First, the Vegan Carrot Cake. Now, We Have the Well-known Chocolate Cake Recipe, Too.

We’ve beforehand secured the beloved vegan carrot cake recipe from baker Patti Dann of the broadly distributed Cafe Indigo model, and VegNews readers ate it up. Dann held onto this straightforward but elusive recipe for 15 years and selected to share it solely with us, however now, we wish seconds. 

After deciding to shut the Cafe Indigo line of wholesale baked items to focus extra on cookbook writing and her grandchildren, Dann was type sufficient to launch her recipes to the world. Many dishes and candy treats from the unique Cafe Indigo restaurant have been recorded in her two books—Easy Vegan Consolation Meals and Vegan Youngsters within the Kitchen—however you possibly can’t discover her mouthwatering chocolate cake anyplace on-line … till now. 


As a observe as much as the favored carrot cake, Dann has shared her moist, tremendous chocolatey vegan cake recipe with us. We’re honored to move it on to you. However earlier than you collect the substances and preheat your oven, preserve studying to study extra in regards to the household historical past behind this cake, baking science, and Dann’s suggestions for making this recipe foolproof. 

Grandma’s chocolate cake

When the Dann household adopted a vegan weight-reduction plan, prompted by teenaged and grownup daughters, Patti went into trial-and-error mode within the kitchen. She experimented and tweaked favourite household recipes to go well with a plant-based life-style, from Reuben sandwiches full of do-it-yourself seitan to the now-legendary carrot cake. As luck would have it, her grandmother’s chocolate cake didn’t want any plant-based changes; it was vegan as-is. 


“By chance vegan” muffins—also called Wacky Truffles or Loopy Truffles—are initially a results of the Despair period. Residence cooks have been challenged as a result of rationing, and conventional cake substances similar to butter, milk, and eggs have been in restricted provide. In occasions of hardship, one adjusts, and Individuals wouldn’t go with out their cake. 

Meals historian Lynn Oliver speculates that Wacky Cake got here from many dwelling baker experimentations. Vinegar was a well-liked ingredient within the late nineteenth century, and bakers used this seminal ingredient to react with baking soda and create elevate, changing the necessity for eggs.

Dann’s grandmother’s chocolate cake recipe is a normal Wacky Cake. “Espresso was thought-about a luxurious, and [Grandmother] would by no means make a pot of espresso for a cake recipe. As a substitute, she used no matter was leftover that day.”

Not all Wacky Truffles name for espresso, however they’re recognized to differ barely between households. Dann’s grandmother wasn’t about to go to any bother to make espresso for a cake, however even leftover espresso helped to accentuate the chocolate taste and remodel a humble dessert into one thing worthy of celebration. 

Dann informed us that she by no means had the chance to bake this cake along with her grandmother, however she emphasised her grandmother “was the definition of unconditional love.” Making this cake was only a small gesture to indicate she cared. 

Dann has modified little or no about this cake. Aside from including a bit extra vanilla and utilizing decaf espresso, Dann’s recipe stays true to the one her grandmother used to make a long time in the past. 

Baking 101: baking science and suggestions for the right cake

Baking is each easy and complicated—anybody can bake, and bake nicely, however they have to perceive that baking is a mix of science, creativity, and (whereas this final half isn’t confirmed) love. In the event you can observe a recipe, you don’t essentially have to know what reacts with what to create elevate or the moisture-absorbing properties of sure flours, however right here at VegNews, we wish to geek out. 

First, let’s discuss cocoa. There are two varieties you’ll almost definitely come throughout on the retailer: Dutch course of and pure. Dutch course of is darker than pure cocoa powder and has a smoother style. At a pH degree of seven or larger, it’s not acidic and doesn’t react with alkaline leaveners like baking soda (a key ingredient in Wacky Cake).


Pure cocoa powder is barely extra bitter and has a pH of 5 to six and reacts nicely with baking soda. For that reason, Dann prefers pure cocoa powder, although she does say you possibly can use Dutch in a pinch. Her favourite pure cocoa powder model is Lake Champlain’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. If it’s your first time baking this cake, we suggest making the recipe as-is. You may experiment later. 

Talking of the recipe, Dann says the most typical mistake she sees novice bakers make is just not studying the recipe in its entirety earlier than beginning to bake. “Because of this, they could miss one thing,” Dann stated. Forgetting so as to add baking soda and even salt would lead to an “attention-grabbing” cake as her grandmother used to say. 

Nonetheless, Dann isn’t one to fault a mistake. “A few of the finest issues I’ve made have been the results of errors,” Dann admitted.

“The factor to recollect is that baking isn’t an actual science; making an attempt new issues and taste combos is half the enjoyable,” Dann stated. 

Vegan chocolate cake variations

Within the US, most traditional, home-baked chocolate cake recipes name for American buttercream frosting—a whipped mixture of butter, powdered sugar, and a flavoring component like cocoa powder, alcohol, or vanilla. We have been intrigued to search out that Dann’s recipe is slathered with a vegan chocolate cream cheese frosting. 

“I used to be in a rush at some point and had further cream cheese frosting from a carrot cake I had simply made and easily added cocoa powder to avoid wasting time. I actually preferred the end result and most popular it to the buttercream frosting. The remainder is historical past,” Dann stated.

Unable to maneuver on from the fascinating matter of frosting, we requested Dann what she thought in regards to the optimum buttercream-to-cake ratio. We have been a bit stunned to find that Dann doesn’t have a lot of a candy tooth, so she prefers a lightweight hand on the subject of frosting. Her husband, nonetheless, enjoys “a pleasant thick layer … 25 % frosting to cake.” 

True to her not-so-sweet tooth, Dann advisable including recent raspberries or strawberries between the layers in lieu of a thick buttercream. She additionally makes a vacation model of this cake by swapping the cream cheese frosting for peppermint frosting and sprinkling the highest layer with crushed sweet canes. “It’s impressed by scorching chocolate with a sweet cane stirred,” Dann defined. 

Now, let’s get baking!


Café Indigo’s Chocolate Cake

What you want:

For the cake:
3 cups flour
⅔ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 cups chilly espresso
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup white vinegar

For the cream cheese frosting:
1 (8-ounce) container vegan cream cheese
½ cup vegan butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
¼ cup cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

What you do:
1. For the cake, preheat oven to 325 levels. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and put aside.

2. Right into a mixing bowl, add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar, and blend. Add oil, espresso, and vanilla, and blend till clean, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar and blend.

3. Between ready pans, evenly divide batter. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes, or till a butter knife inserted comes out clear. Take away from oven and let cool.

4. For the buttercream, in a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter till tender. Add powdered sugar and blend till clean. Add cocoa powder and vanilla, and blend on medium pace for five minutes, or till clean. 

5. Onto a plate, place one layer of cooled cake. Unfold ⅓ of frosting on high. Place second cake on high and frost with remaining frosting. 

For extra on vegan baking, learn:

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