A quick and easy cake when you need a cake as soon as possible. This cake can be made with just pantry staples. No eggs, milk or butter are required. It’s a simple one-bowl recipe and the batter can be mixed by hand. The cake comes out fluffy and soft.
I recently tried an Emergency Cake recipe from the 1930s. While it was fairly simple to make, the long list of ingredients made me feel like it wasn’t really a cake recipe that I could rely on in an emergency. It required all the ingredients you would normally need to make a cake (eggs, butter, milk, flour, etc). When I think of emergency cake, I think of a cake with less ingredients. Something you can make without having to go to the grocery store. So today I’m sharing my emergency cake recipe. This is my go-to cake recipe when I need to whip up a homemade cake quickly. I love that it can be made with ingredients I already have in my actual pantry (no refrigerator items!).
- Baking Powder
- Vegetable Oil (or butter)
Flour: This cake is made with all purpose flour. Do not use cake flour or bread flour. It can also be made with self-rising flour which I share in detail in the notes section of the recipe card.
Baking Powder: Make sure to use baking powder and not baking soda
Sugar: This cake is sweetened with regular granular white sugar.
Vanilla: I used pure vanilla extract.
Vegetable Oil: While you don’t need to use vegetable oil, you do want to use a neutral flavor oil or you will taste it. I find vegetable oil works best. If you have butter available, the cake also works with melted butter. I prefer to make the cake with butter, but the vegetable oil version works well too if you are out of butter.
Water: Water helps make this cake very light and fluffy.
How to Make Emergency Cake
You can either mix the batter with an electric mixer or by hand with a whisk. First, combine all the dry ingredients. Give the dry ingredients a quick sift so that the mixture becomes light and powdery. Then add in the vanilla, oil and half of the water. Mix the batter until no flour lumps remain. It’s important to remove all of the flour lumps before adding in the remaining water. Then add in the remaining water and mix until the water is fully incorporated.
Emergency Cake versus Depression Cake
This cake is similar to depression cake or crazy cake in that it doesn’t need eggs, butter or milk. However, it is made with baking powder whereas depression cake is usually made with baking soda and vinegar. And it does make a difference. Crazy cake has a much looser crumb. This cake has a tighter crumb, more like traditional cake.
More Easy Cake Recipes
- 1 3/4 cups (228 g) all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp (12 g) baking powder
- 1/2 tsp (3 g) salt
- 1 cup (198 g) granulated white sugar
- 1/2 tbsp (7 ml) vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup (59 ml) vegetable oil or melted butter
- 1 cup (237 ml) water
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Whisk until evenly combined. Then do a quick sift of your mixture by running your whisk rapidly back and forth through the flour until it looks light and powdery. This is an important step because it makes it much easier to mix your batter and not overwork it.
- Add in vanilla, oil and half of the water. Do not add the entire amount of water, otherwise you won't be able to mix out the flour lumps. Whisk until your batter is smooth and no flour lumps remain. Your batter will be very thick. Once batter is smooth, add in remaining water and whisk again until batter is smooth.
- Pour batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for about 38 minutes or until cake is very lightly browned on top and toothpick inserted comes out clean. (I found it's better to bake this cake a little longer than just the toothpick coming out clean in order have a better flavor. The cake is done for me at 35 minutes using the toothpick test but I bake a little longer until the top is just starting to brown. Let the cake cool completely in pan before removing and cutting. If adding frosting, add it after the cake has cooled.
- If you have self-rising flour, this cake can also be made with self-rising flour. Simply use 1 3/4 cups (230 g) of self-rising flour and do not add baking powder and salt into the cake (since it's already in the self-rising flour).
- This cake can also be baked in an 8 inch round cake pan.
- If you have butter, you can use melted butter instead of oil. I think butter gives the cake a slightly better texture and flavor but the oil version is still pretty good.
- Optional Buttercream Frosting: I added buttercream frosting on top. For the frosting, you will need 1/4 cup unsalted butter (softened to room temperature), 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and 1.5 tbsp of milk. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the sugar and continue beating until sugar is fully incorporated. Add in the vanilla and milk and beat again on high speed for about 3 minutes or until frosting increases in volume and becomes very light and silky. You can add more milk if needed to reach desired consistency.
- Estimated nutrition does not include frosting.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.