Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake Recipe

This simple, weeknight-friendly cake comes together fast—no fancy equipment required!

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Photograph: Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Acidic ingredients, like coffee and brown sugar, activate the baking soda, giving the cake its rise.
  • Dutch cocoa powder is dark and higher in fat than natural styles, making a rich and flavorful cake.
  • Olive oil can provide the cake with a mild and buttery richness or a bolder pop of flavor, depending on the style.
  • Whole wheat flour lends a subtle nuttiness to the cake, rounding out its flavor.

This quick and easy chocolate cake bakes up light and moist, thanks to a generous dose of olive oil. For a cake that tastes as traditional as they come, try a lighter oil, whose flavor will easily be subsumed by the intensity of Dutch cocoa powder. A bolder olive oil's sharp, peppery notes will shine through, giving the cake a more distinctive flavor profile. Use whichever most appeals to you.

Recipe Facts

Active: About 5 mins
Total: 90 mins
Serves: 8 servings
Makes: 1 cake

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Ingredients

  • 4 ounces light or dark brown sugar (about 1/2 cup, firmly packed; 115g)
  • 1 1/2 ounces high-fat Dutch cocoa (about 1/2 cup; 42g); see our top Dutch cocoa picks for recommendations (see note)
  • Shy 1/2 teaspoon (1.75g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
  • 3/4 teaspoon (4.8g) baking soda
  • 4 1/2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil (about 2/3 cup; 127g)
  • 4 ounces brewed black coffee, or black tea such as Assam (about 1/2 cup; 115g), any temperature
  • 2 large eggs (about 3 1/2 ounces; 100g), straight from the fridge
  • 1/4 ounce vanilla extract (about 1 1/2 teaspoons; 7g)
  • 2 1/2 ounces whole wheat flour, such as Bob's Red Mill (about 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons; 70g)
  • Optional garnishes: powdered sugar, preferably organic (see our explainer on organic powdered sugar for more information), or fresh fruit

Directions

  1. Getting Ready: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Line an 8- by 3-inch anodized aluminum pan with parchment (see our explanation and tutorial on how to cut a parchment round) and grease lightly with pan spray.

  2. For the Cake: In a medium mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, Dutch cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk until homogeneous, with no visible clumps of cocoa or baking soda (although a few lumps of brown sugar may remain), about 1 minute. Under-mixing will give the cake an uneven texture and rise, so don't rush this step.

  3. Whisk in olive oil, brewed coffee, eggs, and vanilla. When mixture is smooth and well emulsified, add whole wheat flour and continue mixing only until combined. Scrape into prepared pan. Bake until cake is firm but your finger can still leave an impression in the puffy crust, about 25 minutes. (A toothpick inserted into the center should come away with a few crumbs still attached.)

  4. Cool cake directly in pan for 1 hour, then run a butter knife around the edges to loosen. Invert onto a wire rack, peel off parchment, and place cake right side up on a serving platter or cake stand. Serve plain, with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, or with fresh fruit.

Special equipment

Whisk, 8- by 3-inch anodized aluminum cake pan

Notes

As the cake's chocolate flavor comes from Dutch cocoa powder alone, it's important to reach for a high-quality brand that's rich in cocoa butter. Steer clear of low-fat supermarket brands, or those that blend natural and Dutch styles.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Wrapped tightly in plastic, the cake will keep for 2 or 3 days at cool room temperature.

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