Vegan Desserts/ Vegan Recipes

Chocolate Cake to Live For

vegan chocolate cake

This is the ultimate chocolate cake. I know that’s a big statement, but after 20 years of love letters and requests from brides, birthday celebrators, bloggers, caterers, and my family and friends, I can say with certainty that this recipe is guaranteed to satisfy even the most ardent chocoholic. Be prepared for, “No way this is a vegan chocolate cake!” The Chocolate Cream spreads and pipes like a dream. A glamorous and delicious alternative to the cream is the Chocolate Ganache filled and glazed cake, and the Ganache is used to make truffles too.   From Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy Free Desserts by Fran Costigan © 2013, Running Press. Reprinted by permission.


Chocolate Cake to Live For

The recipe as written makes 5 1/2 cups of batter, which is enough for two 9 x 3-inch round cake pans or one shallow rimmed half sheet pan (18 x 23 inches). Knowing the amount of batter makes converting to different size pans easy. Fill the pans in questions with water to a scant half full, and you’ll know the amount of batter that’s needed.

Makes one 9-inch 2-layer cake


  • 1 cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup organic unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup light organic cane sugar
  • 2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup mild extra virgin olive oil or an organic neutral oil
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup, dark amber or Grade B
  • 2 cups chocolate or vanilla soymilk, almond milk, rice milk
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract (optional)
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 recipe Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows)


  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Oil the sides and bottom of two 9 x 3inch round cake pans, or equivalent, and line the bottoms with parchment paper cut to fit.
  2. Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the whole wheat pastry flour, white flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon to the strainer, and sift the ingredients into the bowl. Stir with a wire whisk to aerate and distribute the ingredients.
  3. Whisk the oil, maple syrup, nondairy milk, extracts, and vinegar in a separate medium bowl until very well blended. Pour into the dry mixture and stir with a whisk until the batter is smooth. This batter is meant to be fairly thin.
  4. Pour the batter into pans, dividing evenly. Tap the pans lightly on the counter to pop some of the air bubbles. Bake the cakes on the center rack for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are of the cakes are set, the sides have started to pull away from the pan, and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs.
  5. Cool the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Run a thin knife between the cake and inside of the pan, and invert each layer onto a rack. Remove the pans and carefully peel off the parchment paper. Invert again, topside up on a rack to cool completely.
  6. To protect the layers from cracking or breaking, slide a cardboard circle (or another flat surface) under each one. Wrap the layers with Chocolate Ganache.
Tips & Variations

Use organic dark whole cane sugar, such as Sucanat or Rapadura for some or all of the organic sugar, but grind it first in a blender. I have made the cake with maple crystals as well.

Chocolate Ganache

Classic ganache is made with heavy cream and chocolate. Here, soy or coconut milk creamer replace the dairy cream. Make sure you use a good-quality chocolate with a flavor you like, because it’s the taste of the chocolate that comes through. Soymilk, almond milk, or coconut milk can replace the creamer if you prefer.

The ganache will keep for one week in the refrigerator, but will become too firm to spread. Warm back to spreading consistency in a heatproof bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring until it liquefies. You will have to wait for the ganache to return to the right consistency for your use.

Yield: 2 2/3 to 3 cups, enough for cake and a few truffles


  • 1 lb vegan bittersweet chocolate, 62% to 72%, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk or soy creamer
  • Dutch process cocoa for dusting truffles, optional


  1. Place the chocolate in a medium-size heatproof bowl.
  2. Pour the creamer into a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil medium heat. Wait about 30 seconds, and pour over the chocolate all at once. Swirl the bowl gently and allow the chocolate to begin to melt, for about 1 minute. Whisk gently from the center out until the chocolate is completely melted and the ganache is smooth and glossy.
Truffle Ganache

If you are making truffles, pour about 3/4 cup of the ganache into a shallow dish and refrigerate until firm enough to cut and coat with cocoa powder.

Icing Ganache

The ganache will thicken sufficiently to pour as a glaze or spread with a spatula in 15 to 30 minutes. The amount of time is dependant on the type of chocolate and non dairy milk used.

The Valentine Pretty Cake Plating, pictured

Bake the layers in a sheet pan large enough to accommodate the batter, or divide the between two 9 x 9 x 3 inch cake pans. (Prepare the pans, preheat the oven—follow the recipe!) You can use just one layer now and freeze the other for up to 2 months.

When the cake is very cold—and frozen is easiest, cut into squares that work for your idea of a single serving. Place the cold cakes on a wire rack set over a parchment lined sheet pan. Pour or ladle some of the ganache over each piece. Allow the ganache to set. Repeat with another layer of ganache. Drizzle some chocolate over the top, if you like, or decorate with fruit, a chunk of chocolate or luster dust.


From More Great Good Dairy Free Desserts Naturally* by Fran Costigan. For more about Fran’s amazing pastries, visit

*This post contains affiliate links. If the product is purchased by linking through this review, VegKitchen receives a modest commission, which helps maintain our site and helps it to continue growing!

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  • Reply
    Fran Costigan
    January 31, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Thank you Nava for featuring my signature cake, The Chocolate Cake To Live For in the Vegan Find Baking Section of your fine VegKitchen website, and in time for Valentine Day.

