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Dairy Free Chocolate Cake

This dairy free chocolate cake is made with oil it’s amazingly moist. This one bowl fairy free cake recipe couldn’t be easier. Serve as a dessert or as a birthday cake.

a slice of chocolate cake with a whole chocolate cake in the background

Chocolate cake is an essential part of baking in the United States and has been for well over a century.  I cannot remember the last time a birthday in my family was not celebrated with a chocolate cake that was either bought or made.

Birthday cakes aren’t very popular in Israel so my Mom and I have taken to making the cakes ourselves.  It turns out that they are actually pretty easy to make!

Don’t forget to checkout these other dairy free desserts!

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

20% of all profits are donated to a women’s shelter to support the fight against domestic violence.

What you need

Dry measuring cups and spoons
Liquid measuring cup
Whisk
Rubber spatula
Mixing bowl
Parchment paper
Two 9-inch round cake pans
Two baking strips
Bread knife

History

In case you were wondering, celebrating birthdays with cakes stems back to ancient Rome. A flat circular cakes made from flour and nuts, leavened with yeast, and sweetened with honey was served at weddings and special birthdays.

In the 1400s bakeries in Germany started to market one-layer cakes for customers’ birthdays. These birthday cakes, and even wedding cakes, were pretty simple. 

It wasn’t until 200 years later that birthday cake made more elaborate with multiple layers, icing, and decorations. However, these cakes were only available to the very wealthy until the industrial revolution.

Chocolate cake however, did not become a thing, This is because chocolate was very expensive and exclusive luxury afforded by the wealthy.

However, when they figured out how to make powdered cocoa it transformed chocolate into an inexpensive daily snack. 

Then, about 50 years later, Rodolphe Lindt, as in Lindt chocolates, created process for making silkier and smoother chocolate called which made it easier to bake.  

Still, chocolate was mostly used for hot chocolate drinks and as fillings and glazes for cakes. It was only in 1886 that American cooks began adding chocolate to the cake batter creating chocolate cake.

The recipe in print for Devil’s food cake was as early as 1905.  Devil’s food cake is a chocolate cake that gets its name because it is considered a counterpart to angel food cake which is  the white.

There really is no strict way to depreciate Devil’s food cake from regular chocolate cake though some say it calls for more chocolate.

Why use coffee?

Coffee really brings out the chocolate flavor in baked goods. In fact, when I was making my chocolate muffins, their flavor tasted flat until I added coffee to the recipe.

There are two reasons for this: First, coffee helps enrich the chocolate flavor.  Second, the heat from the water helps bloom the cocoa. 

Do you taste the coffee?

No.  The coffee is just enough to really bring out the rich chocolate flavor but not enough to taste like mocha.

How to Make Black Coffee

Usually it is 1 teaspoon of instant coffee per cup of hot water.

Can Children have this since there is coffee in it?

All over the world children generally do not have coffee because it isn’t good for them.  Oddly, they are allowed to have soda drinks and energy drinks which is worse, but that is another topic.

In the case of this recipe, the small amount of coffee as part of a whole cake is not enough to be harmful. 

However, if you still would like to leave it out, you can simply use two cups of hot water instead.

Can I use dairy free milk instead?

I think coffee is the best option for chocolate baked recipes but if you don’t want it, it’s not a must.  Instead, you can use oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or any milk you want and even orange juice is an option.

Also, if you want you can use your preferred milk and then add the dry coffee instead of using black coffee.  Or you can do one cup of milk and one cup of black coffee if desired.

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’s cheaper and most people have it on hand.

HOW TO SUBSTITUTE ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR FOR CAKE FLOUR

First, you can ignore any place that calls for cake flour and use all-purpose flour at a 1:1 conversion rate.  I do this all the time.

The results will be a little less than perfect, but not very noticeable.

How to make your own cake flour

You can do this by removing two tablespoons for every cup of flour.  Then replace the same two tablespoons with corn or potato starch. 

Doing this will remove enough protein to create a lighter cake.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 needed 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, whereas 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, next 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.

WHY SIFT FLOUR and Other Powder Ingredients

There are a number of benefits to sifting flour and other ingredients like cocoa ingredients: 

It removes any unwanted debris and you can get a more accurate measurement than when packed tight in a bag. 

It also removes any lumps that can get into the batter and be hard to break up later, or be missed altogether before baking.

If you sift the powdered ingredients together, it helps combine them and mix more evenly with other dry ingredients like sugar.

Why use coffee?

Coffee really brings out the chocolate flavor in baked goods. In fact, when I was making my chocolate muffins, their flavor tasted flat until I added coffee to the recipe.

There are two reasons for this: First, coffee helps enrich the chocolate flavor.  Second, the heat from the water helps bloom the cocoa. 

Do you taste the coffee?

No.  The coffee is just enough to really bring out the rich chocolate flavor but not enough to taste like mocha.

