Vegan Chocolate Cake With Chocolate-Orange Frosting
This vegan cake recipe doubles down on the classic pairing of chocolate and orange, using the combination in both the crumb and the dairy-free buttercream frosting. It’s a simple dessert but feels fancy enough for a special occasion.
While some vegan cake recipes call for applesauce, flax eggs, or aquafaba for moisture and lift, baking soda and vinegar provide the leavening here, so be sure to get the cake into the oven right after mixing, lest the reaction wears off. Regular ol’ vegetable oil adds the fat, but you could switch it out for melted, cooled coconut oil if preferred. Finally, the cake gets extra sweetness and tang from orange juice concentrate, opening up a world of possibilities: Trade it for passion fruit or lime concentrate, both of which work great with chocolate, to change the flavor.
As for the ganache-like frosting: When this recipe was first published in 2010, Earth Balance was the best vegan option around. Today, you have a world of plant-based butters to choose from. Our favorite for vegan buttercream is Wildbrine, made with cashew cream and coconut oil, but whatever you like to keep around will work.
Want to make a layer cake for a birthday party? The recipe doubles easily. Cupcakes? Yeah, you can portion the batter into a muffin tin (start checking for doneness at around 18 minutes). Need more vegan birthday cake ideas? This sophisticated vegan carrot cake is great for a small crowd, as is this vegan lemon cake with pistachios. For a larger group, you can’t go wrong with a chocolaty vegan cheesecake (that also happens to be gluten-free), but you can also veganize just about any non-vegan dessert with the right tools and ingredients.
Vegan Chocolate Cake
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
cup all-purpose flour
cup whole wheat pastry flour
Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
tsp. baking soda
tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt
cup water, room temperature
cup vegetable oil
cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
tsp. vanilla extract
tsp. distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Vegan chocolate frosting
oz. bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
Tbsp. (3 oz.) vegan butter or margarine, room temperature
cup powdered sugar
Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed, divided
tsp. vanilla extract
large pinch of kosher salt
cup light agave nectar or maple syrup
Vegan Chocolate Cake
Place rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spray 9″ round cake pan with 2″-high sides with nonstick vegetable oil spray. Line pan with parchment paper and spray parchment.
Sift 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup sugar, ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour, 6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp. baking soda, and ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt into a large bowl.
Add ¾ cup water, ⅓ cup vegetable oil, ¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, and 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar to bowl with dry ingredients and whisk to blend. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake cake until toothpick or other tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cake pan to wire rack to cool completely, about 1½ hours. Carefully cut around sides of pan and turn cake upside down onto a serving platter.
Vegan chocolate frosting and assembly
Place 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped in medium heatproof mixing bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir constantly until chocolate is melted and smooth. Carefully transfer bowl to work surface. Cool melted chocolate to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes.
Beat 6 Tbsp. (3 oz.) vegan butter (such as Earth Balance) or margarine, room temperature in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a handheld electric mixer) on medium speed until smooth. Add 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed, ½ tsp. vanilla extract, and 1 large pinch kosher salt and continue beating until smooth. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed, and ¼ cup light agave nectar and beat until blended. Add chocolate in a slow, steady stream, beating until fully incorporated. Let stand until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes, before frosting top and sides of cake. (Frosting will firm up, so don’t let it rest too long before frosting cake.)