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Dairy Free Chocolate Cake Mix

Dairy free chocolate cake mix is a great thing to have on hand to throw together when needed. It is perfect for birthday cakes and other special occasions.

jar filled with dairy free chocolate cake mix on a marble counter

While making dairy free chocolate cake from scratch is nice, sometimes you just need something you can put together on the spot.

I actually got the idea of doing homemade cake mixes from a pastry chef friend of mine.

Despite being roommates at the time, we didn’t get to spend much time together because she was so busy. So, what time we did spend together was often while she was doing something else.

One day, what she was doing was putting together bags of cake mix. She explained that she always likes to have them on hand because they save her so much time.

I couldn’t agree more. Some times having half the work already done can make a world of difference.

Are cake mixes dairy free?

Some are. Most aren’t. A good way to check is to see if they have a kosher symbol (usually OU).

If it doesn’t have a D next to the symbol it’s dairy free. The D stands for dairy.

If it does, you want to check the ingredients. Sometimes D just means that it was made with equipment which has been used for dairy in the past.

Why make your own dairy free cake mix?

For one thing, it is a lot cheaper than buying boxed cake mix.

For another, it’s not always easy to find dairy free products, so making it at home can be a huge releaf.

How Do you make a dairy free cake mix from scratch?

It’s actually very easy to make a dairy free cake mix from scratch. You just combine the dry ingredients together and bag them to use late.

You’ll also want attach a note with a list of wet ingredients and baking instructions.

Why use cornstarch in cake mix?

Cornstarch is often added to cake mixes. This is because it is cheaper to make cake flour by combining all purpose flour and cornstarch than actually using cake flour.

Cornstarch vs Cornflour

Cornflour and cornstarch are actually the same thing. Cornstarch is a term commonly used in America where cornflour is more common in Europe.

How to substitute cornstarch in cake mix

You can use pretty much any starch instead of cornstarch. I use cornstarch here because it is easiest to find.

If you don’t have any starch on hand, you can replace it with all-purpose flour. Just keep in mind, the cake won’t be as light.

You can also use a full 2 cups of cake flour instead of the all-purpose flour + cornstarch if you want to.

CAKE FLOUR VS ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR

Cake flour is finer, lighter, and softer than all-purpose flour, as well as bleached, so the color is paler.  Most importantly, it has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour so cake flour produces less gluten.

I use all-purpose flour in all my recipes because it is cheaper and most people have it on hand.

WHY SIFT FLOUR AND COCOA

There are a number of benefits to sifting dry ingredients:  It removes any unwanted debris and helps the flour and cocoa combine with other dry ingredients like salt and baking powder.

Also, you can get a more accurate measurement than flour packed tight in a bag.  No less importantly, it removes any lumps that can get into the batter and be hard to break up later, or be missed altogether before baking.

DRY VS LIQUID MEASURING CUP

Ever wonder why measuring spoons often come with a set of measuring cups?  I used to.  I didn’t see why we need a set when we could have one large measuring cup.

After a quick search I had my answer.   I discovered that the large measuring cup is used for liquids, where the set is used for dry ingredients.

As it turns out, if you try to measure dry ingredients with a liquid cup the measurements get messed up.  First you pour the flour or cocoa in, then you shake it around to get it level, and then you add more.  By shaking it, you are causing the powder to settle and when you add more, you end up using more than called for.

HOW TO MEASURE FLOUR AND OTHER DRY INGREDIENTS

Using a dry measuring cup, scoop ingredients from the bag or spoon them into the cup.  Next, level off the ingredient by removing the excess with an upside-down butter knife.

The one exception to this is brown sugar.  Brown sugar should be packed down and then any excess should be scraped off as well.

WHICH TYPE OF OIL TO USE

I use neutral oils like canola oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil.  However, it is not uncommon for oils with stronger flavors like coconut oil or olive oil to be used. 

If using olive oil I recommend using pure olive oil for it’s more mild flavor and higher smoking point.

WHICH TYPE OF COCOA TO USE

When a recipe calls for cocoa, always use unsweetened cocoa powder, unless specified otherwise. 

