Cake From Scratch: Crazy Cake

There is a recipe from Paul’s side of the family called Crazy Cake. It is not actually called Crazy Cake, but it’s something similar to that, and I am genuinely concerned about the likelihood of someone from his family Googling it. They all seem to think it ought to be called Jesus Cake, and could be checking to see if the President has yet answered their petition to make a whole national holiday in honor of it. Plus, I enjoy the crazycakes association here.

My mother-in-law passed the recipe to me proudly when I married Paul; I tactfully refrained from mentioning I’d already made it for him three times in the two and a half years we’d been dating and living together. I still have to make it once a year for Paul’s birthday, and I consider it an enormous act of sacrificial love. It’s funny how one’s OWN handed-down family recipes carry generations of meaning, tying us to our ancestors through simple rituals—whereas the family recipes of one’s greatly-disliked in-laws are a burden and also stupid.

Paul’s family likes to say EVERY SINGLE TIME THEY MAKE THE CAKE, “If it was any more moist, it’d be pudding! HAR HAR HAR!!” First of all, GROSS. Secondly, please imagine the pleasure involved in removing a circle of almost-pudding from a cake pan. Every year I grimly use the Crisco and the flour, or the Pam baking spray, or the WD-40, or whatever I think MIGHT make the cake came out of the pan without breaking, and every year I end up patching with frosting AGAIN.

I had to recopy the recipe onto another card because my mother-in-law’s version was so excruciatingly annoying. When I first made the recipe, I was working in a bakery. I was pretty sure that “IMPORTANT: Beat EXACTLY 2 minutes BY THE CLOCK!!” was not a legit instruction. I removed about five such instructions, which left me with “Mix everything together. Bake 350 for 35-45 min.” These modifications caused no change in the resulting cake, confirming my opinion that my mother-in-law had a greatly inflated idea of her own special cooking skillz.

I have over the years become accustomed to the taste of the cake, so that I can now eat a piece for celebration’s sake and not mind it. I gradually increased the cocoa from 2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) which helped some, as the chocolate cake now has a chocolate flavor instead of just a chocolate color. The frosting is still a struggle: it’s so greasy it soaks into the cake. At least it’s BUTTER grease: I would have expected it to use Crisco.

I once asked why it was called Crazy Cake. It turns out it’s because the CAKE is chocolate, but the FROSTING is white!! Get it? GET IT? Me neither. I guess a few generations back it was pretty wild.

You may have the recipe if you want it. I don’t see why you would, though, considering how excellent cake mixes are. I often convert recipes to grams and ml and so forth, but I don’t have the heart for it with a recipe I don’t even recommend you make—and surely all of you have the same access to Google I do. Put “1 cup in ml” or “1 cup in grams” or “1 teaspoon in ml” in the search field and it will convert it for you. “T.” is tablespoon; “t.” is teaspoon; “c.” is cup.

Crazy Cake

2-2/3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. baking cocoa
2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
3/4 c. vegetable oil
2 T. vinegar
2 T. fake vanilla
2 c. cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two round cake pans. Mix all the ingredients together; beat on high for about two minutes. Bake 35-45 minutes. Cake is done when you can say that if it were any more moist it would be pudding, or when a toothpick to the center comes out clean.

Crazy Cake Frosting

1 c. milk
5 T. flour
1 c. (2 sticks) softened butter
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine and heat milk and flour, stirring constantly over medium heat until it thickens creepily and is basically smooth. Cool completely.

In a mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat for two minutes. Add the flour/milk mixture which is now thickly skinned-over and congealed and gross, and beat for another two minutes, or longer if the pieces of milk-flour skin haven’t yet blended in (but you might have to pick some of the stubborn ones out). Add vanilla.


I changed the cake recipe from “vanilla” to “fake vanilla,” because NO recipe should use a full ounce of vanilla when vanilla is so expensive, if you CAN’T EVEN TASTE IT. For the frosting I usually use the real vanilla.

Also, notice this is an egg-free cake recipe. The first time I made it, I thought that must be a mistake. And maybe it IS a mistake, who knows. But it DOES make it a nice recipe for someone with egg allergies, especially if they make a different frosting.

