No milk, no butter, no eggs needed, only simple cupboard ingredients. This water cake is absolutely magic and perfect for breakfast or tea time!
Difficult times call for creative measures, and among many things, this includes reinventing the way we cook and bake. Especially when you’re stuck at home.
Local supermarkets have been experiencing a shortage of dairy and eggs lately, so I’m trying to use milk, butter and eggs as wisely as possible.
This means I haven’t made many complicated desserts lately, but I’ve been working on ways to make simple sweet treats using pantry staples, and as fewer ingredients as possible.
This basic Italian cake recipe definitely fits the bill.
The concept behind it is similar to other popular British and American desserts such as wacky cake, crazy cake or depression cake, but made even easier because it has fewer ingredients.
Easy cupboard ingredients
Traditional Italian water cake has been around for decades. It’s soft and crumbly, with a delicious hint of vanilla and chocolate, and made with just 6 simple cupboard ingredients.
Flour, baking powder, vanilla extract, oil, water, sugar and optional cocoa powder.
No milk, no butter, no eggs necessary. This accidentally vegan cake is pure magic and incredibly easy to make even if you're just a novice baker.
Flour: all-purpose flour works great here, but if you can find Italian flour 00 is even better, as it's a bit stronger and will help the cake rise a little more.
You can also use self-rising flour and omit the baking powder.
In this case, note that your cake will rise a lot more than mine, and the texture might not be just as crumbly and light. So, I will recommend to stick to all-purpose flour.
Sugar: no specific rules on the sugar, use white, demerara, caster, brown or coconut sugar, whatever you like.
Oil: Use either vegetable oil or extra-virgin olive oil.
I used a very good medium-fruity extra-virgin olive oil and it was absolutely undetectable - so if you're worried about your cake tasting like olive oil, don't!
Water: this is the magic ingredient of this easy cake, simple plain water.
You can easily substitute the same amount of water with fresh orange juice, milk or plant-based milk if you like.
Baking powder: you don't need it if using self-raising flour, otherwise 2 teaspoons are all you need (about 14 gr).
Vanilla extract or paste: any of these works just fine.
If you don't have any, substitute with the zest of one organic orange or 1 organic lemon.
Cocoa powder: this is totally optional but totally recommended.
I've added 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder to have a light chocolatey flavour, but you can totally omit it, or use any other flavourings of your choice.
I don't know about you, but cake fails usually put me in a bad mood.
So, whenever I need a quick cake for a party, I rely on this cake recipe, because it simply never fails.
This has been my go-to chocolate cake recipe for years, and I can honestly make it with my eyes closed.
It's absolutely fool-proof, perfect for novice bakers, to make with the kids, or for a last-minute party dessert.
Here are the step-by-step recipe pictures, to make this dairy-free, egg-free cake even easier to prepare.
*Please keep scrolling down for the full printable recipe and ingredients quantities, it’s at the end of the post.*
1. Start by mixing the olive oil, water and vanilla in a small bowl, then set it aside until needed.
2. In a large bowl sift the flour together with the baking powder, and mix well. Add in the sugar and cocoa powder (if using).
3. Slowly pour the oil+water mix into the dry ingredients, and gently mix with a whisker until combined and lump-free.
4. Spray with baking oil a springform cake pan, pour in the cake batter and even the top using a spatula.
5. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, then check with a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake if it's done.
If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready and you can safely remove it from the oven.
6. Allow cooling completely before removing it from the pan.
7. Dust with confectioner sugar if you like and serve with your favourite cup of tea!
This easy dairy-free cake is soft and spongy and will absorb the moisture from the cream very well.
So, you can use any kind of filling or frosting you like ( mascarpone and orange cream and ricotta frosting are two personal favourites).
You can also slice it in half horizontally, and spread a generous amount of the famous homemade Italian chocolate spread, for a super indulgent treat.
The cake is really sturdy, so you can make a few batches and stack them up for an easy birthday cake.
Add other ingredients
The beauty of this Italian chocolate cake is that you can make hundreds of different cakes with this base.
Customize it with your favourite ingredients, here are some of my favourite options:
Nuts: toasted almond flakes, walnuts, hazelnuts works great.
