Lemon Crazy Cake (a.k.a. Wacky Cake), is a vintage Depression Era cake that has no eggs, no milk, no butter and no bowls! One of the EASIEST, budget friendly lemon cakes you can make! You won’t believe how moist and delicious this cake is, perfect for any occasion!
Lemon Crazy Cake – A Depression Era Recipe
You will be shocked how moist and delicious this cake is with no eggs, no milk and no butter, made right in the pan or in one bowl! I adapted this wonderful Lemon Crazy Cake back in April 2013, from the Original Chocolate Crazy Cake. The original vintage chocolate cake was created during the Great Depression, when eggs, milk and butter were hard to come by. It took some creativity and baking science to create a cake without eggs or butter – you don’t even need a bowl or mixer. Genius! Because this cake is egg and dairy free, it’s a great recipe to have on hand for people with egg and dairy allergies. But you don’t have to have allergies or be vegan to fall in love with this inexpensive and easy to make cake – it’s fantastic!
The Original Post Date for this recipe was on April 9, 2013. Post was updated, March 29, 2023.
Ingredients Needed (see recipe card below for full recipe)
This awesome budget friendly cake is made with pantry staples and one lemon!
- all-purpose flour
- granulated sugar
- baking soda
- lemon zest
- pure vanilla extract
- pure lemon extract
- white vinegar
- canola oil
- plus your favorite frosting or dusting of powdered sugar
How to Make Delicious Lemon Cake from Scratch
You are going to love how easy it is to make this Lemon Crazy Cake! You can mix the batter right in the baking pan or use one bowl.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. then spray an 8″ square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Start out combining the first 5 dry ingredients in a greased 8″ square baking pan – mix well. Next, you need to make 3 depressions in the dry ingredients – two small, one larger. Pour vinegar in one depression, vanilla and lemon extracts in the other, and the vegetable oil in the third larger depression. Next, pour water over top. Mix well until smooth.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35 minutes. To be sure the cake is ready, check with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Last, top the cake with your favorite frosting (I used vanilla for this lemon cake), or dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!
NOTE – For a neater cake pan, you can mix the batter in a bowl, then pour it into a prepared baking pan.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS FOR LEMON CRAZY CAKE:
Because this cake don’t require eggs, milk or butter, mixers or bowls – which is kinda crazy for cake making!
The cake get its moistness from the oil, and becomes fluffy from the chemical reaction between the vinegar and baking soda.
Vinegar is must in crazy cake recipe because it’s an important part of the leavening process. The vinegar reacts with the baking soda, which is what makes the cake rise. You don’t taste a hint of the vinegar in the finished cake.
Yes! Simply use a 9×13 baking pan.
Because there are no eggs, you want the baking soda and vinegar to combine and react/interact last, right before baking, this is what makes the cake rise. Some people think you don’t need to do this, I always have whenever I make a Crazy Cake. It’s a quick step, and all the crazy cakes I have created over the years have ALWAYS turned out perfect.
TIPS FOR MAKING CRAZY CAKE
- Because mixing in a pan can be a little tricky and a bit messy, if you want a neater cake pan you can mix the batter in a large bowl, then pour it into a prepared baking pan.
- Crazy Cakes can be made with Gluten Free mixes! Many people have commented they’ve made the cakes with Gluten Free mixes, and they have turned out wonderful.
- This recipe can also be made into cupcakes!
- Check out the full list of Crazy Cake flavors HERE!
- For a great dairy-free buttercream frosting, The Minimalist Baker has a great vegan recipe you will want to add to your recipe box!
- For a fantastic quick and easy Buttercream Frosting, be sure to check out a great one from Sprinkles Cupcakes, a favorite go-to.
MORE DELICIOUS EASY PANTRY CAKE RECIPES
Lemon Crazy Cake (No Eggs, No Milk, No Butter!)
- 1 ½ cups plus 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon Lemon zest from 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
- 5 Tablespoons canola oil (or vegetable oil)
- 1 cup water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Mix the first 5 dry ingredients in a greased 8″ square baking pan, mix well.
- Make 3 depressions in dry ingredients – two small, one larger. Pour vinegar in one depression, vanilla and lemon extracts in the other, and the canola oil in the third larger depression. Pour water over all. Mix well until smooth.
- Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35 minutes. Check with toothpick to make sure it comes out clean. Cool.
- Top with your favorite frosting (I used vanilla for this lemon cake), or dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!