How to Make Black Coffee

Usually it is 1 teaspoon of instant coffee per cup of hot water.

Can Children have this since there is coffee in it?

All over the world children generally do not have coffee because it isn’t good for them.  Oddly, they are allowed to have soda drinks and energy drinks which is worse, but that is another topic.

In the case of this recipe, the small amount of coffee as part of a whole cake is not enough to be harmful. 

However, if you still would like to leave it out, you can simply use two cups of hot water instead.

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.

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.

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.

Gluten Free

For a great gluten free cake check out my Passover chocolate cake that is made using all potato starch. You can easily replace the potato starch with gluten free corn starch as well.

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.

Make ahead of time

You can create the cake ahead of time and wrap the unfrosted cake layers tightly in plastic wrap. Then place them in a resealable plastic bag and store on the kitchen counter at room temperature for up to five days.

If you need to keep a unfrosted layers longer than that, freeze them for up to 3 months. When ready to thaw transfer the cake to the refrigerator one day before decorating and serving.

HOW TO STORE

Store a cake in a cake box. You can store it at room temperature for 2 to 3 days or for about 1 week in the fridge.

How to Freeze

Let the baked cake layers cool completely. Wrap each cake layer well with two layers of plastic wrap followed by a layer foil.

Put each layer into a freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months. After that, the cake is still safe to eat but the quality begins to degrade.

To defrost, remove layers of aluminium foil and plastic wrap, and stand at room temperature for 2-3 hours.

Yield: 24 slices

Dairy Free Chocolate Cake

a slice of chocolate cake with a whole chocolate cake in the background

This is a one bowl recipe for light and moist dairy free chocolate cake.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (255 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
  • 2 cup hot black coffee (470 millilitre)
  • 1/2 cup oil (120 millilitre)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Frosting

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Add black coffee, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. It should look very thin and liquidy.
  3. Preheat oven to 350ºF or 175ºC.
  4. Line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Distribute cake batter evenly between the pans.
  5. Wrap a wet baking strips around each pan for flatter cakes if desired. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of the chocolate cake comes out clean.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes. Then carefully run a knife around the edge of the pans to release the cakes. Remove from the pan and cool completely on a cooling rack.
  7. Use a bread knife to level cakes. Frost with dairy free chocolate frosting.

Notes

For this picture I made a 1 and a half recipe to make a three tier cake.

Recommended Products

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

24

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 161Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 214mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 1gSugar: 17gProtein: 2g

Calorie count does not include frosting

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

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Linda

Sunday 27th of September 2020

Thanks for this easy and delicious recipe! It makes lots of cupcakes. I love that I don’t have to get my mixer out to cream anything, easy to mix, easy to clean up with one bowl. Definitely a keeper! Yum!

ElissaBeth

Tuesday 29th of September 2020

You're welcome! I'm happy to hear you enjoyed them so much :)

Nicole Mushore

Thursday 3rd of September 2020

This recipe was amazing l made cupcakes instead of cake wow they wer very moist and fluffy... 😋

ElissaBeth

Friday 4th of September 2020

I'm glad you liked them so much :)

Elizabeth

Wednesday 2nd of September 2020

Have you ever made this with gluten free flour?

ElissaBeth

Thursday 3rd of September 2020

No, never, sorry...

Maureen

Saturday 29th of August 2020

I made this recipe for a birthday cake. I used 1 cup of Ghiradrdelli Premium Cocoa Powder - Majestic, and for the hot coffee, I used a total of 2 teaspoons of instant coffee in two cups of hot water. I did not notice a flavor of coffee at all in the cake. I followed all other ingredients as stated. I baked it for 30 minutes exactly in two square 9 inch pans. I did buy the baking strips as suggested but they didn't fit the pans so I eliminate them. This cake was delicious. It was so moist, especially the second day. I made a second batch in order to have a third layer. The frosting was also good but in my case, was more like a glaze which I liked. I would recommend this recipe and say don't worry about making it a day ahead as it will be even better that way. Thanks for the recipe.

ElissaBeth

Sunday 30th of August 2020

I'm very glad to hear you enjoyed the cake so much :) Thanks for your comment!

Marlies

Sunday 23rd of August 2020

I made this cake yesterday for my son's birthday. This cake was moist, had a fine crumb, and good chocolate flavor. However, during baking they shrank around the sides of the pans and baked into a big dome in the middle of the cakes. They didn't stack well into a layer cake. Why did this happen? Maybe I shouldn't grease the sides of the pans? Would the wet strips help?

ElissaBeth

Monday 24th of August 2020

This naturally happens if you don't use the wet cake strips like I recommend using. The simple fix is cutting off the top evenly, flipping it up side down on a plate, and frosting the non-crummy part. Even with the strips you'll likely have to cut off a little to make it really even... but a lot less and I've seen cakes that got away with not cutting anything off when using the strips.

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