Chocolate: grated dark chocolate, chocolate chips, white chocolate or milk chocolate, they all work amazingly well.
Fruit: blueberries, chopped strawberries, bananas or apples would make a fantastic addition. Simply add them right after your batter is ready.
1. Don't forget to sift the flour! Sifting the flour is the only way to avoid lumps and get a super light spongy cake.
2. Always pre-heat oven before baking the cake.
3. Don not use the oven fan setting, simply use the conventional oven setting.
4. Use a cake pan with a loose base for easy release.
4. Bake the cake in the center of the oven.
5. To check if it's done, open the oven door only until towards the end of the baking time.
This easy vegan cake would keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Wrap in a cling film or store in an airtight container. This will prevent it from drying out, and from catching the smell of other foods in the fridge.
More simple desserts to try:
If you're looking for more easy desserts ideas made with few simple ingredients, I got your back!
Try my popular 2-Ingredient Nutella cake, this traditional egg-free tiramisu, or this classic gluten-free chocolate cake for easy treats you can make with and for the ones you love.
And if you're looking for more cupboard recipes, check these easy recipes with pantry ingredients.
Water Cake: A Dairy-free, Egg-free, Magic Cake
- 380 ml water
- 80 ml extra-virgin or vegetable olive oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
- 370 g all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 240 g sugar
- 4 tablespoon cocoa powder, optional
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F/Gas Mark 4, and arrange a baking tray onto the middle shelf.
- In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, water and vanilla, then set it aside until needed.
- In a large bowl sift the flour together with the baking powder, and mix well with a whisk. Add in the sugar and cocoa powder and mix well.
- Slowly pour the oil+water mix into the dry ingredients, and gently mix with a whisker until combined and lump-free. You can also add a pinch of sea salt to enhance the sweetness of the cake if you want.
- Spray with baking oil a 7-inch springform cake pan with loose base, although not necessary, I recommend placing a disk of parchment paper over the base. Pour in the cake batter and even the top using a spatula.
- Arrange the cake pan onto the middle rack and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, then insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake. If it comes out dry, your cake is done, otherwise continue to bake for a further 5 minutes, then check again.
- Take the cake out from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing it from the pan.
- Dust generously with optional confectioner sugar if you like, and serve.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Hello. Just started making the cake but unfortunately my oven does not have the conventional setting - only have grill on top, but not bottom. Would you suggest this one or the fan setting? Thank you very much
Laura miles says
Sorry my last message didnt come out right so it pre made oat hot cholcate mix but is very simliar to like choclate milk and is vegan and dairy free using oats as dont have oil
Shayne Palfreyman says
Awesome work over again! Thanks a lot:)
Can this cake be frozen?
I do apologise, unreservedly. I have found the metric equivalent and am about to make the Water Cake. Hope it tastes add good as it looks.
I am new to your lovely recipés. Unfortunately I am in Scotland and we don't use the cup method of weighing ingredients. Please could you add grs and mls to your ingredients list. It would save time and add to the enjoyment of baking.
If you just select the metric option it gives you the alternative measurements in grams Lynda
Really simple recipe but I have noticed that in the actual recipe it uses a 7” round tin but in one of the reviews that asked for a cake top in size it says 8.5”. I used the 7”, this is a bit confusing and it took a lot longer to cook. Great recipe for vegans though.
Absolutely delicious cake so light and airy and so easy to make way easier than a normal sponge cake - no sinkage either.
I used Self Raising flour and it worked perfectly and I baked it in a fan oven at 160’C as I can’t turn my fan off and it was perfectly baked in 40mins.
Thank you for the recipe as I was in real need of a chocolate fix and cake but I had no eggs or butter in the house and didn’t want to actually go shopping tonight 🙂
Thanks for the fabulous recipe 👏👏👏 Is the cake shown in the photo made with 00 flour or plain flour. If I use 00 flour do I still add 14g baking powder? Which flour do you think is the best? Finally, what size round cake tin did you use for the cake? I apologise for all the questions. Stay safe…..
Hi Nina, yes I use 00 flour, but all purpose flour will work too, you still need to add that amount of baking powder. I use a classic 22 cm round springform cake pan ( 8.5 inch/9 inch). I look forward to hearing your feedback!