This allows you to have better control of the sweetness of what you’re making. 

There are three basic forms of unsweetened cocoa powder. 

NATURAL COCOA POWDER

Natural cocoa powder comes from roasted cocoa beans. It’s bitter, with a very strong and concentrated chocolate flavor.  

This cocoa powder is acidic and is often used in recipes calling for baking soda, because the two react with each other to allow your baked good to rise.

This is most commonly used, and should be used, in recipes that simply say “cocoa powder.”

DUTCH-PROCESS COCOA POWDER

Dutch-process cocoa powder starts with cocoa beans that have been washed in potassium carbonate which neutralizes their acidity.  

Since Dutch-process cocoa powder is neutral, it does not react with baking soda.

When baking, Dutch-process cocoa is often paired with baking powder. 

Dutch-process cocoa powder can also be used in place of natural cocoa powder in recipes that don’t require leavening.

These include sauces, hot cocoa, frostings, ice cream, pudding, etc.

If you only have Dutch-processed cocoa powder on hand, you can substitute it for neutral cocoa powder.

Just make sure to add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar, white vinegar, or lemon juice for every 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder called for in the recipe.

RAW CACAO POWDER

Raw cacao powder is different from natural and Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder.

It’s pure powder from the cacao bean and isn’t nearly as processed as both natural and Dutch-process.

You can use raw cacao powder in recipes that don’t specify Dutch-process cocoa powder. 

However, Raw cacao powder and natural cocoa powder taste very different from Dutch-process and will change the flavor of the recipe.

Understanding Sugar

Sugar may seem very basic if you’ve baked before, but I’ve been asked about it before, so I’m explaining.

There are many different types of sugar, including white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla sugar, powdered sugar, turbinado sugar, and demerara sugar.

When a recipe – any recipe, not just mine – says “sugar” without specifying anything else, it is regular white sugar.

White Sugar

White sugar (sometimes called granulated sugar, table sugar, or white granulated sugar) is made of either beet sugar or cane sugar, which has undergone a refining process.

It is the easiest to find and most commonly used.

Brown Sugar

Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added to it.

It is commonly used in chocolate chip cookie recipes, and it’s rare for a recipe that calls for brown sugar not to also call for white sugar as well.

When a recipe calls for “brown sugar” but doesn’t specify what type (light or dark), it is referring to light brown sugar.

In my recipes, you can use whatever type of brown sugar you have on hand whether it is dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, or demerara sugar – which is very common in Israel.

Just keep in mind that the flavor and color will be slightly different depending on what you choose to use.

Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado sugar is better known as “raw sugar”. But, despite this name, the sugar is not really “raw.”

Instead, it’s partially refined sugar that retains some of the original molasses.

The term “raw sugar” may also give off the impression that it is somehow healthier.

In reality, turbinado sugar is nutritionally similar to white sugar.

Demerara Sugar

Demerara sugar is very popular in Israel and is especially delicious in tea but is also used for baking.

Unlike white sugar, demerara sugar undergoes minimal processing and retains some vitamins and mineral.

However, it is still not much healthier than white sugar.

Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla sugar is not very common in the States. However, it is common in Israel and parts of Europe.

This is sugar that sat for an extended period of time with vanilla beans, giving it a vanilla flavor.

Caster Sugar

This type of sugar is common in the United Kingdom.

It has a finer grain than white (granulated) sugar and larger than powdered sugar.

Caster sugar is often called for in recipes for delicate baked goods like meringues, souffles, and sponge cakes.

You can use a 1:1 conversion rate between caster sugar and white (granulated) sugar.

Powdered sugar

Powdered sugar, sometimes known as confectioners’ sugar, is a sugar with a powdered texture.

This sugar is rarely, if ever, used for baking. Instead, it is used for dusting desserts and making frosting and icings.

In some countries, you can also find powdered vanilla sugar. It is made the exact same way regular vanilla sugar is made. However, the sugar used is powdered instead of granulated.

Vanilla Extract vs Vanilla sugar

In my recipes, I don’t specify what kind of vanilla to use.

