Vegan Chocolate Cake

This chocolate cake is vegan but we don’t tell people it is, and they love it. That’s how good it is.–Bea Vo

LC We'll Second That... Note

We second the author’s sneaky sentiment about not telling people this is a vegan chocolate cake indulgence, as it somehow makes it all the more gratifying when they go back for seconds. (We also won’t divulge how long any remaining slices last after guests go home.)

Another lovely thing about this recipe? If you have no unsweetened soy milk in the house, you don’t necessarily need to run to the store or pass the recipe by. One of our trusted LC recipe testers, Natalie Reebel, smartly swapped soy for almond milk (plain almond milk, not the sweetened, flavored kind, notes another LC recipe tester, Sita Krishnaswamy) and found it to be a swell substitute given how “beautifully” the cake turned out. A word to the wise: Though it may be tempting, don’t swap rice milk for the soy milk, as it results in a profoundly different, and not desirable, texture in the cake.

Special Equipment: 9-inch round cake pan that's 2 inches deep

Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Serves 8 to 12

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch salt
  • 1 3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 2/3 cups superfine sugar (you can easily make your own by blitzing granulated sugar in the blender until finely ground but not powdery)
  • 1 cup sunflower oil (you can substitute any mild-flavored vegetable or olive oil), plus more for the pan
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F (163˚C). Oil a 9-inch round cake pan that’s 2 inches deep and line it with parchment paper.
  • 2. Dump the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Mix well.
  • 3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy milk, vinegar, sugar, oil, and vanilla. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a spoon until well combined.
  • 4. Spoon or scrape the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 55 minutes. It’s done when a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out with almost no crumbs attached and the center of the cake, when pressed, springs back slightly instead of sinks. Bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes if necessary.
  • 5. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Slide a table knife or a paring knife between the cake and the edge of the pan to loosen, then carefully invert the cake onto the wire rack. Invert it again so it’s right-side up and let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Rebecca Marx

Feb 07, 2012

This may very well be the Platonic ideal of chocolate cake, vegan or otherwise. Almost indecently moist and tender, it also boasts a robust chocolate flavor that isn’t undermined by too much sweetness. I’m usually able to bake a cake, eat a slice, and then ignore the rest until my boyfriend dispatches it, but this cake leveled any defenses I’d like to think I possess. Needless to say, it did not cool for 1 hour, nor did it serve 8 to 10. Pure black magic. I do have one caveat here: I didn’t have enough sunflower oil, and so I blended it with a mild olive oil. The cake turned out perfectly.

Testers Choice
Natalie Reebel

Feb 07, 2012

This is a very good chocolate cake. It's simple to make, smells wonderful while baking, and comes out very pretty. Realizing I only had almond milk and no soy milk, I thought I would give the cake a try anyway. I opened the oven to check it at about 45 minutes, and it looked like a cupcake—the center had risen considerably, but then settled as the cake cooled. This cake is delicate and does require care while removing it from the pan and placing it on the cooling rack. I might wait 15 minutes before I remove it from the cake pan next time. It came out tender, moist, slightly crisp on top, and dense in the center. For eye appeal, I might dust it with confectioners' sugar, but it doesn't need any enhancements. My tasters all went back for seconds. No one knew, nor could they tell, that the cake was vegan.

Testers Choice
Cindy Zaiffdeen

Feb 07, 2012

This is a very easy chocolate cake. I followed the recipe exactly, and it took about 1 hour and 20 minutes to bake completely. The chocolate color was very dark and intense, and the cake extremely moist. The chocolate flavour was very good. I served it with plain Greek yogurt on the side but it would be very good with berries and ice cream or whipped cream as well.

Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

Feb 07, 2012

This cake was easy to make and turned out quite well. This is a very moist and tender cake with a rich, dark color. I like the fact that it mixed quite easily by hand and I didn't have to take out my big mixer and deal with cleaning it. I'm glad that the amount of oil was reduced —even with only 1 cup oil, the cake came out a bit "oily." I was also happy to see that the cake could be baked at 325°F rather than at 350°F, unlike most cake recipes. I bake all of my cakes at 325°F and am able to avoid getting a crown on the top of my cake.

Testers Choice
Sita Krishnaswamy

Feb 07, 2012

This was an amazing cake—rich, moist, and deep chocolate in flavor. No one would believe it was vegan. It's one of the best recipes I've come across. The recipe is easy, accurate, and simple. As the cake was cooling, the outer layer seemed to be starting to dry out; however, once I stored it covered, it was back to being moist again. This cake would work well with a nice frosting or ganache topping or simply served with crème fraîche and raspberries.