This was soo easy - and taste just like "non-vegan" chocolate cake!
can I put frosting on top of it
Interesting recipe. Mine didn’t turn out as cakey or fluffy as yours looks in your photos which I think was because I used rye flour and jaggery instead of granulated sugar. Nonetheless, thank you.
Jo Coplin says
Is there salt in this cake? I just put my cake in the oven and did 1/2 tsp. just in case it was an oversight.
Hey Jo,I always add a pinch of sea salt in my cakes, but it's totally optional! Let me know how it turned out your cake!
Mounia Barakat says
Hello, just wanted to say that i made the cake and it was soo delicious. i made it with whole wheat flour instead of plain flour, and replaced the sugar with one cup of carob molasses :D. loved it.
I made this for New Years and my boyfriend and I loved it! It was so rich and moist and fluffy, I was so surprised that such consistency could be achieved without eggs! Thank you!
Leslie Sellery says
Does it have to be in a round cake pan or can it be in a rectangle? Also can the coco be unsweetened? Will that make a difference?
Hi Leslie, I've seen lots of readers making it in a square or rectangular pan, so you can definitely do it! I only use unsweetened cocoa powder (as stated in the recipe), so go for it!
Can I make it with oat flour?
Hi CAT2, I'm sorry, I haven't tried it with oat flour so I can't say if it will work, but if you give it a try let me know how it turns out!
I halved the recipe and did it as half a dozen fairy cakes. What was left of the batter, a I fried as a sort of pancake; very nice!
Cathy Ostler says
Hi. Made this cake and it's turned out beautifully! But can I freeze some of it or is it not suitable?
So happy to hear that Cathy! Absolutely, I usually freeze it into portions, then place in the microwave (defrost mode) for 1-2 minutes.
Can I use pizza flour 00, it is King Arthur, as I have some?
Hi Jennifer, I haven't tried it with this particular flour, but I'm thinking yes!
Hello! Does this recipe work in muffin tins?
Hi BM, I've not tested this specific recipe for muffins, however, I do have a great Water Muffins recipe that's very similar to this one, give it a try!
I made it in a muffin tin and topped them with a glaze. They were great. I checked on them in 25 minutes and they only needed about 30 as cupcakes.
Sue Giel says
I made this in a loaf tin, it took an extra 30 minutes cooking but was great. I will say that while the texture of the cake was beautiful ( really light) the for me I think the lack of butter needs to be compensated for by adding in something else. The recommended chocolate chips I imagine would do the trick or some soaked cherries. Thanks for sharing.
Probably a silly question but do I use the same amount of flour if I only have self raising but just leave out the baking powder?
Hi Leanne, no silly question at all! So, usually, self-rising flour will probably contain a little more baking powder than what you need for this recipe. I would use a tiny bit less of flour and water, otherwise, the cake might rise a little too much.
I'm thinking of adding lemon juice and making a lemon cake (with frosting and lemon curd layers) for a birthday. Dyou think it would work just by replacing the vanilla with lemon? Any tips are welcome!
Hi Jo! That's an awesome idea! I would omit the cocoa powder, then add the zest of 1 lemon into the mixture (no need to omit the vanilla), let me know how it goes!
Hi, I did a plain version without cocoa and used sparkling water for extra bubbles.
Its the first time I have succeeded with a light vegan sponge.
Overjoyed doesn't come close
Hi, am currently baking this but after 45 mins it's still very wobbly in the centre. Have popped it back in but did I do something wrong? I am used to baking cakes so I'm a bit disappointed with myself. Thanks
Hi Bronwyn, please don't be disappointed! I'm really not sure what went wrong, did you use the exact same ingredients, amounts and cake pan? Also, my feeling is that maybe your oven is not calibrated (like you put 180 C but it reaches only 160 C), do you have a meat thermometer so you can check the actual temperature? Let me know, I'm happy to help!
Catherine Bryant says
Colleen Sill - did you use a cake tin in your slow cooker or did you put the cake mix directly into the slow cooker dish??
What an awesome cake! Easy to make. Thank you. Love it.
Mrs Colleen A Sill says
Hi I've just made the cake in my slow cooker ? it has risen well and looks really yummy. Cooking time 2.5 hours on high.
