Give me your best vegan chocolate cake recipes!
October 31, 2018 12:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm making my dear friend a vegan chocolate cake for their mid-November birthday. I really want it to be a nice one. I talked with them about the sort of cake they would like, and they told me they have a preference for darker chocolate flavors—that is, they would prefer something that isn't on the super sweet side.

Of course, it's a cake, so it'll be sweet! But I'm interested in particular in recipes and frosting/icing/topping strategies that will result in a really deep chocolate flavor with a level of sweetness that is juuuust enough to bring that out. My usual strategy with desserts I'm more practiced with is to incorporate cocoa butter, which always seems to add a really nice layer that fleshes everything out.

I don't make a lot of cakes, but I'm a pretty experienced cook/baker. I am making dark chocolate bars for funsies tomorrow. I feel comfortable with somewhat complex or finicky stuff, though I'm happy for your favorite simple-yet-perfect recipe. I also have time and inclination to trial stuff out, possibly as a little test batch of cupcakes or what-have-you.

Let me know also if you have any tips as far as ingredients to use.

Thanks, friends :)
posted by Gymnopedist to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
A dash of strong espresso really brings out deep chocolate flavours.
posted by tavegyl at 2:39 AM on October 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've had good results with this recipe. For icing, I've done a cooked flour frosting, using non dairy milk.
posted by peppermind at 3:15 AM on October 31, 2018

A lot of vegan chocolate ganache recipes are really simple and effective— you can use different ratios of semisweet chocolate chips and cream of coconut depending on the consistency you’re shooting for, but the actual melted chocolate always gives it a rich, intense flavor.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 3:16 AM on October 31, 2018

I've made both the regular and vegan version of this concorde cake and the vegan version is equal to or surpasses the dairy version, at least when it comes to the merengues; the chickpea version has better flavor, color, and form and the mousse is more intensely dark chocolate.
posted by newpotato at 3:30 AM on October 31, 2018

Oh and as with most things chocolate, I like to intensify the flavor and color by using black cocoa for part of the cocoa powder required.
posted by newpotato at 3:33 AM on October 31, 2018

This is a staple in my house - requested by so many friends and my husband (none of whom are vegan). It’s just the best chocolate cake ever!

Chocolate avocado cake
posted by RunRunRunRun at 4:56 AM on October 31, 2018

I've made the Joy the Baker and the Margaret Fox recipes posted above and they are both winners. Anita Shepherd's vegan chocolate birthday cake is basically identical to Joy's recipe (only the quantity of avocado differs) but it has a very different frosting—it's much more like a traditional birthday cake frosting with brown rice syrup to add caramel notes that temper the sweetness.

In any chocolate cake that calls for water, I use strongly-brewed coffee instead. My favorite cocoa in a cake is King Arthur's Double Dutch.
posted by bcwinters at 5:52 AM on October 31, 2018

This chocolate olive oil cake is great. I changed up the glaze a little -- I think what I did was thicken it with powdered sugar and then cut the sweetness with soy milk and maybe some coffee. Brown rice syrup like bcwinters suggests would probably work great, because it's thick and not too sweet.
posted by clavicle at 6:10 AM on October 31, 2018

Wacky Cake (also known as Depression cake), is surprisingly chocolately and moist. If you want a layer cake, double the recipe and put into two cake pans.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:29 AM on October 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Isa Chandra Moskowitz has a recipe for a vegan version of Hostess cupcakes. I would characterize the cake and icing as not extremely sweet, and they're very cool looking. They use the black cocoa that newpotato mentions.
posted by FencingGal at 8:57 AM on October 31, 2018

I’ll second clavicle’s recommendation a couple comments up - I answered this for a friend last week, that cake was my answer, and it was well-received.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 10:29 AM on October 31, 2018

I recently became very popular at work after making this cake from Nigella Lawson into cupcakes, topped with this ganache from Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I think the boiled water + cocoa is key, as this is the second chocolate cake recipe I've tried with that trick that has been particularly chocolatey and delicious. I used semi-sweet chocolate in the ganache, but a nice dark chocolate might be better for your friend. For the record, I used refined coconut oil in the cake, not sure how noticeable unrefined would be. (I've also tried the Smitten Kitchen olive oil cake linked above, and thought it was very average.)
posted by gueneverey at 2:42 PM on October 31, 2018

I've made the Smitten Kitchen olive oil cake linked by clavicle above, and thought it was amazing.

In terms of icings and fillings - I've made the following vegan chocolate filling for the middle of a cake and it turned out beautifully: 1 cup steamed pumpkin + 1/4 cup cocoa + 1/4 cup maple syrup + 3 tablespoons nut butter/almond spread/etc, all into food processor or whizzed with stick mixer until smooth. It makes a really fluffy chocolatey filling.
posted by fever-trees at 4:48 PM on October 31, 2018

I like Isa Chandra Moskowitz's chocolate cupcake recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World. My sister is vegan (I am not) and I made this for her on her 30th birthday and she's requested it every year for the last 6 years! It has a deep chocolate flavor -- I use E. Guittard Cocoa Rouge -- and isn't too sweet. I also use another recipe in the book, a pecan/coconut icing, to make it a german chocolate cake. The icing is very sweet and a perfect foil to the gently sweet cake.

I can't even tell it's vegan and enjoy eating them every year. I've even adapted the recipe to make a huge 2-layer 12" x 12" square cake or smaller circular cakes and it holds up beautifully. Feel free to memail if you want more details. :)
posted by pdxhiker at 7:59 PM on October 31, 2018

Pseudo self-links! Chocolate Midnight Cake by aquafaba luminary Rebecca August with Aquafaba Cashew Frosting by aquafaba luminary Goose Wohlt - both recipes from a cookbook I coauthored that came out earlier this year. But they are good! And vegan! Maybe test-batch it? I like rich and I don't remember the sweetness level. I just remember the deliciousness-to-me level, which was A++.

Strategies for reducing sweetness in recipes:

1. Use chopped dates as a 100% substitute for sugar. I do this all the time and it works great in my opinion. Note: I pretty much only bake cookies. If I were doing this with a cake, I would more finely chop the dates. I also slightly reduce the salt when I do this because chopped dates don't mask salt as well because they're not as evenly distributed as granulated sugar.

2. You can also replace chocolate chips with cocoa nibs. I do not do this because I prefer chocolate chips. Cocoa nibs are the chocolate chip equivalent of "I like my coffee black."
posted by aniola at 8:38 PM on October 31, 2018


I ended up using the Chocolate Midnight Cake recipe that aniola suggested. I doubled the recipe, and it filled two 9-inch cake pans. For cocoa powder I used this King Arthur triple cocoa blend. I chose it over the dutch process stuff suggested upthread because the recipe uses baking soda.

For frosting I used the two-ingredient mousse from the vegan concorde cake recipe newpotato suggested, except I had some difficulty with it because I forgot my whisk when I brought ingredients and such over to my friend's place, and my friend's whisk was very small. I'm sure it'd work well with a big whisk and a lot of elbow grease or ideally some kind of electric mixer, since it relies on incorporating a loooot of air just as the chocolate cools to a solid (I've done a similar 2-ingredient mousse before, so I know it can turn out super fluffy). But it still turned out great, as a frosting option; I ended up melting a lot of it and just pouring it over the cake like ganache.

The cake turned out exactly as I'd hoped—super rich and chocolatey but not too sweet. I made the frosting/mousse recipe with bittersweet chocolate, for reference. It was also nice and moist with a good texture, which is extra great given how easily the recipe comes together. Most people who tried it had seconds. :)
posted by Gymnopedist at 5:19 AM on December 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

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