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. 

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.

That’s it!

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.

water cake

Easy cupboard ingredients

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).

Flavourings

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.

How to make a water cake

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.*

recipe step by step method collage: first image shows flour and baking powder sifted over a bowl, second image shows wet ingredients being poured into dry ones, third image shows whisk mixing the batter, fourth image shows batter poured over a cake pan covered with parchment paper

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!

magic water cake

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 your favourite 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.

Baking tips for the best cake

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.

How to store

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

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.

vegan chocolate cake

italian water cake with a slice of cake in evidence, water jug cookies cutters and sugar in a sieve on the side
Print Recipe
4.67 from 164 votes

Water Cake: A Dairy-free, Egg-free, Magic Cake

No milk, no butter, no eggs needed, only simple cupboard ingredients. This water cake is absolutely magic and perfect for breakfast or tea time!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: birthday cake, dairy-free, easy cake, easy recipe, egg free, kid-friendly, pantry ingredients, party, vegan, vegan cake
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 291kcal

Ingredients

  • 380 ml water
  • 80 ml extra-virgin or vegetable olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
  • 370 gr all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 240 gr sugar
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder optional

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

Notes

US Measurements
1 cup + 1/2 cup + 1.5 tbsp (or 1.6 cups) water
1/3 cup + 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
2 cups + 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup + 3 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
Gluten-free Water Cake
Substitute regular flour with Dove gluten-free flour and adjust the water quantity to 420 ml. 
Baking tips for the best cake
1. Don't forget to sift the flour! This 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. Bake the cake in the center of the oven.
5. To check if the cake is done, open the oven door only until towards the end of the baking time.
How to store
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.
Did you try this recipe? Tag @thepetitecook or use the hashtag #thepetitecook - Looking at your pictures makes my day!

Nutrition

Calories: 291kcal | Carbohydrates: 67.4g | Protein: 5.3g | Fat: 0.9g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Sodium: 4mg | Potassium: 245mg | Fiber: 2.1g | Sugar: 30.2g | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 3mg

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.

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