Jackson's Wacky Cake

I have a firstborn son. His name is Jackson. He’s always been a pal in the kitchen but lately he’s been asking for permission to do specific things. “Mom, can you teach me how to make bread?” or “Mom, can I make the biscuits?” or “Mom, how ’bout you let me tackle the cornbread.” So I’ve been letting him (sometimes cringing and crying as flour is slung from floor to ceiling, but letting him nonetheless). He’s conquered cornbread and cookies and last week, he hit a homerun with his wacky cake.

This cake has been around for years and years. Lots of little variations out there but the same basic recipe. An egg-free cake put together and mixed entirely in the baking pan. Weird, I know. But it works. Not only in moist, delicious, chocolatey taste, but in the fact that a 7-year old can make it start to finish himself.

Every night at dinner, Jackson begs me to take a picture of his dinner plate to post on my cooking blog. I usually take a picture to humor him but little does he know his plate of slop never makes the cut from there to here. So when I told him I was going to post his wacky cake on this here blog, you should have seen his face. He was grinning from ear to ear and told all of the neighbor kids after school with hardly concealed excitement that “my wacky cake is going on the blog” which basically is the same as saying “blah blah blah blah” to a bunch of other 4-7 year old boys. They looked at him like he was, well, wacky, and ran off to hop on the trampoline. Their cool response didn’t phase him. Oh no! He is proud as can be and even though I told him he was the star of this blog post, I have to admit, this is one tasty little chocolate cake. Make it today! Or better yet, have some 7-year old you know make it for you!

Jackson's Wacky Cake

Jackson’s Wacky Cake

Yield: Serves 6-8

Jackson’s Wacky Cake


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup water
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 8-inch-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in pan. 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 pan and mix until just a few streaks of flour remain. Use a rubber spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pan if it isn’t level after mixing. Immediately put pan in oven.
  3. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 23-25 minutes. Don’t overbake or the cake will be dry! Cool the cake in pan, then dust with confectioners’ sugar. The cooled cake can be stored tightly covered in plastic wrap for 2-3 days. As a sidenote, this cake is made completely otherworldly by serving it with a scoop of ice cream or a hefty dollop of sweetened whipped cream.
  4. For cupcakes, I use the following amounts (after a lot of trial and error): 3 cups flour, 1 3/4 cups sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa, 2 teaspoons soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup oil, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 2 teaspoons vanilla and 2 cups cold water. Follow the mixing directions, using a bowl instead of a baking pan. Spoon the batter into lined cupcake pans about 1/2 to 2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 16-19 minutes.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Cook’s Country

74 Responses to Jackson’s Wacky Cake

  1. Stephanie says:

    My 8year old daughter watched the Great British Baking Show on TV and was dying to learn how to bake a cake. I remembered seeing this recipe so I turned her loose on it with minimal interference (I had to intervene when she was trying to measure 3/4 CUPs of baking soda :)) and she was proud as can be that she did it! Awesome yummy recipe, I think we will be eating a lot of it!

  2. Diane says:

    I made your cupcake adaption – yum! So good! Even without any frosting it is so yummy. I ended up having just a little batter left over, but me and my littles had no problem taking care of that!

  3. Tareesa Blackston says:

    A very similar version of your recipe has been in my family for at least 60 years. It was my Grandmother’s recipe. She called it “Crazy Cake” & she frosted it with a white frosting. It was handed down to my Mother but she wasn’t ever able to figure out the directions. When I got older I asked for the recipe (because I love to bake & I am very sentimental about family recipes). I was finally able to decipher it & started baking it for my family. I just baked it for this Thanksgiving dinner (2015). A couple of days later my Mother was telling me that while my Step Father was eating the piece he took home for later was saying how good it was & asked if I had anymore left. During the conversation I started to wonder what the origin of the cake was, so I decided to look it up. I was very surprised at how easy it was to find & how much information was written about it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Julie says:

    Question- I’ve been making a similar recipe for years because my son is allergic to dairy and eggs but i am doubling it this time but i noticed that on your recipe for the cupcakes that the ingredients are all doubled from the original recipe except for the vinegar. Is that right? Maybe it doesn’t need to be, i don’t know but wanted to check 😉

  5. Tammi says:

    This has been my go-to dessert when I need something quick and easy. It’s the best cake ever! Very moist and the perfect chocolate flavor. To dress it up we drizzle some chocolate syrup over it and top it with whipped cream. Perfection! Thanks for this great recipe.