Comments
Comments
  1. Christine Chronis says:

    Three vegan recipes in this week’s post – if you count this one, the Smoky Vegetarian Chili and the Chocolate-Dipped Molasses Cookies (from a Maine writer, I noticed). Watch out! You’re moving toward the dark side.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Shhhhhhhhh, Christine, you’ll ruin our surprise! Actually, it just sort of happened. We’ve all manner of recipes scattered throughout the site that just happen to be vegan…or vegetarian…or gluten-free…or diabetic-friendly…or, well, you get the idea. But many, many thanks for noticing!

  2. Jessica says:

    I’m allergic to soybeans…can I substitute rice milk?

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Jessica,

      I asked several of our testers about substitutes for soy milk. They suggested using either unsweetened almond milk or hemp milk instead of the soy milk. Please let us know how it turns out.

      Beth

  3. Esther B. Mozo says:

    If you turn this into 12 cupcakes, each cupcake will have 395 calories. Not bad for a fantastic chocolate treat. :-)

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Ahem. Not bad, Esther! Although really, can you quantify happiness?

    • Andrea S. says:

      I highly recommend using cupcake liners when turning this cake into cupcakes! I just pulled a batch from the oven and they’re all hopelessly stuck to the pan.. :( It tasted great though ;)

      • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

        Hi Andrea, so sorry that you found yourself in a sticky situation. The cake calls for a buttered and parchment lined cake pan, so those cupcake liners should work great. Let us know if you make these again and whether you felt the liners needed a dollop of buttering as well.

  4. Stacy G. says:

    This cake was a life saver when we were invited over to a dinner party where I knew the hostess to be vegan. I was in charge of dessert, and this recipe was a winner–moist with excellent flavor. Everyone enjoyed it, vegan or not. I served it by topping it with powdered sugar and spooning a simple berry sauce over it. I found it was best eaten the same day it was made.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Stacy G., many thanks for letting us know. May this recipe be one you turn to time and again. Those are the best recipes, the ones with batter splatters and smudges…

  5. Joan says:

    Sorry, but mine turned out very badly. There was way too much oil for my taste. And while it is quite dark, which I usually love, the oil drowned out the chocolate.

    • Sita Krishnaswamy says:

      Joan, sorry to hear that. What kind of oil did you use? Was it sunflower as the recipe suggests? I am also wondering if your oil was fresh and had not turned rancid as you had said the oil drowned out the chocolate. Could you taste and smell the oil? Perhaps we could persuade you to try it again and let us know how you make out. Thanks for letting us know.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Joan, I’m really sorry to hear this. I’m a little surprised, too, as we actually tested and tweaked and retested this recipe several times, cutting down on the amount of oil in the original recipe from 1 1/4 cups to 1 cup. Our testers found the tweaked version of the recipe–the one that appears on this page–to be moist and chocolatey. May I inquire what sort of oil and milk you used? And just to confirm, you used the recipe from this site and not the book, yes? We’ll get to the source of the problem, I promise.

  6. Katie says:

    The cake is baking in the oven as I type. I’m just wondering, does it pair well with icing, or does it do best standing alone? Many thanks.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Either, Katie, depending on your preference. A simple dusting of confectioners’ sugar is quite nice…

  7. Sofia R. says:

    I decided to make this cake (actually three of them) for Valentine’s. Huge, huge success. I decided NOT tell tell anyone the cakes were vegan until they had tasted them and raved about how light, moist, and amazingly chocolatey and tasty they were. Pure shock on everyone’s faces. Must say, they did not last long and will be a repeat. BTW, I used GF all-purpose flour and added 1 tbsp more as well as coconut milk. SPLENDID!

  8. spenny says:

    what’s the purpose of the vinegar if i might inquire? i don’t usually see vinegar as an ingredient on baking recipes but i’d appreciate an explanation :)

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Spenny, vinegar is often used for it’s leavening and flavor enhancing properties. It can boost the effect of baking powder and baking soda, as well as giving soy milk more of a dairy quality.

  9. Made this cake for my vegan son’s 28th birthday. In ten years of baking vegan cakes, this is the best so far. I substituted almond milk for the soy milk, used Valrhona Cocoa Powder, and peanut oil, which is usually my vegetable oil of choice. I undercooked it just a bit–it was wonderfully moist, and the center a bit gooey, in a good way. I know my son liked it a lot because he had a second serving.

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