What Is Vegan Chocolate Cake?

T. Alaine

A vegan chocolate cake is simply a version of this classic dessert that has been modified to exclude animal products. Traditional chocolate cake usually includes milk, eggs, or butter, which are all derived from animal products and therefore not compatible with the vegan lifestyle. Vegan chocolate cake recipes replace animal products with plant-based ingredients that serve similar purposes in order to replicate the textures and flavors of non-vegan chocolate cake.

A slice of vegan chocolate cake.
A slice of vegan chocolate cake.

Chocolate cake is a good introduction to vegan cooking because most of the ingredients are already plant-based, so only a few substitutions need to be made. Flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and oil are the primary ingredients in most chocolate cake recipes, and all are suitable for a vegan diet. If the batter calls for milk or cream, it is extremely simple to replace dairy milks with vegan milks such as soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or rice milk. Similarly, water makes a basic substitute and coffee or some flavored vegan liquor make interesting alterations.

In vegan recipes, soy milk is often used instead of dairy milk.
In vegan recipes, soy milk is often used instead of dairy milk.

One of the most important ingredients in chocolate cake is eggs, but of course the vegan lifestyle does not include eggs. Some vegan egg substitutes are available, but may be difficult to find outside of specialty or organic stores; most products claiming to be egg substitutes actually do contain a large amount of egg. The key to a successful vegan chocolate cake is to understand why eggs are important to the recipe and then finding other ingredients that mimic their purpose. Eggs are largely responsible for the fluffiness of the cake as the batter cooks, which may be why vegan chocolate cake sometimes gets a bad reputation for being too dense. A simple combination of baking soda and, strange as it may sound, a small amount of vinegar in the batter will help the cake rise and replicate the fluffiness that eggs add to chocolate cake.

Vegan chocolate cakes are made with no animal products.
Vegan chocolate cakes are made with no animal products.

Icings usually contain butter or milk, but there are still plenty of vegan options to top off a chocolate cake. Glazes, which are generally thinner than regular cake icing, are a popular option because they do not require animal products. Fluffy, buttery frostings can also be mimicked using vegan ingredients by substituting diary-based butter for plant-based vegan margarine or vegetable shortening. Most other ingredients in cake frostings, such as sugar, vanilla, and cocoa powder are already vegan-appropriate. Solid chocolates should be only be of the dark variety: milk chocolates and most white chocolates contain dairy and are therefore not vegan.

Traditional chocolate cake contains eggs that are not allowed on a vegan diet.
Traditional chocolate cake contains eggs that are not allowed on a vegan diet.

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Discussion Comments


@Scrbblchick -- Great idea! I'll have to look for that recipe online. That's the only recipe I've seen for a vegan chocolate cake that looks like it might work and still taste all right.

My daughter has decided she's a vegan and it's driving me crazy. I told her she's going to have to see a doctor to make sure she's getting proper nutrition and she got mad at me. I don't care. A friend of hers had to go to the ER last year because she was critically low in iron because all she had been eating was salad and cheese pizza. But she's going to have to learn to cook vegan, and not expect me to completely overhaul the family's eating habits. We eat healthy, but we do eat animal protein, and I don't have a problem with it.


One chocolate cake that I learned to make years ago is vegan: a wacky cake. It was developed in World War II when butter and eggs were rationed. It uses cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, vinegar, oil and vanilla.

You sift your dry ingredients right into your pan. Then make three wells and put the oil in one, vinegar in the second and vanilla in the third. Mix until crumbly. Then, pour a cup of warm water over all and sir. Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 and presto! Cake! This is not only a good vegan recipe, it's also fantastic for beginning bakers, since it's just about goof proof. Just don't bake it too long or it will dry out.

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