Moist & Rich Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe (Gluten Free)
This is the BEST vegan chocolate cake you’ve ever had…maybe even the best chocolate cake, vegan or not! Super rich, moist, and topped with the most decadent chocolate buttercream! You won’t believe this cake is dairy free, eggless, refined sugar free, and vegan!
Why you’ll love this super moist vegan chocolate cake
You are just going to fall in love with this vegan chocolate cake. In fact, it might become the only chocolate cake recipe you ever make. It’s a bold statement that I’m fully prepared to back up. Don’t worry, I’ve come prepared.
This is the best vegan chocolate cake recipe you’ll make, not only for the fact that it tastes out-of-this-world amazing; truly. I’m a vanilla cake lover, but after a bite of this cake, I feel like I’ve missed out for nearly 27 years of my life.
It’s that good. We’re talking ultra moist and rich, decadent yet fluffy and light, and downright irresistible. This vegan cake tastes like the best chocolate cake you’ve ever had, vegan or not. Yet, because it’s dairy free, egg free, nut free, and soy free, everyone can enjoy it.
Plus, we’re layering those perfectly tender cakes with a creamy and dreamy undetectably vegan chocolate buttercream frosting that will make you want to just ditch the cake all together and just go for the frosting.
But trust me, it’s worth it to assemble the whole cake!
What makes a vegan cake moist?
There are three key ingredients for making a vegan cake moist:
- Unsweetened applesauce: not only can applesauce replace oil, but it also is a wonderful substitute for egg free baking. By adding in 3/4 cup of applesauce in this chocolate cake, you can both reduce the fat of the cake, use less sugar, and completely replace the eggs. I like to use applesauce in all of my cake recipes instead of flax eggs because I’ve found that you achieve much more moisture in a cake than with flax eggs.
- Vegan buttermilk: The best way to get a vegan dairy free milk to curdle like a buttermilk is to use either soy milk or almond milk. It can be done with coconut milk; however, the milk will not thicken quite like soy milk and almond milk. Your cakes will still rise though! In addition to the dairy free milk, you’ll use an acid, such as apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or white vinegar.
- Strong hot coffee: adding strong brewed hot coffee is not only the key to a better tasting chocolate cake recipe, but it also helps to keep this cake super moist and not dried out! If you need caffeine free, just make sure to use decaf coffee.
In addition to using these three key ingredients, I’ve found that using vegan butter instead of vegetable oil or canola oil actually adds not only moisture to the cake, but a much richer flavor. Vegetable oil tends to be flavorless, while vegan butter will add that wonderful “buttery” flavor to the rich chocolate flavor.
You can use coconut oil in place of vegan butter, but I really do recommend vegan butter above all.
How to make a vegan chocolate cake
I really want to debunk this myth that vegan baking is hard, so let this be the recipe that shows you how easy a vegan chocolate cake can be. And if you want to make it a gluten free chocolate cake as well, we have that option!
To make a vegan chocolate cake, you can break it down into three basic steps:
- Make the batter: make sure you whisk together the dry ingredients thoroughly before adding in the room temperature wet ingredients. If you’re using salted vegan butter, you can omit the salt. Again, room temperature is key! You can make this chocolate cake either in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer. I made this cake recipe for years by hand before I got a stand mixer, and it’s definitely doable.
- Bake the cake: this part is so simple- just bake the cake! You can make a three layer 8″ cake, as I did, or a two layer 9″ cake. You can also make a three layer 6″ cake as well. Just check the recipe card down below for specific instructions.
- Assemble the cake: making a vegan layered cake is also not scary or difficult! It really is simply just smearing frosting in between each layer, then frosting the outsides. You can use a bench scraper to make a pretty and clean look, or you can simply swirl your knife as I did. The major tip here is allow your cakes to fully cool before you assemble. Nobody wants a cake on the ground!
Easy Vegan Chocolate Frosting
Okay so I go back and forth: the cake is amazing, but so is the vegan chocolate buttercream frosting.
Honestly, I owe it all to the vegan butter these days. We really have it good, guys. My personal favorites for a vegan buttercream frosting are Flora Plant Butter and Miyoko’s Creamery. Both are soy free, which I personally like and try to go with.
