I've adapted my vegan chocolate cake recipe to be better than ever! With three sumptuous layers of incredibly moist, tender cake separated by swaths of a rich, fudgy chocolate frosting.
Next time you’re looking for a stunning vegan cake that can act as a centerpiece for a celebratory occasion, this simple, pantry-based recipe is the ticket!
📖 Recipe Overview
- Made With Pantry Staples - No need to scour the stores for obscure ingredients to make this amazing vegan chocolate cake. Chances are, you already have everything you need on hand already!
- Showstopping Presentation - Honestly, is there anything more awe-inspiring on a dessert table than a towering layer cake topped with fresh berries? Not in my book!
- Rich, Moist, & Oh-So-Chocolatey - Seriously, friends. This is the BEST vegan chocolate cake you’ll ever try.
🧾 Ingredients Needed
As promised, this vegan chocolate olive oil cake comes together with just simple, staple ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Vegan Buttermilk - If possible, opt to make your buttermilk with unsweetened soy milk for the richest consistency. Otherwise, either oat milk or almond milk are acceptable substitutes.
- All-Purpose Flour - No need for cake flour here! Plain flour is all you need.
- Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder - I prefer the less bitter, more intense chocolate flavor of Dutch-processed cocoa, but conventional unsweetened dark cocoa powder will also work.
- Brown Sugar - It can be light or dark, regular brown sugar or muscovado. Just make sure it’s nice and soft.
- Baking Powder & Baking Soda - You’ll need both types of raising agents to achieve the perfect tender crumb. If it’s been a minute since you used them, you can easily test their vitality. Simply spoon a small amount of either into a bowl, then top with a splash of hot water (for baking powder) or acid like lemon juice or vinegar (for baking soda). If they fizz and bubble, they’re still active. If not, time to buy a replacement!
- Olive Oil - I love the hint of fruity, spicy, and/or grassy flavor that olive oil brings to the table. If you prefer, you can use light olive oil, sunflower oil, or rapeseed oil instead.
- Plain Vegan Greek-Style Yogurt - For added moisture and fat. You can also use vegan sour cream.
- Hot Coffee - Adding coffee to chocolate desserts helps to amplify their chocolatey goodness. Make sure it’s brewed at the last minute so that the flavor compounds are all still at their peak and the coffee is nice and hot. If needed, use decaf.
- Vegan Dark Chocolate - Make sure you opt for bar chocolate over chocolate chips since they melt better. I also suggest reaching for 70% cocoa solids or higher for the most intense chocolate flavor.
- Vegan Butter - Make sure you opt for block-style butter rather than the variety that comes in a tub.
- Powdered Sugar - Sometimes called “icing sugar,” this sweetener is responsible for the silky smooth consistency in our chocolate frosting. If you’re fresh out, you can blitz regular granulated sugar in a food processor with cornstarch or potato starch to make your own. Work in a ratio of 1 cup sugar to 1 Tablespoon starch.
🥣 How To Make Vegan Chocolate Cake
Step 1: Sift together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Step 2: In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
Step 3: Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
Step 4: Carefully pour the hot coffee into the batter whilst mixing until combined. The batter will be runny - this is what you want!
Step 5: Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake for 25-35 minutes.
Step 6: Heat the vegan heavy cream, then pour it on top of finely chopped chocolate. Whisk while adding cubes of butter to the chocolate mixture. Cover and chill.
Step 7: Assemble the cake layers between thin layers of leveled chocolate frosting.
Step 8: Spread or pipe the remaining buttercream around the sides and top of the cake.
As much as I love this vegan chocolate layer cake recipe just the way I’ve written it, there’s plenty of room for you to tweak it to your level of personal perfection. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Swap Frosting - While I love the intense chocolate-on-chocolate experience, you’re welcome to add another flavor element to your cake. Try coffee, raspberry, vanilla, or pistachio.
- Add Filling - You’re also welcome to add a tasty filling to your cake like jam, curd, or macerated berries. Make sure to pipe a border of frosting around the border of your chocolate cake layer to hold the goodness inside, then spoon your filling in the middle before continuing to assemble the cake. Note that if you add a filling, you may need to refrigerate the cake sooner than if you stick with the plain chocolate frosting.
- Get Zesty - If a vegan chocolate orange cake sounds up your alley, consider adding the zest of an orange to the cake batter. Go a step further and add an orange curd filling using the tips outlined above.