Hi - can this cake be made in the microwave, air fryer or slow cooker? I don’t have an oven at the moment. Thanks - Brenda
Hi Brenda, unfortunately I have only tried it in the oven so far. But if you give it a try in the microwave/airfryer/slow cooker, please let me know how it goes, I'm sure it could be helpful to others too!
Thanks for sharing, wondering if you've used any other flour ie almond or coconut flour to make this cake
Hi MimiJ, I didn't try it with other flours, but my guess is that it wouldn't turn just like the real deal. If you are looking for a cake that uses almond flour, I strongly suggest this caprese cake, it's delicious!
Hi Carol, US measurements have been added to the recipe card. Happy baking!
Hi Norma, US measurements have been added to the recipe card 🙂
I've used this recipe for years, as my son's mate couldn't eat eggs or dairy. It's also easy to double, and cook in a large roaster, for bigger parties. Might take a bit longer in the over. Or 1 quantity in a lamington tin makes cake bars that cook in less than 20 minutes. Yum?
Hi is it 291kcal per slice
This is delicious! A perfect chocolate cake for all, not too sweet but sweet enough! It was a hit for everyone in my family! Thank you!
Versatile Kevin says
Follow-up from previous posting of conversions to U.S. cup measurements. I have now baked this cake using the conversions I posted earlier.
All-purpose Gold Medal flour (sifted, of course): I used 3C minus 2 Tbl.
sugar: I made a stupid, rookie mistake & inadvertently used just 1C of sugar - not the 1C plus 3 Tbl I had intended. Cake turned out OK but obviously the extra 3 Tbl of sugar would have added more sweetness. Oh well... next time!
used 9" dark cake pan coated with cooking spray. Cake turned out of pan nicely after cooling.
My oven is not digital so just had to guess at 360 degrees (part way between 350 & 375 markings). Cake baked in ~34 minutes (not 40) & was done using toothpick test. Top of cake cracked a bit while baking (no big deal to me). Topped with powdered sugar after cooling.
Taste test! (the most important part) - nice flavor & fairly dense. Considering this is the 1st time I can ever remember baking a cake from scratch, I'm extremely pleased. Mine looks just like your picture!
Lastly, thank you Andrea for this recipe. It was posted on my Google News feed & in these times of 'social-distancing' & also wanting to save eggs & milk for other cooking needs (& until I can get to grocery store again) this was a BIG treat since I had all of the required ingredients on hand.
Best wishes & stay healthy!
Hi Kevin, you're star! Thank you so much for taking the time to convert all the ingredients and test the cake. I'm so so happy to hear the cake came out great. Thank you for helping other readers with the covnersion, I'll add them into the notes straight away. Best wishes to you, please stay safe and healthy x
Hi Andrea! I don’t have vanilla extract at the moment - can you suggest any alternatives? Thank you ?
Hi Debbie! Do you have lemons or oranges at home? If you use cocoa powder I’d suggest the zest of an orange (organic it’s best and of course wash it properly), as it goes really well with cocoa! Otherwise, you can try with maple syrup or honey (but reduce slightly the amount of sugar as they are already sweet), or 1/2 the amount of almond extract! Let me know how it turns out 🙂
Thoughts on substituting agave syrup for sugar?
I haven't tried it with agave syrup, but if you do, please share your experience here, I'm sure it can be helpful for others too!
What size springform pan? I have a 10” and a 7”. Thank you
Hi Nancy, I used a 7-inch pan! You could try with the 10-inch pan but I'm not sure it would rise just as well as using the 7-inch pan. Better be safe and stick to the 7-inch one!
Have you heard from anyone who has been successful using gluten free flour with this recipe?
Hi Joni, yes, absolutely! My dear food blogger friend Intolerant Gourmand tested the gluten-free version yesterday and it worked like a charm! Please check the recipe card for the gluten-free cake notes.
Can yo I use cake flour but add baking soda as well as baking powder
Hi Chris, sorry but I've not tried it with cake flour and baking soda. If you give it a try please share your result, I'm sure it can be useful for other readers!
