Recipe by Sarah Phillips © 2010 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
Variation: Lemon Poppy Seed Crazy Cake
The unusual name of this eggless cake, also known as "Crazy," "Mixed-Up," "Mix-in-the-Pan," or "Three-Hole" cake, was inspired from the fact that the ingredients are sifted, mixed, and baked in the same pan. The result is a surprisingly light chocolate cake, quick to make, which kids love to help prepare because it is so easy. I like it plain (for breakfast!) or with whipped cream and fresh berries on the side. "I call them folk art cakes," says Sarah Phillips, founder of the website CraftyBaking (formerly baking911.com). "They're ingrained in our society. They're easy to make, delicious, you make them in one bowl or two, they get passed down through the centuries." While some cookbooks place the origin of crazy cake in the 1970's, food historian Lynne Olver, a reference librarian who created the website Food Timeline (www.foodtimeline.org), says that the cake existed as early as World War II, when rationing forced bakers to deal with shortages of key ingredients like eggs and butter.
"I bet you could push that recipe back even further," says Olver, adding that though the cake may have been born from necessity, by the 1970s women's magazines played a role in making crazy cake seem modern and trendy: "You were not just making a cake, you were conducting an experiment."
Olver speculates that the recipe was probably discovered by accident by a creative home cook: "Using vinegar in baking was not uncommon in the late 19th century. Presumably, the method (all mixed in one pan) was the byproduct of necessity. Smart cooks have been doing this for thousands of years."
CAKE RECIPE HELP
1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) bleached or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (0.75 ounce) unsweetened, nonalkalized cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (7.5 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt directly into the baking pan, then add the sugar. With your finger, poke 2 small holes and 1 large one in the dry ingredients. Into one of the small holes pour the vanilla, into the other one the vinegar, and into the larger one the oil.
3. Pour the water over all the ingredients and stir the ingredients together with a table fork, reaching into the corners, until you can’t see any more flour and the batter looks fairly well homogenized.
4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is springy and a tester inserted in the center comes out dry.
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack, then cut and serve it from the pan.
Keep at room temperature, wrapped airtight, for up to 3 days; refrigerate after that.
Lemon Poppy Seed Crazy Cake
Recipe adapted from "Mad for crazy cake," By Emily Dwass, Los Angeles Times, January 20, 2010