Saturday, May 29, 2010

Vintage Veggie + Memorial Day Feast: Wacky Cake

I haven't been baking much since Christmas, because the oven in my old apartment didn't work very well and I didn't have an excuse such as a pending holiday to drive to my mother's and usurp her oven.  However, Eric and I have moved to a sublet, pending a further move closer to Fall, and the oven here seems to work fine.  Expect more baking recipes, as I really love to bake and I can do it all I want to now.

I have long wanted to try this recipe for "Wacky Cake", a World War II-era chocolate cake recipe that is fascinating in the way it showcases the degree to which rationing impacted the American table.  A cake recipe like this seems rather odd to us, with its relatively sparse chocolate usage and commands to dig holes in the mixed dry ingredients, and pour some of the wet ingredients in the holes in order to produce a chemical leavening reaction because eggs were in short supply.  A cake such as this would have probably been a special event, as chocolate itself was hard to come by in 1942.

I found this version of Wacky Cake in America's Best Lost Recipes, by the editors of Cook's Country Magazine.  They found it in The Time Reader's Book of Recipes (1949), where it had been submitted by a Mrs. Donald Adam of Detroit, Michigan.  I did not tweak this recipe much at all, as I wanted to pay a Memorial Day tribute to wartime scarcity by being as accurate as was possible within my budget.

Wacky Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons vegetable oil (NB: I used olive oil, because I dislike vegetable oil in cooking and hadn't been baking enough to warrant buying any for baking)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup water
confectioner's sugar (to be dusted over the cake when done)

Part 1.

Adjust an oven rack so that it is right in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.  (I used margarine because I wanted to be authentic.)

Part 2.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in the pan.  Make one large and two small craters in the dry ingredients.  (This is where I had problems, as my craters crumbled rather quickly once I started filling them with stuff.  It didn't seem to hurt the recipe, but the ingredients did mix a little more quickly then they were supposed to.)  Add the oil to the large crater and vinegar and vanilla to their own individual craters.  Mix these ingredients while pouring the cup of water into the pan.  (You should hear a fizzing sound.)  Mix until only a few little streaks of flour remain in the pan.

Part 3.

Bake for thirty minutes.  Dust with powdered sugar before it cools.

Verdict:  This really needs more chocolate, but otherwise I was surprised by how moist and fluffy it was.  Yay, chemistry!

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