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Cooking With Kids - Crazy Cake

Anyone who knows me also knows that I like cake.

Like, I mean I REALLY like cake.

Black Forest. Red Velvet. Carrot with Cream Cheese Frosting. Sponge Cake. Fruit Flan. If it wasn’t going to set such a poor example to my kids for me to eat cake for breakfast… I probably would!

Cake and a cup of tea, sitting in the sunshine, out in the garden. Bliss…



I first came across this recipe one rainy day, when I was at home with 2 kids under 2, and I really fancied a piece of cake. The problem was, I also desperately needed to go get some groceries, and as a result I had no eggs and no butter. No staple cake ingredients. Hmm.

So, what’s a girl to do? The answer is Google, my friend.

Cake when you have no ingredients.
Cake when the fridge is bare.
Old mother hubbard cake.

After a bit of searching I stumbled across this No Egg, No Dairy, Depression Cake.

Coming from a No Allergies household, I thought:
‘Far out, that sounds like a No Egg, No Dairy, No Flavour cake to me’.

But since it was raining, and I had limited baking supplies and a limited desire to take two small kids out to the shop, I thought I’d give it a go. Why not. I had nothing to lose but a bit of flour and sugar essentially.

And I was quite keen for a piece of cake.

Well. You wouldn’t believe it, to my surprise it was quite good.

Moist. Chocolaty. And you’d never have known there was no eggs or dairy.

If you put aside the fact that it has a cup of sugar, it quickly became my go to cake!

Do you want to know the best bit?  Limited mess.  Oh yes.  Because seriously, who wants to do MORE dishes? I have enough of those thank you very much.

You make this cake in the pan you bake it in. Winning.

Apparently, this Depression Cake (also known as Crazy Cake / Milkless, Eggless, Butterless Cake / Poor Man’s Cake or Wacky Cake) originated back in the days of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, when resources were scarce.

They were quite ingenious those Grannys of ours don’t you think? Big tick for creative thinking goes to our Nanas. The way they could whip up something like this cake with no expensive ingredients and it still tastes pretty darn good! (As a side point, it also made the house smell good and made me look like a domestic goddess by whipping up something from nothing when hubby came home from work).

I find this is a very forgiving recipe.
I always use raw sugar because that’s what I buy, and it works. If I don’t have any veg oil, I use cold pressed virgin olive oil, or organic virgin coconut oil. Even melted butter works great too.
And I always add just a bit more than 1 tsp of vanilla, because I love vanilla.

Baking this cake makes for a great activity to do with the kids.

There’s minimal mess to tidy up once your little helpers scoot off to the couch clutching their cake mix covered spoons like gold.

And the buttercream frosting is always fun to decorate.

Here’s the recipe that I found all that time ago, along with some variation ideas.

Happy baking!!



I have found a springform pan to be the best, as it’s a moist cake and can sometimes stick.

  • Grease or line your pan.
  • Preheat oven to 180Oc.
  • Bake for approx. 35 minutes. 


STEP 1: Mix these 5 ingredients in the pan:

  • 1 ½ cups of plain flour
  • 3 tbs of cocoa
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp of baking soda (bi-carb)
  • ½ tsp salt
    • STEP 2: Make three depressions in the mix like this:


      STEP 3: Pour the vanilla in one depression, the oil in another, and the vinegar in another:

      • 1 tsp white vinegar
      • 1 tsp natural vanilla extract
      • 5 tbs vegetable oil


      STEP 4: Then pour water over all and mix well:

      • 1 cup of water



        Bake for 35 minutes at 180oC.  Please keep in mind that ovens vary so you may just want to keep an eye on it as it gets close to cook time



        I completely forgot to set the timer for this one, and I only remembered once I smelt it burning. Fortunately it’s also pretty fool proof. And definitely still edible! And moist surprisingly.

        To frost or to not frost, the choice is yours. We like a buttercream frosting which is simply butter, icing sugar, vanilla and milk, though the choices are endless. 




        OMIT the cocoa in STEP 1 and add 3 tbs plain flour instead.
        Use 1 ½ tsp of vanilla in STEP 3.


        OMIT the cocoa in STEP 1 and add 3 tbs plain flour instead.
        Add 1 tbs of lemon zest in step 1.
        Instead of using 1 cup of water to pour over all the ingredients, use water and lemon juice up to a cup worth. Taste varies, so I haven’t specified how much lemon juice. You could do 2/3 cup water and 1/3 cup lemon juice.



        Recipe credit to whoever I managed to find this recipe from and scrawl down on that rainy-day years ago, I thank you!

        Ps. are there any food stylists or photographers out there?  You'll have to excuse my photography! I'm not one ;)

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