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.
Can lemon juice be substituted for the vinegar for the acid?
Hi Tim, I tried lemon juice and the cake was flat. Others have subbed lemon juice with other crazy cake flavors with success.
The vinegar doesnt make the cake taste vinegary. It is ansolutely undetectable
Hi, can I use almond flour instead of the flour you listed. Also, can I use butter instead of vegetable oil?
Can I use lemon juice instead of lemon extract?
Hi Carmen, I tried the cake using lemon juice and was not successful.
Can it be made with gluten free flour?
Can we use a sugar substitue for half of the sugar in the recipe?
Hi Arlene, I have never used sugar substitute with my crazy cakes,but others have with success. I am not able to tell you how the taste turns out. I found this recipe for for Chocolate Wacky Cake using Splenda – http://www.vickisfoodies.com/uploads/7/0/1/5/7015067/chocolate_wacky_cake.pdf
It might be worth a try!
Linda D Trevino
Hi, looking forward to trying this. I make the deserts for my bible study group. We have several diabetics and I reduce sugar wherever I can . will using Splenda work?
My cake is not rising. Twice. And I followed the instructions exactly. Tastes great but no rise. Any ideas? I’ll be making it regardless 😋
I make chocolate depression cake. I got the recipe from another site (the recipe is basically identical except it calls for 6 Tbsp oil instead of 5). I had the same problem with the cake not rising. I began sifting my flour and i also waited till the oven was at correct temp before i added the vinegar. It was the last ingredient i added before i put in the oven. OH! also i was slightly generous with baking soda and vinegar. When I measured them i added probably 1 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1 1/2 Tbsp vinegar. Now i get amazing rise! It also helps to use an oven thermometer to make sure the temp is exact. That can also affect rise. I love depression cakes! i dont make any other cake for my family 🙂
I have grown up on this recipe. My mother called it the poor mans cake. She has always replaced the water ingredient with cold coffee and it makes it so rich and moist. I actually have never tried it with water. I love reading comments on any twists on recipes. Just thought I would throw that one out there.
This was awesome- have been making chocolate Wacky Cake since i was a kid. Needed something dairy-free for my nephews girlfriend. Served it with roasted strawberries and dairy free whipped topping. Will make it again.
roasted strawberries?! do tell!
Hello! Could I use Apple Cider Vinegar in place of the ‘white vinegar’?
Hi Kayla – Yes! 🙂
I gave tried all your beautiful delicious cakes. I have run out of eggs too many times and try to substitute it but now don’t have too since l found your recipe over a year ago. Thanks see you on your next invention.
This cake is soooo good i added lemon zest and finely very finely chopped fresh rosemary to the powdered sugar icing, I think next time will add a bit to the cake.
Can you put your cakes and dinners in the freezer for later use.
absolutely 👍 😊
I was checking out your wonderful cakes . You mentioned at the end of the lemon cake that you can double the recipe just use a 9 x 13 pan. So what size pan does the original recipe call for..?
Could you reduce the amount of sugar? Can the vinegar be substituted with anything else?
Thanks so much for your help. Looking forward to try your cakes.
I’ve been looking for a vegan cake recipe for my daughter because she has multiple food allergies and one if them are dairy and eggs which are the main ingredients for baking. I have made her a boxed one before but they are not good. Just last month I found this recipe and it’s my new favorite. I made her chocolate raspberry cake and everyone loves it. Yesterday I made coconut lime cake for my hubby and it is still a hit! Thanks for sharing this recipe.
How did you make the chocolate raspberry cake? Did you put raspberries in the cake mix or just use some for the frosting? Would love to know!
I’ve tried the vanilla, chocolate, and lemon versions of this cake so far. Chocolate was the best (said the chocoholic), but I enjoyed this lemon one too! I think I’ll want to amp up the lemon flavor next time and find a way to minimize the strong flour taste, but it’s a great quick recipe that uses ingredients I always have on hand.
What if I don’t have lemon zest? Can I use a little more extract?
