Thursday, May 16, 2013

Chocolate vinegar cake

On a recent stormy afternoon, my small Bears and I were feeling a bit squirrelly. I had already let them watch more TV than seemed prudent, we had listened to our audiobook and it was still an hour and a half until that magic moment when Daddy comes home from work. We needed something to do. When this happens, I usually end up baking. There's something about rain on the skylight, electric lights at three pm and cool, damp breezes through the kitchen window. I want to don my apron just a little bit earlier; it's a very domestic scene.

I chose a recipe formally called Chocolate Snack Cake, but I think of it as Chocolate Vinegar Cake. This recipe is so interesting. It's an egg-less, butter-less cake which relies on vinegar and baking soda for leavening. Really. I was amazed when I came across it in my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook, given to me in 2001, when I was a newly-engaged culinary disaster. I'd felt skeptical that such a cake would be any good but it's delicious, moist and rich without being dense, and rises beautifully.

As it turns out, chocolate cake and vinegar share a long history. During the Depression, and continuing into the years during and after World War II, egg-less and butter-less cakes were very popular. When the economy was bad, or rationing was in effect, eggs and butter became scarce. People love cake and they came up with ways to continue eating it, even when the traditional ingredients were hard to come by. Older people say that these types of cakes were the first they ever baked by themselves while growing up; they were simple and quick to make. You probably have every ingredient in your pantry.

This cake isn't exactly health food, but I don't think it's too sinful either. There is only a small amount of oil and the sugar content is moderate too. I think this cake could actually be considered vegan, though that isn't something I typically aim for. It could easily be made more or less chocolatey, I think. Don't worry, you won't taste the vinegar at all when the cake is baked. I dust the surface of my baked cake first with cocoa powder (in a small sieve), then with confectioner's sugar in a shaker. I recommend having it with a cold glass of milk.

Do you have a favorite "weird" recipe, which doesn't seem like it will work, or come together nicely, or even taste good? There are so many unusual ones out there, born of necessity in hard times or driven by availability of ingredients. I'd love to hear about it if you do.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cold water
Ice cream or whipped cream, if desired


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of round pan, 9 in by 1 1/2 in or square pan, 8 in by 8 in by 2 in with shortening and lightly flour.**

Mix flour, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl. Mix oil, vinegar and vanilla. Vigorously stir oil mixture and water into flour mixture about 1 minute or until well blended. Immediately pour into pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 15 minutes. Serve warm or cool with cream or ice cream.

*Recipe states that you should not use self-rising flour.
**I use a 9x9x2 pan because that's what I have, and it works fine. I use Pam instead of shortening.


  1. That looks delish I want some.

  2. Wow, I've never heard of a vinegar cake before! It's not dense or crumbly at all, without the egg and butter to bind it together?

  3. That looks yummy! I have never heard of putting vinegar in a cake, that's very interesting! Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. I shall definitely try this cake next week.

    Leanne xx

  5. That looks yummy! How cool that you were in CAR.. are you active in DAR now? I'm off soon for lunch with Gracie, Taci and Betsy - wish you could join us! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  6. Mmmmm that looks delicious. Vinegar in cakes is a new one on me.
    Carol xx

  7. It sounds really tasty, despite the vinegar! I shall put this on my list of must try, thank you :) xx

  8. Looks Delicious! I love stormy nights, and baking! Great post.

  9. It looks amazing. I think my recipe for red velvet cake contains vinegar, now I think of it. I know what you mean about needing to bake when it's dark and rainy outside - the comfort of the kitchen calls me then like no other time.

    My mum puts a little vinegar and cornflour in her meringue. It makes them stay fluffy and marshmallow-y in the middle - so, so good. I'll post the recipe sometime. x

  10. That is one baking history tip I did not know! Vinegar. Who'd-a-thunk?? :-) Looks yummy!!


  11. The cake looks lovely- will definitely try it- I have a fruit and vinegar cake recipe that was my great grandmothers- Strangely enough called vinegar cake- and its so good too!

  12. I've never heard of vinegar in a cake, but it looks good and sounds like a fun activity for kids to help.

  13. Thank you for sharing your recipe, and it looks so yummy. I'll try this at home and hope that my kids would love it.

    By the way, followed you via GFC and Bloglovin. You may visit me at:
    Rosels' Mom Diary

  14. I have been making this recipe for years. I sometimes replace the vegetable oil with canola oil- it seems to taste better. I would also like to point out that this cake is vegan. A non-vegetarian would never know that this cake is dairy and egg-less because it is moist and delicious. A chocolate vegan cake at whole foods would cost around $30.00 to purchase!

    By the way, whoever listed the ingredients forgot to type in 1 teaspoon of baking soda. I hope this helps!


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