The reason for this is that in the States, vanilla extract is exclusively used. Meanwhile in Israel, along with many European countries, vanilla sugar is common.

In most, if not all recipes, both vanilla extract and vanilla sugar can be used.

In recipes where vanilla sugar can be used instead of extract, you can replace them 1:1.

BAKING WITH OIL

In general, oil in baked goods makes for a superior texture than those made with butter.  

Oil cakes tend to bake up taller with a better crumb. They also stay moist and tender far longer than recipes made with butter.

Furthermore, since oil is lighter than butter, the texture of oil cakes is lighter too. Also, given that oil is 100% fat while most American butter is 15% water, it creates a more tender crumb.

This is due to the fact that the extra water strengthens the gluten, resulting in a crumb that’s more dense.

Which Type Of Oil to Use

I use neutral oils like canola oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil.  However, it’s not unheard of for oils with stronger flavors like olive oil or coconut oil to be used.

If using olive oil, I recommend using pure olive oil for its milder flavor and higher smoking point.

Baking with Oil Conversion Chart

If you want to convert your butter recipes to oil recipes, check out my baking with oil butter to oil conversion chart.

Types of Vanilla

Vanilla comes from a pod commonly known as a “vanilla bean”, which comes from the vanilla orchids. Vanilla pod has been used for flavoring since the Aztecs, and was introduced to Europe by a Spanish conquistador, along with cocoa.

Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract is created by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol for some time. This is the most commonly used type of vanilla.

Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla sugar is common in Europe and some parts of the Middle East, like Israel.  It is made from vanilla beans sitting in sugar, vanilla bean powder mixed with sugar, or sugar mixed with vanilla extract.

In some countries, like Italy, you can also find vanilla powdered sugar which is used for confections.

Vanilla Paste

Vanilla paste is generally a specialty item.  It is a thick paste that contains a blend of the scraped-out vanilla pod seeds and vanilla extract.  You can use it as you do vanilla extract and it will leave flakes of vanilla bean like you see in vanilla bean ice cream.

Imitation Vanilla

Imitation Vanilla, otherwise known as artificial vanilla, is made from synthetic vanilla.  This is the compound that naturally occurs in vanilla beans and gives it its flavor.

Can I use imitation vanilla?

Many will tell you that you should use high quality vanilla, just like they say you should use the best cocoa.  However, most of us will probably not be willing to pay the hefty price that comes with exceptionally high-quality ingredients.

Overall, vanilla is very expensive, so the extract is as well.  So, if you’re not going to get regular quality vanilla extract, you might as well use imitation vanilla.

DO EGGS NEED TO BE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE?

The short answer is “no”.  While a side-by-side comparison shows that baking with eggs at room temperature makes a better crumb, it’s not otherwise noticeable.

What are Eggs used for?

Eggs do three things in most recipes: they help bind the ingredients together, act as a mild leavening agent, and they add moisture.

EGG FREE OPTION

Eggs can be substituted with 1/4 cup of unsweetened apple sauce per egg.  This means for recipes calling for 2 eggs, you’d need 1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce.

The reason applesauce makes a good binder is that it’s high in pectin. Pectin is a naturally occurring starch in fruits and berries that acts as a thickening agent and stabilizer in food.

This happens when combined with sugar and acid (if the fruit or berry isn’t naturally acidic).

Just keep in mind that it may change the flavor slightly.

ARE EGGS DAIRY?

No, eggs are not dairy.  Dairy is milk and any food products made from milk, including cheese, cream, butter, and yogurt. 

So, while eggs are an animal product, they are not dairy. In fact, eggs fall under the protein food group.

BAKING POWDER VS BAKING SODA

I’ve had a number of comments asking me questions about baking soda and baking powder. 

I’ve also noticed that if the wrong one is used, things don’t come out as they should. 

Using baking soda instead of baking powder can give your recipe a terrible metallic taste, while using baking powder instead of baking soda leaves your baked goods looking flat.

BAKING SODA

Baking soda is a leavening agent, which means it helps things rise.  It does this by creating carbon dioxide when it reacts to an acid, such as cream of tartar, lemon juice, yogurt, buttermilk, cocoa, and vinegar. 

