Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe

vegan and dairy free chocolate cake
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I know I’m not alone when I say my love for chocolate cake runs DEEP. I’ve just always had a soft spot in my heart for a good chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (bonus if it has sprinkles!). So when I went about making this Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe, I made sure it had all the essentials: extra moist, rich chocolate flavor, just the right balance of sweet and decadent, and has that melt-in-your-mouth crumb we all want in a chocolate cake. It’s a true rival to my (full-dairy) One-Bowl Chocolate Cake recipe and I could not be more satisfied with how the vegan version turned out! 

vegan chocolate cake recipe by Sugar and Sparrow

My ultimate goal with this recipe was to make it so tasty that you couldn’t tell it’s vegan. I’m so happy to say that this cake definitely knocks it out of the park on taste, texture, and all the things! After topping it with Vegan Chocolate Buttercream, even my (non-vegan) husband agreed that you truly can’t tell a difference between this recipe and the full-dairy version. Maybe we need to do a blind taste test to compare, but I feel like this Vegan Chocolate Cake is everything I was hoping for. 

vegan chocolate cake by sugar and sparrow
vegan chocolate cake with vegan chocolate buttercream recipe

This cake recipe actually dates back to the depression era (it’s sometimes called Wacky Cake or Crazy Cake), when ingredients like eggs and butter were too expensive to have on hand. Even though it’s super simple and basically the kind of cake you can throw together with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, it makes the perfect vegan cake because it doesn’t need dairy to be amazing. It gets its moist crumb from a vegetable oil base, and while you can use any kind of oil you want, be sure that you like the taste of whatever you’re using, as it will end up flavoring the cake. I always opt for canola oil or generic vegetable oil, because they have the least amount of flavor and I want chocolate to be the star of the show in this recipe. 

vegan chocolate cake recipe

Why NON Dutch Process Cocoa? 

Speaking of chocolate, it’s really important that you use non Dutch Process cocoa powder in this recipe. This is because there’s an amazing chemical reaction that happens between the cocoa powder, baking soda, and vinegar that’s responsible for giving this cake its rise. The chemical reaction doesn’t work properly with Dutch Process cocoa powder because of how it’s made – Dutch Process involves washing the cocoa beans in an alkaline solution called potassium carbonate, which neutralizes the acidity. In other words, it prevents that cool little science experiment from happening when you bake it, resulting in a deflated cake. Just be sure to use a natural, unsweetened cocoa powder for this recipe. Any brand will work, but Hershey’s is what I use.

non dairy chocolate cake recipe

This Vegan Chocolate Cake pairs well with pretty much any frosting flavor, but it’s pictured here with my Vegan Chocolate Buttercream, which is lick-the-spoon amazing. I ate an embarrassing amount of it (zero regrets though!). This cake also pairs super well with the Vegan Oreo Buttercream from this recipe as well if you’re more of a cookies and cream kind of person. 

best vegan sprinkles
how to decorate a chocolate cake

To decorate, I frosted the cake smooth, added some Fancy Sprinkles in the “Hey Jude” mix (also vegan!), and used Wilton tip 4B to pipe swirls around the top before adding even more sprinkles. If you want to grow in your cake decorating skills, be sure to check out my Cake Basics series – it’s a collection of videos and blog posts that will show you how to build and decorate a cake just like this one from start to finish. However you decide to decorate, this Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe is sure to impress both vegans and non-vegans alike. Enjoy!

vegan and dairy free chocolate cake
5 from 4 votes
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Vegan Chocolate Cake

A simple yet decadent vegan chocolate cake that's moist, ultra-chocolatey, and basically everything you could want in a chocolate cake (but completely dairy-free!)

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups (400g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 Cups (410g) granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 Cup (45g) natural, unsweetened cocoa powder NOT Dutch Process
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 Cup (180ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Cups (480ml) water, room temperature

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare three 6-inch or two 9-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with cooking spray and fitting the bottoms with a wax paper or parchment cake circle. 

  2. Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and stir on low for 30 seconds to fully combine them. Add the vegetable oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water and mix on low until combined.

  3. Pour into prepared cake pans no more than 2/3 full and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before filling and frosting with a double batch of Vegan Chocolate Buttercream (or frosting of your choice).

Recipe Notes

Make ahead tips: This Vegan Chocolate Cake can be made ahead and stored at room temperature, covered tightly in plastic wrap, for up to two days. Alternatively, you can cover with plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to two months before thawing to room temperature. 

Make it extra chocolatey by filling and frosting with a double batch of Vegan Chocolate Buttercream

Did you make this Vegan Chocolate Cake? I want to know what you think! Let me know in the comments below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco in your Instagram photos to show me. I love to see what you create!

10 Comments

  1. I grew up eating this cake! My grandmother used to make it, and then my mom made it for us growing up. Still one of the best chocolate cakes out there! I share it with everyone I know, and I was glad to see it start circulating the internet several years back. So moist and chocolatey! I actually don’t think it needs any frosting at all, but I’m sure it’s good too 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Hi Whitney!

    I love all of your recipes and tutorials! I cannot wait to make this one, it looks fantastic!

    I was curious, do you have any recipes for dairy-free and nut-free frostings? Thank you!

    Katrina

    • 5 stars
      Thank you! Two last quick questions: do you think subbing coffee for the water would make the chocolate taste richer? Or could that potentially not work great from an acidity standpoint?

      I’m also planning to make this for a friends birthday this weekend – so you think baking the layers tonight or tomorrow night and freezing them would be ok? Thank you!

      • Yes – subbing coffee for the water will work great! Just make sure it’s room temp. And you can totally bake the layers and freeze them to use for a later date. Enjoy!

  3. 5 stars
    Hey Whitney, this cake looks absolutely amazing, and looks super tasty and moist , I am looking forward to making this!!!

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