- Go Extra Chocolatey - Try making a vegan chocolate ganache cake by swapping the chocolate buttercream for ganache. Pro Tip: Let the chocolate ganache cool slightly, then whip using an electric whisk until several shades lighter and fluffy.
Keep the cake at room temperature on the day of serving. If you plan on serving it at a later stage, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for 4-5 days. Remove from the refrigerator an hour before serving to allow the cake and frosting to come back to room temperature.
While I don’t recommend freezing the assembled cake, you’re welcome to bake off the cake layers in advance. Let them cool completely to room temperature, then wrap them in several layers of plastic wrap to ward off freezer burn. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer. They should last for a month with no discernable degradation in quality.
Absolutely! For a 2-layer 9-inch cake, divide the batter between 2 9-inch round cake pans, checking for doneness at the 30-minute mark. You can also make a 3x 6-inch layer cake OR a 2x 8-inch layer cake if you reduce the recipe to ⅔.
Nope! You’re welcome to swap in plain hot water but note that you won’t get the same depth of flavor if you do. If you just don’t want to brew a new batch, feel free to use instant coffee instead — the flavor compounds in coffee just help to amplify the chocolate flavor, so I highly recommend using it.
🎂 More Vegan Cakes
- 360 ml (1 ½ cups) soy milk, *see note 1
- 1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 420 g (3 ⅓ cups) all-purpose flour
- 120 g (1 ¼ cups) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, or unsweetened dark cocoa powder
- 450 g (2 cups, packed) soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- 180 ml (¾ cup) olive oil, or light olive oil, sunflower oil, or rapeseed oil
- 270 g (1 cup + 1 tbsp) vegan Greek-style yogurt, or vegan sour cream
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp vanilla extract, or vanilla bean paste
- 360 ml (1 ½ cups) hot coffee , brewed at the last minute *see note 2
- For accuracy, I highly recommend measuring your ingredients in grams using a digital kitchen scale.
- Preparation: Preheat your oven to 160°C/320°F fan (180°C/356°F conventional). Line the base of three 8" cake tins with a circle of parchment paper and liberally grease the sides with oil or vegan butter.
- To make the vegan buttermilk add the soy milk and apple cider vinegar to a jug, stir, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- Mix dry ingredients: Sift the plain flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt into a large mixing bowl, whisk, and set aside.
- Mix wet ingredients: To a medium bowl, add the vegan buttermilk, olive oil, yogurt, and vanilla. Whisk until combined.
- Make the batter: Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until well mixed. Carefully pour the hot coffee into the batter whilst mixing until combined. The batter will be runny - this is what you want!
- Bake: Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake for 25-35 minutes. The cakes are ready when a toothpick comes out clean with a few crumbs but without any wet batter.
- Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 15-20 minutes and then carefully turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool further. Refrigerate the cakes in an airtight container if you don’t plan on using them right away.
- Frosting: Heat the vegan heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat until gently simmering, but not boiling.
- Pour the heated cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit uncovered for 5 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla extract and sugar.
- Using an electric whisk or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, start adding cubes of butter to the chocolate mixture. Whisk to incorporate each cube of butter before adding the next.
- Whisk in the powdered sugar. Cover the surface of the frosting with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Gently whip it up again with a whisk before frosting.
- Assembly: Place a tiny amount of frosting on a cake turntable and secure the first sponge layer on top of it. Use an offset spatula/pallet knife to spread a layer of the frosting on top of one cake and top with the other cake layer - repeat for the next layer. Spread or pipe the remaining buttercream around the sides and top of the cake.
- Storage: Keep the cake at room temperature on the day of serving. If you plan on serving it at a later stage, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for 4-5 days. Remove from the refrigerator an hour before serving to allow the cake and frosting to come back to room temperature.
- Soy Milk - You can also use almond milk or oat milk.
- Hot Coffee - You can substitute this with boiling water.
- Vegan Heavy Cream - You need double cream such as dairy-free Schlagfix or Emlea which are designed for whipping. Alternatively, use full-fat coconut milk or coconut whipping cream.
- Vegan Heavy Cream - To add a coffee kick to your frosting, replace 30ml of cream with espresso.
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*This recipe was originally published in March 2022. The recipe has since been improved and updated to simplify the instructions and make it even more delicious!