Microwave Chocolate Crazy Cake

Microwave Chocolate Crazy Cake | BakeNQuilt.com

You can have this cake, warm and fragrant, in about 30 minutes and for about $1.33, assuming you own a microwave and have the ingredients on hand.  Not bad!  I made this humble cake for May’s We Should Cocoa challenge which is hosted by Choclette of the Chocolate Log Blog.    Each month we are challenged to make something with chocolate that meets the theme set for that month.   For this month’s challenge, Choclette wanted to spotlight the plight of many people around the world who live in extreme poverty and challenged us to see if we could make a chocolate cake for just £1 (or $1.70 by today’s exchange rate).

We_Should_Cocoa_V3 When the challenge was announced, I immediately thought of my favorite quick chocolate snack cake, the Crazy Cake (or Wacky Cake, Dump Cake, Vinegar and Oil Cake, Depression Cake) from 365 Great Chocolate Desserts by Nathalie Houghton.  It was apparently popular during the depression and contains no eggs, butter or dairy.   This particular version of the cake is made in the microwave, making it pretty much instant gratification for a chocolate cake craving, unexpected visitors or simply not wanting to turn on the oven in the summer.   As a bonus, the cake is mixed up entirely in the baking dish so there aren’t many dishes to clean either.

The first step was determining if the cake deserved it’s frugal reputation.  I priced out the ingredients and found that if I use my homemade vanilla extract that the cake came in at $1.33/£.78.   If I had used store-bought vanilla extract, it would have been unaffordable as the 2 tsp. of vanilla would have cost $1.03!  I wasn’t able to figure out how much 1 cup of water out of my tap costs as we do not pay our water bill separately, but I figure it’s small enough that I didn’t count it here.

Here’s how the cost breaks down:

Amount Ingredient Cost in Recipe
1 1/2 Cup all-purpose flour $0.21
1 Cup granulated white sugar $0.26
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder $0.11
1 tsp. baking powder $0.03
1/2 tsp. table salt $0.01
1/3 Cup vegetable oil $0.35
2 tsp. cider vinegar $0.04
2 tsp. homemade vanilla extract $0.28
1/4 tsp. instant espresso powder $0.01
1 Cup water unknown
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar for dusting $0.03
TOTAL: $1.33/£.78

There’s even some wiggle room here if you wanted to splurge and try to make a cocoa powder glaze for the top.

To make the cake, the dry ingredients are combined in a baking dish.  Three holes are made into which the vinegar, vanilla and oil are poured.  The water, mixed with espresso powder, is poured over the top of it all.  The ingredients are mixed well in the baking pan and then the pan is cooked in the microwave at 50% powder for 4 minutes (rotating halfway if your microwave doesn’t have a turntable.


Adding the wet ingredients


After mixing

The cake is then cooked for another 2 – 4 minutes, checking regularly after 2 minutes until it looks fully baked and risen.  It’s important to watch carefully or you can overcook it which results in a dry cake.


Fully baked in 4-8 minutes!

Let it cool as long as you can stand it, then dust with powdered sugar and serve!  If you’re feeling like splurging, this cake is also good with melted chocolate on top, peanut butter frosting or a little warmed Nutella.

We Should Cocoa: Microwave Chocolate Crazy Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 9
Depression-era chocolate cake made without eggs, dairy or butter.
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • scant ½ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup cold water
  • ¼ tsp espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar for dusting
  1. If you're using the espresso powder, place it in a measuring cup with 1 tbsp hot water to let it dissolve. In an ungreased 8 x 8 inch microwave-safe glass baking dish, mix together flour, white sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Make 3 holes (1 large, 1 med, 1 sm) in the mixture. Add oil to the large hole, vinegar to the medium hole, and 2 tsp vanilla to the small hole. Add cold water to the espresso mixture to make 1 cup. Pour water and espresso mixture over all. Stir well with a fork or whisk to blend. Scrape down the sides and corners of the dish with a rubber spatula.
  2. Cook in a microwave oven on 50% power for 4 minutes, turning dish twice during cooking time. Then cook on full power about 2 to 4 minutes, or until done (check frequently). Do not overcook or the cake will be dry (see notes).
  3. Let the cake cool entirely and dust with powdered sugar or frost with your favorite frosting. If desired, chopped chocolate may also be sprinkled on the cake right out of the microwave and allowed to melt for a few minutes before spreading it.
Cook the cake until the top looks "baked" and the center no longer looked like a pool of batter. The edges will cook first and the center will cook last. In the last minute or two of cooking, you should be able to smell the lovely cake aroma. My microwave is a couple years old, so an older, less powerful model might take longer and a newer one may take less time. Also, I have a turntable so I didn't have to manually rotate the pan. This cake is best if not over-baked, so start checking after 2 minutes on high and check it every extra 30 seconds or so after that Once you know how long it takes in your microwave, make a note of it for the next time.

The cake may also be baked in a 350F/176C oven for about 25 minutes.


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Microwave Chocolate Crazy Cake — 1 Comment

  1. Fabulous, you’ve made a great looking chocolate cake AND with plenty of change to spare. It’s not named Depression Cake for nothing! Well done for mentioning the water, I didn’t even think of that. Thanks for joining in with this month’s WSC challenge 🙂

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