Friday, November 30, 2007

Wacky Cake

While the name implies comical roots, Wacky Cake was actually born out of the seriousness of wartime rationing. At various times during the world wars, eggs, butter, sugar, and milk were all in short supply, so inventive home cooks and home economists did their best to create dishes with limited ingredients. Wacky cake is a moist chocolate cake prepared, miraculously enough, without eggs or butter. Despite the omissions, we found that the cake tastes great. Here’s what we discovered:

Test Kitchen Discoveries

The cake relies on the last-minute combination of vinegar and baking soda for leavening. The reaction between the two causes the batter to bubble vigorously, and thus, rise.
The cake has to be prepared in its baking pan; otherwise it doesn’t rise nearly as well. Make wells in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients--oil, vinegar, and vanilla--to the wells, and then add water and stir quickly (but not too much) to blend the batter just moments before you put it into the oven. Streaks of flour should remain.

STEP BY STEP

A Wacky Mixing Method

1. Using a spoon, make 1 large and 2 small craters in the dry mix.

2. Pour the vegetable oil into the large crater, then the vinegar and vanilla into the smaller craters. Pour the water over all the ingredients.

3. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix the batter, taking care not to overmix; the batter should still contain a few streaks of flour.

Wacky Cake
Serves 6 to 8

This moist cake gets even better when served with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup water
Confectioners' sugar

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 8-inch-square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in pan. As shown in photo 1, make 1 large and 2 small craters in dry ingredients. Add oil to large crater and vinegar and vanilla separately to remaining small craters. Pour water into pan (photo 2), and mix until just a few streaks of flour remain (photo 3). Immediately put pan in oven.

3. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan, then dust with confectioners’ sugar. (If tightly wrapped, cake will keep for 3 days at room temperature.)

from Cook's Illustrated

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