Broke Student Cooking: Cheapskate Cake (aka Desperado Delight)

So, it’s the end of the month and you’ve already raided the house to appease your sweet tooth. The cupboards are bare and you can’t get dessert off your mind. There aren’t even any eggs left.

Don’t despair! This cake is going to take care of business with little effort on your part.

Cooking Utensils

  • 1 baking pan (loaf, round, springform, it doesn’t matter)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Whisk, large spoon, or flexible spatula
  • Toothpick(s)


  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1/3 cup powdered cocoa (meant for baking), or just more flour if you would prefer a white cake
  • At least 1 cup sugar (white or brown)
  • 0.5 tsp kosher or table salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 5-6 TB canola, vegetable, coconut, or olive oil (bonus points for a flavored oil!)
  • 1 cup refrigerated water or cold coffee/espresso
  • 1 – 2 tsp flavor extract (vanilla, butter, etc)
  • 1 TB vinegar (white, cider, rice)
  • A little bit of butter, lard, parchment paper or baking spray – whatever is available
  • Optional: spices such as cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, etc. Add to taste. You can also use buttermilk instead of coffee or water, but the vinegar should be omitted if you choose to do so.


  1. Heat oven to 350º.
  2. Grease baking pan or line with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk together dry ingredients.
  4. Add all wet ingredients and whisk until fully combined. Batter will be a little runny.
  5. Pour into pan and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Initiate toothpick test.
  7. If done, remove from oven and let sit for at least 10 minutes (resist the temptation, it needs to cool down and set!). If cake is not done, bake for an additional 2-5 minutes before checking again with a new toothpick.

Topping Options

If you happen to have heavy cream and some sugar on hand, make whipped cream! Bonus points if you add flavor extract or spices to it. Combine ½ cup heavy cream with 1-2 tablespoons of either powdered or granulated sugar, and then whisk at medium-high speed until thick and fluffy. Spread on top of cooled cake and serve!

Another option is to simply sprinkle a fine layer of powdered sugar on top. This looks elegant and packs an extra wallop of sweetness. We have even eaten this cake with fruit jam and melted chocolate that was simply poured all over the cake… really, anything goes. Follow your heart’s desire!


The price for this cake is less than $2.00. The overall price varies greatly depending on what ingredients you use. The idea is not to go out and buy new ingredients, but to make use of what you already have.

Britannia Roskelly is a UA student with a passion for high gastronomy on a budget. Follow her on Instagram at @balboa_kitchen.