Christmas is a strange time for a non-vegan to go on a vegan baking spree, but I've been obsessed with vegan chocolate cakes. And this one is so good! It's not supposed to be a diet cake or a "healthy" dessert. It's just a dairy and egg-free version of the classic Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake. You will recognize it immediately if you're a baker, but I've thrown in a couple of twists that made my family choose this cake over a similar one.Jump to Recipe
Adding Boiling Water to Cake Batter
Like the good old Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate, this recipe calls for adding a cup of very hot water or hot coffee at the end. The theory is that the hot liquid "blooms" the cocoa powder, helping it release compounds for a richer cocoa flavor. It's also supposed to emulsify the batter, resulting in a moister, less gritty cake. This cake is both very chocolatey and moist, so it works. The downside to adding boiling liquid at the end is that you can't throw in a handful of mini chocolate chips because they'll melt. Fortunately, this cake already has enough chocolate flavor.
Natural Cocoa Powder
And speaking of chocolate flavor, this cake owes it all to natural cocoa powder rather than Dutch. I love Dutch process cocoa too, but natural just has some enticing, sharper more bitter notes. Natural cocoa powder also reacts with the leavening agents in this recipe, so if you switch to Dutch you might have issues with sinking or rising. I haven't tested with Dutch, but it's alkaline and natural is more acidic so there may be consequences. Another thing that helps is to use a good brand of cocoa powder. I've been using Navitas, which is not Dutch processed.
Gerber Prune Puree
To make the recipe interesting and to add even more moisture, I added a little packet (1 ½ oz) of pureed prune baby food. It's an inexpensive and readily available ingredient that adds pectin and fiber, which may also help the cake keep longer. It's not a fat replacer, it's a cake enhancer. If you know what dried plums taste like you'll be able to detect hints of them, but they add a little character. No one in my family seemed to detect the dried plums/prune, but they chose this vegan chocolate cake over one that didn't have the prune.
Measuring Sifted Flour
The recipe calls for 250 grams, or 2 cups, of sifted flour. The word "sifted" is important here because if you are measuring by volume, 2 cups of sifted flour is usually around 250 grams and 2 cups of unsifted flour is closer to 260 or up to 280 grams. For best results, just weigh the flour. If you have a scale, sifting is only necessary if the flour is lump, but it never hurts to sift. I usually just put it through a sieve.
Soy Milk in Vegan Chocolate Cake
I am using soy milk again and finding it works better in recipes than almond milk. Maybe because the soy milk (Silk Original) is richer and more like dairy milk. Almond milk is tasty, but more like water in baking. And I'd forgotten that soy milk can actually taste really good. But of course you can use a different non-dairy milk if there are allergies or other dietary factors to consider. I haven't experimented with oat or other milks yet, but there are so many possibilities. Just make sure whatever milk you are using is room temperature. If it's cold, it can cause the frosting to curdle a bit.
Storing Vegan Chocolate Cake
The cake is good on the day you make it and maybe slightly better on day 2, when moisture from the frosting has sunk into the crumb. But in terms of overall appearance, it's probably best to serve on day 1. The layers freeze beautifully, so you can always make the layers a few days or even a week or two ahead of time, wrap tightly and freeze, then frost later. Usually I freeze cake, but lately I've just been leaving it on the counter under a cake dome and it just sits there tempting everyone all day.
Vegan Chocolate Frosting
The frosting on this cake is a basic American chocolate powdered sugar frosting, but made with Miyoko's plant butter instead of real butter. It has what I'd call an intriguing chocolate flavor. At first I wasn't wild about it because even though I love Miyoko's, I couldn't get over the flavor being different from my usual frosting. But I warmed up to it pretty quickly. It almost has a caramel taste to it. This will probably vary depending on which brands of vegan butter/margarine you use. I think I've given up on decorating cakes, but here's a photo of the whole thing anyway. Despite my decorating skills or lack thereof, this is a wonderful cake.
Vegan Chocolate Cake with Natural Cocoa Powder
- 1 cup soy milk (with fat and protein) sweetened okay too
- 1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, measure after sifting (250 grams)
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp baking soda
- ⅔ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (66 grams)
- 1 cup white granulated sugar (200 grams)
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar (150 grams)
- ½ cup PLUS 2 tablespoon of a neutral oil (130 grams)
- 1 ½ ounces prune baby food (42 grams)
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup boiling water
Traditional Vegan Chocolate Frosting
- 1 cup salted butter or vegan butter (Miyoko's or Earth Balance), room temperature (230 grams) or use ¾ cup
- 2 ½ to 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted (300 to 360 grams)
- ⅔ cup natural cocoa powder, sifted or any lumps whisked out (66 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-4 tablespoons almond or soy milk or as needed and NOT ice cold
- ⅛ teaspoon salt or more to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two 8x2-inch round pans or one 13x9 inch pan. If halving the recipe, use two 6-inch round pans.
- Put the soy milk in a mixing bowl. Add the vinegar and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes to curdle. Meanwhile, you can mix together the dry ingredients.
- Water is the last thing on the ingredient list, but this is a good time to put it in a glass measure and set it somewhere where you won't forget about it!
- Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa powder. Make sure they are evenly blended.
- To the mixing bowl with the milk in it, add the sugars, oil, prune puree and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture gradually, beating with a heavy duty scraper until smooth. Make sure to stir up any flour mixture that goes to the bottom.
- Put the water in the microwave and heat just until it is very hot or just barely beginning to boil. Pour it into the batter and stir until evenly blended.
- Pour the batter into the pans, dividing evenly. Each pan gets somewhere around 22 oz.
- Bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake appears set. The cake should bake up with fairly flat tops. It should not sink in the middle.
- Let the cakes cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan before turning out. At some point during the cooling process, grab a knife and run it between the edge of the pan and the cake to loosen. This is a very moist cake, so it really helps to let it cool in the pan for a bit longer than usual.
Vegan Chocolate Frosting
- Weigh room temperature butter and put it in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Beat together the softened butter and about half of the powdered sugar. Add the cocoa powder and beat until blended, scraping the side of the bowl often. Add vanilla, then add remaining sugar gradually, alternating with milk (add 1 T. at time) and beating until smooth. Add the salt last, That little bit of salt really does a lot to curb the sweetness. When adding sugar, Taste every so often and stop adding sugar if you feel like the icing is too sweet. I usually stop at a little over 2 ½ cups, but the icing is still good with up to 3.