Monday, April 19, 2010


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Here is my latest low-fat version of what my family calls "Mudpie Cake" (not to be confused with "Mississippi Mud Pie Cake", "Mississippi Mud Cake" or even "Dirt Cake"!), a WWII-era cake (also called Wacky Cake, Cockeyed Cake, "Hole-In-The-Middle” Cake, or Crazy Cake) that continues to be popular today, especially with vegans, since you need no dairy or eggs to make it!

It is commonly believed that Wacky Cake may have been created as the result of rationing during World War II. Here's a quote from "Wacky cake is an interesting study in culinary chemistry. What sets modern Wacky Cake apart from other chocolate cakes? Vinegar and method. WWI-era Dump Cakes likely provided inspiration. They do not, however, include vinegar. Depression-era Crazy cakes feature cocoa, baking soda & baking powder. No vinegar. In sum, recipes with these names vary greatly according to place and period. The connecting culinary threads are innovation, efficiency, and deliciousness."
"Wacky cake is but one example of the tradition of 'make do' cakes that were popular during times of short supply. Contrary to popular opinion, eggless, milkless cakes were not invented at that time, they were revived from WWI days (which were revived from pioneer days). Dump Cake is another descendant of Wacky Cake in method.
'Dump cake. A cake made by "dumping" the ingredients directly into the baking pan, mixing them, and baking the batter.'
---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 117)"

Dump Cake contained eggs, but the wartime cakes did not, since they were rationed in those times. Water or leftover coffee were used instead of milk, as well, making this dark, tender cake perfect for vegans!

The WWII version was called "Wacky", Cockeyed", "Hole-In-The-Middle”, or "Crazy" Cake because of the method: the dry ingredients were dumped into the baking pan and a depression was made in the middle, into which the wet ingredients were poured, and then the whole thing quickly mixed and baked.

The only reference to "Mudpie" or "Mud Pie" cake I could find was to a recipe for the cake designed for children, in which the dry ingredients are shaken in a plastic bag, dumped into the pan and then mixed with the wet ingredients. I've never done that, but we've always called it "Mudpie Cake".

I don't mix the ingredients in a baking pan anymore because I use less oil in the batter now than I used to, and that might cause it to stick to the pan. But it's still easy to make and you only have one bowl to rinse out!

My kids loved making this cake and, especially, eating it! I have been refining my lower-fat version of this cake over the years, and also trying to use more wholegrain flour. This version contains almost half wholewheat pastry flour and substitutes applesauce for some of the oil. It is still easy, chocolate-y, and tender, so we often use it as a layer cake, a sheet cake (this recipe will make either one-- halve it for an 8x8" square snack cake), or for cupcakes (this recipe makes 24). I do have other chocolate cake recipes that I like, but DH likes this one the best!

You can use any frosting you like on this cake, but I made it with this one for DH's granddaughter's birthday. It contains a favorite combination of ingredients.

Printable Recipe

Servings: 18
Yield: One 9 x 13" sheet cake OR 24 cupcakes
**Measure the flour after aerating it in the bag with a spoon, then sift it.

1 1/2 cups white cake or pastry flour, sifted after measuring
1 cup wholewheat pastry flour
(It is important to use pastry flour [or cake and pastry flour], since the amount of fat in the recipe is reduced. IF YOU HAVE NO PASTRY FLOUR, use 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch and add unbleached flour to make 1 1/2 cups.)
2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cups organic, fair trade unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups water (cold coffee can be used instead, if you like)
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup smooth applesauce
(OR, you can make a lower fat cake by using 1/2 cup applesauce and 1/4 cup oil instead.)
2 tablespoons cider or malt vinegar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegan "butter" (try my palm oil-free Vegan Buttah!)
3/4 lb organic powdered sugar
5 1/2 teaspoons nondairy milk
3/4 tablespoon instant coffee or espresso powder
1/2 tablespoon coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua)-- or you can use Amaretto or rum or brandy
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
OR, if you do not use the liquor, use 2 teaspoons vanilla plus 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes (the larger kind)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil, or spray with oil, a 9 x 13" cake pan; or 2/ 8" square pans; or 2/ 9-10" round cake pans; or 12 muffin cups (You can also use silicone muffin cup liners). You might like to line the bottom of your pan(s) with baking parchment, cut to fit.

Whisk the dry ingredients together well in a medium bowl. Blend the liquid ingredients in a blender until smooth, then pour into the dry ingredients and mix BRIEFLY with a whisk (important) until smooth-- do NOT beat the batter. The batter will be quite runny.

Scrape into prepared pan(s). (If you use paper cupcake liners, spray them with cooking spray, or use silicone liners.)

Bake for the 9 X13" pan for 45 minutes; smaller pans for 25 minutes; cupcakes for about 20 minutes; or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool on a rack thoroughly before eating (this improves flavor-- I don't think this cake is at its best when still warm). Frost the cooled cake and serve right from the pan if you like, or gently loosen and invert on a plate after cooling it off for about 20 minutes, then ice after it cools.

To make the Frosting:
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the Earth Balance until smooth. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and the remaining ingredients. Beat until creamy. It may look curdled- don't worry!

Add the remaining sugar, a little at a time, as you beat it, until it holds it shape well and you can see "trails" in it from the beaters. Adjust sugar or liquid (TINY drops at a time!) as needed. It will firm up when refrigerated.

Stir in the nuts and coconut until well distributed. Refrigerate (covered) until it's time to frost the cake.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 399.2 calories; 37% calories from fat; 17.4g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 258.7mg sodium; 220.2mg potassium; 60.6g carbohydrates; 3.0g fiber; 43.1g sugar; 57.5g net carbs; 3.2g protein; 8.8 points.

Nutrition (per serving): 220.6 calories; 26% calories from fat; 6.7g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 203.5mg sodium; 176.9mg potassium; 39.8g carbohydrates; 2.1g fiber; 23.7g sugar; 37.7g net carbs; 2.5g protein; 4.6 points.
Nutrition (per cupcake): 165.5 calories; 26% calories from fat; 5.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 152.6mg sodium; 132.7mg potassium; 29.9g carbohydrates; 1.6g fiber; 17.8g sugar; 28.3g net carbs; 1.9g protein; 3.4 points.
Nutrition (per cupcake): 299.4 calories; 37% calories from fat; 13.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 194.0mg sodium; 165.2mg potassium; 45.4g carbohydrates; 2.3g fiber; 32.4g sugar; 43.2g net carbs; 2.4g protein; 6.6 points.



Maija Haavisto said...

I'm not so keen on coffee, but the rest of the cake sounds really lovely. Maybe I'll use some other kind of frosting - or ganache - instead.

Arm-tattoos said...

I love this recipe! My wife makes it all of the time. Keep up the good work!

Dina said...

I love Mudpie Cake and since I'm on a diet, I love receipes that cut out fat! Thank you!

julie hasson said...

This cake looks delicious Bryanna! I'm going to bake myself one this week for my birthday. And, after all of the food I ate last week, it's good that it's lower fat too.

It was so much fun hanging out with you in Portland! I hope we get to do it again soon!