According to this blog, Wacky Cake originated during WWII. Because butter and eggs were rationed, people came up with cakes like this one that didn't require these items. I haven't checked Snopes, so feel free to do so yourself if you want and be like, "Oh noes, Wacky Cake originated in Ming Dynasty China before eggs and butter were invented" or whatever. Really, I don't mind. :)
Yesterday afternoon, I asked Mike what I should bake this weekend, and he suggested Wacky Cake. I was surprised by this suggestion, but why the heck not? The only problem was that the recipe is written on an envelope in Mike's mom's sort of hard-to-read handwriting. It was pretty sparse in terms of instructions, so I have added my own embellishments, accomplished through research and, um, mistakes.
You can see from the strikethrough text below what mistake I made. Oops. The cake still tasted fine with the extra vanilla, though.
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
6 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp vinegar
2 cups cold water (some people sub one cup of cold coffee for one of the cups of water)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 for non-stick pans).
Sift dry ingredients together and place in a mixing bowl. Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13 x 9" cake pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out (almost) clean and the top springs back when lightly touched. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then run spatula along the edge of the cake and remove from pan to cool the rest of the way.
2 cups brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tbsp vanilla
In a pan, cook butter, brown sugar, and milk on medium-low heat until the mixture reaches the softball stage on a candy thermometer. Add vanilla and beat until thick. Spread on cooled cake.
The instructions I had were really vague and didn't indicate what level of heat to use when cooking the caramel for the frosting. I tried using low heat and it took FOREVER. Then Mike decided I need to crank it up to high. The caramel finished cooking faster that way, but it didn't seem quite as voluminous as I was expecting it to. Mike talked to his mom and said it's supposed to work sort of like fudge. Based on perusing some fudge recipes, I believe this frosting needs to be cooked on medium low heat. Will do that next time.
Because my frosting didn't fluff up as much as expected, I didn't have enough to cover the whole cake. I tried to make an extra half a batch, but I was almost out of vanilla. Sadly, I didn't realize this until the brown sugar and butter was cooking on the stove. Without enough vanilla, this batch of frosting came out crumbly and looking like the creeping crud. Sigh.
Might as well post my failures as well as my successes, right?
Mike says the cake is really good. He even said that after eating one of the creeping-crud pieces. Ah, true love.
I will admit that the prettier pieces of the cake are pretty darn tasty. Next time, Gadget.