blood orange birthday cake

blood orange wacky cake

Food traditions are usually associated with major holidays and family, but among a group of good friends, we have a few food traditions that go back years. Among them are terrible vegan pancakes–perfect after a lively night (and now, thankfully, given a non-vegan taste makeover), pinto bean hummus (lovingly made to accommodate my allergies), and this classic cake, once dutifully prepared for any number of vegan birthday boys and girls.

It all started with the New Joy of Cooking, released in 1997. Imagine our surprise when we learned that it contained recipes for not one, but two, vegan cakes. And people, these cakes were good! The model for the cake is based on a recipe popularized in the Depression era, and are commonly known as Depression or wacky cakes. Instead of the standard eggs and milk, these cakes get their rise from a combination of vinegar and baking soda. They’re surprisingly light and fluffy, and fantastic conduits of citrus or chocolate flavor.

My recipe has strayed a bit from the Joy of Cooking standard–it uses real blood orange juice and is covered with a simple blood orange glaze. Beware however, that without egg yolks for color, the crumb can easily turn gray or green. Mine didn’t here, but it’s happened before. Consider adding natural food coloring, turmeric, or beet juice to compensate.

Get our simple recipe over’s Family Kitchen.


  1. says

    Yum! And very pretty! I grew up eating a vegan chocolate cake whose recipe also hailed from the depression era and had been passed down in my family. We called it “Debbie’s Chocolate Cake,” named for a girlfriend (whose name was Debbie) my uncle once had. I love the idea of making such a cake with blood orange – another one of my favorite foods, but a little difficult to find this time of year. Thanks for the warning about the coloring!

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