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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! If you're a chocolate lover, you'll also love this dairy free chocolate orange cake or this vegan Oreo cake!
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
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.
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.
More Cake Recipes You'll Love
If you make this recipe, let me know how it went in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you! You can also tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can check it out!
Dairy Free Chocolate Cake
- Handheld or Standing Mixer
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
Dairy Free Chocolate Buttercream
- 1 cup vegan butter
- ½ cup vegetable shortening OR vegan butter (SEE NOTES)
- 1 ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 2¾-3 cup icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoon dairy free milk of choice (as needed)
- 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.
Please can I use normal milk instead of dairy free
Yes you can use regular milk, this recipe has been tested both ways. Enjoy!
Okay thank you very much ?? off I go to make mine
Please can I use liquid milk
Please I need the reply as soon as possible
Could this be made as a vanilla cake? Would there be any substitutions for leaving out the cocoa?
Hi Elly - this unfortunately can't be made as a vanilla cake. Replacing the cocoa powder with flour won't work, but you can check out my mini vanilla cake recipe or my vanilla cupcakes and adjust those to make them into a cake!
Can you please tell me what "icing sugar" is? Is this powdered sugar? Thank you.
yes, powdered sugar/confectioner's sugar!
Is this the cake from Matilda? omg so good
Hi Sarah! Lol I like to think so! So happy you loved the cake 😀
Amazing!!! Used vegan butter and oat milk for the recipe. This cake is the best cake I’ve ever had (including ones with dairy)!!
Hi Christina! YAY! This is so great to hear! This is my favorite cake ever too!! Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and leave a review 😀
First time I tried this, I was scrambling to find a recipe to make for my best friend's birthday (ironically on New Year's), and she wanted something with chocolate but dairy-free. It was a hit! Recently I made this into cupcakes for another friend's birthday and they were a hit! 🙂
I used all vegan butter for the buttercream frosting as I don't use vegetable shortening a lot, used regular soy milk, and vegetable oil! Came out very light and moist. Also made the buttercream a day in advance and microwaved it for about 10-15 seconds to soften it up before frosting (keep a close eye on it when you soften it), and it worked out!
Thank you for this, my lactose intolerant people greatly appreciate it <3
Hi Amira! This totally made my day! I'm so happy that you love the recipe 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing and for taking the time to come back and leave a review!
Can this be made into a 9x13?
Hi Susan! Yes it can be 🙂 The instructions for doing so are in the "Notes" section of the recipe card above. Enjoy!
The best chocolate cake i have ever made. Everyone loved it. It was so fulffy and tasty and very easy to do.
Hi Christine! This totally made my day, I'm so glad you loved it! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review 🙂
I put the recipe into cupcakes, and WOW! The cake is so quick and easy to put together and came out delicious! I was worried at first since the batter was thin, but it gave a perfectly textured moist cake. This will definitely be my go to for chocolate cake.
Hi Courtney! I am so happy to hear that you loved the recipe, found it easy to follow, and I'm honored for it to have become your new go-to! Thank you so much for taking the time to come back and leave a review 🙂
I was a little worried after mixing everything to see how thin the batter was, and how little was in each pan (I have 9" cake pans). Trust the recipe! My cakes rose beautifully and turned out great. Thank you for this great recipe!
Hi Christine! Thanks so much for the review! The batter is definitely supposed to be on the thinner side - I'm so happy you loved the cake!
Hi. Best regards from Venezuela. I can't see the ingredients. Could you indicate me where are they?
Hi! The ingredients and quantities, as well as instructions are all listed in the recipe card above this comment section.
What size are your “cups” could you tell me the metric weight please
Hi Rachel, if you click the "Metric" tab underneath the word "Ingredients" in the recipe card above, you'll see all the metric measurements. Enjoy!
This recipe has become my GO TO for everything chocolate cake related. It tastes AMAZING, the texture is soft and moist and the recipe itself is adjustable. For instance I used whole milk in the cake and all butter in the frosting.
It os so moist I suggest a little freezer time before assembling just for novices like me. Makes for a easier and much neater application of the filling and frosting.
My entire chocolate addicted family loved this cake above all others ever baked. This is going in my personalized family cookbook so we can enjoy for years and generations to come
Hi Tondra! We are so happy to hear that you and your family love the recipe so much! Thank you so much for the kind words and for taking the time to come back and leave a review 🙂
Hi Gabby, may I know what's the ratio to reduce to 6" pan size? Can't wait to find try out. Thanks.
Hi Michelle! Here is a post for how to convert 8 inch cakes into 6 inch cakes. There is some math involved in that method though! A 6 inch round cake pan holds around 4 cups of batter, and an 8 inch round cake pan holds around 6 cups. If it was me, I would likely just keep the recipe as is, divide the batter between two 6 inch cake pans, and either make a 3rd 6 inch round cake with the remaining batter, or just use the leftover batter to make a few cupcakes 🙂 Good luck!
Fantastic treat, suggest making extra so you can keep some for yourself. Everyone loved it.
Hi Andrew! I'm happy to hear that you loved the cake and that it was a hit 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and leave a review!
Amazing pictures and easy to follow instructions. Thanks for sharing!
What's the temperature in degrees Celsius for baking please?
Hi Marie! So glad you found the recipe easy to follow! The oven temperature in celsius is 180°C 🙂 Enjoy!
I am not vegan...could I use lard instead of vegetable shortening????? Will it be the same consistency as yours?
Hi Monika! If you are using regular (not dairy free) butter, then I would recommend just replacing the vegetable shortening with more butter. I haven't tried making buttercream with lard, but I would imagine that it would have a similar texture. It might add a flavor to the buttercream though.
Is the calorie count of 447 per slice?