- This cake is wonderful with a simple dusting of powdered sugar, or top with your favorite frosting.
- The cake does not need to be kept refrigerated if it’s not frosted. Cover and it will last 3 days. If it is frosted, it will need to be kept refrigerated. Cover and refrigerate for up to 6 days.
- If you don’t want to mix this in the baking dish, you can combine all the ingredients in a bowl, then pour the batter in to a greased 8-inch square baking dish.
- You can sub canola oil with vegetable oil
- You can sub white vinegar with apple cider vinegar.
- For a great dairy-free buttercream frosting, The Minimalist Baker has a great vegan recipe!
- For a fantastic quick and easy Buttercream Frosting, check out a great one from Sprinkles Cupcakes, a favorite go-to.
How do you store it…. Does it need refrigeration?
I love crazy cakes and was looking for a lemon one and found yours. Here’s a question: If you have to add acid to work with the baking soda, why not use lemon juice?
Thank you for such a wonderful recipe. I used this recipe and all your different versions of wacky cake for years now both with regular white flour and with gluten free flour 1to1 mixes and they both turn out amazing. The crumb on the gluten free flour cake is just as high and lovely. It turns out moist and tender every time. Such a perfect cake for every birthday and holiday. The spice cake version is also one of my families favorites
Why make wells when you end up mixing it all together anyway?
Because there’s one less dish to wash…..and it’s more fun mixing that way!
I’m told it’s so the oil floats on the water as you begin mixing, letting the water get to more of the starch in the flour.
I would like to bake this in a bundt pan. Have you tried this? Any suggestions ? Thanks!
Hi Suzanne, You would need to double the recipe, mix the batter in a bowl and be sure prep the bundt pan well. Check with a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean. People make the classic chocolate crazy cake/ Wacky cake in bundt pans. Here is one –> https://comfortablydomestic.com/2015/05/chocolate-crazy-cake/
Thank you! I’ve made the Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting Delicious!, for my vegan family members!! Now to try substituting gluten free flour!!
Here is a GF recipe, Suzanne –>https://www.bobsredmill.com/recipes/how-to-make/crazy-cake/
Ooooh, I love that idea, I think I’ll try a Bundt cake also!
WOW! I tried this for the first time and LOVED them. I always have made chocolate and vanilla, I decided to try something different. It worked out amazingly! Do you have any fruit frosting recommendations? Thank you. – A Disney girl
sounds wonderful – but what is lemon extract in UK
Try lemon essence in the UK/Australia/NZ
Is there an applesauce cake version of the Crazy Cake. I have been making the chocolate version for over 30 years, and didn’t realize there were so many other flavors. We love applesauce cake with homemade, chunky applesauce.
Jen the Canuck
Thank-you for such a great recipe! Hosting a birthday dinner for a family with egg, dairy and chocolate sensitivities makes finding a birthday cake recipe challenging… and this totally delivers!
As another commenter wrote, I did not have lemon extract on hand… but I had a lot of lemons!
I doubled the recipe to make a 9 x 13 cake, (so please note that the measurements below reflect a doubled recipe). For me, the zest of 4 lemons equaled 2 TBSP zest; so I then juiced the four lemons and added water to create the 2 cups of liquid to pour at the end. The cake was beautifully moist and rose perfectly.
This was delicious! I didn’t have lemon extract, so I used about 2 and 1/2 tsp of lemon juice, along with the lemon zest (put the lemon juice in the well with the vanilla extract) and it came out deliciouosly moist. Thanks for another great Wacky Cake!
I made the Snickerdoodle crazy cake last week, and it was absolutely delicious. I don’t know what I did wrong with the lemon one, but it turned out gummy and bland. I followed everything exactly and did a lemon glaze on top, but sadly this one was not a success for me. I will definitely make the snickerdoodle one again, though!
Can you use butter instead of vegetable oil?
I substituted the 1 c. water with 1 c. orange juice, and it was delicious! Nice citrusy taste. I used an orange juice glaze on top (1 TB melted butter, 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 1 TB orange juice) which gave it a nice finish.
I still used the lemon extract-vinegar-oil trifecta; just poured 1 c. OJ on top instead of the water.
I will definitely make this again.
Hello, I followed instructions but used Apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar then mine turned to be very bitter.
What can I do?
Using apple cider vinegar would not make the cake bitter, there is only a teaspoon, you do not taste it in the cake. Did you forget to add sugar?
Can you use lemon juice instead of ecyract?