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Busy-Day Chocolate Cake

This chocolate cake recipe from Lucinda Scala Quinn's "Mad Hungry" cookbook involves minimal cleanup -- the ingredients are blended in the very pan that goes into the oven.

  • servings: 8

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup cold water

Variations

To make this recipe as prepared on "Mad Hungry" TV, top your chocolate cake with this Simple Buttercream frosting.

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an 8-inch square baking pan, whisk together all-purpose flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, and coarse salt.

  2. Step 2

    Make a well in center of flour mixture and add vegetable oil, pure vanilla extract, white vinegar, and cold water. Whisk until well combined. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Source
Everyday Food, November 2009

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Reviews (63)

  • 14 Feb, 2014

    Wonderful! And so easy! A great cake to make when you want something sweet, but not too many leftovers (a diet is always around the corner, isn't it?). It is great with frosting (my family loves chocolate), or, sprinkled with chocolate chips so it is more of a snack cake.

  • 11 Feb, 2014

    It's Vegan!! Thank you for this recipe I'm trying it out this weekend.

  • 7 Jan, 2014

    Why coarse salt??

  • 8 Nov, 2013

    Never fails. This is a variation of the very first recipe I ever collected. A classmate demonstrated it for her Speech Class project (we had to do a demo). In the 60's there was a Nestle's product that was pre-melted chocolate in little pouches sort of like ketchup is in now. She used that, added the other ingredients and showed how the whole thing could be done in the pan! Was I ever impressed (at 15 it didn't take much) but I wanted the recipe. Thanks for the recipe.

  • 18 Sep, 2013

    i have made this lots of time.taste good and very easy to make.whenever i crave for chocolate cake i made this :D

  • 12 Jun, 2013

    I've been trying to pin this to Pinterest for a month! Can someone fix it?
    Also -- to make this even more allergy friendly...I substituted the flour for gluten-free/wheat-free all-purpose flour mix, added 1.5 tsp xanthan gum, and an extra 1/4 cup water. Great recipe! Good with or without icing...

  • 20 May, 2013

    If you like your frosting nice and white try using Almond or Orange extract in place of Vanilla.

  • 17 May, 2013

    I'm having problems pinning this on Pinterest. Any ideas???

    Helen

  • 17 May, 2013

    This is the same cake that my Grandma taught me to make only it is called "Wacky Cake". It really is a delicious cake. It takes 2 cups flour, 1-1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1-1/2 tsp. bking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt.1/2 tsp vanilla,1-1/2 Tablsp vinegar, 3/4 cup oil, 1-1/2 cups water. Mix in pan bake 35 minutes. My grandchildren do not want it iced. Terry

  • 17 May, 2013

    Interesting Cake: Wanting to make this healthier (altho its pretty clean already!) i substituted melted org. butter for the oil and have tried: 3 tab. extra v. olive oil, in place of the 6 tab, oil. freshly ground brown rice flour, carob powder instead of cocoa, 1 tab. vanilla, 1 tsp. cinnamon and 2 tab. Pero grain coffee powder. I then added the rest of the ingred. = A wonderfull healthy dessert. We also like to slice it horizontally and fill berries and whip cream and cream on top!

  • 17 May, 2013

    Can this cake be made successfully with Rice Flour?

  • 17 May, 2013

    This seems to be the same recipe my friend's mother gave me back in the early 70s. I'll have to try it and compare. Her's was moist and fun to make. The biggest difference is the frosting. Her's called for lard... not in my diet anymore.

  • 17 May, 2013

    Back in the 50's, this was known as "Wacky Cake" because it was made in the same dish it was baked in. I grew up on this cake and love it!
    I own an Inn where we do a dessert buffet every night. This is a standard since it is now "vegan". But vegan or not, everyone loves it! And, in a pinch, we can have it in the oven in ten minutes.

  • 22 Mar, 2013

    This is a great basic chocolate cake. I bake often but sometimes we just want an easy and sweet cake - this is it. No eggs needed or milk... only special item is baking soda (and everyone has that!). Sometimes I use dutch process coco, but hershey's works great as well. Stays moist for days, light and chocolatey. Thanks Lucinda!

