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Chocolate Wacky Cake with Fudge Frosting

Chocolate wacky cake. Dense, rich, and loaded with chocolate! Also known as a “depression cake,” this cake contains no eggs, milk, or butter. It is also the first cake that I ever made from scratch.


It has become a tradition, starting sometime around my junior high years, that I make this cake for my mom’s birthday. When we were up at my parents this weekend, we had a belated birthday celebration for my mom, and I, of course, made this cake!


This recipe has been around for years, but I don’t actually know the original source of this exact recipe. In fact, when looking through my mom’s recipe box this weekend, I found a recipe from my grandma that was a little different than my mom’s.


The fudge frosting was a later addition, and I think it was originally called “No Fail Fudge Frosting.” That name fits. You can let it boil longer or shorter than the instructions, not beat it enough or too much, and you will still end up with a wonderful layer of fudge. Go ahead and give it a try!

piece of chocolate wacky cake on a white plate

Chocolate Wacky Cake with Fudge Frosting

Yield: 24 pieces
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes


For the Cake

  • 3 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/3 Cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 2 Cups water
  • 3 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting

  • 1 1/2 Cups sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1/3 Cup milk
  • 1/3 Cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Sift together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and unsweetened baking cocoa into a large bowl. (If you have a small sifter, just whisk the dry ingredients together thoroughly.) Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until completely combined.
  4. Pour batter into baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. While cake is cooling, prepare fudge frosting.
  6. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, unsweetened baking cocoa, milk, and butter. Bring to rolling boil over medium heat. Boil for five (5) minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.
  7. Remove from heat. Add vanilla extract and beat until glossy and frosting starts to thicken.
  8. Pour frosting over the top of the cooled cake and smooth with the back of a spoon or with a frosting spreader. (Frosting will harden as it cools, so it is important to work quickly.)
  9. Once frosting has set, cut into pieces and serve.
  10. Cover leftovers.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1 piece of cake
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 217Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 216mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 1gSugar: 29gProtein: 2g

Nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online calculator and may not always be accurate. It should not be considered a substitute for a medical professional’s advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Laura Hendershot

Saturday 4th of June 2022

Usually to keep it a one pan cake, all dry ingredients were put in bakimg.pan and stirred. Then make three wells to put wet ingredients. Then stir the whole mess together until smooth. Bake.

Alison at NOVA Frugal Family

Thursday 28th of February 2013

I had a recipe like this awhile ago but I was a little afraid to try it. If this is something you think is yummy, I am totally going to try it :)


Tuesday 5th of February 2013

This is one of my favorite cake recipes and have made it for over 50 years. The only difference is that my recipe calls for 3/4 cup oil and 2 tbls. apple cider vinegar. Try adding chocolate chips to the batter. Also, my recipe says not to bake in a round cake pan as the cake will not bake in the center. I have tried baking in the round cake pan, and the middle did not get done but if you bake cupcakes, they are OK.


Monday 31st of December 2012

Are there really only 3 Tbsp oil in the cake? I use the same recipe (called Crazy Cake) but it calls for 3/4 cup oil!If I could get away with 3 Tbsp, that would be amazing!


Friday 14th of September 2012

Wacky cake brings back SO many memories for me! My sister always made me a pan full when I babysat for my nephew. Hers had some sort of amazing white glaze on the top though. Regardless, this looks AWESOME!

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