My mother made this cake for us when we were growing up, and it's a family favorite. It comes from WWII era, because she grew up during that time when things were rationed, and so they had to invent recipes that didn't use milk or eggs. This is a delicious cake, & the icing goes with it perfectly. It's a small cake, and bakes up into an 8 X 8 square pan, so if you want a 13 x 9 inch, or a layer cake, double the recipe. It can also be made into cupcakes, or a bundt.
Grease and flour an 8 x8 square cake pan(s). For layer cakes, double the recipe, and line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Then grease and flour it.
Sift the flour sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together.
Next, add the oil, water, and vinegar.
Mix together well with either an electric hand mixer (beaters) or a standing mixer, stopping occasionally to scrape the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be thin.
Add the vanilla, and mix well until it is all incorporated into the batter.
Pour the batter into the greased and floured pan(s). Tapping the pans lightly to release the air bubbles.
Bake until done, about 40-45 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. If leaving it in the pan to frost, cool the cake completely. For layer cakes, cool completely, then turn out the layers onto a rack to drizzle icing over it.
When cake has completely cooled, ice with the Poor Man's Cake Icing.
For the icing, mix the sugar, milk, shortening, and cocoa powder together in a small saucepan.
Heat over low heat to incorporate the ingredients, and melt the shortening.
Once the shortening starts melting, use a spatula or a small whisk and constantly stir to avoid burning, until the mixture is liquid and all the ingredients are incorporated.
When the edges of the saucepan start to bubble slightly, take the saucepan off the heat to a cool burner, and then add the vanilla. Mix together quickly, making sure the vanilla is evenly distributed. Icing will be thing and liquid.
Pour the icing onto the cake in the pan to cover cake completely. Let icing cool, completely, and it will set. Then cut and serve. This cake goes well with vanilla ice cream.
If frosting layers, dab a small amount of shortening on the cake rack so the cake will eventually slide off onto a platter. Place the cake rack over a jelly roll pan to catch the extra frosting. Cut off the top of the bottom layer if it domed slightly during baking, so that it is flat and even.
Pour a small amount of icing sparingly onto the middle of the bottom layer first and using a knife, spread it evenly. Let it set for about 1 minute, then place the top layer on.
Pour the rest of the icing over the top of the cake, using a knife to spread down the sides. Excess frosting will drip through the rack or jelly roll pan. Transfer cake immediately from the rack to a platter by sliding it carefully. Let frosting cool and set before slicing and serving.