82 thoughts on “Cake From Scratch: Crazy Cake

  1. jean

    Love this cake! My mom called it ‘Depression Cake’ and it’s often called ‘W____ Cake’. Both my boys request it every year for their birthday. I dust it with powdered sugar. And it makes amazing cupcakes!

  2. The Diniwilks

    This post cracks me up. After five years with the hubs, I still refuse to make stuff using my MIL’s recipes, preferring to use my own. Does this make me a bad wife?

    I didn’t know you worked in a bakery. This explains your amazing ability to come up with delicious baked goodies on your own. I’m fine if I follow instructions, but the only thing I can wing without looking at a recipe card or using measuring cups is bread (and only since I’ve been making it since I was 5).

  3. Amy

    I actually might try this – if I don’t make the frosting it would work for my egg / dairy allergic child. And I won’t have the bad association with my MIL to contend with.

  4. Christina

    I loveeee your instructions. More recipes should include “creepily.” 2 sticks of butter in the frosting just made me gag. TWO!? I think even Paula Deen would think that’s excessive.

  5. lisa

    I’ve never seen a frosting recipe with flour…now Im curious!

    I know what you mean with the MIL recipes. I recently, *reluctantly* asked for a recipe from my MIL just because my husband likes it so much and my own attempts to recreate it just never came out good. I didn’t like the look of….pride? that came across her face. Gah.

  6. katiemae

    Hahaha, Passive Aggressive Recipe. I love it! I love it so! I have one in my head, for if I ever marry my boyfriend, of the recipe I will have to make for oyster soup:

    Boil oysters in milk. Watch Katie while she eats it. Say “oooh, Katie doesn’t like oysters! She thinks they are gross!” This is false, but say it anyways. Before you eat it, make fun of the way Katie acts during the pre-meal prayer (head bowed, quiet. Ha ha!)

  7. Mary

    We call this W— cake in our family, too. My sister has an egg allergy so that’s how it came into our lives. Funny, I always thought it was crazy cake because there was no egg in it and it cooks up more like a brownie than cake. My sister adjusted the recipe we have to give it a richer chocolate taste by adding coffee (if I remember correctly). It’s been a while since I’ve made this but I don’t remember having trouble getting it to come out of the pan. I think we must cook ours longer because I don’t remember ever likening it to pudding, either. Would using a springform pan help?

  8. Wendy

    The whole time I was reading this post, I was worried you were describing my favorite cake…and you were (more or less)! Too funny! And I totally get not wanting to make your mil’s recipes. The one my husband always asks for is bubble pizza.

  9. Misty

    Oh, family recipes. They are powerful. We have our own crazy recipe. Orange jello with cheese. I shit you not, Thanksgiving literally will not happen if we do not make this jello. The last Thursday in November will *poof* disappear.

    MMmmm, Jello.

    This recipe reminds me of my MIL’s carrot cake, which calls for like a whole bottle of cooking oil and the grease completely soaks through paper plates. Completely disgusting and has ruined carrot cake for me, forever.

  10. EP

    As I am reading these comments, I am smugly happy, on your behalf Swistle, that this recipe that your MIL so solemnly passed down to you as if it were a huge family secret has been instantly recognizable to at least 3 commenters already.

  11. Laura

    HAHAHA, my family makes this cake as well. We call it Lazy Wife cake. Apparently this type of cake was quite common during the depression because it didn’t call for eggs, which I guess were expensive during that time.

  12. DawnA

    Parchment paper? But what a pain in the a** to deal with in a round pan. My MIL passed before I met hubby so I didn’t get any passed down recipes, but she was just a good old fashioned country cook. I did attempt sausage gravy (as a nod to his Mom and one of hubby’s favorite breakfasts) early on and it was such a disaster hubby wouldn’t eat it and I refused to make it again for about 10 years. Second and subsequent attempts were much better. After 22+ years of marriage I’ve become a much better cook/baker.

