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

6 min read

Final October, we 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 completely 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 variety 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 wherever on-line … till now. 

As a comply with as much as the favored carrot cake, Dann has shared her moist, tremendous chocolatey vegan cake recipe with us. We’re honored to go it on to you. However earlier than you collect the substances and preheat your oven, maintain studying to study extra concerning the household historical past behind this cake, baking science, and Dann’s ideas 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 swimsuit a plant-based life-style, from Reuben sandwiches filled with home made 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 referred to as Wacky Truffles or Loopy Truffles—are initially a results of the Melancholy period. Dwelling cooks had been challenged as a result of rationing, and conventional cake substances similar to butter, milk, and eggs had been in restricted provide. In instances 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 house baker experimentations. Vinegar was a preferred 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 regular Wacky Cake. “Espresso was thought of 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,” Dann even wrote within the headnotes. Not all Wacky Truffles name for espresso, however they’re identified for various 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 advised 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. Apart 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 ideas for the proper cake

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


First, let’s speak cocoa. There are two varieties you’ll almost certainly 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 stage 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 may 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 advocate making the recipe as-is. You possibly can experiment later. 

Talking of the recipe, Dann says the most typical mistake she sees novice bakers make shouldn’t be studying the recipe in its entirety earlier than beginning to bake. “In consequence, they could miss one thing,” Dann mentioned. Forgetting so as to add baking soda and even salt would lead to an “fascinating” cake as her grandmother used to say. 

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

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

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 ingredient like cocoa powder, alcohol, or vanilla. We had 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 in the future and had further cream cheese frosting from a carrot cake I had simply made and easily added cocoa powder to save lots of time. I actually appreciated the outcome and most popular it to the buttercream frosting. The remaining is historical past,” Dann mentioned.

Unable to maneuver on from the fascinating matter of frosting, we requested Dann what she thought concerning the optimum buttercream-to-cake ratio. We had been a bit shocked to find that Dann doesn’t have a lot of a candy tooth, so she prefers a lightweight hand in relation to frosting. Her husband, nevertheless, 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 sizzling chocolate with a sweet cane stirred,” Dann defined. 

Let’s get baking. See the recipe for Patti Dann’s Vegan Chocolate Cake under.

Café Indigo’s Chocolate Cake

What you want:


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

For the cream cheese frosting:
1 (8-ounce) container vegan cream cheese
8 tablespoons vegan butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

What you do:

1. For the cake, preheat oven to 325. Line 2 9” cake pans with parchment paper and put aside.

2. Place dry substances in mixing bowl, add oil, espresso, and vanilla (a little bit at a time to maintain it from splashing throughout you) Combine till clean, about 5 minutes.

3. Add vinegar final and blend for 1-2 minutes—batter will develop into lighter in coloration and you will note bubbles forming.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Instantly put the pans within the oven and bake at 325 for 45-50 minutes or till toothpick comes out clear.

5. Make the buttercream. In a stand mixer, combine the cream cheese till blended. Add the powdered sugar and blend till clean. Add the cocoa powder (I like to recommend utilizing a sifter) and vanilla and blend on medium for about 5 minutes till clean. 

6. Place the cooled cake on a plate. Unfold ⅓ of the frosting on the cake. Put the second cake on prime and frost with the remaining frosting. Share with pals.

For extra on vegan desserts, learn:

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