One of my favorite childhood memories is chocolate cake. That sounds silly, I know, but I think chocolate cake was quite important to us. Unfortunately, it wasn't the homemade kind of chocolate cake; we really liked the box mix chocolate cakes. I'd make a lot of them, sometimes deviating from the norm and throwing in different flavors for our evening desserts (strawberry, caramel, etc.), but it was always chocolate that was the favorite.
I don't even know why we never made a tradition of making homemade chocolate cakes. I was definitely interested in baking back then, but I know we weren't concerned about preservatives and additives and artificial flavorings, so it didn't really matter to us. We thought box mixes were quicker and easier than homemade and they always turned out just the way we liked them - soft, fluffy and chocolatey.
Oh did I ever have much to learn.
See this cake here? This chocolate cake with gorgeous, soft, fluffy frosting? Dotted with confetti sprinkles and chocolate popping candy? And the bunting floating above? This cake is soft, fudgey (I prefer fudgey cakes rather than fluffy cakes these days) and oh so chocolatey. And it didn't come from a box. Oh, and it took just about the same amount of time to make this cake as it does a box mix cake.
And the frosting, I bet you're thinking that takes just forever to make. The frosting's the catch, right? Those super fluffy, swirly clouds. How do you make frosting like that? Well, you just simply whip some cream and slather it over your chocolate cake.
(And then hope that while you are taking pictures of it, a certain toddler won't keep trying to take out the bunting!! Like my own toddler did!)
Honestly, this perfect-for-all-occasions cake takes the same amount of time to prepare - from start to finish - as a box mix cake. You now have no excuses; put that box mix back on the shelf and grab yourself a bag of flour instead.
Oh, that's right! I haven't mentioned yet that this cake actually requires no eggs or butter or even milk, so you don't have to wait around for all your ingredients to warm up to room temperature. That's because it's a wacky cake! It's a genius invention that supposedly has its origins in the 1940s, when certain ingredients were hard to come by, or too expensive, during World War II. The fact that there were none of the usual ingredients in the recipe - butter, eggs and milk - was so wacky that the cake affectionately became known as "wacky cake".
I really wanted a quick chocolate cake fix a little while ago. No, a microwave mug cake wouldn't do (those things are absolutely disgusting, anyway! Please don't ever waste your time or ingredients making one!). I wanted a cake with frosting. The wacky cake recipe popped out at me as I was trying to think of an idea. Usually wacky cakes are dusted with icing sugar, but I wanted a real cake. With frosting. Hm. Well, what would be quicker, softer and fluffier than homemade whipped cream?
The last obstacle I had to get around, once I had decided on the recipe, was what sort of occasion could I celebrate that day that would justify making a cake? Did I have to have a reason? Couldn't I just celebrate anything? Sure, why not. How about Happy Friday? Happy You-Made-It-Through-The-Week Day! Happy End-Of-The-Week Day! Happy It's-The-Weekend Day! Or, well, something like that.
The kids really loved this idea, although they were really confused as to why we were celebrating Friday. They just knew they'd get to have cake. 🙂
This particular day, I accidentally baked the wacky cake a couple minutes too long and it lost a little bit of the fudgey texture I adore in cakes. But it still tasted awesome. If you're after fudginess, bake for a minimum amount of time. If you have a little sinking in the middle once you take the cake out of the oven, no big deal. Just know that you'll soon be slicing into fudgey heaven. And you can cover the little crater with a mound of whipped cream anyway.
But if you like a normal cake texture, bake for a little longer (but not too long, or it'll become dry and unpleasant!).
Oh, and here's a tip. This cake tastes amazing straight from the refrigerator, especially if it's on the fudgey side.
A note on the frosting. Don't use whipped cream from a can. Don't use whipped cream from a tub. Make. Your. Own. It's easy, it really is. And it's quick. The only thing you need to remember is to stop whisking the cream as soon as it holds its shape (stiff peaks), or the cream will lose that soft, fluffy look and will begin turning itself into butter! But that's another story...
So, go enjoy your new-found freedom from the box. Make your own cake today and celebrate! 🙂
"Freedom From The Box" Wacky Cake
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white sugar*
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 6 tablespoons grapeseed oil or other flavorless oil
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup cold water
- For the frosting:
- 1 cup thickened cream
- 3 tablespoons pure icing sugar sifted
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- food coloring optional
- sprinkles optional
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with baking paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder.
- Using a spoon, make 3 wells in the dry ingredients, one large well and two smaller wells. Pour the grapeseed oil into the largest well, the vinegar into one of the smaller wells, and the vanilla extract into the last well. Pour the cold water over everything and whisk the ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Bake for the minimum time if you'd like a fudgier cake texture. The cake is done when it springs back softly when lightly pressed in the center (or you can do the toothpick test, but I rarely do that!)
- Remove cake from the oven, place on a wire rack and cool for 5-10 minutes. Run a knife gently along the edge of the cake around the pan, then carefully turn the pan upside down to remove the cake, and leave to completely cool before adding frosting.
- For the frosting:
- While the cake is cooling, place a medium bowl and your whisk into the refrigerator to cool for at least 15 minutes. When ready to frost, remove the bowl, whisk and cream from the refrigerator. Place cream, icing sugar, vanilla and food coloring, if using, in the bowl, and whisk (either with a handheld mixer with whisk attachment, electric whisk, or by hand!) just until stiff peaks firm (any longer and the mixture will start looking grainy and curdled, at which time you'll have to start over with a new cup of cream). Immediately spread the whipped cream onto the cooled cake with an offset spatula.
- Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.