When the carbon dioxide is released, it causes the familiar texture and crumb in pancakes, cakes, quick breads, soda bread, and other baked and fried foods.

Baking soda works well with sourdough because sourdough is acidic.  When combined, it makes a lighter product with a less acidic taste, since baking soda is alkaline.

A good rule of thumb is to use around 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per 1 cup of flour.

BAKING POWDER

Baking powder is also a leavening agent and it’s a mixture of baking soda, cream of tartar, and sometimes cornstarch.

Most baking powder sold is double-acting. This means that the leavening occurs in two steps.

The first time it’s activated is when baking powder gets wet, which is why you cannot prepare some batters ahead of time to bake later.

The second time is when the baking powder is exposed to heat.  This happens when the batter is being baked or fried.

Since baking powder already contains an acid, it’s most often used when a recipe does not call for an additional acidic ingredient or too little of one.

A good rule of thumb is to use around 1 teaspoon of baking powder per 1 cup of flour.

WHY SOME RECIPES CALL FOR BOTH

Some recipes call for both baking powder and baking soda when the carbon dioxide created from the acid and baking soda is not enough to leaven the volume of batter in the recipe.  

Too much baking soda gives a terrible metallic taste, so baking powder is added to give it more lift.

WHICH ONE IS STRONGER?

You may have already guessed the answer since baking soda is used to make baking powder, and you need more baking powder per cup of flour. But I’ll tell you anyway.

Baking soda is four times stronger than baking powder.  That’s why you will more often than not see recipes that only call for baking soda rather than recipes that only call for baking powder.

HOW LONG DO THEY LAST?

BAKING SODA

Baking soda is good indefinitely past its best by date, although it can lose potency over time.  A rule of thumb is two years for an unopened package and six months for an opened package.   

However, to be honest, I’ve used very old baking soda with good results.

BAKING POWDER

Like baking soda, baking powder is good indefinitely past its best by date, and can lose its potency over time.  For both opened and unopened, it’s ideal to use it within nine months to a year.

While storing it, make sure to keep it in a dry place and away from humidity.

HOW TO TEST IF IT’S STILL GOOD

BAKING POWDER

To test baking powder, pour 3 tablespoons of warm water into a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and stir. If the baking powder is good to use, it should fizz a little.

BAKING SODA

To test baking soda, pour 3 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar into a small bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and stir.  The mixture should rapidly bubble if the soda is fresh.

HOW TO BAKE FLAT CAKES

Flat cakes make decorating much easier. To do this you need baking strips for cake pans. You soak them in water first and then wrap them around your pans. This helps isolate them for more even baking.

CAKE PANS

I recommend using straight cake pans that don’t fit one into the other. These will create cakes that are easier to layer and decorate.

How To Store

Keep in an air tight resealable plastic bag, container, or jar in a cool dark place.

How long it is good to store for really depends on how old your ingredients are. It should be fine for months though. After that it is still safe to eat but may not bake as well.

Baking Instructions

2 cup hot black coffee (470 millilitre)
1/2 cup oil (120 millilitre)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Place cake mix in a mixing bowl. Add black coffee, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined,

Preheat oven to 350ºF or 175ºC.

Distribute cake batter evenly between two 9-inch round cake pans line with parchment paper. the pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of the chocolate cake comes out clean.

Yield: Single two layer cake

Dairy Free Chocolate Cake Mix

jar filled with dairy free chocolate cake mix on a marble counter

This dairy free chocolate cake mix is easy to put together and great to have on hand!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (210 grams)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch* (30 grams)
  • 2 cups white sugar (395 grams)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (75 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. To a medium size mixing bowl add flour, corn starch, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Whisk together until well combined.
  3. Place in a resealable plastic bag, container, or jar with baking instructions (found above the recipe) attached.
  4. Store in a cool dark place.

Notes

*potato starch or any other kind of starch works just fine here too. It's just that cornstarch seems to be the easiest to find.

Did you make this recipe?

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