  13. jen (melty)

    ok WTH? Why did I not know about this.. it seems so common that when I asked for a cake that did not use milk or eggs, why did no one tell me this? Instead I had to try all those awful allergen-free bag mixes! Thanks a lot for nothing, people!!! I could have made my own frosting without those things but nooooooo….

    also this: “t’s funny how one’s OWN handed-down family recipes carry generations of meaning, tying us to our ancestors through simple rituals—whereas the family recipes of one’s greatly-disliked in-laws are a burden and also stupid.” made me laugh and lauuugh…. My husband’s family is a fan of a local pizza chain whose pizza sucks rancid skunk ass. It’s just crappy pizza, I will eat it, but it is not by far orgasmic like they all seem to think it is. Yet it’s built up so much that it’s soooooooooooooo awesome! We had to have it delivered to our wedding (which was actually pretty funny) but not funny anymore when my IL’s drive 5 boxes of it 3 hours to our place for his birthday and then we have to eat it for the rest of the week. Funny how *I* have to partake in this, but my husband wants nothing to do with the traditions that come from my side of the family.

  14. Caitlin

    If I may make a suggestion (and if I may not, then, well, just stop reading this comment, I guess?)….I don’t know if it will work, but have you tried refrigerating the cake overnight or popping in the freezer for an hour (or more) before removing the cake from the pan? I frequently do this when making cakes (whether in the pan or not) because they’re easier to frost when cold (they are more dense and don’t tear).

    Despite how MOIST the cake is, I am guessing (hoping) the cold will be enough to keep it together long enough to get it out of the pan.

    (And when I say this is MY suggestion, I mean this is a pro-tip I picked up from the chef husband. He sure is handy to have around.)

  15. Saly

    Ok, True Story: this past weekend my mother made a cake for my aunt touting this “amazing” frosting that was my grandmother’s secret recipe. I love frosting and asked what was in it…and it was the creepy milk mixture above, with the sugar and vanilla, but actually with Crisco. Hork.

    Secondly- my MIL passed a sacred pie recipe on to me–Hub’s absolute favorite and must-have, German Sweet Chocolate Pie, with intricate instructions and so on. Imagine my surprise when I opened the box of German’s chocolate to find the actual recipe with simple instructions, and called German’s Sweet Chocolate Pie.

    Crazy dead MIL’s FTW!!

  16. Anonymous

    Great story. Weird cake. I just googled, having worked out the name from the clue in the first comment, and yep, all over the internet.

    Here, as an antidote, I freely share my grandmother’s simple cake recipe – which has eggs but no dairy (if you use margarine). Mom used to not even bother with frosting – it was a good and not too unhealthy go-to dessert at our house, since it has applesauce!

    Grandma Jackson’s Chocolate Applesauce Cake

    2 squares unsweetened chocolate
    1/2 cup shortening (butter or margarine)
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 cup applesauce
    2 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 cup flour
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt

    Melt chocolate and shortening together. Let cool. Mix with sugar, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla. Mix with flour, soda, salt.

    Pour into greased and floured baking pan. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until done.

  17. Nik-Nak

    Oh too funny! I refuse to use my in-law’s recipes even though my husband would KILL for anything she makes sinply because she knows I HATE nuts but yet she never makes anything without nuts. Even though they can be easily eliminated.
    I mean she once brought over a cake, just for me, full of NUTS. This was even after she knew how much I hated them.

    So yeah, I definitely don’t do anything as respectful as recreating one of her recipes for my husband.
    Stupid in-laws

  18. Christina

    My MIL also made this cake. She said it was called w—- because it had no eggs. My FIL gave me her cook book after she died and caused a slight family controversy but there was no way I was giving it up. I’m the only one in the family that actually cooks. She was a wonderful lady and MIL.

  19. LoriD

    Pioneer Woman calls that frosting the ‘best ever’. I tried it once, but much prefer a simple buttercream or the Betty Crocker cream cheese frosting.

    I have a crazy cake recipe, but it’s just: 1 box cake mix + 1 can canned fruit (peaches, pears, fruit cocktail,… whatever). Mix together and bake. If it were any more moist…

  20. Bethtastic


    I haven’t ever heard of this cake. But I don’t make cake from scratch. Because. Um. They make ones in a box that are perfectly tasty.
    I tried a from-scratch cake one. Just once. I have henceforth named it “Distster Cake”:
    (not an add for my site, only a really funny picture for anyone needing a laugh!)