  • 22 Jan, 2013

    I love this recipe. It was so easy and delicious! As a mom, I don't always have the time to whip up a fancy dessert for my family, but, I'm happy to have this in my little box of recipe's. It may not be for everyone, but, I can honestly say that for me, this recipe takes the cake. :)

  • 15 Nov, 2012

    I have never written a recipe review before. I have been pretty lucky with recipes I have chosen and am content to share exemplary ones with friends/family. I made this cake twice b/c I mistakingly used baking powder the first time. Texture was definitely better the 2nd time. However, both times - I am truly sorry to say - the tasted terrible. If you value your time, as well as good taste and quality in the result, don't waste anything on this one. A box cake mix would taste way better (sadly).

  • 10 Nov, 2012

    This is the only chocolate cake recipe my family will eat. It is so easy and very tasty. My family like it iced with a brown sugar fudge icing.

  • 9 Nov, 2012

    This is such a great cake. The recipe was in a Foxfire Camping book my father had. You can make it in a camping oven because it's one pan and requires no eggs. The only difference in my recipe is that we add 1c of cold coffee and we make three wells for the liquid. Vinegar goes in one, oil in second, coffee in third. I top it with a cinnamon and sugar mixture sprinkled on the top. It's DELISH!!

  • 20 Aug, 2012

    we LOVE this recipe. it's easy, delicious and as an added bonus it's VEGAN. how cool is that? my daughter's best friend has severe dairy allergies and she can have this! and it tastes so good no one knows it's vegan.

  • 5 Aug, 2012

    We loved this recipe and I have made it several times, each time the cake came out perfect. Instead of the buttercream frosting, I changed the frosting to a family favorite - chocolate. I didn't have the white vinegar on hand, so I substitute apple cider vinegar. Next time I will try the chocolate chips.

  • 26 Mar, 2012

    I'm not sure why the reviews I saw were so poor for this cake? Everybody loves this; it's a huge hit every time I make it. I have made it following the recipe; though I never have added the vinegar. I have made it adding a half cup of chocolate chips after mixing the other ingredients (most common way I make it) . I have added shredded coconut, and changed out the vanilla extract for orange. It is also good using peppermint extract with the chocolate chips. Amazing cake!!!!

  • 8 Feb, 2012

    Easy to do, but not good. Tasteless. My kids did not aprove. I'll give it a second try, because it's so easy and quick to do, maybe some more chocolate and olive oil or coconut oil will do the trick. If I succeed, I'll write about it.

  • 24 Oct, 2011

    It's an OK cake. A little rubbery in texture for me, maybe because of the oil. A handy recipe to have on hand when you want something quick and easy. I did find other versions of Easy Day Cake in an internet search; some do have eggs, some use butter so they're not as easy to make...I'll probably be trying some of those.

  • 23 Oct, 2011

    Terrible. This is not how chocolate cake should taste! It was easy to make but not worth the little effort.

  • 3 Oct, 2011

    Made this recipe for a dinner party, not haivng tried it before. I didn't use white vinegar and it still came out deeeeeelicious! Btw, if you do use the buttercream frosting that this recipe links to, please sift the powdered sugar. I didn't and woah intense sugar. So the message is: damn good chocolate cake recipe! And like someone said before, it tastes equally yummy after being in the fridge. Five stars, hands down. My cat could make this recipe. ;)

  • 1 Oct, 2011

    Easy, easy, easy! Perfect for a small birthday cake when you don't want tons of leftovers!

  • 12 Sep, 2011

    I remember a cake with these ingredients from my childhood, and now I make it both for my friend with dairy allergies (frosted with 7-Minute Frosting) or just any time I need a quick dessert. Sometimes my husband and I finish a meal with this cake without even frosting it! It's delicious cold the next day, too. So simple and I never have to go to the store first.