However, I know many use Earth Balance baking sticks, and love those. Do NOT use the tub of Earth Balance. It will not work
Either way, the vegan butter these days acts just like regular butter. So to make a vegan chocolate buttercream frosting, you’re essentially just making a chocolate buttercream frosting!
For the chocolate buttercream, you’ll need:
- Vegan butter
- Powdered sugar*
- Cocoa powder
I put the * there because you can actually make this vegan chocolate cake entirely refined sugar free. To do so, I make a powdered sugar from coconut sugar by just pulsing it in the food processor until it’s really fine.
Then just use it as you would regular powdered sugar!
For more tips and tricks on how to make the best vegan chocolate frosting, check out my vegan chocolate buttercream blog post.
How to frost a cake:
Once your cakes are cooled and the chocolate buttercream is prepared, it’s time to assemble the cake! This cake can be made in two steps: first, the crumb coat, then the final layer.
I like to make my cakes into three layers, but you could also do two layers as well! I apply about 1/2 cup frosting in between each layer for a three layer cake. Spread it to the edges of the cake, then place the second layer on top and repeat. Then gently coat the outside of the cake, using a bench scraper to scrape off any excess.
Chill this layer for 20 minutes. You can also place the frosting in a cool place for storage as well.
Once chilled, apply the rest of the frosting, either as a smooth layer, or swooped, as I did. Top and decorate as you desire, and serve!
How to store leftover cake
If you were to have leftovers after baking this vegan chocolate cake (I highly doubt you will, but you never know!), I recommend storing the cake as a whole, covered and on the countertop for up to 2 days.
Alternatively, you can slice it and place the slices in an airtight container or wrap them and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Can I make this chocolate cake into cupcakes?
You absolutely can use this cake recipe for cupcakes, but you’ll yield a lot of cupcakes (between 24-30). We actually have a vegan chocolate cupcake recipe that’s based off of this recipe, and it will yield you a dozen chocolate cupcakes!
Or, if you need an even smaller amount, try this small batch gluten free vegan chocolate cupcake recipe!
Recipe tips & tricks:
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and the powdered sugar: a very much overlooked step for vegan baking, but very important, as this helps the dry ingredients be properly whisked together.
- Make your boiling water and espresso mixture right before you add it in: this ensures that it doesn’t cool too much while you’re working through the beginning steps.
- To make a different sized cake: if you need a different size other than 8″ cakes, please see the recipe card notes section for making a 6″ cake or 9″ cake!
- Make this vegan chocolate cake ahead: to make this a day ahead of time, you can make the chocolate cake layer first then let them cool. Once cool, wrap them in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. The next day, soften the vegan butter for the buttercream and make the vegan chocolate buttercream frosting. Frost the cake and serve!
- To make a vegan gluten free chocolate cake: I’ve had much success using gluten free 1:1 baking flour. My personal favorites are Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur. However: it needs to contain xanthan gum. This helps give it that glutinous texture. Both of those brands of a GF flour mix that does not contain xanthan gum, and trust me it is not worth it. Learn from my mistakes! Use the 1:1 specifically! I do, however, have an oil free, gluten free vegan chocolate cake made just from oat flour if that interests you!
- Use natural cocoa powder over cacao powder or even dutch-processed cocoa powder. The reason being, as I noted in my vegan chocolate cupcakes post, is that natural cocoa powder has way more acidity, which will help react with the baking soda and vinegar when baking, giving your cakes a much better rise.
This is the perfect vegan cake recipe for:
If you’re not like me, and don’t just want to make the best vegan chocolate cake just because you’re alive and life is good, then maybe you’d try it for:
- Birthday Parties (I have more wonderful vegan birthday cakes listed below as well!)
- Weddings (we have a full vegan wedding cake post!)
- Holidays (hello, best vegan Valentine’s Day ever!)
- Dinner Parties
- Baby Showers
- Just because!