    Also, my MIL was/is a perfectly terrible cook. Sweet lady, but terrible cook. Friday’s meals for my husband growing up were all the week’s leftovers in one baking dish, mixed, sprinkled with cheese, baked and called “Casserole”.
    Because of this, my husband thinks I’m the best-cook-on-earth-ever. The only thing he prefers I not cook is anything called “casserole”.
    And I oblige. :D

  21. DomestiKook

    There is vinegar in the cake. VINEGAR. In the cake.
    There is flour in the frosting. FLOUR. In the frosting.
    I feel slightly nauseated.
    Also? Gross. Have you thought of baking it in spingform pans? Then you can loosen it and pull the sides off. I sometimes parchment paper the bottom so it doesn’t stick. The s-l-i-d-e right out? Just a thought. GROSS.

  22. Swistle

    LoriD- My MIL, too, felt it was the best frosting ever. She said (over and over and over, as was her style) that it “wasn’t so SWEET like other frostings.” Indeed, equal parts fat and sugar keep it low-sweet!

  23. mariah

    Frosting should never, ever have flour in it! That’s just yukky. I have a similar cake recipe, but I use a chocolate buttercream frosting on it, which makes it much better. I also make it in a 9×13 pan so I don’t have to deal with trying to get it out of the pan intact.

  24. artemisia

    CRAZY CAKE! I make this all the time at a drop of a hat. I always have everything in the pantry so I never have to plan. It is such an easy cake!

    I think it might be a Depression-era cake? Have you heard that?

    CRAZY CAKE! Damn. Now I am going to make one tonight and A. is out of town. Which means I will eat the whole damn thing over the weekend. Oh, well!

    Oh! And for those weirded out by the vinegar: you can’t taste it. In fact, I think it reacts with the baking soda to make it a moist, soft cake.

  25. JCF

    My FIL is an excellent, well-read, and creative cook. He is actually spectacular at coming up with a delicious and interesting meal out of leftovers and whatever is in the fridge. This is not a skill everyone has. My MIL is a terrible cook, but she has developed the idea, from watching my FIL, that cooking is just pulling crap out of the fridge and throwing it together willy nilly!

    I love eating at their house, except for when my FIL is out of town for business. Then, all bets are off. I have actually been served a quesadilla that contained mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, and candied pecans. With salsa and guacamole for dipping. I kid you not. She also thinks that because you can make, for example, soup by just estimating amounts (measuring 1 t. of oregano by sight), you can do the same with baking. Her baked goods are THE WORST, as you can probably imagine.

  26. DomestiKook

    Ooooh, before I forget. The Passed down recipes things…yak.
    My MIL makes something called hot dish that is basically spaghetti sauce(hers is just AWFUL) with meat, mixed into large elbow macaroni with a 1/4 pound of velveeta stirred in. Velveeta is like a substance all unto itself. Like Jello. Or Plutonium.
    She also makes this…dessert? Lime jello, cool whip and a whole tub of cottage cheese whipped in the blender then chilled in the fridge till hard. And green.

  27. artemisia

    Also, also: I go this from A.’s mom, too. But I adore her, so that helps with the meaning attached to the cake. I love it. Try substituting the flour in the frosting with 1 3/4 cups powder sugar. You have to make the frosting quick or else it looks like a crumble.

    Ok. I am done now.

  28. Today Wendy

    So I started reading this, recognized the cake immediately, and was really surprised because I’ve always really like this recipe. Then I realized that your recipe is different…

    My recipe for W____ cake has more flour (3 cups), less oil (2/3 cup), only 1 tsp of vanilla and suggests warm water instead of cold water (like most sensible cake recipes which call for water). So probably less moist (if you want pudding cake, make pudding cake!) and way less fussy. Also, my instructions are to mix thoroughly with a fork. None of this beating for 2 minutes!

    Also, it suggests topping the hot baked cake with 1 cup of chocolate chips or peppermint patties. Because when you’re making a super easy cake which can be mixed up right in the pan, removing it from that pan and then going to a whole whack of trouble to make icing seems crazy.

    (BTW, still laughing from this post…you’re awesome Swistle :)

  29. shygirl

    Ah yes, the famous Depression-era cake recipe. Great, I suppose, if there’s no other cake to be had at all. Or if you can’t eat eggs. Otherwise, I’m with you: no reason to make/eat this thing when there are other cakes/recipes/ingredients available. (Personally, I’ve always thought of this recipe as the Cake Of Last Resort.)

