Vanilla Wacky Cake
Recipe courtesy of Casey Elsass for Food Network Kitchen

Vanilla Wacky Cake

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 45 min (includes cooling time)
  • Active: 10 min
  • Yield: 9 servings
The “wacky” in the title refers to breaking all the rules of baking. Born out of necessity during the Great Depression, this cake swaps out the expected milk, butter and eggs—which were expensive and hard to find at the time—for water, oil and vinegar. And, yet, through some smart kitchen science, the cake still comes out fluffy, light and not a bit dry. You can mix up the batter right in the baking pan (no bowl required!) with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. This is a vintage hack that feels like a new classic.



  1. Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with vegetable oil.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt through a fine-mesh strainer directly into the prepared baking pan. Stir together with a fork (or a silicone whisk if using a nonstick baking pan). Add the oil, vinegar, vanilla and 1 cup water; stir with the fork until fully incorporated. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
  3. Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour. Frost the top of the cake with the frosting, if using. Cut into 9 squares and serve each with a dollop of whipped cream, if using.