Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wacky Cake vs. Chicken Shit

I come from a long line of women who wash their saran wrap and reuse coffee filters -- for coffee that's been cut with chicory. My take on this heritage of thrift can be economically expressed with the following Poor-Richardesque maxim: real privation breeds innovation, but miserliness breeds mold.

For example, there was a time when poultry and eggs were expensive commodities. So my foremothers raised their own or, when birthday time came around (11 times a year) invented eggless Wacky Cake. Innovation. Nowadays chicken is cheap because we've developed sufficient technology to cut our chicken with shit. Miserliness.

(A chef I worked for in Seattle refused to eat chicken because in culinary school he learned it could legally contain 7% shit by weight. I think he was full of it himself. Sure, a lot of chickens are treated unethically and taste bad, but chicken shit is fragrant enough you'd think we'd notice. And once I saw him pop a bite of chicken when he didn't think I was looking. But the Russians have weighed in on his side).

In any case, we've all got a couple of vegan housemates or Depression-era great-aunts who want their chocolate cake minus the eggs. And that's when you whirl into the kitchen and whip up Wacky Cake: the Retro-Vegan Wonder. My Mama used to make it for my birthday, decorated with a streublich-looking coconut cream cheese icing and wild roses. I also recommend it with peanut butter, but that goes for most everything.

In one large bowl, whisk together 3 c. flour (whole-wheat or spelt or whatever), 1.5 c. sugar (or your favorite sweetener -- I've used a smaller volume of agave nectar with success), 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. baking soda and cocoa powder to taste. My old recipe calls for 3 T, but that's borderline miserly. I like 1/3 c., or else melted dark chocolate added with the liquids.

Add the liquids to the bowl: 2/3 c. cooking oil (try coconut oil or even olive oil -- the tang tends to cook out just fine), 2 T. vinegar (yes, vinegar), and 1 T. vanilla. Pour 2 c. water on top and stir it all together. Toss it in a greased 9 x 13" pan and bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


randomanda said...

Thank you for sharing the ingenuity of your foremothers with me. It was delightful to be able to eat fluffy, rich chocolate cake.... cake that is thoroughly vegan and simple to make. Whipping this up was like a magical experiment that didn't seem as if it could work. Vinegar in cake? Oh, please. And then... it did! What a treat. Not to mention the pure joy of licking up all the batter (it is super special).

You Can Call Me Jane said...


Obviously, I am reading from your archives and I love that you posted about wacky cake. Even though my husband was raised Mennonite, he hadn't heard of it until meeting me. It's his very favorite cake and he's no vegetarian:-).

You Can Call Me Jane said...

or vegan for that matter:-).

Anonymous said...

I loooooove this recipe and use it often. Sometimes I use milk instead of water, or coffee or really strong earl grey tea. Am wondering how it would taste with coconut milk instead of water?