Yes, some of us (*ahem* me lol) just like to bake for the heck of it!! If you’re like that, hello, you are not alone 🙂
You are just going to absolutely love this amazing vegan chocolate cake! It’s so good, you’d never know it’s eggless, dairy free, and refined sugar free! If you try it, be sure to give it a rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️in the comments section below, as well as letting us know how it went for you!
Happy chocolate cake baking 🙂
More vegan cake recipes you’ll love:
Watch Vegan Chocolate Cake Video:
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If you make this recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and a rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. This helps others to find the recipes! As always, I absolutely love to see your beautiful creations on Instagram and Pinterest, so be sure to tag me there as well!Print
Absolutely decadent and irresistibly moist vegan chocolate cake layered with an undetectably vegan chocolate buttercream frosting! This is the best vegan chocolate cake you’ll ever make that everyone will love!
Vegan Chocolate Cake:
- 1 1/4 cup (300 mL) vegan buttermilk, room temperature
- 3 cups (375 g) all purpose flour or gluten free 1:1 baking flour, sifted
- 1 cup (95 g) all natural cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (110 g) brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted vegan butter*, room temperature
- 1 cup (220 g) unsweetened applesauce or dairy free yogurt, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (240 mL) hot water + 1 tsp dissolvable espresso powder (or 1 cup (240 mL) brewed coffee, decaf if desired)
- 2 cups vegan butter, softened
- 4–5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- Be sure to read all instructions before beginning. Measure out all ingredients for the cake.
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 350F, and prepare three 8″ cake pans. You can use 6″ cake pans if you’d like. Grease the bottoms and sides of the pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside. Prepare the vegan buttermilk by mixing together the dairy-free milk and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl and set aside for 5-7 minutes to curdle. You can prepare the batter while the buttermilk is forming.
- Make the batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment or a large bowl and a hand mixer, cream the vegan butter, sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and bottom of the bowl as needed. Then add in the dairy free yogurt or applesauce and vanilla extract, and mix again on medium speed until combined. To the mixture, add in about half of the flour mixture, along with half of the buttermilk. Mix on medium speed until the flour starts to combine with the wet. Add in the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk, and mix again just before there are no more dry streaks. Slowly pour in the hot coffee, and mix on medium speed until the coffee has just mixed into the batter.
- Bake the cakes: Pour the batter into the three cake pans evenly. Place the cakes into the oven and bake for 33-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. If using three 6″ cake pans, the cakes will bake a bit longer. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Then carefully transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely, about 45 minutes.
- Prepare the chocolate buttercream: When ready to frost, beat the vegan butter until creamed, about 3 minutes. Then sift in the powdered sugar and continue beating until it becomes a fluffy vanilla buttercream. Add in the cocoa powder, and start by beating the cocoa powder into the middle so as not to create a dust around the bowl, then beat the entire buttercream mixture together with the cacao powder until full incorporated.
- Assemble the cake: place the bottom layer onto a cake plate and adding about 1 cup of frosting to the top of the cake. Spread it just to the edges, then add the second layer and repeat. Top with the third layer and frost with the remaining frosting. Decorate as you’d like, and enjoy!
- Storage: Store any leftovers covered at room temperature for up to 2 days or sliced in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Vegan buttermilk: The best result will be combining soy milk or almond milk with the apple cider vinegar. However, the cake will still rise wonderfully using oat milk or coconut milk.
Vegan butter: If you’re using salted vegan butter, omit the salt in the dry mixture.
To make this vegan chocolate cake gluten free: use gluten free 1:1 baking flour. Please ensure that the mixture contains xanthan gum.
For an entirely gluten free vegan chocolate cake made with just oat flour, check out this oat flour vegan chocolate cake here.
To make a three-layered 6″ cake: bake the cakes for 25-27 minutes, but check with a toothpick towards the end of the baking time.
To make a two-layered 9″ cake: bake the cakes for 32-37 minutes, but check with a toothpick towards the end of the baking time.
- Serving Size: 1 slice
- Calories: 413
- Sugar: 49 g
- Sodium: 330.4 mg
- Fat: 13.2 g
- Saturated Fat: 2.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 75.3 g
- Fiber: 4 g
- Protein: 5 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
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