This chocolate cake is really, really good! It is so good it would be worth making even if this were a complicated recipe, but this is one of those quick and easy cakes where you just put all the ingredients into a baking pan and stir just enough to thoroughly blend everything together. This recipe makes a dark chocolate cake with a wonderful texture and flavor, and it’s as easy as a cake mix to put together.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I do not recommend any other flour for this cake)
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons oil (I use a light olive oil)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla (I use 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 cup cold water

This cake is so quick and easy to make because it can be mixed and baked right in the 8-inch square pan. Greasing the pan is not necessary. Mix flour (I prefer unbleached), sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt with a whisk until well blended. Pour the oil, vinegar, vanilla, and cold water (all at once) on top of the dry ingredients. Stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly blended together but do not over-mix. Bake at 350°F for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Delicious!

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Now, that’s my kind of recipe. Thanks!


This sounds like my kind of cake, will bake it tomorrow!
thanks :)


Wow! What a great idea! Once we’ve recovered from the birthday sweets (pie and brownies and frozen yogurt) around here, I think I’ll try it.


Mmmmm, simplicity at it’s best!


I made this cake last night and both my hubby and I loved it. It was so easy and very tasty. We had it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top yum. Thanks for posting the recipe.


I’ve made this cake and it’s really good! In fact, it’s so easy it’s the kind of thing you can experiment with! Maybe almond extract instead of vanilla?

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Isn’t this an amazing recipe? I don’t remember where I got it, but I’ve been making this cake for years, and we love it.


Try cold coffee for the water to make a MOCHA cake!


I have made this recipe several times! We love it… I just didn’t know you could mix it right in the baking pan…. wow, what a time saver (and mess saver) that will be! I will try it again soon… straight in the pan!


This sounds very interesting. I will try it soon.


Wow! Honestly it is the best cake I’ve ever made from scratch. I’ll never buy a mix again.


I tried this and I loved, loved, loved it. It wasn’t quite as sweet as cake mixes, but it was so incredibly moist. It was too easy and so yummy!


Way back when, I made this type cake in Home Eco, it was called Crazy cake! and as a topping we put Hershey bars on top while it was still warm so they melted, I think we did it plain (no cocoa) I’m going to have to look to see if I have that recipe somewhere???? Oh and remember the snacking cake mix came w/own pan mix and bake in oven?? choco chip and banana nut where favorites.


I made this as a trial for a little girl’s first birthday so her mother could be sure it would not hurt her. She just loved it and suffered no troubles. So I will be making this so that she can enjoy her first birthday with all the mess, good tastes and fun of any other child. What a gift that you provided this recipe. Thank you!

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Ginger, thank YOU for taking the time to tell me this wonderful story. I’m so happy the cake will help this little girl celebrate her birthday. I think people who can eat anything they want don’t realize just how exciting the discovery of something like this cake can be for family members who have a long list of things they can’t eat. This cake has been special for my family… I’m glad you and this little girl will be enjoying it too.


It is very nice to have these options for kids who may be allergic to eggs and/or dairy. I have made it for years – it was a recipe my mother made, plus I’m vegan so it’s my default chocolate cake. Last year I used it for cupcakes so kids could decorate them at my son’s party. I was so happy that one boy with a dairy allergy could join in. His mother always had to bring him a substitute dessert, but he could eat these just like everyone else (all the icings, etc. were also dairy and egg free, so he could decorate as well).


this chocolate cake looks good i wanna try this recipe this coming week….what frosting is best for this cake?….can i have the recipe for the frosting??please……….im a frustrated baker and im dying to learn how to bake……..thank god i found this site!i found you!……thank you very much!

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Vhann, we never put frosting on this cake, because we don’t like frosting that much, but if you like frosting, a butter cream frosting would be good. That’s just a combination of powdered sugar, butter, a tiny bit of milk, and vanilla. You can find an easy recipe right on the package of powdered sugar or at any recipe site… just look for “butter cream frosting.” A cream cheese frosting would be good too.


I made this chocolate cake this evening and it was INHALED! My 4 my boys loved it. We also unanimously agreed that it did not need frosting. I do believe we will never purchase another store bought cake mix again. Thank you for sharing thing!


no eggs… I will be trying this recipe out and quite possibly even today…


We made this cake last night for New Years Eve and it is awesome. No more boxed cake mix for our family. My DH is a picky eater and he loved this cake! So simple, easy and fun to make. Thank You so much for a great recipe!!


My 10 year old daughter made this for us tonight with no help at all. It was the first recipe she’s ever made with absolutely no help and it was delicious.


