Vegan Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cake

January 26, 2023
Funny cake is a classic Pennsylvania Dutch recipe consisting of a rich chocolate layer topped with a layer of vanilla cake—all baked neatly into a pie crust. It’s a family favorite that I haven’t had in years, and I was so sad when I couldn’t find a vegan recipe online! The traditional recipe contains egg, milk, and lard, but today I discovered that a few simple swaps can make it vegan.

Despite working at a bakery for the past three years, I never knew what to say when customers would pick up a cake and ask “what makes it ‘funny?’” But today, while my own funny cake was in the oven, I learned that its name comes from how it is prepared. The vanilla cake batter is poured into the pie crust first, and the chocolate sauce is drizzled over the top. Then, when it comes out of the oven, the chocolate layer “magically” ends up on the bottom, spread into an even layer. Only a swirled pattern is left on the top of the cake.
a slice of funny cake on a small paper plate on a wooden table

Vegan Pennsylvania Dutch Funny Cake

Recipe Type: Sweets
utensils YIELDS 1 9-inch pie/cake
herb graphic for recipe card
  • 1 9-inch frozen pie shell (or homemade!)
  • For the cake layer:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup plant milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the chocolate layer:
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
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1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, and granulated sugar. Get rid of any lumps!

3. Pour in applesauce, melted vegan butter, plant milk (I used soy), and vanilla extract. Mix well.

4. Pour the batter into the pie shell. Make sure your pie shell is not broken. While it will still taste just as good, the batter will seep through and stick to the pan, making it tricky to serve. Even so, I recommend placing the pie shell on a baking tray. Baking with even a small hole in the pie shell (or the pie tin) will make a mess in the oven!

5. Next, heat ½ cup of water on the stove in a small pan until it begins to boil. Remove from heat and add cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix well. If there are lumps of cocoa, begin heating the mixture again for a few seconds, while stirring. This will help smooth out any lumps.

6. Pour this on top of the vanilla batter in the pie crust, in a swirling motion. While baking, the chocolate will sink to the bottom evenly, leaving behind a lovely swirled pattern on the top.

7. Bake for 40–45 minutes. The top will be golden brown! Let your funny cake cool before serving; the texture of the cake changes as it cools, and it’s fluffier after cooling. Enjoy!

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Photo: Cassidy Klingman


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