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