Cockeyed Cake (Chocolate)

Don’t have any eggs, shortening or 30 minutes to devote to making a cake? Cockeyed Cake doesn’t even require a mixer and is a very thrifty recipe.


The I Hate to Cook Book

This recipe comes from the Peg Bracken’s 1960 “The I Hate to Cook Book”. As you can see from the photo, my copy is quite worn, but it’s one of my favorite cookbooks because it blends good, dependable recipes with humor and clever illustrations. It’s very mid-century, so if you like this era, I highly recommend this book.

When I was in grade school at Mingo (and when school cafeterias actually cooked instead of the way they do it now – just reheating frozen food), the cafeteria ladies made this cake but they called it Wacky Cake. This is what Peg says on pages 91-92 and will give you an idea about her writing style, which I find very amusing:


Illustrations by Hilary Knight

“This is a famous recipe, I believe, but I haven’t the faintest idea who invented it. I saw it in a newspaper years ago, meant to clip it, didn’t, and finally bumped into the cake itself in the apartment of a friend of mine. It was dark, rich, moist, and chocolatey, and she said it took no more than five minutes to mix it up. So I tried it, and, oddly enough, mine, too, was dark, rich, moist and chocolatey. My own timing was five and a half minutes, but that includes looking for the vinegar.)

Cockeyed Cake

1 1/2 c. sifted flour
3 T. cocoa
1 t. soda
1 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt

5 T. cooking oil
1 T. vinegar
1 t. vanilla
1 c. cold water

Put your sifted flour back in the sifter, add to it the cocoa, soda, sugar and salt, and sift this right into a greased square cake pan, about 9x9x2 inches. Now you make three grooves, or holes, in this dry mixture. Into one, pour the oil; into the next the vinegar; into the next the vanilla. Now pour the cold water over it all. You’ll feel like you’re making mud pies now, but beat it with a spoon until it’s nearly smooth and you can’t see the flour. Bake it at 350 degrees for half an hour.”

Chocolate Icing
1 T. butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 T. cocoa
dash salt
1 t. vanilla
3-4 T. milk
1/2 c. chopped pecans

1.While cake is baking, place butter in mixing bowl to allow to come to room temperature.
2. Sift powdered sugar, salt and cocoa together.
3. Add most of the milk and vanilla. Blend well.
4. Mix in chopped pecans.
5. Place on warm, not hot, cake and allow to soften a bit before icing.

Cake Notes
*At the bottom of this post I’ll include the amounts for a double recipe, which is what I usually make. Realizing that anyone can double the above amounts, I have gotten myself in trouble on other recipes by forgetting to double some of them. It’s so much easier to have it all written down.
*Even though she says you can mix it in the cake pan itself, I find it difficult to do. If you are proficient at it, go ahead, it will save you having to wash a bowl.
*A few years ago, I read that one should only grease the bottom of a cake pan, because an ungreased side gives the cake something to cling to and rise nicely. So that’s what I’ve down ever since and it’s never caused a problem. Just run a knife around the edge of the pan before serving to loosen it.
*The picture below doesn’t do justice to the cake. It’s a really nice, chocolatey cake, just as Peg said.

Icing Notes

*The Mingo School cafeteria ladies didn’t ice the cake, they simply sifted powdered sugar over the cake. This works fine if you’re serving all of it immediately, but the next day it absorbs some of the oil from the cake and begins to look tired.
*This is my standard icing recipe that I learned from my mother. I never measure the ingredients, but I did today for this post.
* Baking time is subject to the vagaries of your own oven. This morning it took an extra 30 minutes. There must be something wrong with my thermostat. Just keep checking it after 30 minutes and use the toothpick test.
*Once I used cream in the icing recipe instead of milk and really didn’t care for the result. It stayed way too soft for me.
*The milk requirement in the icing is variable. Too much and it will be runny, too little and it will tear up the cake when you try to spread it. After adding the initial amount, mix it up and add only 1 T. at a time.
*Don’t put the sifter in the sink after you use it. You might need to add more powdered sugar if the icing is too thin. This has happened to me many times.
*This is a good recipe if you have a vegan in your family. Just use vegetable shortening (instead of butter) and water (instead of milk) in the icing recipe.


Cockeyed Cake

Double Cake Recipe:
3. c. flour
6 T. cocoa (1/4 c. + 1/8 c.)
2 t. soda
2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
10 T. oil (1/2 c. + 1/8 c.)
2 T. vinegar
2 t. vanilla
2 c. cold water

Double Icing Recipe
2 T. butter
3 c. powdered sugar
dash salt
2 t. vanilla
1/4 + 1/8 c. milk
1 c. chopped pecans

This post is linked to:
Food on Fridays @ annkroeker
Frugal Fridays @ Life as Mom

*Updated October 28, 2012: a reader (Peg) pointed out that I had doubled the amount of cocoa in the half recipe. That has been corrected, and I sincerely hope it didn’t cause any trouble for anyone. The Wacky Cake recipe that our cafeteria ladies made was indeed more chocolatey than this one from the I Hate to Cook Book, but I doubt it was twice as chocolatey.