  30. lifeofadoctorswife

    “It’s funny how one’s OWN handed-down family recipes carry generations of meaning, tying us to our ancestors through simple rituals—whereas the family recipes of one’s greatly-disliked in-laws are a burden and also stupid.”

    Oh my – this is so funny. I wonder if this is how my husband feels about my father’s “famous” pancakes?

  31. Slim

    Marion Cunningham’s Fannie Farmer, sub buttermilk for water and vinegar, ta freakin’ DA.

    I used to make it when I couldn’t be bothered to cream butter and sugar, but I hate the raw-flour taste, so now I mostly bother, unless there’s a small child with an urge to stir the crap out of something.

  32. Kelsey

    The no egg thing kind of had me scratching my head too – I’ve made most of our cakes from scratch but never made anything like this!

    Our “family” frosting is butter and powdered sugar with just a hint of vanilla and milk… Cannot imagine flour in frosting, just can’t.

  33. Leah

    W____ cake!!! I am almost ashamed to admit that it is a staple in our house and a must at birthdays, especially now since my son has a dairy allergy. Mine always turn out great. Wonder if her ratios are a bit off?

    That said, I am adamantly opposed to making anything my mil makes. Also, if I make something that she does happen to make often (using my own recipe of course), I will call it something else. Yes, I will actually re-name a dish to avoid my family associating it with hers. That way I don’t have to hear about how mine is “fine” but Mema’s is better.

  34. Sarah

    Domestikook: Argh, that disgusting green Jello thing has been on more family tables than I like to remember. This is definitely a Midwestern thing. And one of the reasons I generally refuse to eat anything involving Jello, despite having offended not a few family cooks.
    Swistle: I loved your comment about your MIL saying, OVER and OVER and OVER, “It’s not so SWEET like other frostings!” There’s a few people in my family who literally say the exact same thing every time they eat a certain dish, and it cracks me up/drives me crazy, too.

  35. ssm

    “I don’t have the heart for it with a recipe I don’t even recommend you make.” Haaa! I feel like your MIL is haunting you with this cake.

  36. St

    I would never consider making this cake, I mean “from scratch”? WTH is that? But I will be trying it anyway because DD#3 is allergic to eggs. For her last birthday I made an eggless cake that had good reviews and it was terrible. Kinda tasted like a sugar cookie. My husband wouldn’t touch it, only the neighbor’s husband actually finished a piece!

  37. Wendy

    Love love love this cake. We had it all the time growing up and I make it quite a bit because it is so easy!

    We call it crazy cake because there are no eggs and well, that’s just crazy :) I’ve also heard it refered to as “Snack cake” or “one pan cake” because we mix right in the pan.

    I NEVER EVER remove it from the pan to serve, just serve right from the pan. I do usually have to soak the pan after it’s all gone.

    I’ve never used that frosting though. I always make my grandma’s chocolate chip frosting:

    6 T butter
    1 1/2 cups white sugar
    6 T milk
    1 t vanilla
    dash of salt
    1/2 cup chocolate chips

    Boil everything but chocolate chips for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips. Mix well (or as grandma used to say “beat the hell out of it”) until it loses it’s sheen. Pour on cake and allow to cool.

  38. Firegirl

    It’s called Crazy Cake in my family and I think the reason we had it is the no eggs thing.

    But we didn’t put frosting on it.

    Please tell us you shredded or burnt the original recipe card? There had to be some sort of ceremony.

  39. Katie

    This whole thing made me laugh and laugh and laugh.

    I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly been subjected to this cake.

    My grandma has always been famous for this chocolate cake she used to make. Us grandkids would eat the whole thing up. It was amazing. One year I finally asked her for the recipe and she told me it was Duncan Hines, and like a previous commenter said she just “beat the hell out of it”.

    My dad’s girlfriend has a “famous” family recipe called brownie cake. It is basically undercooked brownies? With, like, chocolate stuff? on top? It is gritty and not very good, but she makes it for everything.

    Lastly, my husband’s mother was an excellent baker but not a great cook and there are many things my husband hates because of the way she made them. That’s been fun telling him for the last 10 years that simple things like pork chops are not actually disgusting.

