How to Make Crazy, Wacky, Depression War Cake

chocolate cake on a plate with raspberries on top

Do you remember when dessert was a luxury? It was the 1940s, wartime for the United States and many other countries, and baking ingredients like butter, eggs, milk and cream were not readily available and were too costly for American families to purchase. It was during this crestfallen time someone developed a delectable chocolate cake that does not use eggs, butter or dairy and it became known as crazy cake, wacky cake, depression cake, and war cake.

What’s it like?

Crazy cake is moist, rich and chocolatey but surprisingly not too sweet. The top has a glossy, tackiness that makes it finger-licking good.

I’m sure I ate this cake when I was a kid. There is a recipe card for it in my family recipe box. But I’d never made it until someone asked me recently to make a dairy-free dessert for a birthday. (I’m not a dietician so I don’t know if it is legitimately dairy-free.)

No bowls. Maybe that’s the wacky part about making this cake. You stir all the ingredients in the pan.

Some people frost crazy cake but I prefer a delicate sprinkling of powdered sugar.

If you want frosting, I bet old-fashioned snow frosting would complement crazy cake nicely. Here’s our family recipe. Bob’s Red Mill has a recipe for gluten-free crazy cake if you need it.

Want to booze it up? Substitute part of the water in the recipe with a crème liqueur such as North Forest Maple Bourbon Pecan Kreme or Kringle Cream.

Let’s hope we continue making crazy, wacky, depression war cake out of desire, not necessity.

Sweet & crazy wishes,

Crazy Cake

Staci at Random Sweets
Also known as wacky or depression cake, crazy cake is moist, rich, chocolatey and surprisingly not too sweet. The top has a glossy, tackiness that makes it finger-licking good.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24 servings
Calories 186 kcal


  • 9×13 pan


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar for sprinkling on top
  • berries for serving, optional


  • Heat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grab a 9×13-inch pan. Do NOT grease.
  • Put the flour, baking soda, salt, unsweetened cocoa and sugar in the pan and whisk them around with a fork to combine. Make three separate wells in the dry ingredients – a large one and two small ones.
  • In the large well, pour vegetable oil. In the second well, pour in vinegar. In the last well, pour in vanilla.
  • Pour the 2 cups cold water over all of it and mix with a fork.
  • Bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. Serve with berries if desired. Store in airtight container.


Calories: 186kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 2gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 190mgPotassium: 36mgFiber: 1gSugar: 17gCalcium: 5mgIron: 1mg
Keyword cheesecake, chocolate, chocolate cake, dairy-free, egg-free

All text and images © Staci Mergenthal • Random Sweets

Tried this recipe?Mention @RandomSweets and tag #OurSweetMidwestLife

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