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Crazy Cake: The Best Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe

This recipe was given to my grandmother in the late 1950s, just before she married my grandfather.

A chocolate crazy cake (and some crazy cake cupcakes).

A chocolate crazy cake (and some crazy cake cupcakes).

Crazy Cake: Vegan Before It Was Cool

Crazy Cake is a cake that I hold dear to my heart for many reasons. The first time I saw my grandmother make it, during the time I was in culinary school, it awed me that such a quick and easy recipe could make the most delicious chocolate cake I had ever had. After I saw her do it once, I immediately went on to try and do it myself, and I found the cake to be foolproof. It was a fail-safe—a cake you can whip up for last-minute company that will impress as if you had made the dessert before you knew they were coming.

This recipe was given to my grandmother in the late 1950s, just before she married my grandfather. A chef was doing a demonstration at a local high school, and he showed how to make this cake. He mixed everything together in the pan it would bake in—hence the name. The moment my grandmother got home, she went right to baking it herself!

Why Is It "Crazy"?

However, there is another reason that this cake rightfully holds the name "crazy": It is vegan.

Though being vegan wasn't the recipe's original selling point (it was more focused on the ease of preparing it and the minimal number of dishes it created), the fact that this vegan cake dates from a time when vegan-style diets weren't popular or common is pretty crazy!

All the ingredients—it's time to bake!

All the ingredients—it's time to bake!

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

10 min

35 min

45 min

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

Since this cake is so good, I've decided to provide two sets of measurements:

For 8x8-inch and 9x9-inch square pans:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For 9x13-inch pans and cupcakes:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water

You might notice that the larger recipe is close to being a double of the first, and in fact it pretty much is. The reason that some ingredients don't measure up in the math is because I am actually giving you two different versions for the same cake.

The smaller one is the original my grandmother had gotten from the demonstration. The other is one that she had collected recently (about a year ago) when looking through a magazine. She was so surprised to find a larger version of the cake that she kept it!

First Method: The Original

Since this recipe can be done in two different sizes, I'm also going to show you two ways of preparing it. The first way I'm going to demonstrate is the original way, the way my grandmother saw and taught me to do. This way is best for the smaller version of the recipe.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Measure the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder into a sifter. Sift the ingredients directly into your baking pan. (As much as you might want to grease it, don't! This method isn't really meant for the cake to be removed from the pan but instead served in it.)
  3. Make 3 indents in the dry ingredients. Place first three wet ingredients (vanilla, vinegar, and oil) into their own indents and then pour water over the whole mixture. Stir well until combined.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes until done. Let cool completely before serving.

Photo Guide

Preheat the oven.

Preheat the oven.

Sift the dry ingredients into the pan.

Sift the dry ingredients into the pan.

Make indents in the dry ingredients.

Make indents in the dry ingredients.

Pour the wet ingredients into the indents.

Pour the wet ingredients into the indents.

Add the water and mix until just combined.

Add the water and mix until just combined.

It should look something like this when you are done mixing!

It should look something like this when you are done mixing!

Bake.

Bake.

Second Method: The Bowl

For the larger recipe, this method is the one you are going to want to use. It's going to follow the same general idea of the first, but will vary depending on a few things here and there.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. (Just as before!)
  2. Measure all your dry ingredients and sift into a large bowl. Then place all your wet ingredients (except the water) on top.
  3. Pour water over the whole mixture while mixing. Make sure the batter is smooth like the picture below.
  4. Pour into desired pan.

The next steps differ depending on whether you want to make a cake or cupcakes.

For a Cake:

Here is where things get interesting. If you'd like, you can pour all the batter into a 9x13-inch pan. You'll get a nicely sized cake, and it will take about 35 to 45 minutes to bake. Depending on your oven, it might be even longer. The best way to know is to take a toothpick and stick it into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done! Just like the first method, it will be served out of the pan it was baked in.

Now if you are doing the second method for cupcakes, I will be continuing on with that option.

For Cupcakes:

Place cupcake papers into your cupcake pan and then fill each paper 3/4 of the way full with batter like the picture below. Once you have the cupcake cups filled, bake them for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. You can use the toothpick trick here as well!

Photo Guide

Adding the ingredients to the bowl.

Adding the ingredients to the bowl.

This is after I have gotten the first batch of cupcakes in. If you don't have enough cupcake pans, you will need to do batches!

This is after I have gotten the first batch of cupcakes in. If you don't have enough cupcake pans, you will need to do batches!

I'm heavy-handed, so do a little less than what you see in this picture.

I'm heavy-handed, so do a little less than what you see in this picture.

All nice and done!

All nice and done!

Finishing Touches

Now, if you like, you can put any sort of icing that you want on top of your cake or cupcakes. Granted, keep in mind what you put on top if you are making this for a vegan person! For me personally, I like a buttercream or whipped cream icing on the cupcakes and a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar on the pan cake.

Cupcakes with vegan buttercream.

Cupcakes with vegan buttercream.

Powdered sugar looks pretty on the cake.

Powdered sugar looks pretty on the cake.

Try It and Rate It!

Comments

kayyluh on April 04, 2016:

These look delicious! I will definitely be giving the cupcakes a try, and you're decorating skills are great too!