By Team Dirty
Dec 29, 2018,
One common misconception about eating a plant based diet is that you can’t have dessert. This isn’t even a little bit true. We have lots of delicious dessert recipes on our blog and in our member portal, but none is more beloved than this oil-free Whole Food Plant Based Chocolate Cake and Chocolate Frosting.
Our members have raved about this cake for years. One Facebook user says she makes it for friends or co-workers whenever she needs a self-esteem boost—the compliments just roll in. It’s rich and fudgy without being overwhelmingly sweet, plus it’s simple to make and there are no fiddly layers to mess with.
Plant Based Chocolate Cake & Creamy Frosting ingredients
Let’s break down what’s inside.
For the chocolate cake
Dried dates: these beauties provide rich sweetness without refined sugar, plus they come packaged with fiber which helps prevent your blood sugar from spiking.
Ground flax seeds: ground flax seeds absorb and retain large amounts of water and become gelatinous when soaked. These qualities make them a fantastic egg substitute in baked goods. The soaked flax seeds (aka “flax egg”) help bind dry ingredients together.
Balsamic vinegar: mixing vinegar with non-dairy milk raises the acidity of the milk, which helps break down some of the gluten in baked goods, keeping your cake moist and pleasantly textured. By using balsamic vinegar, we’re taking advantage of its malty, rich flavor, as well.
Whole wheat pastry flour: pastry flour is made from soft winter wheat and contains less protein than all purpose flour, creating a tighter, denser textured cake. Wheat flours are often bleached, bromated, and stripped of almost all nutritional value. However, whole wheat is less processed and also has the benefit of a pleasant nutty flavor.
Coconut sugar: this sugar is less processed than refined cane sugar and it has more fiber, to boot.
Pumpkin puree: ok, hear us out on this one. No, it doesn’t make the cake taste like a fall-themed latte from a certain global coffee chain. What it does do is provide moisture and help bind the cake together.
For the creamy chocolate frosting
Cashews: we’re firm believers that cashews are magic. They are a plant based swiss army knife ingredient. Their mellow flavor and high fat content make your chocolate frosting luscious. Fat is an important element for a smooth mouthfeel and cashews provide plenty.
Coconut milk: the fat is key here, as well—making your frosting silky smooth without being overwhelmingly coconut-flavored.
Let’s make this plant based chocolate cake!
First, we bake
Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and get your dates soaking. In another small bowl, measure out your flax seeds and add the ⅔ cup water. Stir to blend and set aside for about 10 minutes to hydrate. Then, place the non-dairy milk and balsamic vinegar in another small bowl and stir. Set aside for now.
While everything is soaking, hydrating, and setting, cut a piece of parchment paper into a circle to fit the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan. You can use the bottom of the cake pan to trace a circle on your parchment paper and cut it out just inside the line. No need to line the sides of your cake pan as the cake will pull away from the sides as it bakes.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. By using a whisk to blend and aerate the dry ingredients, we avoid the need for a sifter. Use the time you saved to find a good song and have a short dance break. We’ll wait.
After your dates have soaked, drain and discard the soaking water and put them in your blender. Stir your flax/water mixture and add it to the blender as well as the non-dairy milk/balsamic vinegar mixture and the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and vanilla. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.
Use a rubber spatula to scrape everything out of the blender and into the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir until blended.
Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a spoon so it’s level.
Bake for 30–35 minutes. While the cake is baking, make your frosting.
To check your cake for doneness, insert a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean and the sides of the cake have pulled away from the edges of the pan, you’re good to go.
Set your cake on the counter and cool completely before frosting. If you try to frost the cake while it’s warm, the frosting will melt and slide right off. This ain’t that kind of party.
When you’re ready to remove your cake from the pan, slide a butter knife around the edge between the sides of the cake and the pan. Place a large plate upside down on top of the pan, keep one hand on top of the plate and the other on the bottom of the pan and flip so the plate is on the bottom and the pan is on the top. The cake should slide out of the pan and onto the plate. Carefully pull off the parchment paper.
Make the creamy frosting
Place the cashews and dates in a small saucepan over high heat and cover with water. Bring to a boil then turn the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and discard the water, then place the cashews and dates into your food processor. We’re simmering these ingredients rather than soaking so they break down and become extra silky-smooth when we process them.
Add the cocoa powder, coconut milk, maple syrup, coconut sugar, almond butter, and vanilla extract to your food processor. Process on high until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides.
