My mom, she's wacky

Oct. 01, 2013 @ 08:16 AM

Gentle reader, this week I have a wager for you.

I’ll bet you a Cook-Out milkshake that you can make this cake from items already in your pantry.

Today’s recipe is my mother’s wacky cake. It was handed down to her from her mother. From the research I’ve done, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is either a Depression era, or a WWII dessert. It’s mixed and baked in the same pan, and there are no eggs in it.

Mom loves this recipe because it is quick, easy and cheap. It’s the perfect treat for after-school snacks, or dessert. She likes to keep something on hand for the numerous random friends my two brothers and I would bring home, or to serve with a cup of coffee to drop-in visitors.

More than likely the original recipe didn’t call for frosting. It’s moist and tasty on its own. But years ago she began topping it with fudge icing that she repurposed from a marble brownie recipe.

If you choose not to frost it, a sprinkling of powdered sugar will dress it up enough for company. To really tart it up, place a doily, cut-out paper shapes, or a stencil on top before dusting.

Mom’s Wacky Cake

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vinegar

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup cold water


Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan. Put dry ingredients in cake pan. Make a well-like indentation in center. Pour in liquids, and mix with fork until batter comes together. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean, but slightly moist. Leave in pan.

Chocolate Fudge Icing

6 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons cocoa

3 cups powdered sugar

6 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in cocoa until dissolved. Mix in sugar. Pour in milk, and whisk until smooth. Stir in vanilla.

Pour over cooled cake, and allow to set before serving.

I’ve been thinking about this recipe, and batting it around with The Kid. We’ve decided that there are many variations that you can create, just by switching and adding a few items.

Mexican Choco-Loco

To the cake batter, add 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg. Replace water with cold coffee.

Either add the same spices to the frosting, or dust it with powdered sugar spiked with cayenne.

Silly S’mores Cake

Make the cake as directed. Instead of the chocolate icing, use a marshmallow cream frosting (recipe follows).

Marshmallow Cream Frosting

¼ cup butter, softened

1 7 oz jar marshmallow cream

1 tsp. vanilla

1 pkg. (16 oz.) powdered sugar

1 to 2 Tbsp. milk, divided

Place butter, marshmallow cream and vanilla in small bowl; beat on medium speed until well blended.

Gradually add sugar, beating after each addition until well blended.

Blend in 1 Tbsp. of the milk. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. milk if necessary for desired spreading consistency.

After frosting the cake liberally sprinkle top with graham cracker crumbs (crumbs available in boxes in the baking aisle).

Nutty German Chocolate Cake

Frost with German chocolate frosting (I won’t think badly of you if you use the canned stuff).

Bonkers Black Forest Cake

Frost cake with whipped cream. Top with chocolate shavings. When serving, spoon on canned (or homemade) cherry pie filling.

Raving Rocky Road

Before baking cake, sprinkle toasted pecan pieces over batter. Frost with marshmallow cream frosting.

Berserk Black and White Cake

Remove cake from pan, and slice in half horizontally. Frost one layer with quick vanilla buttercream: 1 cup softened butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in mixer until thoroughly incorporated. Thin with a bit of milk until you reach desired consistency.

Set second layer on top. Make fudge icing and slowly pour over top, allowing it to drip over the sides.

So there’s my mom’s famous wacky cake. If you think about it, you can probably come up with even more permutations. Like peanut butter, and cookies and cream, and ooh, salted caramel, and…

Thanks for your time.

Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is