Grandma’s (Vegan) One Bowl Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

Years ago, when I was developing my own cake recipe repertoire, I was researching vegan options only to discover my grandma’s cake recipe already was! Known as Crazy Cake in my family (also called Wacky Cake or Depression Cake elsewhere), this was developed during times of scarcity and does not require eggs or dairy. I’m assuming my grandma never did actually know any vegans, but they can thank her nevertheless. I adjusted the cocoa amount slightly and use white vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar, but otherwise it’s unchanged. What I did update was the frosting, so that the entire cake would be vegan, including the optional ganache drip decoration.

Makes one 8-inch layer cake, serves 10 to 12


Chocolate Crazy Cake

  • 3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (396 grams) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (59 grams) cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup (161 grams) vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (473 grams) warm water

Vegan Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 8 tablespoons (114 grams) vegan buttery spread, such as Earth Balance, room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons (95 grams) vegetable shortening, room temperature
  • 1 cup (258 grams) creamy peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (340 grams) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dairy-free milk, such as almond or oat milk

Vegan Chocolate Ganache (Optional)

  • ½ cup (85 grams) dairy-free chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • ½ cup (148 grams) coconut cream

For Decoration (Optional)

  • Vegan-friendly store-bought mini peanut butter cups


Make the Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and set aside. Do not grease.
  1. Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and cocoa together into a large mixing bowl.
  1. Make three shallow wells. Pour the oil into one well, vinegar into the second, and vanilla into third. Pour water over all the wells and stir until combined with no visible lumps.
  1. Pour into the ungreased pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.

Make the Frosting:

  1. In a mixing bowl fitted for an electric mixer, combine the buttery spread, shortening, peanut butter, corn syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth on medium high, approximately 2 minutes
  1. Add the confectioners’ sugar a little at a time, beating to incorporate each batch before adding the next, until all combined.
  1. Add the milk and beat on low to incorporate, then turn to medium high and beat until smooth and creamy. Use immediately.

Assemble the Cake:

  1. Level the cakes, fill and frost the outside, reserving some of the frosting to decorate if desired. Refrigerate for about a half hour to set while making the ganache.

Make the Ganache (optional):

  1. Add the chocolate chips and coconut oil to a small mixing bowl and set aside.
  1. In a small saucepan or in a microwave, heat the coconut cream to a simmer and then pour over the chocolate chips. Let the mixture sit for about one minute and then whisk until smooth.
  2. Place the mixture in the refrigerator to set slightly, whisking every so often until desired dripping consistency. It should be thick enough to pool on the top, but liquid enough to run down the sides of the cake.

Decorate the Cake:

  1. Spoon the ganache over the cake, allowing it to drip over the sides. Place in the refrigerator to set slightly before piping the balance of frosting for decoration. Top with mini peanut butter cups, if desired. The cake can be served immediately and leftovers can be stored in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days.


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AnnMarie Mattilahttps://pastryathome.com
AnnMarie Mattila is a writer for Pastry Arts Magazine, as well as a freelance baker and pastry chef in New York. She has a master’s degree in Food Studies from New York University and is also a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education.

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