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Dark and Sumptuous Chocolate Cake

by . Featured in SIMPLY NIGELLA
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Introduction

This cake. It confounds me. It delights me. I never ever thought I would be in raptures about the joyfulness of a – yes – vegan chocolate cake.

I now make this as my chocolate cake of choice for people where dietary restrictions are not an issue, and I don’t even need to explain it’s vegan. No need to offer explanations: you just need to offer the cake. On top of everything else, it’s incredibly simple to make.

My version has coconut oil in the cake, and coconut butter in the icing, but of course you can use vegetable oil in the cake, and vegan margarine for the icing if you prefer.

Both the coconut oil and coconut butter need to stand out of the fridge for a good couple of hours before using. I often take them out the night before, as then they are easier to measure out.

Please check the labelling on the chocolate you buy. It needs, whatever your concerns, to be dark (minimum 70% cocoa solids for my taste), but if you need this to be absolutely dairy-free or vegan, make sure it says so on the packet.

This cake. It confounds me. It delights me. I never ever thought I would be in raptures about the joyfulness of a – yes – vegan chocolate cake.

I now make this as my chocolate cake of choice for people where dietary restrictions are not an issue, and I don’t even need to explain it’s vegan. No need to offer explanations: you just need to offer the cake. On top of everything else, it’s incredibly simple to make.

My version has coconut oil in the cake, and coconut butter in the icing, but of course you can use vegetable oil in the cake, and vegan margarine for the icing if you prefer.

Both the coconut oil and coconut butter need to stand out of the fridge for a good couple of hours before using. I often take them out the night before, as then they are easier to measure out.

Please check the labelling on the chocolate you buy. It needs, whatever your concerns, to be dark (minimum 70% cocoa solids for my taste), but if you need this to be absolutely dairy-free or vegan, make sure it says so on the packet.

Dark and Sumptuous Chocolate Cake
Photo by Keiko Oikawa

Ingredients

Serves: 10-12 slices

Metric Cups

For the Cake

  • 225 grams plain flour
  • 1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1½ teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 75 grams cocoa
  • 300 grams soft dark brown sugar
  • 375 millilitres hot water from a recently boiled kettle
  • 75 grams coconut oil (90ml)
  • 1½ teaspoons cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon edible rose petals
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pistachios

For the Icing

  • 60 millilitres cold water
  • 75 grams coconut butter (this is not the same as oil)
  • 50 grams soft dark sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1½ tablespoons cocoa
  • 150 grams dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids, see Intro), finely chopped

For the Cake

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1½ teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1½ cups soft dark brown sugar
  • 1½ cups hot water from a recently boiled kettle
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil (90ml)
  • 1½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon edible rose petals
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pistachios

For the Icing

  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 5 tablespoons coconut butter (this is not the same as oil)
  • ¼ cup soft dark sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids, see Intro), finely chopped

Method

You will need a 20cm/8in round springform cake tin.

  1. Start with the icing, though first preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F/gas mark 4 and pop in a baking sheet at the same time. Put all of the icing ingredients except the chopped chocolate into a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil, making sure everything’s dissolved. Then turn off the heat – but leave the pan on the hob – then quickly add the finely chopped chocolate and swirl the pan so that it is all underwater, so to speak. Leave for a scant minute, then whisk until you have a darkly glossy icing, and leave to cool. I find this takes exactly the amount of time the cake takes to make, cook and cool. But do give the icing a stir with a spatula every now and again.
  2. Line the bottom of your springform cake tin (you will need a good, leakproof one as this is a very wet batter) with baking parchment.
  3. Put the flour, bicarb, salt and instant espresso and cocoa in a bowl and fork to mix.
  4. Mix together the sugar, water, coconut oil and vinegar until the coconut oil has melted, and stir into the dry ingredients, then pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes. Though do check at the 30-minute mark to see if it is already done.
  5. When it's ready, the cake will be coming away from the edges of the tin and a cake tester will come out clean, apart from a few crumbs. This is a fudgy cake and you don't want to overdo it.
  6. Once the cake is cooked, transfer the tin to a wire rack and let the cake cool in its tin.
  7. Turn to your icing, and give it a good stir with a spatula to check it is at the right consistency. It needs to be runny enough to cover the cake, but thick enough to stay (mostly) on the top. So pour over the unmoulded cake, and use a spatula to ease the icing to the edges, if needed.
  8. If you wish to decorate, now is the time to do it. In which case, sprinkle joyously with rose petals and chopped pistachios or anything else that your heart desires; otherwise, leave it gleaming darkly and, indeed, sumptuously. Leave to stand for 30 minutes for the icing to set before slicing into the cake.

You will need a 20cm/8in round springform cake tin.

