This is the absolute best Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe ever! Light in texture, with a moist crumb and unapologetically rich, this easy vegan chocolate cake recipe will have everyone wondering if this is truly a vegan cake!
Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe at a Glance
- Main Ingredients: Cocoa powder, dairy-free milk, apple cider vinegar (both make homemade vegan buttermilk), unsweetened apple sauce, all purpose flour.
- Most Common Ingredient Substitution: Gluten free flour.
- Dietary Information: This dairy-free chocolate cake is also vegetarian, vegan and gluten free adaptable.
- What you Need to Know: This vegan cake recipe uses basic ingredients that you probably already have at home. The combination of fluffy cake and vegan chocolate buttercream makes this a rich cake full of fudgy chocolate flavor.
- Pros: Easily transformed from layer cake to cupcakes, bundt cake and sheet cake. Easy to double to make 4 cake layers instead of 2 layers.
- Why Should You Make It: Besides the fact that this decadent, rich chocolate cake is absolutely delicious, non-vegans can barely tell this is not a regular cake. Yes, it’s that good.
Why This Vegan Cake Recipe Works
- The combination of plant based milk and cider vinegar creates homemade vegan buttercream. This acidic ingredient combined with the baking soda lifts the cake and makes it light and fluffy.
- Hot coffee or hot water adds moisture, a light and airy texture and gives this delicious cake a richer chocolate flavor.
Ingredients and Substitutions
For the full list of ingredients and exact amounts, please check the recipe card below.
For the Cake
- Non-Dairy Milk: Choose your favorite unsweetened plant-based milk. Almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, coconut milk all work. Substitute the cake with regular milk if making it vegetarian.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Turns the milk into vegan buttermilk! You can substitute this ingredient with white vinegar, white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
- Unsweetened Apple Sauce: Makes the cake super moist! You can use 2 flax eggs instead (2 tbs ground flax + 5 tbs water), or any other egg replacement (enough for 2 eggs).
- Vegetable Oil: Adds moisture. Melted coconut oil is a good replacement.
- Cocoa Powder: I use unsweetened natural cocoa powder instead of Dutch processed cocoa powder. I personally think Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa powder makes the most delicious chocolate cake!
- Flour: For structure, use all-purpose flour. Cake flour doesn’t work well in this recipe. Cake flour combined with cocoa powder produces a mixture that is very light and won’t support the structure of the cake.
- Hot Coffee or Hot Water: Hot liquids dissolve the cocoa powder properly enhancing it’s flavor. For the same reason, makes cakes rich and mois. Freshly brewed hot coffee has the added benefit of boosting the chocolate flavor making it more pronounced without adding any bitterness. Espresso powder combined with hot water can also be used. If you prefer to stay away from coffee, hot water works just fine! Whatever liquid you decide to use, make sure its temperature is hot.
- Baking Soda and Baking Powder: Both are used for lift!
For the Chocolate Vegan Frosting (Vegan Chocolate Buttercream)
This silky smooth vegan frosting recipe is made with unsweetened cocoa powder (same as the cake), powdered sugar, vegan butter and a touch of dairy-free milk.
How to Make Vegan Chocolate Cake
For detailed instructions and exact baking times, please check the recipe card below.
This easy cake recipe can be made in a stand mixer, electric mixer or in a bowl using a whisk.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and line two (8-inch) round cake pans with parchment paper,
- Make the vegan buttermilk by combining the unsweetened almond milk and the vinegar in a in a measuring cup or small bowl. The milk will start to curdle but will not get as thick as real buttermilk.
- Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer, whisk together the dry ingredients.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the wet ingredients (including the milk mixture) and mix on medium speed until well combined.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour in the hot coffee or boiling water. The cake batter will look thin and runny.
- Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool the cake in the pans for about 10 minutes, then turn them onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
How to Make Vegan Chocolate Frosting
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, whisk the cocoa powder to get rid of any clumps. Add the vegan butter and vanilla extract and beat on low speed until well combined.
- Increase the speed to medium-high and beat the butter mixture until smooth.
- Turn the mixer to low, and gradually add the powdered sugar and milk. Mix until combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Slowly increase the speed and beat until smooth and thick.
- Before frosting, make sure the cakes are completely cool. Assembly instructions can be found in the recipe card.
Chocolate Cake Baking Tips for Success
- Make sure to use unsweetened almond milk (or any other unsweetened plant-based milk).
- This vegan layered chocolate cake is very rich and decadent. I I love serving it with fresh berries to add a hint of tartness and freshness.
- If you are not planning on piping swirls or flowers on the cake, I suggest you cut the vegan chocolate buttercream frosting recipe in half.
- This cake is very moist. To make clean cuts (like the ones in the photo), I refrigerated the cake for 4 hours. When cutting, I kept a bowl with warm water and a clean kitchen towel near me so I could clean the cake knife after every cut.
- On the recipe card below, you can find baking times if using this cake batter to make cupcakes, bundt cakes, sheet pan cake, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Make Homemade Vegan Buttermilk?
