This recipe is from Share: Delicious Dishes from FoodShare and Friends, by Adrienne De Francesco with Marion Kane. Reprinted with the permission of publisher Between the Lines.

Despite its lack of butter and eggs, this is a surprisingly rich cake. It costs pennies to make (good-quality cocoa powder and real vanilla are the only indulgences) and is almost as simple as purchasing a mix. Grated beets add moisture and nutrients, but we’ve also made the cake with zucchini, carrots, blueberries, mangoes, apples, bananas and chocolate chips—whatever is on hand. It is a most forgiving recipe. This version was passed on by two student-nutrition organizers, Fiona Bowser and Susan Butler, who explained the cake’s roots in the First World War, when a shortage of eggs and dairy necessitated baking without these standard ingredients; it was called Whacky Cake.

Makes 8 servings

1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1⁄4 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

1⁄2 tsp salt

1⁄3 cup grapeseed oil

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp white vinegar

1 cup grated peeled beets

1 cup water

Lightly grease a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan or 13- x 9-inch cake pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, vanilla, vinegar, beets and water. Add the dry ingredients in the small bowl; stir until combined well. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake in the centre of a 350° F oven until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.