This cake is delicious and so easy! I love it as much as I love the applesauce spice cake. (And I never used to bake…)


I commented before, but wanted to add, my 7 year old wanted THIS cake for her birthday party. I made a 2 layer with cream cheese frosting. It was a hit! i typically use cake flour when I make it, but I have done it with whole wheat and it was still scrumptious!

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Julie, that’s a great story… thanks for sharing it! And happy birthday to your daughter…


We have been making this cake for years. It is called vinegar cake and was made in the depression. Great site , here almost every day.

sharon arora

“Mix in the Pan Chocolate Cake”

I want to try to make this cake for my 3 year old who has a severe dairy allergy and egg allergy for his birthday it looks absolutely yummy. As I am not overly confident about cake making I wonder if you could just confirm what flour it is presumably self raising, is it vanilla essence and what vinegar do I use. Please could you confirm. Thank you.


Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Sharon, no, you do not want to use self-rising flour. The kind of flour you want to use will be labeled “all-purpose” (self-rising flour has added salt and baking powder).

The vanilla is just vanilla extract. I prefer the pure vanilla extract, but the imitation is OK too.

The vinegar is plain cider vinegar.

Just be sure to keep all your measurements accurate, follow the instructions, and the cake will be wonderful! And happy birthday to your 3-year-old!


Shirley, thank you for posting this easy cake recipe. My Mother always made this as birthday cakes for our family (double the recipe, and cook in a 9 x 13 pan). We loved it so much! We called it “purple cake”, because the cake was so chocolate-y that the light hitting on it made it look purple!). If I frost it, I make a homemeade mocha frosting. It can also be used for “Surprise” cupcakes—homemade yankee Doodles. Just bake as cupcakes, cool, and cut a cone shape out of the center of each cupcake. Fill hollow with homemade whipped cream, cut the sharp point off of the cones you’ve saved, and replace the top. Then frost with your choice of frosting. Yummmmm. Thank you!

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Martha, those surprise cupcakes sound delicious! Thanks for sharing this idea.


It seems awesome! I just wonder…can I microwave it? for how long? I can´t wait to try this recipe!

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Gavriela, I have no idea… I don’t “do” microwaves… but I wouldn’t recommend it. This recipe is so amazing the way it is, I wouldn’t want to fool with it.


I’ve always heard applesauce can replace oil – do you think that would work in this recipe? Overall, sounds like a great recipe and I plan to make it for my son’s 1st birthday next week!

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Angie, this recipe makes such a wonderful cake just the way it is, I don’t like to make changes. I think applesauce would work because it can be used, as you say, as a substitute for oil… but the cake will not be the same with applesauce… personally, I would just use a “healthy” oil.


The BEST cake ever!! I’ve made this cake FIVE times now. We love it. It’s not just easy, it’s delicious. I have used 1/2 cup cold coffee and 1/2 cup cold water twice and it’s amazing. I always have the ingredients on hand, too. Just can’t thank you enough for posting this recipe.


I would love to bake this cake as i love baking , but there is one question why do you use vinegar? I have never used vinegar in a cake recipe , Is adding vinegar a must? Can i use white vinegar used for Chinese dishes
Thank you

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Mahek, yes, the vinegar is absolutely necessary. The vinegar reacts with the baking soda to make the cake rise. I am not familiar with Chinese vinegar, but I would not substitute it for the cider vinegar. The cider vinegar the recipe specifies costs less than a dollar for a large bottle and it will last in the refrigerator for a long time.

By the way… there is no taste of vinegar in the finished cake.


I’m so glad I found this recipe while googling homemade cake recipes! I just made this while my twin 15 month old girls were napping…it is DELICIOUS!!!


I am sooooo glad I found this cake recipe..Last year we stopped eating processed foods, so this is the best! (lost 50lbs, just changing what I put in my mouth) Just about every cake mix out there is loaded with junk. It’s my husbands birthday tomorrow, and I’m going to make 2 of these. One on top of the other, w/ strawberries in the center, and homemade chocolate cream cheese frosting. If I have success I’ll be making it for his birthday party this sunday, doubling the recipe for a larger cake.. He is going to love it!! I’ll let you know how it turns out! Thank you for a simple ingredient recipe!


WOW, this cake is so CHOCOLATEY! Moist and soooo rich! I used melted coconut oil (very healthy!), and added some chocolate chips in the batter. My husband LOVED IT! Thank you for sharing this SCRUMPTIOUS recipe!!


I made the one pan chocolate cake and it was wonderful!! I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make and how delicious it was to eat. It even passed the husband test!


