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Vegan Chocolate Cake

This is the best vegan chocolate cake recipe out there. It’s easy to make in just one bowl and so moist! If you like a rich chocolate dessert, this one is for you. This cake is perfect for a birthday party, a holiday, any special occasion, or just to cure a craving.

A slice of vegan chocolate cake with a lit candle in the top.

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My quest for finding the most delicious chocolate cake has been long. In the 6+ years I’ve been vegan, I just never found my favorite recipe. In true food blogger style, I decided I had to make my own. I used my vegan vanilla cake as a base, tweaked a few things, added the chocolate and coffee…and here we are. Well, about half a dozen test batches later.

I’m sure you aren’t here to learn about my cake-testing-adventures (they were wild) or the fact that my husband RAVES about this cake (he does) so let’s get right into the information you are here for – how to make the best vegan chocolate cake for birthdays, holidays, potlucks, or just because you love chocolate.

I highly advocate for the last reason. Because you don’t need a reason. Eating chocolate is just self-care.

You can find the full recipe, including ingredient amounts and instructions in the recipe card below.

Cake Ingredients

Ingredients for cake laid out on a surface including coffee, cocoa powder, dairy-free milk, and more.
  • Coffee: Brew a fresh pot of strong coffee to make this cake. Coffee adds depth and really enhances the cocoa flavor. Make sure it’s still hot when adding it to the cake batter!
  • Flour: All-purpose white flour.
  • Cocoa powder: This recipe calls for regular cocoa powder (not Dutch process.)
  • Granulated sugar: Also known as white sugar. I do not recommend reducing the amount of sugar in this cake.
  • Baking powder and baking soda: Both are leavening agents to give your cake lift and make it fluffy.
  • Salt: Adds balance to the sweetness.
  • Non-dairy milk: Any neutral-tasting, plain, unsweetened milk will work. I use oat milk. Cashew milk is another option.
  • Canola oil: This adds moisture to the cake. You can substitute with another oil, but be sure to use one with a neutral flavor like grapeseed oil or vegetable oil.
  • Vanilla extract: Vanilla adds balance to the rich chocolate flavor.

Frosting Ingredients

Ingredients for frosting on a table: cocoa powder, dairy-free butter, powdered sugar, and non-dairy milk.

We’re going with a vegan chocolate frosting, but you can also check out my vanilla buttercream frosting recipe!

  • Vegan butter: I prefer to use stick butter like Earth Balance or Miyokos for easier, more accurate measuring.
  • Powdered sugar: Also known as confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar.
  • Cocoa powder: Make sure to buy unsweetened.
  • Non-dairy milk: Again, any type will work. Just choose neutral, plain, unsweetened milk.
  • Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract is the best. Imitation works fine in a pinch!

Trying to go vegan? Sign up for our (FREE) Vegan Beginner’s Guide!

Instructions

A bowl with dry ingredients.

First things to do: Brew the coffee, preheat the oven, and grease your baking pans (I spray with a little oil.)

Next, in a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together (flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.)

Cake batter in a bowl.

Mix in the non-dairy milk, canola oil, and vanilla extract. At this point, the batter will be very thick until you add in the final ingredient.

Measure out one cup (equivalent to 8 ounces) of coffee. Make sure it’s still hot! Microwave it to heat it back up if necessary. Whisk the coffee into the cake batter until fully incorporated.

Cake batter in pans.

Pour the batter into the baking pans. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean (more specific baking times are included below and in the recipe card.)

Vegan chocolate cake baked in a pan.

Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes before attempting to remove it from the pans. Cake is easier to remove if still slightly warm. Let cool on a baking rack completely before frosting. You can expedite this process by placing the cake in the fridge until it has fully cooled.

A bowl with butter and sugar beat together with a hand mixer.

Make the frosting using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand mixer. Beat the butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until it looks fluffier and lighter in color.

A bowl of chocolate buttercream frosting.

Mix in the remaining frosting ingredients. You can add them all in at once if using a stand mixer. If you’re using a hand mixer, add in the dry ingredients (powdered sugar and cocoa powder) a little at a time to avoid a messy sugar cloud erupting all over your counters.

A hand mixer beater with frosting on it.

Troubleshooting: If the frosting is too dry, add more non-dairy milk. If it’s too wet, add more powdered sugar and/or cocoa powder.

An overhead shot of a vegan chocolate cake frosted with buttercream frosting.

Once the cake has fully cooled, frost away and enjoy!

A frosted 2-tier vegan chocolate cake on a marble and wooden stand.

You can find the full recipe, including ingredient amounts and instructions in the recipe card below.

Substitutions

  • Coffee substitute: The coffee flavor is undetectable in the recipe, it just adds depth to the chocolate flavor. It’s truly the not-so-secret ingredient to make the best chocolate cake! However, if you must substitute it for other reasons, use hot water.
  • Gluten-free: I have NOT tested this recipe with a gluten-free flour substitute and cannot recommend one at this time.
  • Extracts: Have some fun with different flavoring extracts! Subtitute half the vanilla extract with orange, almond, coconut, mint, or another complimentary pairing.

Cake Baking Tips

  • Make sure to use strong, hot, freshly brewed coffee. I just need to reiterate how important it is! This ingredient is what helps achieve that smooth batter and fudgy cake.
  • Using a whisk to mix in the hot coffee at the end. It incorporates into the rest of the batter more easily, without splashing.
Slice of the best vegan chocolate cake on a plate with the cake on a stand in the background.

