|My Grandma Ina surrounded by five of her six children, c. 1953|
The recipe for “Wacky Cake” is featured in both America’s Best Lost Recipes and The Time Reader’s Book of Recipes. It also appears in my recipe box as “Crazy Cake” in the handwriting of my friend Chris. Ingredients vary only slightly from recipe to recipe.
The editors of America’s Best Lost Recipes explain that during both world wars, women devised a variety of “make-do” cakes to compensate for the shortage of butter, sugar, milk, and eggs. This one-pan cake involves stirring the dry ingredients and then making three holes – two small and one large. Melted vegetable shortening is poured into the large hole and vanilla and vinegar into the smaller ones. Pour water over, stir quickly, and pop into the oven.
How does this recipe work? “Without eggs, this cake depends on the last-minute reaction of vinegar and baking soda to lift the thick batter. The three holes ensure that the dry ingredients (including the baking soda) remain dry until the last possible second. The lift provided by the baking soda and vinegar reaction is fleeting,” so it’s important to put it into the oven quickly.
|Me -- prior to my baking days|
1 ½ c flour
¾ c sugar
4 T cocoa powder
½ t salt
¾ t soda
5 T oil
1 t vanilla
1 T white vinegar
1 c water
Whisk the dry ingredients in a greased 8-inch square pan. Make one large and two small craters in the dry ingredients. Pour oil into the large crater and vanilla and vinegar into each of the smaller. Pour the water into the pan and mix until just a few streaks of flour remain. Immediately put the pan in the oven and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
I baked this cake the other night, and Mike deemed it as good as any chocolate cake I’ve ever made. (And yes, that means it was pretty darn good!) KW
[I didn't take a picture of the cake. Instead, as we celebrate recipes of the last century, the picture here is of my dad's family. Mother Ina Dobson is surrounded by five of her six children: Myrtle, Earle, Vance, Ethel Robinson, and Shirley Shockley. Perhaps they were inspired to take the picture because the eldest, Pearl, died a year or two before.]