  6. Melissa says:

    Hi Mel,

    Would you be able to tell me if this cake could be adjusted somehow to do a 2-9inch round cakes? I plan on cutting down those cakes into 2-5 inch rounds as my daughter wants her own little cake (although I may just do her own special cupcake) but any suggestions on how to cut that down into a 5 inch without hacking it with a knife? Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Hey Melissa – I wish I was more help with this recipe. I’ve made it as per the recipe and also as cupcakes but haven’t tried it in other shapes. I think it should bake as 2 9-inch rounds just fine (they might be on the thin side). Do you have smaller pans (like a 6-inch round pan)?

  7. Grace says:

    Yay Mel! Now I can make my daughter (who is allergic to eggs) chocolate birthday cupcakes! Would you suggest using Dutch process or natural cocoa powder? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      I’d suggest the natural cocoa powder since that’s what the recipe calls for and it reacts perfectly with the vinegar and leavening in the cake. Good luck!

  8. Annette says:

    This is the same cake handed down to me from my grandma, but she called it Goofy Chocolate Cake 🙂 my husband and 3-year-old made it the other day and it was crazily moist and delicious!

  9. I’ve used this recipe for decades. My mother in law said it started in the Great Depression when eggs were scarce. I often just mix it in a bowl by hand or in my mixer. It makes great cup cakes. I’ve even used it for a wedding cake. It is vegan friendly so I take it to parties too. For the person asking about the vinegar, it helps activate the cocoa powder so you don’t want to use Dutch processed cocoa which has already had an acid wash. (Those might not be the right technical terms but I hope you understand.)

  10. Samantha R says:

    Its my oldest’s 4th birthday today. He helped me make this last night 🙂 he was so happy to be able to do most of it himself!

  11. Jennifer Smith says:

    Abby made this tonight. Of course we added chocolate chips:)

  12. Gina says:

    I made these into a cupcake bouquet for my mom for mothers day because she’s allergic to eggs. The cupcake was super moist, its my new favorite chocolate cupcake, I even like it better than martha’s one bowl. I also made a coffee frosting that made my buttercream rose cupcakes smell delicious! check them out at

  13. Cami J says:

    Dear Jackon, I love your waky cake, it was good, I am 8 years old, and I made it for Family Home Evening last night. It was kind of like a yummy science experiment. The dusting of suger on top was a good idea. Thanks

  14. Kathy says:

    Well I’ll be – this is the same recipe I used to make as a child 50 + years ago! It was the first thing I remember baking on my own. I still have the recipe in my handwriting from that long ago…and it is titled Crazy Cake! Wacky Cake or Crazy Cake, it’s delicious. I haven’t made it for years and I’m hungry for it again…very soon!

  15. Elizabeth says:

    This is such an adorable post! You’re a great mom! I’ll have to make this cake with my nieces and nephews sometime. 🙂

    Jackson looks adorable and I love how excited he was about being on the blog. Kids warm my heart!

  16. […] never heard of wacky cake before, but I like the idea. Apparently it’s this nice little cake that is eggless which can […]

  17. Mary Karlee says:

    We had a great time making this cake and even blogged about it! Thanks for your wacky recipe!

  18. Cammee says:

    Jackson, you are an amazing baker! I can’t wait to try your Wacky Cake, I have never had it before. It is so good that you like to cook and help your mom in the kitchen. I hope you get to show us how to make another recipe. You are pretty darn handsome, too. I hope you don’t get too many girlfriends from being on your mom’s blog. 🙂

  19. carly says:

    My new FAVORITE chocolate cake!! 🙂

  20. grace says:

    excellent. be sure to pass on all these rave reviews and compliments, ya hear?

  21. Lara says:

    Rachel, I make a version of this as cupcakes all the time and they turn out great! I’ve found they freeze well, too, for a quick treat when you need it!

  22. Korrin says:

    This is my first time posting – LOVE your blog! Always yummy things to try and believe me I try many! We called this cake “Chocolate Vinegar Cake” growing up – not real creative we were – definitely like ” Jackson’s Whacky Cake” better! Instead of powdered sugar we used to drop chocolate chips on the top when it came out of the oven and once they melted spread them on like frosting. Ahhh, brings back some great memories. I think I’m going to have to make me some of “Jackson’s Whacky Cake” tomorrow – YUM!!!

  23. Lori says:

    So cute! Love the last picture of him holding his cake!! Good Job Jackson!!

  24. Looks like you have an aspiring baker there. Good job Jackson:D

  25. RAchel says:

    I made these with homeade,( semi grainy) rice flour, the cake tastes fine (But a bit of a weird texture) It goes great with fresh strawberries from the garden. the only thing that is different beseides the texture is that the cake didnt raise as high. i would say it was a success!