Hi Shirley,
I just bit into the cake hot out of the oven (had to)and it is delicious! I love finding simple ideas that are amazing. I’ve been on a bread baking craze since the school year ended – have made at least 30 loaves in just a month (“no knead bread” is excellent – if you haven’t tried it yet, I’m certain it will fit your simplicity pursuit). I love that the ingredients in this cake are something we all usually have on hand and not one needs refrigeration. I’m pleased on many levels. Thank you for posting this recipes and your ideas – can’t wait to dig in further. The idea of “voluntary simplicity” has such appeal to me but I’ll write more about that another time. For now, the cake is an excellent addtion to my collection of favorite recipes. With each new recipe I discover or create, I date and write a little something about what’s happening in my life like little mileposts in my journey. I have strong memories tied to my favorite foods along the way. This one will have something to do with finding time to breath doing the things I love (cooking)- having just put in drip system for our newly planted 720+ pomegranate trees figuring it out as we go- loving every minute of summer break between teaching years. The trees and I will grow together as I continue to find what’s best for both of us. For now what’s best for me is another piece of chocolate cake – yum! Thanks again Shirley, Sandy


I have a son that is anaphylactic to dairy and eggs, nuts, seeds, coconut (and other things) so finding him fun snacks is not easy -to say the least. I haven’t tried it yet but will be trying it tonight. Hope he likes it. If you can suggest any other great dairy/egg free desserts, my ears are open.


This cake is DELICIOUS!! Thank you for sharing the recipe :)


Wow, it’s simple, and looks rich, and oh so good. I’m going to put the mix together (and recipe), and then either put it in a Mason Jar, or a Plastic bag, and then give them away for X-mas. I was going to buy a mix, but I looked on-line and saw some good mix recipes instead. I’ll let you know how great the cake comes out!!! S


I love your recipes, especially the chocolate cake recipe! It’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made.
Please keep adding great frugal, homemade recipes!
Thank you so much!


I just made your “Mix In The Pan” Chocolate Cake it was fantastic… My mom had a similar choc cake recipe we called it “Wackey Cake”…due to the no eggs…

My Husband almost ate 1/2 the cake as dessert tonight he loved it so much!! Thanks this will be a staple in our home!!

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

That cake goes fast here too! A reader asked me once if this cake was still good after a couple of days. I had to tell her I had no idea because in this house it never makes it past the first few hours.


This sounds like a chocolate cake to die for. Cant wait to see what it taste like. Should be interesting baking without eggs and adding vinegar. Thanks for this recipe, I love trying out new cakes.


I’ve got this cake in the oven now! I am so excited. My son has a dairy allergy, daughter has a soy/egg/dairy allergy and I am cutting them out because I am still nursing her. So excited to have an option for her first birthday cake that we can all enjoy! :) Thanks.


0.0 I just made a Chantilly trifle using this cake… and it is THE BEST cake I’ve ever made! I can’t even believe it’s from scratch. I’m so excited! In the Philippines, there is a major baked goods company that has a similar tasting cake that I’ve always adored. Now, I can make it at home and for my vegetarian friend!

The only ingredient I needed was baking soda because I threw away the old box. (I haven’t baked in a while.)

I can’t thank you enough! :)


This is called a Crazy Cake at our house. I also add mini marshmellows to it sometimes.


The first time I made this was 25 years in School and we added red food coloring and it looked like a red velvet cake.


I am making this cake as a trial run for my son’s first birthday in 3 weeks. He has a milk and soy allergy and our older daughter is allergic to milk and egg. The fact that this is free of all 3 and has such great reviews is amazing! I can’t wait to try it! It is in the oven right now!


I hurriedly made this yesterday for was so quick and easy to make …and delicious! Thank you for sharing this!



This cake is the perfect way to make a fast cake. This is the second time I’ve made it and both times it turned out great. My Mom calls this a crazy chocolate cake. We’ve had it a lot growing up since it’s so inexpensive to make.

I made some changes to the basics. I added a tbsp of instant coffee, used balsamic vinegar instead of cider vinegar and added 1/2 cup of Skor bits. So good!


I’ve made this cake many times and tend to lose the recipe, so I’m glad I found yours. I add a bag of chocolate chips (or whatever flavor you feel like trying) 5 minutes after cooling the cake. They melt and then you spread them around. They harden and make it even more interesting! It’s great without it, though. Thanks!


Oh, one more thing. My recipe is for a 13″ x 9″ pan, so probably 1/2 a bag would be enough for a 8″ pan.


i just made this cake! it was so moist and delicious! i will make this again for my daughter and family! thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful recipe!


