Remember wacky cake? For many, it’s a childhood recipe.
Why “wacky”? Because this cake flouts all the conventions of cakemaking chemistry. It contains no butter, no egg, no milk. It requires no creaming or whipping. You stir together flour, sugar, and cocoa right in the ungreased pan, then mix in oil, water, and vinegar. This suspiciously simple recipe bakes up into an improbably dark, moist cake. It’s no barn-burner, but it’s pleasant and easy, and on a few late snowy nights, wacky cake has satisfied my chocolate cravings when the cupboard was nearly bare.
It took a post by Homesick Texan to make wacky cake a weekly player in my home. Homesick Texan plays with the flavor, leaving out the cocoa and adding chopped apples and nuts.
Me, I can’t leave a recipe alone, so I’ve now made wacky-apple cake with dried cranberries, wacky pear cake with blueberries, and wacky-papple cake, which is wacky cake with apple and pear. I added extra flavor by replacing some of the water with leftover canned pear juice, increased the spices, and replaced the vanilla with kirsch. My favorite variation is documented below.
wacky cake with pears and cranberries
0.25 c. dried cranberries or cherries, chopped
4 tsp kirsch
1 large pear
1.5 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt (not kosher salt)
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
generous grating of nutmeg
0.5 tsp powdered ginger (optional)
1 TBS cider vinegar
4 TBS vegetable or canola oil
0.5 c. pear juice
scant 0.5 c. cold water
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Soak cranberries in kirsch. (I plunk the berries in a glass jar, pour the kirsch over them, and zonk the whole thing in the microwave for 30 seconds, then let cool.) Set aside.
Skin and roughly chop the pear. Set aside.
In a medium bowl*, stir together dry ingredients. Poke a large hole in the dry heap and pour in oil; poke a smaller hole and pour in vinegar; over the whole mess, pour in mixed water and juice. Stir together, scraping from the bottom of the bowl. Dump in fruit and stir once more.
Pour into a cake pan. (I use an earthenware casserole, which makes the bottom and edges slightly brown and crispy, a nice contrast to the moist, slumped center.) Bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes, or until crispy at edges and set in center. Let cool in pan.
*I use a bowl instead of mixing in the pan, mostly to avoid slopping over the sides when mixing the fruit into the batter.