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.