WHEN MY ELDEST DAUGHTER asked me to bake Chocolate Crazy Cake iced with peanut butter frosting for her upcoming birthday celebration, I was delighted. I’d offered to make her birthday treat, but expected Amber to choose a simplified version of cheesecake or Chocolate Tofu Pie. So when she picked Crazy Cake, I was nostalgically surprised. This is the recipe my mom used for my birthday cakes when I was growing up. And it is the same recipe I used when baking cakes for my three kids.
Although Amber never asked me to craft the cake into a shape like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, snowman or Garfield the cat as I did when she was a child, I considered it. In the end, I’m going with a basic rectangular frosted cake. Maybe I’ll add sprinkles for the grandkids.
February brings not only Amber’s birthday, but also that of her brother, just one day shy of eight years younger than her. Their sister, sandwiched between, is 21 months younger than Amber. Yes, I was a busy mom. I baked a lot of Chocolate Crazy Cake birthday cakes through the years, cutting them into designs typically fitting the birthday child’s interests.
My mom used the Baker’s Coconut Animal Cut-Up Cake booklet as her guide to creating animal-shaped cakes for me and my five siblings. Her handcrafted designs defined our birthdays because we didn’t receive gifts. Finances didn’t allow and the adage of you can’t miss what you never had certainly applies. My kids got gifts along with personalized homemade cakes. If I were to ask them, they would likely remember the cakes I made and not the gifts received.
Birthdays always cause me to feel reflective as in how the heck are my kids already adults and x number of years old? It seems like only yesterday that I was planning birthday parties with their classmates, mixing up Chocolate Crazy Cake and lighting candles.
And now here I am, looking through my stash of church cookbooks for a cherished cake recipe. I’m feeling all nostalgic, wishing there was a way to ship a Chocolate Crazy Cake birthday cake to Caleb in Indiana.
Chocolate Crazy Cake*
3 cups flour
½ cup powdered cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups cold water
¾ cup vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Then add the liquids and mix. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.
Recipe source: The Cook’s Special 1973, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Vesta, Minnesota
The recipe is listed as “Wacky or Chocolate Cake” in the church cookbook. I’ve always known it as “Crazy Cake.” Why is it called “wacky” or “crazy” cake? I don’t know.
Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
I absolutely love this tradition,, and I did the same for mine when they were children. you must have been thrilled that she made this request! my daughters and I still remember those cakes very fondly.
I was thrilled. And I love that you also baked cakes for your children, creating a loving birthday tradition.
No eggs in the recipe? Maybe that’s why it’s called ‘crazy’? 🙂
That’s right. NO EGGS, which I especially welcome right now with the price of eggs. I thought a bit more about the name of the cake. The “crazy” could refer to the recipe calling for all ingredients to be mixed together at once. I deviate from that and stir the dry together then stir in the liquid. The other unusual aspect is that when the vinegar is added, it reacts with the soda and the mixture bubbles and it’s almost like a science experiment.
I didn’t think about the vinegar & baking soda. That is different for a cake! 🙂
Yes, the vinegar definitely distinguishes Crazy Cake.
I’ve made that recipe and I think the vinegar is what makes it “crazy”. I have made cupcakes, brownies and giant chocolate chip cookies and sent to the boys over the years —- even last year I did. 😊
I agree that it’s likely the vinegar and soda reacting to one another that makes this one “crazy” cake. I didn’t send a package of goodies to Caleb this year. Last evening he texted, asking if he should be expecting a package. Now I feel awful. I think a Valentine’s Day package will be heading his way. One time I mailed cookies to him in Indiana and the package ended up in Montana and he got them 10 days late and the cookies were stale. I’ve discovered that it takes a LONG time for mail to get to him, even just a card.
Thanks so very much for sharing the recipe! I love a good 13×9 pan cake with frosting – still try and true and family and friends ask for it too – love that. 🙂 I think I was probably just on the verge of being a teenager when I started making the bunny cake for Easter (got pretty fancy making cake look like a bunny). I love a good celebration and a cake memory to go with it. Happy Day – Happy Birthday to the February Babies – Enjoy.
Making a bunny cake sounds challenging. But what fun! And even now you remember that.
The bunny cake is actually pretty easy. 2 round cakes – one round for the face and then cut the other round for the ears. I think that is why my mom gave me the challenge because in the end fairly easy and then the fun part of decorating with frosting, coconut, jelly beans, the options are endless.
I was thinking you used a bunny-shaped pan. Your version sounds way easier. And fun.
Trust me I used a Barbie cake mold and in taking if out the head piece of the cake broke off from the body. Of course my goddaughter was there to witness the disaster done to Barbie. Poor thing had tears welling in her eyes. I told her we would fix her right up and she calmed down.
I can only imagine the difficulty of removing Barbie from a cake mold. Good for you to “fix her right up” for your sweet goddaughter.
I have a brother that’s 10 months older then me, so for 2 months we’re the same age.
I bet that bugged your brother that you were the same age for awhile. Randy has two sisters who are the same age for one day. Busy moms.
When my brother was in Vietnam we sent him a cake packed in popcorn. It did get there.
That’s amazing. I bet your brother really appreciated getting that cake while serving in Vietnam.
I have made this crazy cake recipe, and that is the name we always called it. It’s fun to know you made it for birthday cakes all those years!
As I’m reading comments here, I see other readers are familiar with Crazy Cake, too.
Now I desperately want to go back in time for that booklet. Copies for sale are dear.
I haven’t looked, but you may be able to find the booklet online. My friend did. But that was quite a number of years ago.
Check this out
Excellent sleuthing. That would be the animal cut-up cake booklet. Thanks for sharing this link.
There are some. People are charging hundreds of dollars. I have a faint hope that my mom has one – she made lots of cut cakes.
Hundreds of dollars is way over-priced. I hope your mom has the booklet.