Versatile Kevin says
I agree with Betsy's question about converting recipe to cups (for flour & sugar). I don't have a digital kitchen scale so had to do some math. Here's what I came up with but have yet to bake the cake. (I also don't have a springform pan or parchment paper so going with heavily sprayed round cake pan.)
ALL-PURPOSE flour: found 3 different answers for how many grams per cup (120g, 125g, 130g-Gold Medal). Since the recipe calls for 370g, here's the math:
370/120 = 3.083 C (3C + 4 tsp)
370/125 = 2.96 C (3C - 1 tsp)
370/130 = 2.846 C (3C - 2.5 Tbl)
So, best guess is slightly more/less than 3C (which I realize isn't exact).
Granulated sugar: 1C = weighs 198g (or 200g). (1 Tbl=14g, 3 Tbl=42g). This was much easier, as recipe calls for 240 grams.
1C + 3Tbl = 240 grams (198 + 42)
Please let me know if you have any feedback about the conversion. Hope this helps.
P.S. Will definitely be adding the cocoa powder!
Hi Kevin, thank you SO much for taking the time to calculate and share the quantities conversions! I would have added the cups measurements but I don't have any US cups at home so it's extremely difficult to calculate accurate quantities. Please let me know if those calculations worked for the cake so I can add them to the recipe post and help others out 🙂 Thank you again!!
What time would you use for a 9in pan or 3 5in pans? I sadly don't have a 7in.
Is there a way to make it gluten free?
Yes Mike! I've added the instructions for gluten-free water cake in the recipe card 🙂
It took wayyyy longer than 40 minutes to cook. Not sure why
There are lot of variables! Maybe your oven might not be reaching the temperature you think it is and needs a calibration check. You can buy a good oven thermometer and check if the oven temperature is actually off and by how many degrees.
Has anyone converted this recipe to cups or do you recommend using a scale to measure in ounces?
Hi Betsy, there are UK cups and US cups so it was difficult to pick either and not make the recipe look really confusing. There are many variables when baking with cups, so I would recommend using a scale for best results!
Jorja Jean says
This looks so good! I don’t have scales where I am self-isolated. Could you give amounts in American measurements in cups and so on? Thanks!
Hi Jorja, US measurements have been added in the recipe card 🙂
Family loves it! Thank you!
Thanks much, there is something brown in color at the bottom of your springform pan.
Hi Jim, it's a disk of parchment paper! As I've written in the recipe, it's not necessary but recommended to cover the base of the springform pan with a disk of parchment paper.
Can you make it in a regular cake or pie pan?
Absolutely! I would cover the base of your cake pan with a disk of parchment paper to avoid that the cake sticks to the bottom for any reason. Make sure to spray with baking oil the pan befor pouring the batter in. Have a great baking time!
Janice Pattie says
Amazing, cake. Thanks for this recipe.
Wendy McLean says
Sound perfectly simple. I love that it's dairy free as this makes it much cheaper to make. Cheap means that financially challenged people can also enjoy this.
Thank you so much for sharing this easy, cheap vegan friendly, and allergy safe recipe with everyone.
Wendy, Alberta Canada
Thank you Wendy for your lovely words! You made my day 🙂 Please stay safe x
I prepared it,yummy !.both my kids & their father like it
Will this work with Gluten free flour? Looks delicious!
Yes it will Alfred! Check the recipe card, I've added the instructions to make this water cake gluten-free
It’s wacky cake. This recipe has been around forever.
Hi Luke, the concept is similar, however, wacky cake contains vinegar and water cake doesn't!
Luz Marshall says
Want to make this cake recipe but has not the amount of the ingredients.can you share it.
Hi Luz, all the quantities and directions are listed at the end of the post in the printable recipe card. Let me know if you can't see them and I will be happy to send the full recipe over via email.
Claire Louise Devlin says
Am going to try and make this cake as it's my son's birthday on Wednesday
Thanks so much
Can we go one step further and make this gluten free?? Oat flour or all purpose gluten free four?
Hey Sa, I've added the instructions for a gluten-free cake in the recipe card 🙂 Happy baking xx
Pam Koenig says
I grew up in Cincinnati making this cake in a pan...called Crazy Cake....been making this for years!
Yes, the concept is quite similar! Crazy cake contains vinegar however, water cake doesn't!