In my family, we call it Magic Chocolate Cake, even though this is an old recipe that has gone by many names. Why magic? Well, what would YOU call it? This is a chocolate cake that tastes great, is dead simple to make, and uses NO eggs, NO milk, NO cream, NO butter – NO dairy products at all. NO cholesterol, if you use the right oil. Oh, and it goes together (and bakes) within 40 minutes. I call that magic.
It’s my family’s favorite snack cake of all time. We’ve called it Magic Chocolate Cake for three decades or so, though it derives from something called Wacky Cake. The origin of that cake is a bit of a mystery. It’s assumed to have become popular due to the rationing in the U.S. during World War II, when milk and eggs were scarce. You can use just about any kind of oil for this cake; I’ve sometimes used part leftover bacon grease, in fact. And you can make it right in the pan if you like – though I prefer using my bowl because I find it faster. Fast is better.
While we don’t have rationing these days, but it’s very nice to have a cake in your repertoire that can be made entirely with ingredients you have in the pantry at all times. Need a cake within 45 minutes? This is your go-to recipe – and it’s great: so great you might call it magic! Try this magic chocolate cake soon.
A note on quantity: this makes great cupcakes. I’ve made it in loaf pans. To make a larger version, double it for a 9×13 pan or get creative with shaped pans. Whatever. An 8x8x2 pan holds 6 cups batter, which is what you’ll need to figure on as capacity for your pan. See the perfectly wonderful chart of pan sizes at JoyofBaking. Cut this recipe in half, if you like, and bake it in any 1-quart baking dish, or in a standard 8×4 loaf pan.
This cake doesn’t need any frosting, but it can be gussied up in amazing ways. Try these variations:
- add up to 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon with the dry ingredients
- or maybe add raisins or dried cherries
- perhaps add chopped crystallized ginger
- add a bit of orange oil (to liquids) or grated orange peel (to dry ingredients)
- serve with whipped cream and strawberries or raspberries
- frost with plain or fancy frosting. Chocolate ganache, raspberry buttercream, fluffy vanilla, or a thin glaze of powdered sugar and cream all work well.
- serve with ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce
Magic Chocolate Cake Recipe
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp natural cocoa powder NOT Dutch-processed
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅓ cup oil
- 1 Tbsp vinegar cider or white work equally well
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup water, room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease an 8×8 square pan or something else of equivalent size.
- Put the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and whisk them well together. Combine the wet ingredients in a large measuring cup, and then quickly stir them into the dry and mix well, until very smooth. Work fast! Speed is important for this cake.
- NOTE: you can put the mixed dry ingredients in a greased pan, make 3 wells, put oil, vinegar, and vanilla in each, then pour water over and mix rapidly with a fork – but I like mixing in the bowl better, I can do that faster, and there are no corners to blend.
- Dump the batter in your prepared pan, and get it right into the oven. Bake about 30 minutes for an 8×8 square pan, 22-24 minutes for cupcakes. Test as usual: the cake should spring back in the center when lightly touched, the edges should be pulling away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out moist but with no streaks of raw batter. Let stand on a rack to cool.