Vanilla Wacky Cake With Rainbow Sprinkles

vanilla wacky cake with rainbow sprinkles

The Spruce / Jessie Sheehan

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yields: 8 slices

Wacky cakes are Depression-era inventions, cakes that are thought to have come about when eggs and milk and butter were scarce. Thus, a wacky cake is leavened with a combination of baking soda and vinegar and is made moist via oil rather than butter. This particular wacky cake is not only soft crumbed and deeply vanilla flavored, but it is also studded with the most colorful and cheery of rainbow sprinkles. The frosting does call for butter and heavy cream, but if you don't have those on hand, it's perfectly delicious without it.

This cake is what some might call a "snacking cake," meaning that it is perfect for every day eating. But it is also celebration worthy, as it festive, pretty, and over-the-top delicious. The cake is assembled in less than 10 minutes and bakes in about half an hour. If you place the cake in the freezer to cool it when it comes out of the oven and while you make the frosting, you might just be eating a slice of a (generously) frosted cake within about an hour of first craving it.


  • For the Cake:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar (sifted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (at room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Rainbow sprinkles for decorating

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients and preheat the oven to 350 F.

  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, soda, salt and sprinkles.

  3. Add the water, vanilla, vinegar, and oil and whisk until fully incorporated and smooth.

  4. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a moist crumb or two.

  5. Make the frosting while the cake bakes and cools. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat the butter on medium speed until soft and smooth.

  6. Add the sugar 1 cup at a time to the butter, mixing to combine on low, and alternating with the cream.

  7. Add the salt and vanilla and mix for about 5 minutes on medium until smooth, fluffy and spreadable.

  8. Generously frost the cake, decorate with rainbow sprinkles, and serve.


  • Be sure to whisk the ingredients until the batter is smooth.
  • Place a large container with ice and water in the refrigerator before beginning to assemble the cake and pour your cup of water for the recipe from that (then drink the rest).
  • When making the frosting, beat it for longer than you might think necessary, as the longer you beat the frosting, the fluffier and less cloyingly-sweet it will be.

Recipe Variations

  • To create a lemon wacky cake, add about 2 to 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, or to taste, to the ice water before adding it; and a tablespoon of freshly grated lemon zest along with the dry ingredients, and omit the sprinkles. Add a tablespoon or two of juice to the frosting, as well, if you so desire.
  • To make a deeply chocolate-y chocolate wacky cake, add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to the dry ingredients.
  • To create a red velvet cake, add a teaspoon or two of red food coloring along with wet ingredients and the aforementioned cocoa powder along with the dry.
  • Skip the frosting altogether to make the cake truly vegan and sift confectioners' sugar over it or cocoa powder. Or substitute vegan butter for the butter in the frosting and non-dairy. milk for the cream.
  • Mix all of the ingredients in the glass pie plate (dry, then wet) to make this cake truly a one-bowl wonder.