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.
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.
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.
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.