Taking a break today from healthy recipes – after all, life is all about balance, right? Wacky Cake is a Swensen family birthday cake tradition, and a very gooey chocolatey tradition at that!
Please ignore the fact that we didn’t have any birthday candles around. . .
August was always a busy birthday month in my household, with my dad, brother, and myself all having birthdays. Besides frequent going out to eat, it seemed every week there would be a new pan of cake sitting on the counter. How do four people eat three cakes in a month? By eating a slice at breakfast as well as for dessert – yes, somehow I became a dietitian. Luckily we all had different cake preferences. My brother has always been a traditional yellow cake with chocolate frosting kind of guy, while I changed my mind on what type of cake I wanted every year. My dad’s cake though was always extra special as it was a tradition for him growing up: chocolate wacky cake.
Wacky cake gets it origins from the great depression when eggs, butter, and milk were too expensive for many families. Instead, flour, sugar, and cocoa powder were mixed together with oil and vinegar to create this incredibly moist, chocolate cake. To this day, wacky cake is the only chocolate cake I like, as traditional chocolate cake rarely comes close to being as soft and flavorful. If you don’t add frosting, this cake is actually vegan. But come on, who wants cake without fudge frosting?!
The traditional family recipe calls for shortening and corn syrup in the frosting. While I can accept that birthdays are a time to indulge on a big piece of birthday cake, the dietitian in me just can’t bring myself to use, let alone buy, shortening and corn syrup. So, for my dad’s birthday last year my mom and I changed up the frosting to incorporate real butter and LOTS of powdered sugar instead. While we didn’t make the frosting at all lower in calories, fat, or sugar, I at least feel better that I’m eating real foods, regardless of how rich it still is.
So here’s a toast to my dad, happy birthday!
Swensen Family Chocolate Wacky Cake
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened coco powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 cup cold water
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup unseated coco powder
- 1/3 cup milk I use unsweetened almond milk, but traditionally my mom used 1% milk
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 350
- In a 9 x 13 baking pan, combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda.
- Using a spoon, make three holes in the dry ingredients. In one hole, pour in vanilla. In a second hole pour in vinegar, and add oil to the third hole. Pour 1 cup of cold water over the whole cake and mix well.
- Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool before spreading with frosting (my mom used to make the cake at night then frost in the morning).
To make the frosting
- Add everything except the sugar and vanilla extract to a small saucepan and heat on high until boiling. Remove from heat.
- Stir in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until silky smooth.
- Pour over cooled cake.