My mom always made this for me when I was a kid. She calls it wacky cake. I have made it for my kids so they can lick the spoon without me worrying about raw eggs. We love it!


My daughter and I just made this and it turned out wonderful!
I was worried because I used distilled white vinegar instead of the cider vinegar, it still tasted great and was a big hit with my family :-)


This is a depression/war era cake – no eggs and no butter. It is also heart friendly until you add the traditional butter-cream or shortening icing. My family, near and far, close and distantly related, have been making this cake since before I was born, so it has been in the family more then 50 years. My grandmother is over 90, and no one seems to know who first made the cake, but it was a birthday tradition for my grandma’s kids. And the whole family looks forward to having a slice of, what we call Wacky-Cake, when we have a family reunion. Ps We always used apple cider vinegar in the recipe though it probably doesn’t matter much because you don’t taste the vinegar. As a teen I used to make it with 100% whole wheat flour, no one liked it as well, so I went back to regular flour. The coca you use can also change the taste a bit, I prefer Hersey’s – family tradition – but have used a fancier brand someone gave me – it was okay, just slightly different in taste.


Use coffee instead of water, lots of cinnamon and extra vanilla, dash of cayenne, switch the apple cider vinegar to balsamic, use dark coco for half of the coco and you have ultimate pot luck winner all around.


Also forgot to top off with cinnamon and 1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar mix before popping in the oven, makes wonderful crystal flakey topping, no need for icing it is baked right on top.


Going to use this recipe to make cupcakes from scratch! But will use hot cocoa powder instead..can’t wait to see the results!


My mom made this for years. To spruce it up, she would let it cool, then place a paper doily over it and dust with powdered sugar. Just enough sweetness to not need frosting.

Talya Bernstein Galaganov

My children (the oldest is eight) wanted to make me a cake for my birthday all by themselves. I found this recipe, put out the ingredients, gave them some measuring cups and spoons, a spoon and a pan, and left them alone. They made it all by themselves and even cleaned up! I only had to put the pan in the oven and take it out. They were extremely proud of themselves, and I was proud of them as well.

And, btw, it was very tasty. I thought it was sweet enough, but they may have liked it sweeter. Maybe they will add chocolate chips or frosting next time. The texture, though, is wonderful.


Oh dear, mine stuck in my pyrex dish. Next time I’ll line it, mix in a bowl and pour it in. Crikey, that’s two dishes! How will I cope? tee hee. A perfectly delicious cake though, yummy. Thanks for sharing. Love your site. I’m one of your invisible viewers :)


Hello, I am from India ,I baked this cake , topped with cocoa frosting, it was delicious. i want to know that the top of my cake was crunchy ,had sugar granules and had cracks on it. Your cake crust looks so smooth and soft. Where i went wrong? please help.
Thanks and warm regards.

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Meenakshi, it sounds as though the sugar crystals didn’t completely dissolve… don’t beat the batter, but make sure to mix it thoroughly so that the sugar crystals will dissolve and be well distributed throughout the batter. I use a whisk and this works well.

Usually when cakes crack it is because the oven heat was too high… or the cake is placed too close to the heat source, like if the heat source is on the top of the oven and the rack is too near the heat. My oven runs hot and I always have to adjust the temperature downward a bit for every recipe. I would try lowering the racks if you need to, or try setting your oven at ten or fifteen degrees lower than the specified temperature for baking this cake.

Hope this helps!


Thank you for this. With dairy issues over our extended family and knowing others with a variety of allergens , it is nice to be able to serve something confidently. Today we add both the vanilla and the almond another suggested. Forks up! Thanks again!


Hello, Shirley, I have made this cake 12 times with different frostings. Thanks a ton for super simple cake recipe and the tips you gave to me. I have one basic question that when should one take out the fresh baked cake from the pan?
Thanks again.

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

I let the cake cool on a rack then use a knife around the edges of the pan. The pan I use is stainless steel and the cake slips right out, or… you can always mix up the cake in a bowl and butter and flour the pan with a piece of parchment on the bottom. It’s a wonderful cake, isn’t it?


We made this at least once a week growing up. My mom called it a goofy cake. My girls also grew up on this cake. We never frosted it, we put apple sauce and whipped cream on it. Its still a very special treat for my girls who are grown, and now make it for their children.


Thank goodness I found your website again. I was a regular follower and life happens with 3 children, a husband and 2 dogs. My son has the egg allergy and this egg free chocolate cake is the best by far. We always make this for birthdays and holidays. I love all of your photos you take as well. Excellent photography! Glad you’re still blogging.