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This is the BEST dairy free chocolate cake ever! It's moist, fluffy, with rich chocolate flavor and a fudgy chocolate buttercream. It's the perfect dairy free cake recipe that will keep you coming back for more!
Do you remember the cake from the movie Matilda? Arguably one of the best looking chocolate cakes ever. Well, this dairy free chocolate cake tastes how I imagine the cake from that movie tasted. Decadent and rich and incredibly hard to stop eating! I'm not ashamed to admit I sometimes just sit in front of the entire cake and go at it with a fork (and no, I am not kidding!).
Seriously, this is the only chocolate cake recipe you'll need. It's a perfect go-to dairy free cake recipe for weddings, birthdays, holidays, or any other occasion! You can decorate it however you like, and I promise no one will ever know it's dairy free!
Why This Dairy Free Chocolate Cake Works
- You can easily adapt this recipe to fit different pan sizes (instructions are further down in the post).
- This cake pairs perfectly with just about any type of frosting!
- The recipe uses oil instead of butter to create the ultimate light and fluffy texture.
- Did I mention how easy it is to make? Seriously - one bowl and no mixer required for the cake!
- Dairy free milk: My preferred dairy free milk for making cakes and cupcakes is unsweetened soy milk, but you can use any dairy free milk you'd like!
- Hot water: hot water helps dissolve the cocoa powder and causes it to "bloom", which basically means it brings out a ton of chocolate flavor! The water doesn't have to be boiling, it can just be hot tap water.
- Oil: this cake uses canola oil instead of butter which is key to a fluffy, light crumb and makes the cake stay moist for days. You can also use sunflower oil or other neutral vegetable oil.
- Vegetable Shortening: I always use shortening in my buttercream recipes. It makes the buttercream more firm and easy to frost or pipe the cake with. You can replace this with dairy free butter but the buttercream may not hold it's shape quite as well as it would with shortnening.
- Cocoa powder: I recommend using dutch processed cocoa powder and measuring it with a kitchen scale to ensure you don't use too much. Over-measuring your cocoa powder (or flour) will lead to a dry cake.
- Flour: This recipe uses all-purpose flour, and the best way to achieve a perfect chocolate cake every time is to properly measure your flour using a kitchen scale. You can use white whole wheat flour as well but the cake will be a bit more dense than the all purpose flour version!
Step By Step Instructions
Note: Full ingredient measurements and instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this page.
STEP ONE: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two 8 inch round cake pans. Spray the inside with cooking spray, then cut round pieces of parchment paper so that they fit in the bottom of each pan. Set aside.
STEP TWO: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
STEP THREE: Mix in the eggs, vanilla, and oil, then add the milk. Pour in the hot water and whisk until smooth.
STEP FOUR: Divide the batter between the cake pans and bake for 20-26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans then remove them from the pans upside down onto a cooling rack.
STEP FIVE: Make the buttercream by mixing the butter and shortening together until smooth. Add in the cocoa powder, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, and salt. Add milk to thin out the buttercream if needed. Place the buttercream in the fridge then assemble the cake once the cakes have cooled completely.
FAQS and Expert Tips
If your cake is dense or dry, you either over-mixed the batter, or over-measured your flour. If you made ingredient substitutions, the texture of the cake will be affected by that as well. The recipe works best when followed as written.
Yes! This recipe will make 24 cupcakes.
Yes. To make this into a sheet cake, you can pour the batter into the prepared 9x13 pan and bake for around 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
You will only need around half of the amount of buttercream if making this recipe as a sheet cake.
Yep! The cake layers will be slightly thinner if baked in 9 inch pans and the cakes will bake quicker so I would start checking on them around 16 minutes.
Absolutely! I find it's easiest to just divide the batter between three cake pans (you'll have thinner cake layers). You can also just multiply the ingredients in the recipe by 1.5.
If you have a sensitivity to eggs or follow a vegan diet, check out this vegan chocolate cake instead! You can double the recipe and divide the batter between two 8 inch cake pans.
Absolutely! Simply swap out the dairy free milk for regular milk.
I haven't tested this cake with gluten free flour, so I can't say for sure how it will turn out. If you want to try it, I would suggest using all purpose gluten free 1-1 baking flour, which I think would work well.
- Number one tip: properly measure your flour! The cake texture will not be as light and fluffy and the cake could turn out dry if you over-measure your flour. I recommend a $10 kitchen scale to weigh your flour or fluff up the flour in the bag, scoop it into the measuring cup using a spoon, then level it off.
- Do not over-mix! This can lead to a dense cake texture. The cake batter only needs to be mixed until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.
- Check on the cakes early to make sure that they are not over-baked (over-baking will lead to dry cake).
- Don't skip the parchment paper lining at the bottom of the pan! My cakes always used to stick to the pan or break when they came out until I started lining the bottom with parchment paper.
- Let the cakes cool for at least 20 minutes in the pan before trying to remove them. Run a butter knife around the outside of the cake before flipping it upside down onto the cooling rack.
- Adjust the amount of powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar) or add milk to achieve the perfect buttercream consistency. If the buttercream seems to thin, add a bit more powdered sugar (¼ cup at a time). If it seems too thick, add in dairy free milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until your desired consistency is reached.
Storage and Freezing Instructions
The cake can be stored covered at room temperature for 3-4 days. I store mine in a cake carrier.
When possible, wait until close to the time you want to serve the cake to frost it.
To freeze the cake layers, let them cool completely, then tightly wrap them in plastic wrap, then aluminium foil. Freeze in ziploc bags for up to 3 months, then let them thaw at room temperature.
Leftover buttercream can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw it in the fridge then mix it up using a handheld or standing mixer before using it.
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Dairy Free Chocolate Cake
Dairy Free Chocolate Cake
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup water, hot
- ½ cup canola oil (or sunflower oil)
- ½ cup dairy free milk of choice (I use unsweetened soy milk)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare two 8 inch round cake pans. Spray the inside with cooking spray, then cut round pieces of parchment paper so that they fit in the bottom of each pan (do not skip the parchment paper lining!)
- Whisk flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda together in a large bowl.
- Add in the eggs, vanilla, oil, and milk. Pour in the hot water and mix until smooth.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20-26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then run a butter knife around the outside of the cake to loosen it from the pan and flip upside down onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Make the buttercream. In the bowl of a standing mixer or handheld mixer, beat vegan butter and vegetable shortening together until combined. Beat in the cocoa powder until smooth.
- Add in the vanilla extract, then add the icing sugar, ¼ cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. If the buttercream is too thick, add in milk 1 tablespoon at a time to thin it out to the consistency you want. If it's too thin, add in more confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar) ¼ cup at a time.
- Once the cakes have cooled completely, frost them and enjoy!
The calorie information provided for this recipe is an estimate. The accuracy of the calories listed is not guaranteed.