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.
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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.