Many people simply can’t imagine cupcakes made without dairy and eggs. But these vegan chocolate cupcakes actually date back to a cake recipe from the 1930s. It goes by many names, like Wacky Cake, Depression Era Cake, WW II Cake, Joe Cake, and Crazy Cake.
Some say this style of cake was created because people couldn’t afford milk and eggs during the Great Depression, others say it was a result of rationing during World War II, when milk and eggs were scarce. Either way, it’s a timeless recipe that bakers have relied on for generations.
This particular recipe is the Chocolate Cupcakes version from my own Chocolate Wacky Cake recipe in Go Dairy Free. Since I consider it an “All American” dessert recipe, I decided to whip up a batch for 4th of July. The photos came out pretty, so I thought it would be a fun recipe to share here, too.
Go Dairy Free includes other classics, like Yellow Birthday Cake, Simply Wonderful White Cake, and Carrot Spice Cupcakes. But you’ll also find Banana Crumb Coffee Cake, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Orange Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes, and even some “emergency” Mug Cake recipes with Single Serve Frostings!
Like all of the baked goods in Go Dairy Free, I tested these vegan chocolate cupcakes at sea level and high altitude (just over 4500 feet). So you will notice a high altitude adjustment option right in the recipe!
Dairy-Free Frosting Options
I usually make homemade dairy-free frosting, but actually had two tubs of Wholesome Organic Vanilla Frosting on hand to sample. For the swirls that you see, I used up both tubs to cover 12 cupcakes. It went over quite well! For the second tub, I opted to scrape the frosting into a mixing bowl and whip it briefly with a hand mixer. This made it softer and easier to pipe.
In Go Dairy Free, I have several frosting recipes that go great with these wacky vegan chocolate cupcakes. But my favorites are the Cream Cheeze Frosting (with mini chocolate chips on top!), Peanut Butter Fudge Frosting, and Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting. And of course my simple Dairy-Free Buttercream Frosting is an easy crowd pleaser.
Special Diet Notes: Wacky Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian. We have yet to test this recipe gluten-free, but it might work with your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour blend.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (reduce to ½ teaspoon above 4,000 feet)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup grapeseed, rice bran, non-GMO canola, or other neutral-tasting oil
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup cold water or unsweetened plain or unsweetened chocolate dairy-free milk beverage
- 1 batch dairy-free frosting (see post above for suggestions)
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line 12 muffin cups with cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Make 3 small wells in the flour mixture. Pour the oil into one well, the vinegar into the second, and the vanilla into the third. Pour the cold water or milk beverage over everything and stir until a relatively smooth batter forms.
- Divide the batter between the liners
- Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
- Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- Unfrosted cupcakes can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. Once frosted, they can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or individually wrapped and frozen to enjoy later.
Key Pantry Supplies: Wacky Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
Hi 🙂 Do you have an idea of how to adjust amounts if I use vanilla sugar instead of extract?
I don’t, but I’m someone who think you can never have too much vanilla 🙂 You could perhaps cut the amount in half or omit it?
Wow!!!! I just did this recipe at high altitude using 1/4 tsp of baking soda and they turned out PERFECT! I used a recipe that was almost identical and I watched them deflate before my eyes! Thank you for sharing this recipe.
That’s wonderful! I’m so glad it worked out well for you Rowena.
I made these cupcake on video for school and my family and I loved them one of the best cupcakes I have ever made and I just love how it is dairy free. I really wish there was a vanilla to though.
So glad you all enjoyed them! The vanilla version is in my book, Go Dairy Free, I haven’t posted it online as of yet.
Baked as for high altitude (I’m at 8200′).
I had way too much batter, but tried to squeeze it in to the 12 muffin pan and another round muffin sized ramekin. It was still way too much and made a mess! It really would probably make 18 cupcakes I think. At our elevation it too 27 minutes to bake.
They didn’t flop, but they didn’t look great. I’ll try again and divide the batter into more tins.
That is very high altitude. If you had way too much batter, that means it was expanding too much. I might try reducing the baking soda even more (perhaps to 1/4 teaspoon), and see how that works. The lower level of oxygen is causing the batter to expand much more than it would at lower altitude.
We love this recipe, so does our guest. How much calories is in each cupcake?
Can this recipe be made G-Free?
It’s possible, yes, but the results might not be as good as using a recipe that is meant to be gluten-free. Here are two such recipes that might work better for you:
We used this recipe for birthday cake when I was a kid! Ours was called Dad’s Wacky Cake. For frosting we would take it out a few minutes before it was done and dump a cup or so of chocolate chips on top. Then put it back in the oven for two or so minutes. Spread the melted chocolate and serve with ice cream.
Now I have a daughter who is allergic to dairy, so it’s nice to have a familiar recipe that we all love that is safe for her. I use Enjoy Life chocolate chips instead of the milk chocolate I grew up with, but it’s just as tasty. My daughter is starting kindergarten and her teacher let me know that on the first day they always decorate chocolate cupcakes. I’m sending one of my Wacky Cake cupcakes, so she can participate with the rest of the class.
That’s such a great idea Heather! Thanks for sharing this.
These chocolate cupcakes look so satisfying! Great tip on whipping the Wholesome frosting before piping!
This is a great recipe! Chocolate cupcakes are perfect for any occasion.
Looks delicious! If I were to make a cake instead (two 8 inch round pans) how long would I have to bake it?
28 to 35 minutes. Once it looks visibly set, use the toothpick test to ensure it is baked through.
Can I use dairy free almond coconut milk instead of the dairy free chocolate milk in the wacky chocolate cupcake recipe? Thankyou…
This recipe will be a lifesaver on those days when the baking bug hits and I’m out of eggs and milk! The fact that these are chocolate makes them a double winner!
No need to wait! These are honestly just as good as chocolate cupcakes made with eggs – seriously!
I love how simple these are to make. Sometimes I feel like cupcakes are so much work, but this recipe makes me rethink that.
These were scary easy! 10 minutes of hands on time – and I’m slow in the kitchen 🙂
I love that these are vegan! I’m so used to cupcakes having butter!
Really?! Even when I was a kid we made cake with oil, not butter type products. I thought oil was normal for cakes 🙂
I love chocolate cupcakes! Can’t wait to make this for the Fourth!
Really love this recipe! Fun and history wrapped in one!
What a festive treat! I’m loving the options for the neutral oil! It’s so helpful when someone doesn’t cook often and doesn’t have a specific one on hand that they can be guided and assured their recipe will still work with another option!
Yes, people tend to have different preferences and many of the oils can be swapped, especially in recipes like this one.