  • 6 Sep, 2011

    Like Lucinda says..."This is one of the easiest cakes to make". Easier and tastier than a pre-packaged cake mix in my oppinion. Even with a lightly stocked pantry you should be able to make this cake in a moments notice. I used a round 8" cake pan with out any problem. On TV she called for 2 sticks of unsalted butter for the frosting...Didn't have any in the fridge so I substituted margarine and the frosting came out just fine. Even if you don't bake you should try this recipe.

  • 6 Sep, 2011

    I made 2 of these, one in a 9x9" pan as I didn't own two 8x8"s. Never do this. Too thin and way too dry. Very good flavor though.The pan makes the difference.

  • 3 Sep, 2011

    This is a very easy cake and it is moist, as well. Delicious! In order to get the frosting white, I mixed my butter in a stand mixer until it was white, then I added the powered sugar and mixed for a long time until is was white. My frosting was as white as on the TV program. This is an excellent chocolate cake recipe

  • 7 Aug, 2011

    I am a baker my self and this is truly one of the worst chocolate cakes I have ever tried.

  • 30 May, 2011

    This chocolate cake is so easy & so delicious. Turns out perfect every time.

  • 24 Apr, 2011

    I love this cake. I like to substitute almond extract for the vanilla and then put sliced almonds on top, then after baking when it is cooled, just sprinkle powdered sugar on top instead of frosting.

  • 21 Apr, 2011

    I was really excited to try to recipe when Lucinda made it on the show because it couldn't be easier to make. I was a little skeptical at how moist the cake would be, but OMG! This cake is amazing! It's super moist and even with just 3 tbsp. of cocoa in it, it's super chocolatey. Definitely one of my go-to choclate cake recipes from now on. Thanks LSQ!

  • 9 Mar, 2011

    I grew up eating this cake for birthdays and other occasions. Like a previous commenter said, this cake was known in my family as "wacky cake". All of my friends (and my brothers and sister) loved this super moist chocolaty cake. Enjoy!

  • 26 Feb, 2011

    I did not think this was very good. It did not have a very good flavor.

  • 19 Feb, 2011

    The best, easiest recipe ever...made up in minutes and very yummy. A total hit at kid's birthday parties. Bonus is that it is dairy free.

  • 12 Feb, 2011

    This is a great easy recipe and good for a small family. I've made it 3 times - it's always delicious and moist. I mix it in a bowl rather than the pan - it's easier and less messy. Enjoy!

  • 5 Feb, 2011

    I loved it too... as a busy day cake. I like the recommendation to add more cocoa or darker cocoa. I'll try it. Very moist and good AND so friggin easy. Excuse my language but I'm the mother of twin 6 year old boys and I need recipes like this!!

  • 27 Jan, 2011

    Don't try to make this into what it is not. It is a simple cake with a simple butter frosting. The best that I have run into in a long time. I am a culinary school graduate and am always looking for simple easy desserts that I can make fast. The BEST to date!!!

  • 25 Jan, 2011

    Is the amount of butter for the buttercream frosting correct? I made it the way it said, not thinking of how I made buttercream frosting in the past, and the proportion of butter to confectioners sugar did not seem right after I made it - checked my other buttercream receipes and this one definitely has a lot more butter/confectioner sugar ratio than any of my other ones - is it supposed to be a frosting or a sugar butter???

  • 24 Jan, 2011

    Great cake! I made it even better by adding one more tablespoon of oil, one more teaspoon of vanilla, AND I substituted one tablespoon of Raspberry Vinegar for the one tablespoon of white vinegar. Oh MY. Yumster.

  • 21 Jan, 2011

    Does anyone have the nutritional info for this cake? Made it today - it's awesome!

  • 16 Jan, 2011

    This is a good cake definitively appropriately named.

  • 18 Dec, 2010

    I too know this cake as "wacky cake". I serve it to my vegan sister all the time. You can also omit the coco and boost the flour for a vanilla cake.

  • 7 Dec, 2010

    I first found this in "I Hate to Cook" by Peg Braken in 1965. My kids and grandkids love it. I wouldn't dare have a family birthday without it. It is so moist, my kids object to icing! Make to cocoa tbsps heaping and double the vanilla for an extra kick.

