I don't bake cakes. I have never really tried, or had the inclination to try, because my mother makes some of the best cakes I have ever tasted. Ever. It has gotten to the point with me that I won't usually have a piece of cake that she has not baked, because I am invariably disappointed. And forget about those sheet cakes from a grocery store that show up at work whenever something needs celebrating, I can barely look at them. I'll bake cookies or brownies, I've even tried a few pies, but no cake for me. That is until Wacky Cake.
I saw this recipe for the first time in an email from Cook's Country (an offshoot of America's Test Kitchens and Cook's Illustrated) and it became my first cake from scratch later that day. What is so wacky about it? Well it is a cake that is made without milk, eggs, or butter. Why? Apparently wacky cake has it roots in wartime rationing. During the world wars, ingredients like milk, eggs, butter, and sugar were scarce and this recipe was developed more out of necessity than any desire to be wacky. Like I said, I don't bake cakes, but I wanted to try this because it looked really easy and well, it's called wacky cake. Do you really need more of a reason than that?
There are two really cool things about this recipe. First, you mix all the ingredients in the dish that you bake the cake in, so clean up is a snap. Second, you can throw this together just about as quickly as a box cake mix, which means you get the idea to make it, and less than an hour later you have cake all baked and ready to go. Oh yeah, it tastes really good too. Not too sweet, just the right amount of chocolate flavor, nice and moist, a perfectly acceptable dessert considering the effort that goes into it.
Start by spraying an 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. You mix all the dry ingredients in the dish, then make two small depressions and one large depression in the dry mix. Place 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the large depression, 1 teaspoon of vanilla in one of the small depressions, and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in the other small depression.
You dump 1 cup of water over all the ingredients and stir until everything is just combined. A few streaks of flour should remain.
Bake the cake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. If you want, sprinkle a little confectioners sugar over the top of the cake when you serve it. I'm sure it would be good with some ice cream as well. If you've never baked a cake, try this one, you'll be pleasantly surprised.