  40. Katie

    Oh! The one thing from his family that we do make regularly are actually called Poop Cookies. Cocoa and oats and chunky peanut butter, oh my. Delicious and disgusting-looking and fun to take to parties. :)

  41. DomestiKook

    @Artemisia and Sarah,
    My husband was born in Los Angeles and we live there now, but my MIL is from Minnesota. My FIL from Wisconin. She also makes a “family” recipe that is basically poppy seed cake made with pistacio pudding mix and no frosting. I think I am the only person who doesn’t like it. That green jello cottage cheese horror just makes me nauseous thinking about it!

  42. JEN

    we have an apple cake recipe that we got from an older lady neighbor. For some reason, we started calling it- Dead Mrs. _____ cake. And it stuck. And I feel horrible about it. Confession next week about that.

  43. Jenni

    Grease/flour the pan as usual, and then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. It’ll change your LIFE. No more broken cakes.

  44. Melissa Haworth

    we make this cake too and I was told it was crazy because of the no eggs. which is precisely why we made it because I have a cousin with a very severe egg allergy so it was always her b-day cake.

  45. StephLove

    I have never made this cake but I’ve seen it in cookbooks. I guessed the name referred to the vinegar and baking soda combo. I always imagined the batter would foam, but surely you would have mentioned that if it did. Maybe you could alter the order in which you add the ingredients for that amusing effect. Might improve your mood while you are making it.

  46. Bibliomama

    Agh! No! Why did I click on the adorable apron icon? I do NOT need someone else to add to my blogroll — the fact that you have five kids and are funny and clearly not quite insane are just added indignities. Plus all your damned commenters are awesome too. Also, I need a moment to send a love letter to my mother in law — I keep realizing that the clichés are all true, with very very few exceptions.

  47. Shelly

    Don’t you just hate those things your in-laws say over and over and over again?! My in-laws always have to tell the HILARIOUS story of how grossed out my hubby’s ex-wife was by the fact that they cook their dressing inside the turkey for Thanksgiving. EVERY YEAR they tell that story. Finally, one year I was like, “Hey, if we’re going to talk about her, let’s just invite her next year!” That was not a popular comment, strangely enough.

  48. Jabberwocky

    My family also calls it W___ Cake and I don’t remember our version as chocolate or having frosting. I also remember it being tasty–so I will have to look up my recipes and share.

  49. Anonymous

    Yeah, recipes from in-laws are annoying! One treasured Thanksgiving recipe from his side involves cool-whip, canned cranberry sauce and marshmallows. It isn’t even a dessert, they serve it with the turkey. SIL made it one year and brought to the house much to the joy of all of my other ILs present. I’m always amused by recipes that are made completely with non-food items. My husband’s grandmother once stopped a Christmas meal when she noticed I did not partake in the festive green jell-o “salad” and bustled up from the table to give me a heaping serving.
    Thanks Grandma-in-Law!

  50. Nicole

    My MIL is the proud maker of the “best potato salad in the world”. It is “one great potato salad”. She was greatly disappointed with me because I think potato salad in any form is vile, but I tried hers in the name of family harmony and OMG. It was so horrible. She was like “The secret ingredient is dry mustard!” I felt the secret ingredient was bitterness.

  51. Lynn

    Much like Today Wendy, I make this cake on a regular basis but with different ratios:

    3 cups flour
    2 cups sugar
    1/2 cup cocoa
    2 tsp baking powder
    2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    2/3 cup oil
    2 Tablespoons vinegar
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    2 cups cold water

    And I mix it all up in one big bowl, stir it by hand, and it bakes up just fine.

    Do you think your MIL would have a heart attack if you dared attempt to modify the recipe?

    Here’s my icing:
    1/2 cup shortening
    2 cups icing sugar
    2 Tablespoons water
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    Good luck!

  52. Swistle

    Lynn- It is in terribly bad taste for me to be laughing at this, but my MIL did in fact have a heart attack. I should have referred to her as “my late MIL.” I forget that not everyone has been reading since before The Day That Improved My Life Permanently. And probably it was that I quadrupled the cocoa in her recipe.

  53. Elsha

    Forget the greasing then flouring, forget parchment paper, here’s the best way to keep your cake from sticking: Whisk together equal parts flour, crisco, and vegetable oil then coat your pan in it. (1 tablespoon of each makes plenty for a single cake.) I learned that when I took a cake decorating class.

  54. Jen

    “Cake is done when you can say that if it were any more moist it would be pudding”
    Oh my heck, you are funny!