    The recipe is lengthy as I wanted to thoroughly explain every step and the variations but it is very easy to make, and can be made ahead. For all chocolate lovers, vegan or not, I believe that this is the cake!

  • Reply
    January 31, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Fran, your wonderful cake will be highlighted in VegKitchen’s Feb. newsletter, and shared on VegKitchen’s Facebook page when we get closer to Valentine’s day. Thank you for your gorgeous contributions to VegKitchen, you are a treasure…

  • Reply
    February 18, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Fran,

    I made this cake recipe in 1/2 using a 9″ cake pan to test for a 30 person party in 2 weeks and it came out great! Are you sure that 5 1/2 cups of batter will fill a 1/2 sheet cake pan? Everything I’m reading says 12-14 cups of cake batter for a 1/2 sheet. Are you sure you didn’t mean to say two 9″ or one 1/4 sheet cake for this recipe?

    Thanks for such a yummy recipe!

    • Reply
      February 18, 2014 at 5:19 pm

      Sheryl, I’ll get Fran to answer your question ASAP!

  • Reply
    Fran Costigan
    February 18, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Hi Sheryl
    I am positive that 5.5 cups or a little less batter fills a half sheet pan. But I am taking about a real half sheet with shallow sides, like a jelly roll pan for example. To make a deeper cake , measure your other, 9×13 inch deeper pan with water to a scant half full. That’s how much batter you need. I’m answering via my iphone so please excuse typos. I hope this helps.

  • Reply
    Fran Costigan
    February 18, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Hi again Sheryl,
    I wrote while I was out so you’d know I want to answer your query. And I neglected to say how happy I am that you liked the cake. It is easy, isn’t it.

    Now, the fact is (again) the recipe does makes about 51/2 cups batter for two 9×3 inch rounds, one half sheet baking pan ( 9x13x1) or a 9x12x3 inch cake pan. I use the cakes baked in the shallow half sheet pans to make thinner cakes which I layer into sheet cakes, or to cut, sometimes with cookie cutters into individual portions.(the photo that accompanies the recipe here wa baked in a that kind of half sheet pan, aka jelly roll or bakign sheet pan. I believe you are talking about a 3-inch deep half sheet CAKE pan, so yes, you will need more batter.The amount of batter should not fill the pan more than a scant half full, regardless. Why don’t you fill your half sheet cake pan with water to the scant half and that will give you the amount of batter you need. I hope this makes sense and helps. When you are making a much larger cake, I suggest you cut the nondairy milk to 12/3 cup per recipe. Feel free to write to me at [email protected] of you like.
    I’d love to see photos of the result.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2014 at 11:39 pm


    Many thanks for the prompt reply to my question and explanation of measurements for larger size cakes. I am considering doubling the recipe and filling 2 9×13 pans, for a long 2 layer cake, as suggested to me by a friend and vegan baker.

    Do you know a good recipe for vegan icing? I’d like to write on this bday cake. Otherwise, I’ll try to layer with the ganache and shaved chocolate.

    Thanks again!

  • Reply
    February 26, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    Hi Fran! I went to your demo yesterday at the library and I have to say that I’ve been dreaming of this cake! I’m actually not a huge chocolate or sweets fan but I’m in love with that cake! I did have a question though. I was hoping to try this cake out for my family and I wanted to know if I would be able to do this the night before. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Fran Costigan
    February 26, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    Yes, Denise you can do it the day before and refrigerate, Cut cold and serve at room temp. You may not have heard me say that the cake can be frozen. Vegan Chocolate contains detailed informationa about keeping, and serving.

  • Reply
    Fran Costigan
    February 26, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    It’ll be easy to find vegan icing recipes. Or write in chocolate or ganache.

    My blog has tips of all kinds about desserts so you might want to sign up. You too Denise.

  • Reply
    March 26, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Hello Fran, thank you so much for this recipe from a family that is allergic to eggs! I’m planning to make this as cupcakes instead of cake. How many cupcakes will this recipe yield and do I need to make any adjustments? Thanks! Nidhi

    • Reply
      March 26, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      Hi Nidhi — I’ve asked Fran to respond to you here, which I’m sure she’ll do shortly!

  • Reply
    Fran Costigan
    March 27, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Hi Nidhi,
    I’m sorry for the delay in replying, but I’m in LA with my cupcake-loving granddaughters. (They call me GFran Cupcakes). This recipe makes flat topped, very tender cupcakes. I can’t tell you exactly how many the recipe will yield since I have learned that even standard size pans differ but I’d say you can count on 12 to 18 standard. Here are the adjustments:I Cut the recipe in half, Use 3/4 cup nondairy milk. I always recommend that you measure the batter so you know for next time. Do not fill the pans more than scant 3/4 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, remove from the tins carefully onto wire rack, and then refrigerate or freeze unitl cold. Dip the tops of the cold cupcakes into the ganche, allow to set and add a second coat. For a more traditional chocolate cupcake, checkout the Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes in my recent book, Vegan Chocolate: Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts, Running Press. Have fun!

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