You may need to process a while to achieve a smooth frosting. However, if your food processor isn’t cutting it and you have a high-powered blender, you can add a bit more coconut milk and blend until smooth. Take it slowly, though. The extra liquid will allow your frosting to blend well, but if you add too much, you’ll have chocolate sauce, not frosting.
Once your frosting is smooth and creamy, set it aside until your cake is ready to frost.
If you’re not planning to finish your cake for several hours or more and you need to store your frosting in the fridge, be sure to take it out and allow it to come to room temperature before frosting your cake. The coconut milk will become too firm to spread in the cold air of the fridge.
Time to frost this sweet thang
Frost your cooled cake by dropping large spoonfuls of frosting on the top of the cake and using a rubber spatula, a large butter knife, or a cake spatula to spread it evenly in circular motions over the top of the cake, working your way from the center to the edge. Once you reach the edge, push the extra frosting over the sides. Then, with your spatula held vertically against the sides of the cake, smooth the frosting evenly around the sides.
Pro-tips: if the top of your cake is uneven or domed, use a serrated knife held horizontally to trim any extra tall bits from the top, then flip your cake and frost it bottom side up. Or use a long width of dental floss to cut back and forth slowly and level the top of the cake (then you can grab a spoonful of frosting and sprinkle your cake trimmings on top—you’ve earned it!). The flat top will look neat as a pin.
Yield and storage
Store your Whole Food Plant Based Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting in the fridge covered loosely or on a lidded cake plate. Tip: if you place a few toothpicks sticking up around the cake, you can cover it with plastic wrap, and it won’t stick to the frosting.
This recipe makes one 8-inch round cake and about 1½ cups of frosting. Any leftover frosting can be served with fruit or spread on toast. Think Nutella.
If you only have a 9-inch round pan, you can use that, but your cake will be a little thinner and it may bake a bit faster. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn or dry out.
Make it gluten-free
If you avoid gluten, you can still enjoy this Dirty favorite. Be sure your packaged products specify gluten-free processing and substitute the whole wheat pastry flour with gluten-free flour in equal amounts. We like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour.
Serve with flair
We’ve seen some of our members serve this cake with a variety of sliced fruit, nuts, and even homemade fruit compote. We particularly like topping this cake with sliced fresh strawberries and lightly toasted chopped pistachios.
Have you made this Whole Food Plant Based Chocolate Cake with Creamy Chocolate Frosting? Let us know if it lived up to the hype in the comments below.
Plant Based Chocolate Cake Ingredients
- ½ cup dried pitted dates, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes (about 7-8 large dates, we like Medjool / 130 g)
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds (AKA flax meal)
- ⅔ cup water (160 ml)
- ½ cup unsweetened, non-dairy milk (120 ml)
- ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (120 g / for gluten-free, sub with Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour)
- ½ cup coconut sugar (75 g)
- ½ cup cocoa powder (45 g)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup 100% pure pumpkin puree (canned) (60 g / store the leftovers in your freezer)
- 2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
Creamy Chocolate Frosting Ingredients
- 1 cup raw cashews (130 g)
- 2 large pitted dates (we like Medjool)
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (45 g)
- ⅓ cup full fat canned coconut milk (80 ml)
- ¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup (60 ml)
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and get your dates soaking.
- While your dates are soaking, place the water and the ground flax in a small bowl and whisk. Set aside. Place the non-dairy milk and vinegar in a separate small bowl and whisk. Set aside for now.
- Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit exactly into the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan. No need to line the sides, the cake will pull away as it bakes.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- Drain the dates (discard the soaking water) and place them in your blender. Stir the water/flax mixture then add it to the blender, along with the non-dairy milk/vinegar mixture, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and vanilla. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.
- Add the wet mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients that you set aside earlier. Whisk until blended. Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a spoon so it's level.
- Bake for 30–35 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the center of the cake comes out clean and the sides have pulled away from the edges of the pan.
- Cool completely. Make your frosting.
Creamy Chocolate Frosting
- Place the cashews and dates in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Then, simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Drain and discard the water, then place the cashews and dates into your food processor.
- Add the cocoa powder, coconut milk, maple syrup, coconut sugar, almond butter, and vanilla extract. Process until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.
- Frost your cooled cake with room temperature frosting.
- Store the frosted cake in your fridge, loosely covered. See tips on this above.
If you’re looking for more recipes like this to satisfy your sweet tooth, you’ll love our Plant Fueled Life Membership. We have tons of tried-and-true plant based cake & desserts recipes ready for you. We’re all about loving the desert that loves you back!
May you always have your cake and eat it, too.
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