    My MIL is a TERRIBLE cook but she thinks she’s the best cook ever. When my husband and I got married my MIL gave me a recipe box full of Family Recipes so that I could “cook things he likes”. Two problems. 1. No matter how good those recipes were I was never going to make them just because I am petty like that. 2. The recipes were not good. Pasta salad should not contain coffee!

    The best/worst part is that I am a really good cook but it has taken years to convince my husband to try some of my cooking. He’s been so turned off of so many basic foods because growing up his mother’s cooking convinced him that they were gross. To this day he’s still shocked when he eats my spaghetti. “It doesn’t taste like metal!”

  55. Bratling

    This is actually a fairly common cake, I think. And I, too, have a family recipe for something that looks very like it. Only somewhere along the line, someone in my family decided that being lazy was better and everything is mixed in a rectangular 9X13 pan thrown in the oven, baked until a fork comes out clean, and then frosted in the pan. It’s a depression cake, and I won’t give the “w” name just for your crazy in laws.

    The thing is, I don’t think it was ever meant to be a layer cake. I claim it’s laziness, but it was probably practicality. These kinds of cakes never come out clean and in one piece. Strangely enough, though, it comes out easily when cut into squares!

    As for frosting, well, simple buttercream on a cool cake works well. One stick of butter, a dash of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla, and lots of powdered sugar and cocoa. I think it really got the name due to the lack of eggs and milk!

  56. Cayt

    My go-to egg-free cake recipe just involves substituting in banana instead of egg. If you use dairy-free margarine instead of butter, you get vegan cake. Omnomnom.

  57. Swistle

    Jen (Problem Girl Jen)- One thing that is a tremendous relief to me is that aside from the Crazy Cake, Paul, like your husband, doesn’t really like ANYTHING his mom makes. So it was super-gratifying when his mom gave me the big binder of recipes (presumably so I could cook for him, now that I was the wife and that was my job), and he was SHUDDERING at each one. MMMMmmmmmmm, soul-soothing. But then it was even more frustrating to have his mom criticize my cooking and say that PAUL preferred it a different way, when I KNEW Paul DIDN’T.

  58. Rah

    I “inherited” this recipe from my grandmother-in-law at Virginia at the time I got married, and it was known as the W_____ Cake whose name cannot be uttered here. However, my recipe says very clearly that it should be baked in a sheet-cake pan and served from the pan in squares, because it cannot be removed from its pan due to its texture. Interesting how these things get changed around.

  59. cindy kay

    The version I have of this cake is called “Goofy Cupcakes.” It’s supposed to be baked as cupcakes with a glob of filling in each one (8 oz cream cheese, 1 egg, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/8 tsp salt, 1 cup chocolate chips). However, I often don’t have cream cheese in the house when I want to make this, so I make it without the “goofy” and instead bake it in a 9×13 pan, sprinkled with chocolate chips and walnuts, and served right out of the pan. (Also? my version has 2 TEASPOONS of vanilla instead of 2 TABLESPOONS. That’s a lot of vanilla!)

    Oh–if I DO have cream cheese, but I’m feeling lazy, I still bake the cake in a pan, but drop spoonfuls of goofy at appropriate intervals on top so each serving of cake will have some in it.

  60. Superjules

    I always heart descriptions of your MIL’s insane cooking advice. I recall one started with something like- “Well, just start by making dough. Obviously!”
    Crazycakes, indeed.

  61. Raisin'Cookies

    I read your recipe instructions out to my husband, and he decided that he wants this cake for his birthday.

    I am going to bake him something else and just pretend that it’s this one, if that’s okay…

  62. Mom again

    I am befuddled as to what W____ is. I can’t think of an unprintable word beginning with W!

    Also, our copy of the recipe is from a history event we went to sometime. Depression-era, crazy for the lack of egg and 2 t vanilla, not 2 T. Your results might be less soggy as well as tastier with less of the good stuff. I’m sure you arenot surprised at all that yourMIL mucked this up.

    Also, like others have said, mix and serve it froma 9×13 pan. I think there is aversion in one of my Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks that calls it a Lazy Cake for it’s no dirtymixing bowl quality. it’s a great recipe for kids. My girls used to begpermission to make it at slumber parties. Warm introduce and accompaniedby screaming friends it is great. I think you should tinker with it and teach your daughter how to make Grandma’s cake then she can be in charge of daddy’s birthday cake and you need never make it again.