Mea Culpa.


Filed under 1960's, Books, Cookbooks, Cooking, Mingo, Oklahoma, Thrift, Using What You Have

22 responses to “Cockeyed Cake (Chocolate)

  1. brandy

    I have used the cake recipe before and it’s really good. Next time I will try your icing recipe to go with it!

  2. This sounds easy enough (I’m not real great at baking)! Thanks for sharing!

  3. A verrry intriguing recipe, Carla. And I like it that it isn’t a HUGE cake.

    I go to WW this morning, so I may try it this afternoon (I refer to the rest of WW day as “fat Tuesday” because I might eat something like this on THAT day, and then I can get back on the WW bandwagon for the rest of the week! 🙂

  4. sux0rz1

    Thanks for visiting my blog! The cake looks fantastic!


  5. I love those older cookbooks, even the ones from the 40s and 50s that call for lard! I recently tried to bless my sister-in-law by giving her my old Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (I have a new, updated one). My husband would not hear of it! He said the best recipes are the old ones! Do you, by chance, have a good recipe for apple bread with glaze?

    • Let me check. I have a ton of cookbooks – and at least 4 Better Homes and Gardens: 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. Except for the one from the 40s, they’re fairly similar. The 70’s one was a wedding present and I’ve almost worn the pages out.

  6. Thank you for reproducing this recipe. I used to make it with my mother. I also loved making Cowboy Steak from the same book.

    I am going to put her Shut Em Up Cookies in my blog as it is so simple and inexpensive.

    • There’s a 50th anniversary edition of the book available now. I checked it out from the library and it’s just as fun as the original. Her daughter wrote the forward, which was interesting because it gave some background information. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll visit your blog, too.

    • Aaron

      I recently bought the current edition of Peg’s book and the Shut ‘em Up Cookies recipe is not in it 😦

      It was a personal favorite of mine years ago. Did you ever post the recipe on your blog? I couldn’t find it.

      • I have a few other books by Peg Bracken. I’ll see if the Shut ’em Up Cookies are in one of them.

        Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      • Aaron, I did indeed find the recipe in another of her books. It’s in The I Hate to Cook Almanack – A Book of Days – Recipes & Relief for the Reluctant Cook and the Harried Houseperson (1976) and will post it on my blog.

    • Aaron

      I have been trying to track down the “Shut ’em up cookies” recipe for YEARS. I purchased a newer edition of Peg Bracken’s book and the recipe is not there. I would LOVE to get my hands on the recipe again.

  7. Nancy

    thank you so much I remember the book my MOM used alot but this recipe is to die for I love the cake and now I love you thanks so ever so much for giving me back a piece of my childhood Nancy

  8. Peg

    I used to make this all the time as a kid, but since I moved out I didn’t have the recipe anymore 😦 thanks for sharing!

    Btw your cocoa measure is wrong in the single batch cake recipe – 3T doesn’t equal 1/4c + 1/8c. That’s double.


    I have been looking for this recipe for years! I went to Mingo School & remember how good this cake was & also remember how unusually rich the cake tasted & how the top was crispy…it had the look of meteor craters on the top where I think the leavening agent bubbles were working their way through the cake as it baked. Cannot wait to try it & thank you so much!! Marilyn (Small) Ledbetter Elkins, Arkansas.

  10. valerie

    Hi Peg, thank you so much for posting this recipie. I recently ate a piece of cake that took me back to my childhood and memories of my mother. I remember her laughing her head off as she was making recipies from this book. It was a “mad baker” moment. A cross between Erma Bombeck and the author of this cookbook. Lol. Thank you fir including s picture of the cookbook too. I defibayely know this is the one now. I don’t know what happened to my Mother’s copy. I have her original Better Homes and Gardens new Cookbook with all her notes and ratings. I will look for the “I Hate to Cook Cookbook” now that kbow the title. The title is so ironic since my mother LOVED to cook and made EVERYTHING possible from scratch. 🙂 Thanks again. Happy Baking. Oh excuse typos. Im typibg on small cell phobe screen.

  11. Pingback: No Egg Chocolate Cake – Flower Street Blog

  12. Have made this cake since I was a child, but I make it with the “Broiled Frosting” from the same cookbook, which makes it more like a German Chocolate cake. Cream 4 T. margarine or butter with 2/3 C. brown sugar, and 2 Tb. of heavy cream (OK to use milk). Stir in 1 C. shredded coconut. Spread on cake that has cooled 10-15 minutes. Place under broiler for 5-10 minutes until frosting is bubbling and starting to brown.

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