  • 7 Dec, 2010

    I first found this in "I Hate to Cook" by Peg Braken in 1965. My kids and grandkids love it. I wouldn't dare have a family birthday without it. It is so moist, my kids object to icing! Make to cocoa tbsps heaping and double the vanilla for an extra kick.

  • 6 Dec, 2010

    When I was a very young girl, my best friend's mother introduced us to this cake. It was so easy and fun to make. I lost the recipe long ago, and was so please to see this again. Thanks Lucinda

  • 23 Nov, 2010

    I love this cake! Its easier and tastes so much better than the box cakes, I am "MAD" about this recipe.

  • 23 Nov, 2010

    I tried this cake

  • 6 Nov, 2010

    Have seen this recipe demonstrated on her program. It was so easy and the smell of chocolate was terrific. I used the "Special Dark " Hershey's Chocolate for a richer and deeper chocolate flavor. The frosting was also very easy. This is a new addition to my recipes

  • 29 Oct, 2010

    Perhaps an oversight on my part, but how many does this recipe serve?

  • 26 Oct, 2010

    another name for this is "wacky cake". my mom showed me this recipe several years ago. you can use hershey's cocoa in it. always satisfies your chocolate craving.

  • 18 Oct, 2010

    I love this recipe. Cake is moist and delicious, and super-easy. I'm using a very dark Valhrona cocoa powder though, and packing the tablespoons pretty tight. Definitely recommend going with a high-quality cocoa powder for this.

  • 3 Oct, 2010

    This cake is ok I will make again. I found it to be a little spongey but when you need a quick snack for lunches it will be just fine. I did not put any icing on the cake just sprinkles a little sugar, next time I will put icing sugar on.

  • 9 Aug, 2010

    @ mickiegrimmett: This is a very old recipe from WWII, back when rationing was the norm for the war effort. My mother-in-law gave me a similar recipe. I have seen it called "mystery cake" or "War cake" because it has no eggs and very inexpensive ingredients. It is a moist, tasty, quick to make, and economical cake which can be used for quick snacking, or frosted as a more elegant dessert. Enjoy!

    Cibi

  • 28 Jul, 2010

    This cake took only 50 minutes total to make. I did add an extra tablespoon of cocoa powder and an extra teaspoon of vanilla. The chocolate flavor was still light, but good for those who don't like rich desserts. The recipe didn't call for greasing the pan, but my cake did break when I tried getting it out. I ended up making a two-tier triangular cake with melted marshmallow and graham cracker crumbs in between and on top. The marshmallow hardened and became chewy, making it delicious!

  • 13 Jul, 2010

    I am wondering why no eggs are used. Are they not needed?

  • 27 Apr, 2010

    Very good recipe - quick, easy and tasty. I added slightly more cocoa than called for and used organic dark cocoa. Came out quite moist and chocolatey. I topped the cake with a white buttercream icing and it made a lovely little birthday cake for my husband.

  • 23 Mar, 2010

    i've made this cake before and it comes out wonderful. super easy to put together and ready in no time! i made a quick cream cheese frosting with orange zest mixed in -- tasted awesome together and kind of dressed it up. i would definitely recommend this simple cake!

  • 11 Nov, 2009

    This recipe is so simple and the cake comes out so moist! I agree that the flavor is light, so if you like a strong chocolate flavor, I'd add more than what's called for here. I added more vanilla (double), as well. Alternatively, you could skip the cocoa powder and make it as a white cake or add other flavors. Next time I make it I'll omit the cocoa powder and use some citrus zest and a splash of juice instead.

  • 26 Oct, 2009

    Hmmm, this cake didn't turn out to be all that great for me. I followed the directions, but perhaps the cocoa I was using was too old? The cake wasn't very chocolaty, and it was a bit oily for my taste. Still, I'd be curious to hear how it went for others, since it was a very easy recipe!

  • 21 Oct, 2009

    This cake was delicious and very easy to prepare! With a simple recipe like this, there's no longer any need for a box mix!