  1. Start with the icing, though first preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F/gas mark 4 and pop in a baking sheet at the same time. Put all of the icing ingredients except the chopped chocolate into a heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil, making sure everything’s dissolved. Then turn off the heat – but leave the pan on the hob – then quickly add the finely chopped chocolate and swirl the pan so that it is all underwater, so to speak. Leave for a scant minute, then whisk until you have a darkly glossy icing, and leave to cool. I find this takes exactly the amount of time the cake takes to make, cook and cool. But do give the icing a stir with a spatula every now and again.
  2. Line the bottom of your springform cake tin (you will need a good, leakproof one as this is a very wet batter) with baking parchment.
  3. Put the flour, bicarb, salt and instant espresso and unsweetened cocoa in a bowl and fork to mix.
  4. Mix together the sugar, water, coconut oil and vinegar until the coconut oil has melted, and stir into the dry ingredients, then pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes. Though do check at the 30-minute mark to see if it is already done.
  5. When it's ready, the cake will be coming away from the edges of the tin and a cake tester will come out clean, apart from a few crumbs. This is a fudgy cake and you don't want to overdo it.
  6. Once the cake is cooked, transfer the tin to a wire rack and let the cake cool in its tin.
  7. Turn to your icing, and give it a good stir with a spatula to check it is at the right consistency. It needs to be runny enough to cover the cake, but thick enough to stay (mostly) on the top. So pour over the unmoulded cake, and use a spatula to ease the icing to the edges, if needed.
  8. If you wish to decorate, now is the time to do it. In which case, sprinkle joyously with rose petals and chopped pistachios or anything else that your heart desires; otherwise, leave it gleaming darkly and, indeed, sumptuously. Leave to stand for 30 minutes for the icing to set before slicing into the cake.

Additional Information

FREEZE NOTE: The cake can be made ahead and frozen, without icing. When cool, carefully wrap cake in a double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. To defrost, unwrap and place on a serving plate at room temperature for 3–4 hours.

FREEZE NOTE: The cake can be made ahead and frozen, without icing. When cool, carefully wrap cake in a double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. To defrost, unwrap and place on a serving plate at room temperature for 3–4 hours.

Tell us what you think

What 21 Others have said

  • I’m not a great baker but what I lack in skill I make up for with enthusiasm!! I made this for my baby’s first birthday party as he is allergic to dairy and eggs, just put some brights sprinkles on the top. It turned out perfectly. Was a massive hit with everyone at the party ! The only thing I substituted was the espresso powder for vanilla essence as there were a lot of kids eating it and I thought best avoid the caffeine. I can’t wait to make it again!

    Posted by Happy_Dhabi on 15th June 2018
  • We really enjoyed this rich, dark cake. I made my own coconut butter for the icing by placing 3.5 cups of unsweetened coconut flakes into the bowl of a Cuisinart and processing it for about ten minutes; this yielded just enough coconut butter for this recipe. I did have some trouble cooking the icing, though: it seized up and formed clumps and the oil separated out. I fixed it by beating in some boiling water by the teaspoonful until the icing became smooth again. Apart from the glitch with the icing, this was a fast, easy recipe and it made a delicious, beautiful cake.

    Posted by Coecoe on 13th June 2018
  • Baked this yesterday, it is absolutely delicious. Minor issue with the oil splitting from the ganache, but the electric whisk soon sorted that. I will most certainly be baking it again.

    Posted by JaredA on 9th April 2018
  • I made this in the build up to Easter. The cake is Divine but unfortunately while making my icing the chocolate seized and only by adding whisked egg whites to the oily blob did I manage to resurrect my icing into a more chocolate mousse consistency. It still looked and tasted wonderful.

    Posted by BunnyMayfair on 1st April 2018
  • Thank you Nigella, this is the best chocolate cake ever. I substituted 120 ml water with two eggs as I am not vegan. It was subliminal!

    Posted by Majditta on 26th January 2018
  • This cake fills me with delight too Nigella - it's beautiful! This will be my go to recipe whenever I need cake in a hurry. It has such a deep chocolate flavour - that icing is divine! I couldn't find coconut butter so used dairy free margarine.

    Posted by Nickki on 30th September 2017
  • I made this yesterday for my boyfriend's birthday and it turned out amazing. We loved it. So easy to make. A wonderful recipe, going to come back to this a lot! Simply marvelous!

    Posted by theclevernamesweretaken on 16th September 2017
  • I've made this cake a few times for my vegan daughter and I'm amazed at how well it's turned out each time. It rises well and tastes so chocolatey, everyone loves it. The icing is also great but I make double as we smother the cake in it!

    Posted by TerriB on 27th July 2017
  • Have made 3 times making a sandwitch cake with strawberry slices and glaze in the middle and raspberries around the bottom. With glaze on top again.

    Posted by rilley on 13th October 2016
  • This is fantastic cake! I used a gluten free plain flour instead which seemed to work just fine.

    Posted by pragmatic on 13th September 2016
  • This is my favorite chocolate cake of all time. Once I turned it into a black forest cake by adding cherries and omg it was sooo good hubby and I ate the entire cake in one day.

    Posted by Kiraz on 23rd July 2016
  • This is simply divine! The only trouble I have is with the icing. It got a bit grainy. However, leaving the cake in the fridge with the beautiful toppings camouflaged the icing boo boo! =) Thanks for this wonderful recipe!

    Posted by hengrumay on 27th June 2016
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