  26. Camille says:

    Way to go Jackson! He’s growing up too fast! Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to try this with my little ones!

  27. RAchel says:

    Mel thanks for the advice and for posting this recipe. I am making this cake for a teacher of mine who is allergic to eggs gluten milk and whey and this cake is actually something he can have so thanks!

  28. Tell Jackson that I want tickets to his first show on the Food Network!!!

  29. I love this post. I love your blog and everything you put on here I know is going to be Stupendous. I also have a 7 yr. eldest son who is always talking about my blog and taking pictures for it of the food. His goal is to one day become a Chef. I will have to let him take the reins completely along and let him try this cake. Thanks for always having such great meals to try my family and I are forever in your debt.

  30. Your son is so cute! I hope he continues to want to help in the kitchen as he gets older.

    Oh and I have a recipe for chocolate cake very similar to this that I have been making since I was about 7 because I found the recipe in my Barbie coloring book! Haha! Here is my version (or I should say Barbie’s version)! http://www.kitchen-concoctions.com/2009/11/one-year-older.html

  31. Tomi Ann says:

    Yum! This is a fave in our little family, too, except I learned it at “Disco Crazy Cake!” I’ll have to try your version and see how it compares. It’s sooooo good with strawberry freezer jam on it. I’ve never tried mixing it right in the pan, so we’ll have to try that, too!

  32. RAchel says:

    Can the flour be substituted for something gluten free like rice four? And can these be made into cupcake form?????

    • Mel says:

      Rachel – I’m not sure about the gluten-free option. You would have to play around with that a bit or do a google search. As for cupcakes, I’ve never tried it. My inclination is that this would work best as a cake, especially since it is mixed start-to-finish in the baking pan.

      • Sally says:

        I’ve made this cake numerous times and I’ve never mixed it in the pan — always in a bowl. It works great for cupcakes and yields a dozen.

  33. Cathy says:

    When I joined 4-H 50 years ago that cake was our first baking project. It was called Funny Cake.

  34. Veronica says:

    Aw, he’s taking after his mama and will make a future woman very happy with his culinary skills. I love how proud he was to have his cake on your blog! I started making this cake as a kid too and posted a recipe for it recently, though mine is for a big cake. It’s definitely a favorite, but I still favor your best chocolate cake recipe most of the time! 🙂

  35. Amy Ziehl says:

    Way to go Jackson! Maybe I can convince David to make this soon! Yummy!

  36. Amy T says:

    a good friend’s daughter is allergic to dairy and egg, she was so excited to try this recipe! Is it the vinegar that makes it so moist? I like to slather it with butter fresh from the oven.

  37. ahahaha! he`s such a cutie!

  38. Jane says:

    How nice to have such a handsome little helper in the kitchen! I can’t wait to let my 7 year old make this too, thanks!

  39. Kate C. says:

    One of the first things I learned how to make with my grandma. We call it 4H funny cake (when my mom was in 4 H every year you did the cooking project there was something different you were supposed to make. For your first or second year you made this cake.)

  40. Lin says:

    How fun & it came out so great! I love the directions/photos of him making it, so cute.

  41. Barbi says:

    Darling post. I bet he couldnt wait for the cake to come out of the oven!!

  42. Angie says:

    This recipe is just like one of my grandmothers, and I love it! It is super easy, and super yummy with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. I think I need to go and make one….

  43. tiffany says:

    So cute! and kudos to you for letting your son be in the kitchen especially with flour and cocoa! i just cringe at the thought of my son in there (he’s barely 6) I’m so glad i read this post! my daughters bday is tomorrow and i have to make the cake and cupcakes saturday for the party,so i didn’t want to do a double dose of cake! but i think this recipe and the portion would be an awesome “little” bday cake for just a few family! thanks again for posting! i can’t wait to try it out!

  44. Kira says:

    Looks great Jackson! Can’t wait to try it. My son will need assistance though! He is almost three. He will, however, insist that he can do it ALL BY HIMSELF 🙂

  45. Lindsay says:

    Jackson is so cute! We’ll be trying out his cool cake! Thanks Jackson!

  46. Laura says:

    We love this cake! It has become a staple at our house because my son is allergic to eggs and milk.