  63. Swistle

    Mom again- It’s not unprintable as in a swear, it’s unprintable as in SEARCHABLE BY IN-LAWS. It’s two syllables, a synonym for crazy, rhymes with smacky.

  64. Jujyfruit

    This cracked me up! I read the recipe and assumed that you put “FAKE vanilla” out of spite to the cake, as a small snarky insult! (and then felt slightly let down when I realized you changed it to be practical.)….Also, is it wrong that I kind of want to make it now?

  65. Kelly

    OMG I could spend all day just reading the comments on this one Swistle.
    that is just GROSS. flour in the frosting. ew. the vinegar in the cake I can get over. that’s not that wild…but usually it will have milk and not water hence creating a buttermilk effect. but flour in the frosting. ICK!! you just made a ROUX. as in…I’m going to make a pasta sauce now…OH no wait! i’m adding vanilla and sugar cuz its frosting. ick. I just threw up in my mouth a little. I’m with the powdered sugar comment.

    so is the cake itself any good, IF you can slide it out of the pan in all its glorious moistness????

    so bizarre. my grandmother gave me many recipes. Mostly the Lutheran potluck variety like cold spaghetti salad, which I would not eat it on a train, I would not eat it in the rain, I would not eat it here or there, I would not eat it anywhere! but many of her other recipes are quite good and she was full blown depression era dustbowl people!

    I am baffled by the recipe. but I adore your posts about your MIL.
    I want you to write a book with a pseudonym about nothing but your MIL. seriously.

    you should send this to cake wrecks as a potential taste-wreck.

  66. Swistle

    Kelly- The cake itself is probably okay, though it’s hard to taste through the BITTER RESENTMENT. But the frosting, I can’t really get used to: such a FLOUR AND FAT flavor!

  67. the new girl

    Oh, Swistle. My HEART.

    This is the EXACT (almost) recipe of my Great Grandmother’s Lead-bottom Cake (or Chocolate Oil Cake.) I don’t grease the round pans, I trace/cut a bit of waxed paper or parchment and just put it in the bottom of the pan and have never had one break.

    I also use this recipe for the frosting. It’s a French Creme Frosting. 2 TBSP flour, 1/2 c milk, 1/2 c sugar, stick butter and 1/2 tsp vanilla (that frosts only one round.) I also melt 2 baking squares of chocolate and let that cool and then mix it all together until fluffy and it is the Best-Ever Cake/Frosting.

    I have to think it is the MIL taint on it that makes it so…horrible. I wish you’d never gotten this recipe from her. Only from me. MEEEEE.

  68. Swistle

    TNG- It’s TOTALLY context. My family has a recipe we TOTALLY SWOON over, and all newcomers to the family say “Um?”—and it’s because those of us who are IN the family are steeped in LAYERS OF MEMORY AND TRADITION. And in the case of Crazy Cake, I am steeped in a decade-and-a-half of bitter resentment. (I still don’t like the frosting, though. That SKIN on the flour-milk mixture! Ick!)

  69. Swistle

    TNG- ALSO-also, I thought of another Very Important Issue: I do think that “making something with love and care” can result in a completely different outcome than “making something while thinking angry resentful thoughts.”

    And also-also-also, my kids LIKE Daddy’s Birthday Cake, so it’s clearly not OBJECTIVELY objectionable.

  70. the new girl


    I use a whisk with the flour/milk thing and it makes such a thinish layer on the bottom of the pan, there’s no real *skin* on it. It’s an odd texture, to be sure but I scrape it all in and add the chocolate and well, YUM.

    I’m laughing at the bitter resentment because I think that’s SO TRUE. The MIL skeeve TOTALLY wrecked this recipe for you.

    And yes! yes! yes! about the steeped in love plus tradition (and in my case, longing and missing and homesickness and grief-addled YEARNING for loved ones gone) and so the CERTAIN WAY my gram made those magic cookie bars felt/was/is ESSENTIAL to me when making them. Even though they ALL have the same ingredients, they NEED TO LOOK LIKE HERS to be as good, if you know what I mean.

    Ah, Swis. You’re the best.

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