Sunday, October 10, 2010

Meatless Monday: Skillet Cake

Long before most people had heard of a vegan, there was a vegan cake recipe. Known by many names — Wacky Cake, Three Hole Cake, Depression Cake — the recipe is pretty much the same. The quantity might be doubled to fill a 9” x 13” pan (vs. an 8” square one). The cold liquid might be water, coffee, milk, or, in a late variation, water and rum. In EVERY case, the recipe calls for NO eggs and NO butter. The general consensus is that this recipe was invented during WWII when eggs and butter were rationed. 

Unfrosted mocha cake, fresh from the oven
Not too many people can swear completely off cake as Jack LaLanne recently revealed he had done (80 years ago!) when asked the secret of his longevity. I, too, hope to make it to 96 (at least), but I don’t think I can give up cake to do so. For those of you who may have sworn off eggs after my post of last week, here is a way you can still bake a cake and eat it, too!

This recipe is extraordinarily simple. The ingredients are inexpensive (except for the vanilla, and you only need a teaspoon of that). You probably have most, if not all of them, on hand in your kitchen cupboard.

Oh, another plus. The dishes required are also minimal — the cake is mixed in the pan in which it is baked. And the pan in which it is baked is the pan from which it is intended to be served. 

King Arthur Flour has such a recipe on its website under the name King Arthur Flour’s Original Cake-Pan Cake. The recipe offers several slight variations, in particular a way to turn it into a mocha cake. I opted for mocha and chose to bake it in my No. 8 cast iron skillet. (The only rule was that the pan had to be at least 2” deep.) Since a skillet holds the heat so well, I tested the cake on the early side. It was perfectly done at 30 minutes.

And, joy! No eggs meant I could lick the fork clean. (Actually, I used a rubber scraper at the end to make sure that every last bit of dry stuff at the bottom of the pan got mixed in with the wet.) Just like in the old days. MMMM cake batter.

I opted to leave it unfrosted and to serve it with a glass of milk (from a cow). Vegans among you could easily substitute coconut, soy, rice, almond, or hemp milk (yes, hemp milk!). 

Skillet cake minus 2 servings.
There is not a lot of food value in this cake, and there is quite a bit of sugar, but if you use canola oil and leave off any frosting, at least there is no saturated fat. A glass of some sort of milk on the side does add a little protein.

The serving counts in the 8” pan versions vary from 10-16 even when using exactly the same ingredients in exactly the same quantities. You might want to keep this in mind as you cut your slice. Then again, you might not. Oops, we must have decided our skillet cake would serve 8. ENJOY!

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”


  1. This recipe has been a family staple for decades & one of the first things I was allowed to make on my own (aside from My-T-Fine Chocolate Pudding Mix) at the tender age of 7. If you want to up the sinful quotient, smother it in homemade or store-bought hot fudge & serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

  2. This has been a family favorite since I was a little kid--we always had this cake for birthdays and holidays, brought it to neighborhood picnics and parties, or made it just because it was simple and delicious. Recently, I've begun adding a teaspoon of espresso powder or instant coffee as it really brings out the chocolate flavor. With cream cheese frosting, this is a cake that can't be beat.