  47. Lauren at Keep It Sweet says:

    Your son is adorable! He did a great job with this cake:-)

  48. Missy says:

    I’m going to let my kids make this for our family night treat tonight! They love helping out in the kitchen. The only problem … Dividing up the tasks. They usually always want to do the same thing. Good thing there’s no eggs. Tanner loves to do the eggs. It’s scary, but I let him try it!

  49. Vicky says:

    My mom made this cake when I was growing up, and my grandma made it when my mom was growing up, so it has a special place in our family. We call it “cockeyed cake” and it’s a great go-to cake recipe that’s quick to whip up.

  50. Alisha says:


  51. So cute! Nice recipe for my kids to work on too, they do they same thing. Oh to be a food bloggers kid and have to wait for your plate to be photod before eating, lol!

  52. Jeanette says:

    Great job, Chef Jackson! Your cake looks delicious! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  53. Norah B says:

    We love this cake. It’s perfect for those nights when the kids want a dessert and I don’t feel like anything big.

  54. Cee Bee says:

    This fun cake has been in our family’s recipe box for 50 years. We have used it for demonstration speeches in college classes, pioneer day during elementary school years, and homemaking events at church. Wacky Cake has been doubled, mailed to far away places, and comforted in times of discomfort. It was the first thing that my grown sons learned to bake. Wacky Cake is still requested when they come home to visit and served with their dad’s homemade vanilla ice cream is a family tradition. Thanks for posting this for many to enjoy!

  55. Judy B. says:

    Jackson, you did good!!! Maybe some day you will be a very famous Chef…keep practicing in the kitchen and learn from your Mom. Thanks for the cake recipe.
    Have a fun Summer.

  56. Leigh Anne says:

    What a cutie pie! And he will be well served later in life to have cooking/baking skills 🙂 He will make some special gal really happy!! My 4yo son loves to “help” me too. Lots of tongue biting on my part, but they have to learn somehow, eh?

  57. C... says:

    I love that! I am going to have my 10 year old try this since he loves chocolate cake with out frosting. He is autistic and frosting is just not his thing.

  58. Kimberly says:

    Too cute. I love helping kids. My 5 year old always begs for me to take his picture too. Maybe I’ll let him make this cake. He just made some scrambled eggs yesterday and only threw 1 of the 2 shells in the pan. No egg sounds right up his alley.

  59. Sara says:

    This is my family’s favourite cake….made pretty much at every birthday! We call it Dad’s Wacky Cake.

  60. StephenC says:

    I rarely read dessert blogs, but you got me with the word “wacky”. Jackson is adorable.

  61. Emily says:

    Well… You can tell Jackson that my almost 7 year old follows your blog and tells me which recipes to try next (pretzel bites being at the top of his list!). He will be excited to see this post! Now HE can make cake and eat it too! What a happy day for a kitchen-lovin’ kid! Thank you!

  62. Lara says:

    I make a version of this cake just because I love to eat the batter, and with no eggs, I can do it worry-free! (Eggs don’t actually stop me from eating batter, though. I think I have an addiction.) My mom called this recipe “Lazy Woman’s Cake,” and it’s the first thing I remember baking on my own, when I was just about your Jackson’s age. This is also the first thing my oldest, who is 6 now, ever baked with me. It’s his requested birthday cake every year. Great post!
    P.S. I have a Jackson, too. He just turned 4. Great name! 🙂

  63. I love this post. I keep seeing that recipe and I have it set aside for while we are at our cabin this year. My boys are going to think it is the coolest thing ever. Your son looks thrilled!

  64. Kim in MD says:

    This is such a sweet post, Melanie! Jackson is adorable, and his cake looks delicious! What is it that makes this cake wacky”? Is it the vinegar?

    • Mel says:

      Kim – I think it is the combination of the facts that there are no eggs, it is all mixed in the baking pan and there is vinegar. A lot of wacky factors. 🙂

  65. Martha says:

    He will make some woman very happy, a man comfortable in the kitchen! The cake looks great too! Thanks for sharing.

  66. Mel, I adore this post! My firstborn is also a son (ok, so he’s only 2 minutes older than his sister, but he was technically first :)), and he’s 6 1/2. He loves helping in the kitchen too — my mom is much braver with giving him tasks (like cracking EGGS!!! eek!), but he loves to do stuff. I think this might be a good recipe to let him try out. Thank you for sharing!

    p.s. Jackson is a handsome little dude! tell him “way to go!”

  67. Jules says:

    Beautiful !! The cake looks great too. All my kids cook, they started at this age too. They all got VitaMixers for Christmas this year ! My oldest now 27 just told us he wants to go back to get his doctorate in nutrition. Great things come from kitchens !! Jules ♥

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