Hi, I just love lemon and can’t wait to make this! However, your recipe says to mix the first 5 ingredients but there are only 4 listed. Is something left out? (My daughter made the chocolate one yesterday and it was deeelicious!!!) Thank you for your help, Teri
Hi Teri, So sorry for the confusion, the lemon zest is with the 5 dry ingredients. Hope you love the cake, the lemon is one of my favorites, along with Carrot, chocolate peanut Butter ( new) and mint!
Thank you so much for these lovely and easy recipes. I come from a country where eggs, butter etc are very expensive. So these recipes are just right for us. Thank you once again for sharing those recipes,
My mom and I tried the chocolate flavor just this week. It was WONDERFUL! We made another one the next day for my work, BIG hit. We added a little more water and 1 more Tbsp of oil. Worked out great and was even moister. Thank YOU SO much for this receipt!! We are going to try two other flavors today. I can’t wait!!
I am making this right now…in the oven as I type! I made a few changes to fit what I have on hand….I cut the sugar to 1/2 cup as I wanted to use a Sour Mix that I made with Oranges, Lemons and Limes that I had that were on the verge of not being usable…mixed with a Simple Syrup (so didn’t need the full amount of sugar). I used 1/2 Tbsp. Orange Peel (dry) in place of the Lemon Zest and 1 cup of the Sour Mix instead of any water. If it tastes even 1/2 as good baked as it did before I put it in…Oh My! Gonna put on a glaze of powdered sugar, sour mix, and a bit of lemon extract and lemon juice after it cools just a bit from the oven….no more icing than that.
Laura, this was a rude response. Comment sections are also meant to show the variations and ideas others have from these recipes, not just how it turned out. My best advice, if you don’t have something constructive or nice to say, don’t say anything at all. If you can’t appreciate someone’s comment, move on.
This is Laura’s blog and yes minor changes aren’t a problem but I understand where Laura is coming from…….comments are meant to be responses about her recipes. If you want to totally create a new recipe develop a blog so you can do that…no rudeness intended.
That sounds delicious! I wish I knew how it turned out! You’ve given me some more ideas. I was gonna try it with an egg and baking powder, and leave out the vinegar since I’ve got eggs to use up.
Just made it this afternoon, with some changes because I had the urge for lemon cake NOW!! so…what I did:
1 cup oat flour
1/2 cup + 3 TBS BRM 1:1 gluten-free flour (blue label)
added a little less than 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup sugar (because the other recipe I made from here was super sweet to me)
for liquid: little less than 1/2 cup lemon juice with pulp AND a little more than 1/2 cup of water
1 TBS + 1.5 tsp lemon zest
let sit in bowl and then in pan for a min or two, tap pan a few times to get rid of larger air bubbles
baked at 350 in a 8" round cake tin lined with greased paper, and enough batter left over to make 3 cupcakes (baked for about 15 min)
glazed w mix of 2 TBS icing sugar and about 1 TBS of lemon juice so that it's very tart!! glaze warm cake… enjoy!
Thanks so much for the recipe! And so glad to read the tips from other readers, too.
I have made the chocolate version numerous times – it's perfect when you want a fast homemade treat. Today is the first time to try the lemon version and it's in the oven right now. I swear, if it tastes as good as it smells it might just be good enough to turn this "chocoholic" into a "lemonoholic" lol. What I did to get a tiny bit of a lemon flavor boost is switch out the vinegar with a teaspoon of lemon juice, since it just needs an acid to work properly. I would recommend this cake to anyone, first time baker or long time baker!
I made this cake today. I followed the recipe to a tee OMG !!! delis!! I'm going to try the Lemon cake tomorrow for my husband.. The chocolate was for my sister *smiles* shes a chocolate nut. Thank you so much for recipes
Hi, I don't have lemon extract. Can I replace vinegar with lemon juice instead for the flavour? If yes, how much of the juice will I need? Do I still need to use the vanilla extract if I do that? Thank you so much.
I don’t think you can replace the vinegar. The reason crazy cake rises without the use of eggs is because the vinegar reacts with the baking soda (that’s why the batter gets bubbly). If you take out the vinegar, I fear you may have a very flat cake.