“That’s wacky, Ma.”
Henry Birch watched doubtfully as his mother dug three craters into a dry mixture of flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt that she’d just whisked together in a greased glass baking pan.
“What do you mean, honey?” asked Edna Birch.
“We’ve got no eggs, Ma. You can’t make a cake without eggs.”
“Rationing has made things tough,” said Edna. “No eggs. No butter. I used to make such lovely, tall cakes when you were in elementary school.”
“I hate rationing,” moaned Henry. “I thought I liked Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, but we eat it all the time.”
“It’s very thrifty,” said Edna in her “practical homemaker” voice. “We only need one rationing coupon for the blue box and it feeds the entire family.”
Henry shrugged out of his varsity sweater and continued to watch as Edna measured melted shortening into the large crater and spooned white vinegar and vanilla extract into each of the small craters. She then poured a cup of water on top of it all, and quickly mixed it into a thick, lumpy, chocolaty batter.
Edna smiled patiently. “Trust your mother, Henry. The vinegar and baking soda react together. It’s what makes the cake rise up. Wacky, huh?” She slid the cake into the hot oven.
About a half-an-hour later, she pulled the square cake from the oven, dusted it with powdered sugar and cut a slice for Henry. He savored the deep chocolate taste and light texture.
“Delicious, Ma. Thanks for doing your part for the war effort. Now, is it okay if I meet Betty down at the Bijou? They’re showing “Lassie Come Home.”
“Speaking of everyone doing their part, have you done the work in the Victory Garden like I asked you?”
Henry glanced at the bold-faced headline stretched across the copy of the New York Daily News that was neatly folded on the kitchen table – “100,000 Allied Troops Invade Normandy.”
Maybe the Bijou could wait. He snatched up the gardening gloves and headed for the back door. The family was counting on him for dinner. There was lettuce and red radishes waiting to be picked. After all, everyone has to do their part.
Wacky Cake is said to have been named for its unconventional mixing method – the use of oil, vanilla and vinegar, poured into different wells in the dry mix and then combined at the very last minute with water right in the baking pan. The reaction of the vinegar and the baking soda gives the cake its lift, without the need for eggs. The Old Foodie explored the virtues of Wacky Cake, with this recipe during her Week of Cakes last February.
Wacky Cake is an ideal pantry cake. I had almost everything on hand, it took minutes to assemble and was out of the oven in 30 minutes. It actually reminded me of another “quick cake” from my youth, “The Snackin Cake” that was marketed by Betty Crocker, and as I recall, only required the addition of oil to the dry cake mix.
The cake is surprisingly moist – rich like a brownie – but much lighter and simply adorned with powdered sugar. It is a perfect, make-ahead picnic cake, and I made the Wacky Cake for our pre-Memorial Day indoor office picnic that was cooked up by our intrepid associates Ms. Zany and the belle, Mad Me-Shell.
Zany contributed her signature Macaroni Salad, sweet and savory with a touch of mustard: