Art is the Handmaid of Human Good

Life in Lowell, Massachusetts, USA

Wacky Cupcakes


Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake, also known as Crazy Cake, was either developed during the Depression or during World War II.  It was developed by home cooks who either couldn’t afford eggs and butter during the Depression, or couldn’t get eggs and butter during WWII because of rationing.  Either way, it’s a frugal cake.  It’s also mighty delicious and one of my favorites.  These particular cupcakes were made for two purposes, as my contribution to dinner at Amanda’s and as a way to use up the leftover cream cheese frosting from Saturday’s Cullen Cakes.  Waste not, want not.

This is a really, really easy recipe to make and it’s 100% vegan (without the cream cheese frosting, of course).  It uses pantry staples and it is really tasty.  It’s also fun to make and, if you’re making it in cake form, is mixed and baked in the same pan, cutting down on clean-up time (always a bonus!)

To begin, you mix all of the dry ingredients in a cake pan (or bowl if you’re making cupcakes).  Then you create three wells – one for oil, one for vanilla and one for the magic ingredient: vinegar.

Wacky Cake

Wacky Cake

See, what makes this cake (and, come to think of it, red-velvet cake) rise is the same thing that made your 5th grade science project volcano erupt – a mixture of baking soda and vinegar.  Science is amazing, isn’t it?

Once you’ve filled your wells, you dump some water over the whole thing and mix just until everything is combined.  If you’ve made this in a cake pan, it’s all set to go into the oven.

Wacky Cake

Cupcakes, of course, require another step. The cake is baked and then, just like that, you have a moist and delicious cake to impress your friends and family.

Wacky Cake

They’ll be extra impressed if you pipe the frosting – it’s seriously easier than spreading it with a knife or spatula and always gets an “Oooooh” from the crowd.

I originally got this recipe from my friend Nancy, an amazing home cook.

Wacky Cake
Recipe courtesy of Nancy Shay.

  • 1 1/2     cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4     cup sugar
  • 1/4     cup natural cocoa powder
  • 3/4     teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2     teaspoon table salt
  • 5     tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1     tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1     teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1     cup water

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line one muffin tin with cupcake liners or grease the pan.

2. Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl. Make 1 large and 2 small craters in dry ingredients. Add oil to large crater and vinegar and vanilla separately to remaining small craters. Pour water into bowl, and mix until just a few streaks of flour remain. Fill your muffin pan and place  pan in oven.

3. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 18 minutes for cupcakes.

This recipe makes one dozen cupcakes or one 8″ square cake.

I also have some shopping lists to share and a budget update.

Trader Joe’s:

  • Garlic, 2 heads for $1.69
  • 1 quart of vegetable broth for $1.99
  • 1 6oz. bag of organic baby spinach for $2.69

Trader Joe’s Total – $6.37

Market Basket:

  • 4 bananas for $.68
  • 1 box of butter for $1.99
  • 1 box of Grape Nuts for $3
  • 3 boxes of Annie’s Organic Mac & Cheese for $3
  • 1 48oz. bottle of vegetable oil for $2.59
  • 1 bag of flour for $1.99
  • 2 bags of dried lentils for $2.98
  • 1 pint of red wine vinegar for $.79
  • 1 bottle of pinot grigio for $8.99

Market Basket total – $26.01

Total – $32.38 so I have $27.62 to get me through Sunday.  I’ll see you tomorrow with a new-to-me recipe for lentil soup.

ETA – Check out Patti’s gorgeous cupcakes!

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9 thoughts on “Wacky Cupcakes

  1. These are beautiful!! I’m so going to try them!

  2. I have to say, the wacky cupcakes were moist and delicious… a great recipe to have in one’s go-to recipe collection!

  3. Oooh, thanks for the recipe! I’ve got a craft night to go to and these would be just the thing. Yum!

  4. These are so easy! I was blown away. And delicious too. I took them with me to knit night to celebrate a couple of birthdays, and had to guarantee there’d be one left for my daughter. She’s smitten!

    Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  5. I think I might just have to try these. I am a sucker for cupcakes.

  6. Pingback: Hitting the reset button… « Art is the Handmaid of Human Good

  7. Well done! Do you have a good, typical American frosting recipe you would recommend? Stuff that’s good for piping and decorating (especially cupcakes)? Thanks and keep up the good work (:

    • I love a traditional cream cheese frosting. 4 oz. butter (soft), 8oz. cream cheese (soft), 2-3 cups of confectioners sugar (depending on how sweet you like it), and 1 tsp. of vanilla extract. Whip the butter and cream cheese together, add the sugar and whip until fluffy, incorporate the vanilla.

  8. Oh boy, this recipe was used by our family since the 1950’s and I lost it somehow, needed it for my autistic grandson who has autism and am overjoyed to find it here, so, thanks. I know it is a rich, gourmet-foolin’ recipe and I love it…

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