Frugal Feeding Friday - Chocolate Pantry Cake

I came across this cake recipe a while back in an old CWA cookbook – always a sure fire way of finding frugal but tasty recipes! I’ve since seen this cake recipe elsewhere by other names; Crazy Cake, Wacky Cake and Depression Cake (because legend has it that it originated during the Great Depression when fresh ingredients like butter were too expensive to use in baking).

Basically, it only needs pantry staples to create a really yummy moist chocolate cake. Yes, it’s true! No butter, no eggs, no milk. And you can even make it without a bowl (I haven’t tried that method but apparently you can mix it straight into the pan you’ll be baking it in).


1 ½ cups plain flour

3 Tbspn cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup sugar

½ tsp fine salt

1 tsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla essence or extract

5 Tbspn vegetable / light flavoured oil

1 cup water


  • Preheat your oven to 180C, and grease/line your cake tin (a 20cm square tin or thereabouts is a good size)

  • In a bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt together.

  • Make three ‘wells’ in the surface of the dry ingredients (make one of the wells bigger than the others). Put the vinegar in one well, the vanilla in another, and put the oil in the biggest well. Then pour the water over the top of it all. This will feel strange to do, but it’s important to follow these steps! It’s the science behind how the cake actually works!

  • Mix it all together until smooth and well combined, and pour into your tin

  • Bake for about 30-35min, being careful not to overbake (check with a skewer or toothpick)

Once cooled, ice and eat! A really easy cake to make with kids, it's super allergy friendly (can even be made with GF flour) and a great one to whip up when you feel like cake but the fridge is bare.

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