recipe · thoughts

a Mother’s Day cake

Almost everything I know about cooking I learned from my mom, who has a degree in food science and is an excellent cook. Growing up, my sister and I were always welcome in the kitchen and were always encouraged to help with food preparation. She was always game for whatever silly kitchen project I had in mind (there was a bread baking phase that I never fully grew out of, as well as lots of chocolate chip cookie experimentation and some oven fries that I tried to perfect for a while). When I came home from holidays during college, we would go to the restaurant supply store and buy big bags of flour, onions, and other staples to divvy up for Sarah and I to take home.

Mom is currently the kitchen manager at the House of Charity, feeding men and women who don’t have homes. She feeds a huge number of mouths every day at lunch, and coordinates a large kitchen full of volunteers. Whenever I visit the kitchen, it is so cool to hear all the residents, volunteers, and employees at the House of Charities tell me about how lucky they are to have her.

So thank you, Mom, for teaching me how to cook and for showing me the wonderful ways that food can change lives.

(photo by Electra Frye)

In honor of Mother’s day: a recipe that I used to make a lot growing up. My mom got it from a recipe card in a book full of recipes that she got from her mom (who might have gotten it from her mom?). Anyway, it’s a basic chocolate cake, but it doesn’t require any eggs or dairy. It’s a really easy, quick cake, and you use only one pan – you mix it right in the baking pan. We called it “Wacky Cake” but it is also known as “Depression Cake”. I always liked it with a dusting of powdered sugar, but for the non-frosting phobes, a simple buttercream would be great.

Wacky Cake


1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vinegar
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup powdered sugar (optional)


Preheat oven to 350° F.

In an 8×8 pan, mix flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt. Make three wells in the flour mixture. In one put vanilla; in another the vinegar, and in the third the oil. Pour the cold water over the mixture and stir until moistened.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it springs back when touched lightly. Let cool and sift powdered sugar all over.


3 thoughts on “a Mother’s Day cake

  1. Thanks for the mother’s day greeting! You are so sweet. And a wonderful cook. I learn a lot from you! I’m making corn tortillas tonight.
    Wacky Cake is, in fact, a recipe from my mom. I think it was popularized in the 60’s. Although I’m sure it was also made during the depression and war, when eggs were in short supply. Did you know that Red Velvet cake was developed as a sneaky way to use less cocoa? Necessity is the mother of many great inventions. By the way, I’ve noticed that another chocolate cake, popularized during the ’80’s, called Amazon Chocolate Cake, is basically the same formula. Love, Mom

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