For anyone who knows me, it’s no surprise that my absolute favorite dessert of choice is a hearty slice of deep, dark, chocolatey layer cake. I admit it: I’m a choco-holic. And while chocolate cake may be a relatively recent dessert favorite (it used to be brownies, and before that it was double chocolate chip cookies) the super chocolatey part was always there.
So where does the vegan part come in? Ah yes. I recently took a food sensitivity test and was (slightly) horrified to learn that I was highly sensitive to common foods, of which included eggs, soy, dairy, lettuce, tomatoes… etc. Awkward list but here’s the bit that bothered me: eggs and butter are the staples to most of the sweets I create. What’s a chocoholic cake-person like me to do? Answer: Take on a challenge and make a vegan version, of course!
So that’s just what I did! Three layers of flavorful dark chocolate cake, married together with a creamy vegan whipped ganache frosting, featuring coconut milk. Those hazelnuts on top are just a bonus, because (1) I thought it looked prettier that way and, (2) I also LOVE hazelnut and chocolate together.
And for those of you skeptics, I promise you that this has got to be one of THE BEST chocolate cakes I have personally tasted, and quite possibly THE BEST chocolate cakes in NYC*. It’s perfectly moist, has just the right amount of sponginess, and is undeniably decadent in all the right ways. Vegan or not, you wouldn’t know the difference—I brought this cake to a backyard BBQ, and it was gone in minutes with rave reviews!
* Seriously though, I am still on the hunt for a good chocolate cake in Manhattan—and I mean cake-cake, not the flourless or molten-lava or tart “cakes”, but a true chocolate layer cake! So.. if you can send over some recommendations, I’d be happy to receive them!
Here’s to happy baking, and not letting dietary restrictions taking the fun out of dessert! And let me know what you think!
- 2 1/8 C flour
- 1 1/3 C granulated sugar (organic cane)
- 1 C Hersey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder (Natural + Dutch process combo)
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 C diary-free milk (almond, coconut, soy)
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/4 C unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 C boiling water
- 1/2 tsp espresso powder
- 2/3 C oil (canola, melted coconut, grape seed)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 10 oz chopped dark chocolate, dairy free
- 1/2 C coconut milk, full-fat
- (Optional) chopped hazelnuts
- Preheat oven to 350F, and prep three 8-inch round cake pans (I line the bottom with parchment paper, then dust the outer rim with oil and cocoa powder).
- In a small bowl, whisk apple cider vinegar into almond milk and let sit for few minutes to curdle.
- In a medium size bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder) and set aside.
- In a larger bowl, whisk together espresso powder and boiling water until powder has dissolved. Stir in curdled milk, applesauce, oil, and vanilla extract.
- In thirds, gradually add in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and beat (with electric or stand mixer) or stir until well incorporated; no powdery chunks should be present!
- Divide mixture into three prepared cake rounds and bake for 18-23 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, or center springs back when gently touched.
- Remove from oven and let cakes cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to fully cool on a rack. If desired, remove any doming from the cakes when completely cooled with a serrated edge.
- In a stand mixer bowl or similar, place chopped chocolate chunks.
- Heat coconut milk to simmering on stovetop or microwave oven (I use the microwave: 45s, followed by 15s intervals until slightly bubbling) then pour over chocolate chunks in mixing bowl. Let sit for few minutes.
- Stir together the coconut milk and chocolate until a smooth, uniform ganache forms. Let sit in refrigerator covered until stiffened.
- Using stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat on medium speed, to medium-high, to high for a few minutes until fluffy and creamy.
- When cakes are COMPLETELY cool, place one of the "topped" cakes on a stand or cardboard round, and generously top and cover with an evenly distributed layer of whipped ganache.
- Place another "topped" cake on the completed whipped ganache layer and repeat by generously covering cake with an evenly distributed layer of whipped ganache.
- Repeat once more for last layer.
- Use remaining whipped ganache to conservatively cover the sides of the cake for a "naked" look. Or generously apply for a more traditional coat.
- (Optionally) Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts on top for extra crunch and texture, or add different toppings to personalize!
- Cut, serve, and enjoy!
- For a slightly thicker 2-layer cake, bake in two 8-inch rounds for 25-30 minutes.