To make vegan buttermilk at home, simply combine unsweetened dairy-free milk (almond milk, oat, milk, soy milk, etc.) with an acid like apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice. Let this mixture sit for at least 5 minutes. or until it has a slightly curdled appearance. Vegan buttermilk will net get as thick as regular buttermilk.
Can I Make This Recipe Into Cupcakes or Other Cake Pan Sizes?
Absolutely! With this vegan chocolate cake batter you can make 2 dozen cupcakes, a 9×13 sheet pan cake, a bundt cake or a 2 layer 9-inch cake. Baking times will slightly but I am providing this information in the recipe card below.
Making Ahead, Storing and Freezing
Make Ahead: Wrap the individual baked and cooled cake layers tightly and refrigerate for 2- 3 days. The vegan chocolate buttercream can be made 2-3 days in advance. keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to a week. Bring the buttercream to room temperature before frosting the cake.
Storing: You can keep any leftover cake at room temperature, covered for 2 days. Afterwards, it can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 additional days.
Freezing: To freeze the cake without frosting, wrap each layer with plastic wrap and place them in a freezer-safe resealable bag or airtight container in the freezer for 2 months. Bring to room temperature before frosting, You can also freeze the buttercream frosting. Thaw it out in the refrigerator overnight. Frosted cake freezes well, up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature or serve cold.
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The Best Vegan Chocolate Cake
For the cake
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk Any non-dairy milk can be used (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar white vine or lemon juice
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt I prefer sea salt or Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil melted coconut oil can be used
- 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee or boiling water see notes
For the vegan chocolate buttercream frosting
- Fresh berries, fresh mint, jimmies, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate curls
To Make the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease two (8-inch) round cake pans. Line them with parchment paper, then grease and flour the parchment paper. This helps the cakes release from the pans later.
- Combine the unsweetened almond milk and the vinegar in a measuring cup or small bowl. Set aside. The milk will start to slightly curdle but will not get as thick as buttermilk. Let it sit until is time to use it.
- Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the oil, apple sauce vanilla and buttermilk mixture and mix on medium speed until well combined, scraping down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour in the hot coffee or hot water. At this point, the cake batter will look thin and runny.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans, dividing the batter evenly.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then remove the cakes from the pans and turn them onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
For the Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, add the cocoa powder and whisk to get rid of any clumps.
- Add the vegan butter and vanilla extract and beat on low speed until well combined.
- Increasing the speed to medium-high, beat the butter mixture until smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Turn the mixer to low, and gradually add about 2 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar and about 1/4 cup of the milk. Mix until combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
- Slowly increase the speed and beat until smooth and thick. If the mixture is too dry, add more almond milk, a tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired frosting consistency. If the picture seems too loose, add additional powdered sugar.
- Place one layer on a plate or cake stand and cover the top with the chocolate buttercream frosting. Spread the buttercream evenly with an offset spatula.
- Add the second layer of cake on top, OPTIONAL: For a sturdier cake, you can refrigerate the cake for about 10 minutes before continuing frosting. After 10 minutes, remove the cake from the refrigerator and continue.
- Spread the remaining frosting on the top and around the sides of the cake. You can pipe some of the frosting to decorate the cake and/or decorate it with sprinkles. You can also garnish the cake with fresh berries and mint (optional). Chill for 20 minutes before serving.
- Dairy Free Milk: Any unsweetened plant based milk can be used. Oat milk, soy milk, coconut milk, cashew milk all work.
- Homemade Vegan Buttermilk: It only takes 2 ingredients and about 5 minutes to make. You can allow the mixture to sit until you are ready to use it.
- Coffee: Instead of freshly brewed coffee, you can combine a cup of boiling water with 1 tablespoon of instant coffee + 2 teaspoons of espresso powder. The cake won’t taste like coffee. You could also use 1/2 cup of freshly brewed hot coffee combined with 1/2 cup of boiling water.
- Water: If you want to skip the coffee, hot water works just as well.
- Gluten-Free Adaptable: To make this vegan chocolate cake gluten-free, use gluten free flour.
- Flour: Cake flour, almond flour or other flours won’t work for this recipe.
- Unsweetened Apple Sauce Substitute: You can use flax egg instead of apple sauce. Combine 2 tablespoons of flax with 5 tablespoons of water. Other vegan egg replacer products can be used. Use enough to substitute 2 eggs.
- Chocolate Frosting: This recipe makes enough frosting for piping swirls on top of the cake and for thick layers of frosting. If you don’t like as much frosting, cut the recipe in half.
- Cake Pans:
- You can use two (9-inch) round cake pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
- Use a bundt cake pan and bake for 45 minutes.
- Make Cupcakes. This recipe will make 24 cupcakes approximately. Fill cupcake liners about half full and bake for 20 – 25 minutes.
- To make a 4 layer cake, double the recipe.