This chocolate wacky cake is a great, simple cake for when eggs, butter, and dairy products are hard to come by. And, most of all, it’s delicious!–Jessie Sheehan

Wacky Cake FAQs

What is a wacky cake?

Wacky cake originated during World War II, when ingredients were hard to come by and many things were rationed. It’s a delicious, spongy, cocoa-based dessert born from pure ingenuity. It is also sometimes called crazy cake, Joe cake, wowie cake, depression cake, and WW II cake. It’s wacky because it doesn’t require eggs, butter, or milk.

What is Dutch-process cocoa powder?

This is cocoa that has been processed to have less acidity and be less bitter than regular cocoa powder. Curious to know more? Check out What’s the Difference Between Natural and Dutch Process Cocoa Powder?

How should you store chocolate wacky cake?

The cake can be stored at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for up to 4 days.

Can you freeze wacky cake?

Yes, but it’s best if the cake and frosting are frozen separately. Tightly wrap the cooled, baked cake in plastic and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw before frosting.

A glass pie plate filled with chocolate wacky cake with a piece cut from it on a white plate beside it.
A glass pie plate filled with chocolate wacky cake with a piece cut from it on a white plate beside it.

Chocolate Wacky Cake with Chocolate Frosting

4.72 / 7 votes
This inexpensive, easy-to-make, dairy-free chocolate cake is rich and delicious.
David Leite
Servings10 servings
Calories568 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes


For the chocolate wacky cake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 6 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the chocolate frosting

  • 14 tablespoons (7 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup heavy cream or whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • Rainbow sprinkles, optional but highly encouraged


Make the chocolate wacky cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla, and whisk until fully incorporated and smooth.
  • Transfer to a 9-inch (23-cm) pie plate and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a moist crumb or two, 25 to 35 minutes.
  • Let the cake cool completely before frosting.

Make the chocolate frosting

  • While the cake is cooling, place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat the butter on medium speed until soft and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Whisk the sugar and cocoa powder together in a medium-sized bowl. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the sugar mixture and 1/2 cup of cream to the butter in batches, beginning and ending with the sugar mixture.
  • Add the vanilla and salt and mix on medium until smooth, fluffy and spreadable, about 5 minutes, adding remaining cream, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary.
  • Generously frost the cake, decorate with rainbow sprinkles, if desired, and serve.
Jessie Sheehan Bakes

Adapted From

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Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 568 kcalCarbohydrates: 85 gProtein: 5 gFat: 26 gSaturated Fat: 12 gMonounsaturated Fat: 7 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 44 mgSodium: 418 mgFiber: 5 gSugar: 64 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2022 Jessie Sheehan. Photo © 2022 Jessie Sheehan. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I usually make a vanilla wacky cake and have never made it with chocolate. I thought I would give this chocolate wacky cake recipe a try and I’m so glad that I did.

A chocolate wacky cake with chocolate frosting in a glass pie plate.

This is my new go-to quick chocolate cake recipe. It beats out the one I’ve been making for years. This cake has a rich chocolatey flavour that stays moist for days plus it can be thrown together and in the oven within 10 minutes. It’s a bonus that it does not require eggs, butter, or dairy.

This recipe makes a whopping 3.5 cups of frosting. Since this cake is kept in the pie pan, you only frost the top so half the amount was plenty, and I simply froze the rest. I love having frosting in the freezer ready to go for the next cake.

The top of the frosting firms up, plus it’s in a pie dish, making this the perfect cake to travel with.

This chocolate wacky cake with chocolate frosting is delicious, dense, and incredibly rich! I was worried it would be sickly sweet, but the Dutch process cocoa gives it a deep chocolate flavor and the sea salt tones down the sugar.

A chocolate wacky cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles in a glass pie plate.

The frosting requires more work than the actual cake, which can be thrown together in 10 minutes and then baked. The frosting recipe yields a lot, too – I covered the cake with generous swooshes and still had some left over. I can see myself skipping the frosting on busy days and just dolloping fresh whipped cream on slices of the cake, but the frosting is quite tasty.

This chocolate wacky cake was a true “on-a-whim cake.” I had all the ingredients on hand except the optional sprinkles, so I went ahead and made it without a trip to the store.

A chocolate wacky cake with chocolate frosting swirled on top on a glass serving plate.

Ice water and a pie dish for a cake—a bit wacky for sure, but I’m so glad I tried this recipe. For one it’s ULTRA easy. There is no need to butter or line a cake pan with parchment, the batter comes together in minutes, and the baking time doesn’t try your patience.

The light and tender cake creates a lot of room for the rich frosting (also a breeze to make and delicious!), and together they make a great dessert. Don’t have sprinkles lying around? Get your creative juices flowing and create a pattern on the frosting.

Just two pointers here: when whisking the dry ingredients for the batter, take care to get rid of the brown sugar clumps (I crush them with a fork or between my fingers), and for super clean slices, apply the “cheesecake method” by running hot tap water on the blade of your knife, wipe, and slice.

Wacky! Sprinkles! Irresistible! A guaranteed winner for younger children and the young at heart. The cake was quick and easy to make using pantry ingredients. (Not so much the frosting, which was also quick and easy to make but was loaded with butter and cream.)

The hardest part was waiting for the cake to cool so we could apply the frosting. The finished product? Pure FUN.

The cake won’t win gourmet awards for flavour, but it’s neutral enough that you could add a little peppermint extract, top it with green sprinkles, and call it Wacky Chocolate Mint. Or add some cinnamon extract, top it with cinnamon hearts, and call it Wacky Mexican Chocolate. You get the idea. FUN. Pure FUN.

This cake is our family’s favorite chocolate cake – even the ones who don’t love chocolate cake love this cake. We discovered it during the pandemic because it doesn’t use any eggs or butter since those ingredients were hard to come by.

But listen, you don’t need frosting on this cake. I mean, the frosting is really good, but you don’t need it. That way, you don’t need to wait for it to cool so that you can have cake in under an hour. AN HOUR.

Here’s the bottom line. The texture is great. The flavor is great. The cake itself is vegan. Best party trick ever. Literally. My kid asked for it for his birthday cake. Two years in a row.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


    1. We didn’t test it in a square pan, Peggy, but it should work fine. They have the same volume.

  1. 4 stars
    Hi, David. I tried this cake because I was intrigued…however, the one you posted by the author did appear to have possibly been made by someone while drinking a Martini. Very messy! But who cares, because it’s all in the taste. (As my husband claims: he does not care about artistic presentation.) When I made mine, I added a tablespoon of Kahlua and used half of the sugar (subbed white only because I do not care for brown sugar in my chocolate cakes). It was excellent! I apologize for making the changes but somehow I had to. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. So glad you liked the cake! And as far as making changes? Who am I to second guess Grammasue?!!

  2. 5 stars
    Hello everyone, for diabetes and losing weight, I cut down the sugar. I tried the chocolate cake recipe with only 1/4 cup of sugar, delicious. I made strawberry chocolate custard pudding for the center & topping–again reducing sugar in the custard. It doesn’t look like what you buy from a bakery, but it sure tastes good. Next time I’ll fold whipping cream with the custard.

    I also tried it with unsweetened apple sauce, delicious.

    Deserts anyone?