 cloves minced garlic, then 1 lb ground sirloin. Top the baked & sauced pizza crust with: prepared ground sirloin, 1/2 c chopped sautΓ©ed spinach (thoroughly drained & patted dry), 1/2 c ricotta in 1/2 teaspoon dabs, 1/4 c grated Parmesan. Bake another 10 mins to melt the cheese. 2 pizzas serve 16 slices.

Happy vintage baking to you all and thank you for stopping by!


Leslie at beachwood overview

Cake Wreck Fudge Frosting on Chocolate Crazy Cake Bake This Cake

Test #1 Cake Wreck – Fudge Frosting

Wipe Your Shoes at the Door photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Wipe Your Shoes at the Door? (maybe not)

Turtle Gazing at the Garden photo by Leslie Macchiarella

Our Turtle Gazing at the Garden

Solo Teen Homemade Pizza Bake Thi sCake

Close-up of the homemade teen pizza!

38 thoughts on “Quick and Magical Vintage Chocolate Crazy Cake Recipe

  1. I first made this cake in the 1960’s when I was 13. It was a project for a Girl Scout badge. At that time, there was no frosting. Since then, I have made it hundreds of times, exactly the same way. It is a favorite of ours. Thanks for the reminder. I was here looking at your banana cake when I found this one so I will be making two cakes, one to use up the bananas and the other just to enjoy chocolate. They both freeze beautifully, especially without frosting!

  2. Would this cake work as a cupcake? My son has a dairy intolerance and I’m trying to find a good recipe to use for classroom cupcakes for his birthday.

    • Nice mom! I think it would work though you might have to spray the inside of the cupcake liners because it seems to stick to the sides of a regular pan. At least it will be a fast try. Hope you can let us know how it goes and happy birthday to your son! Leslie

  3. Love this cake !! I’ve been making it since I was 10 …. (now 54) My moms recipe, she called it “GOOFY CAKE” .. We usually never put frosting on it, but instead I would make about a recipe and a half and we used the batter as frosting… Poured only onto a piece when served. .. But if I frosted it , BUTTER CREAM was the best πŸ™‚ Even MY kids love it, most requested cake in my home.

    • Hi Tina, So interesting to hear your history with this cake. Crazy Cake, Whacky Cake, now Goofy Cake. I love the names! I’ve not heard of using the batter as frosting, that’s wild. Buttercream sounds great. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Hi Laurie. This cake can be hard to release from a pan, which is why it is most often baked and served in square cuts from a single layer pan. If you try it in a bundt pan you should take extra precaution to ensure a perfect release. I would also recommend using a baking thermometer for a longer baking time to perhaps 200 degrees. Good luck and happy baking. Leslie

  4. Love that you created this site. I always thought my Grandmother’s would be there forever to pass down the recipes. Thank you, thank you for giving me a look and a taste back in time..

  5. I had a similar receipe that my aunt made many years ago and tried looking for it today and unfortunately couldn’t find it so did a search and came up with your receipe. Indeed it was vintage also but a little simpler. I remember making it years ago where I put the flower in the “brownie type pan” made three holes in flower and then added cocoa , vinegar and don’t remember what else, then proceeded to pour water over all. Stir and bake. Problem is I don’t remember all ingredients so think I will improvise with your rendition. Thanks!

  6. I have made this cake many times over the last 40 yrs. and for a quick and easy frosting, just place thin chocolate covered mints in rows to cover the top of the cake about. 3-5 minutes before the cake is done baking and after melted just spread evenly over top.

  7. I have made this cake along with the Vintage banana cake and they are both amazing!!! I do have one question on the frosting for this one… My frosting came out a little grainy – like the brown sugar didn’t dissolve… Any hints to prevent that next time? It still tastes amazing!!! Thanks for sharing all these great recipes!!!

    • Hi, Tiffany. So glad you enjoyed our vintage versions of fresh banana layer cake and chocolate crazy cake. For the double fudge frosting, if the brown sugar starts with lumps, they can be hard to remove so I use a fork (or fingers) to press away any lumps before starting. This frosting may need to be stirred further until there are no lumps. Also, if you see any sign of crystalization in the fudge frosting you could add a little hot water to the final mixture (perhaps a Tablespoon) and try immediately reheating and stirring it with a clean and dry whisk until smooth. Even though it seems tricky, it can be very forgiving upon reheating. Then pour this frosting over the cake while it is hot since it will harden as it cools (and cooling may give a further chance of crystalization). Gosh, I hope that doesn’t sound too hard.

  8. I just discovered your blog and I’m already loving it!
    vintage and homemade recipes? I’ve been looking for this for a while now!
    Greetings from MΓ©xico!

  9. Hi Leslie…. when I found your blog, Wacky Cake came to mind as “my” vintage cake and then I found you have it. It was a family favorite back in the sixties when our sons were young. We used Buttercream Frosting but your Chocolate Recipe looks good too. Fun reading your posts and your mentioning Grandma Margaret…. I have good memories of times with her and her cooking.

  10. I am so going to try this recipe!

    It actually reminds me a bit of my grandma’s favorite recipe (still, it’s not a chocolate one, + goes well with any kinds of fruits).

    Anyway, I love your blog πŸ™‚

  11. Great recipe! Used to make this as a kid with my mom but we lost the recipe! Great to have it back as I have developed an allergy to eggs and find it hard to find good recipes that are egg free! The icing is to die for! Delicious and easy! My three yr old daughter and I made it twice now. Thnx!

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  13. I’ve made wacky cakes for years and they’re always so moist and yummy. Next time I’m going to try that frosting recipe! Twonky?? Hahaha! Is that a California word?

  14. Hi Cake Lady-I have eaten this super cake since my old girl friends mother gave me some!
    Now my wife of 62 years makes it also!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s SOOOOO Good!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you for seeing the receipe again!

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  16. I love a good wacky cake! Your frosting looks to die for.
    Looking forward to seeing you in person at Camp Blogaway!

      • for the perfect frosting for this cake, try a simple buttercream. Couple sticks of butter, a pound of powdered sugar, three tblspoons of cocoa, a teaspoon or two of vanilla, and the creaming method. If its too thick, or just for flavor, add cold coffee or espresso till its the consistancy you want. If its already just right, try a bit of espresso powder for flavor.

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  18. Thanks for sharing this! It looks simple enough for a non-baker like myself. My family would love me for making this, they are always asking me to start making more desserts, so I think I will give it a try! I’ll have to borrow my mother-in-law’s cake pan but this sure looks do-able! LOVE the historical significance and especially the handwritten recipes…priceless!

    • Hi Lisa! Yes, This is a fun recipe for novice bakers (and for my college daughter who has no electric mixer πŸ™‚ ) Many folks bake it in a glass casserole dish (test it to see if it holds 6 cups of water). I’m hoping for a photo from you now. πŸ™‚

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