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While researching recipes for an upcoming cookbook that I'm working on, I came across a confection called a "Wacky Cake". I hadn't heard of it and I was immediately intrigued because not only does this cake have a minimum of ingredients, it's mixed right in the pan. Sounds like my kind of cake.
I'm used to getting myself involved in exhausting, epic marathon cake recipes, so this Wacky Cake seemed like a refreshing change of pace. Digging a little further, I found that this cake is not new at all. In fact, Wacky Cake came about in the early to mid-20th century as a result of a combination of the limited ingredients that were available during the two World Wars and the beginnings of the convenience trend in baking. Dairy products such as milk, butter, and eggs were sometimes hard to come by, inspiring bakers to create cake recipes without them.
Amazingly, Wacky Cake is a cake with no eggs, no butter, no milk—it's the perfect recipe to make in a pinch when you've got nothing in your fridge. Because there aren't any stabilizing eggs in the batter, mixing the ingredients right in the pan just before it hits the oven helps to make sure that the cake gets as much as it can from the leavener. And it's just darn easier—no big mess to clean up later.
Though I was tempted to mess around with the ingredients, I realized I'd just be defeating the purpose of an emergency cake. And though a cake without all the good tasty, fatty, dairy stuff doesn't quite compare, this cake tastes delicious and has a surprisingly good crumb. In fact with vegetable oil as the fat, it's one of the moistest chocolate cakes you'll find. Though it's not necessary, I did take the liberty to add some instant coffee to the mix to give the cake another layer of flavor. Moist, chocolatey, few ingredients, and above all, easy—this might be worthy of more than just an "in a pinch" moment.
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore as a freelance writer for Time Out Singapore. Check out her blog: shophousecook.com . Follow Yvonne on Twitter.