Frosting Tips

  • For fluffy frosting: Make sure the butter has been softened room temperature (you can test this by poking a finger right into the butter and seeing how soft it is.) Too warm can create a frosting with a weak structure (aka not fluffy), too cold makes for a chunky frosting.
  • For smooth frosting: Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa power to ensure there are no clumps.
  • Seal in the crumbs: Is anything worse than crumbs impeding on your beautiful frosting design? If you’re making a tiered cake and care about how the frosting looks, I recommend frosting first with a crumb coat. A crumb coat helps to seal in those pesky crumbs. Simply spread a thin layer of frosting all over the chocolate cake, then refrigerate for 30 minutes. Now, when you go to frost the outer layer with your technique of choice, the crumbs won’t get in the way.

For more information on how to frost a cake, here is a helpful tutorial video.

Scaling the Recipe

This recipe can be halved to make just 12 cupcakes or doubled to make a 9-inch, 4-tier cake.

Important notes for halving the recipe:

  • Half of a 3/4 cup is 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (you’ll use this for the cocoa powder and sugar measurements.)
  • Half of 2/3 cup is 1/3 cup (for the oil.)

Baking Times

Cupcakes: 18-22 minutes

9-inch cake pans: 28-32 minutes

8-inch cake pans: 35-38 minutes

9×13 pan: 35-40 minutes

Baking time will change depending on which size pan you are using to make your vegan chocolate cake. Use a toothpick to determine doneness. Stick a toothpick into the center of the cake or cupcake. If it comes out clean (no wet batter), the cake is done.

These are recommended baking times. Time may vary depending on what type of oven you have and the color or material of the baking pan (glass, metal, dark, light, etc.)

I always check baked goods for doneness 5 minutes prior. For example, if you are making a 9×13 cake, check using the toothpick method at 30 minutes. Bake for additional time as needed.

Cake Slicing Tip

For clean slices, use a serrated knife. A heavy gauge knife like this one works best.

Run the knife under hot water and wipe off the blade to dry it. Clean the knife off in between slices, and heat up the blade again when needed.

Make Ahead

You can make this cake ahead of time. Here are some notes:

  • This cake is best eaten with 2 days of baking. Store in the fridge in the meantime.
  • If you need to make this cake more than 2 days in advance, I recommend freezing the layers. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap and store in an airtight freezer bag.
  • For the best frosting, I don’t recommend making it ahead of time. However, if this is necessasry, store the frosting in the fridge. Leave it out at room temperature to soften. Use a mixer to get the frosting fluffy again before frosting the cake.

Storage

  • Store leftover cake at room temperature for up to 3 days. Use a cake carrier for the best storage. You can also place an overturned bowl over the cake to cover it.
  • To freeze cake slices, wrap each slice in plastic wrap and freeze in an airtight freezer storage bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.

FAQ

My cake didn’t rise. What happened?

This can be caused by several factors. One recommendation is to check your oven temperature with a thermometer. You also want to make sure your baking powder and baking soda are fresh.

Why is my cake too dry / too moist?

There are several reasons this can happen when baking a cake, other than not getting the ingredient amounts correct. Make sure you are not substituting ingredients except the ones recommended in the Substitutions section above. A dry or wet cake can also be a symptom of having an oven with a faulty thermometer, causing the cake to overbake or undertake. This is a very informative article to help you troubleshoot.

Why is my frosting lumpy?

Sifting the sugar and cocoa powder will prevent clumpy frosting. You also need to make sure you are using room-temperature vegan butter and milk.

What is the best way to mix a cake?

I typically hand mix the cake batter. You can use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. I prefer to use a hand mixer for the frosting – I think the frosting is more smooth this way.

Best Vegan Chocolate Cake

Karissa Besaw
Easy vegan chocolate cake made in one bowl. So moist, fudgy, rich, and delicious. Top with the included chocolate buttercream frosting or your favorite.
4.60 from 5 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Vegan
Servings 16 slices
Calories 472 kcal

Ingredients
  

Cake

Buttercream Frosting

Instructions
 

Cake

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans (see notes for alternative cake pan sizes.)
  • Brew the coffee and keep it hot. You'll be adding this ingredient last to the cake batter.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Mix in the non-dairy milk, oil, and vanilla extract. The batter is going to be really thick at this point – just mix until you no longer see streaks of flour.
  • Carefully pour the hot coffee over the cake batter. Whisk until well-incorporated (no clumps.)
  • Pour the batter evenly into the cake pans.
  • Bake for 28-34 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (See notes for alternative baking times.)
  • Let the cake cool for about 20 minutes before attempting to remove it from the pan. Let cool on a baking rack completely before frosting.

Buttercream Frosting

  • Using a hand mixer or stand mixer with the paddle attachment beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
  • Add in the powdered sugar, cocoa power, 4 tablespoons of non-dairy milk, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed until all the ingredients are mixed in.
  • If the frosting is too thick, add more non-dairy milk (1 tablespoon at a time.) If it's too thin, add more powdered sugar or cocoa powder (3 tablespoons at a time.)

Video

Notes

This recipe will make enough for a 9×13 cake, two 9-inch or 8-inch pans, or 24 cupcakes.
Baking times for different size cakes:
  • Cupcakes: 18-20 minutes
  • 9-inch cake pans: 28-32 minutes
  • 8-inch cake pans: 35-38 minutes
  • 9×13 pan: 35-40 minutes
How much frosting to make: 
  • The recipe as written will make enough to frost a double layer cake or a generously-frosted batch of 24 cupcakes
  • You can halve the amount of frosting for a 9×13 cake.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 472kcalCarbohydrates: 73gProtein: 4gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 215mgPotassium: 270mgFiber: 3gSugar: 52gVitamin A: 641IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 83mgIron: 2mg
Did you try this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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