27 September 2010

Things That Are Dairy-Free: Chocolate Cake

Over the last several months, since we discovered The Imp's allergy to all things milk, I've been looking for dairy-free substitutes for some of my old tried-and-true favourites. I refuse to accept that having an allergy means all the fun stuff is off-limits! For chocolate cake, fortunately, my old tried-and-true was already dairy-free, a fact I didn't even realize until I really started paying attention. The cake is actually vegan, although that's not its raison-d'être. It's not from a vegan or health-food cookbook, in fact it's adapted from the most basic of cookbooks: Betty Crocker's New Cookbook, which I've had forever. (I have the 8th edition.) It's deliciously moist and chocolatey, and dead simple to make. It's been my go-to cake recipe for years - long before The Imp's allergy made it a necessity.

Toddler approved! The Imp enjoys his 2nd birthday cake.

This post also features this cake (with photos), in our life pre-non-dairy. So easy a toddler can make it!

The recipe below makes one layer in a 8 inch square or round pan. For two layers, make the recipe twice. For three, make it three times, etc. For a larger cake like the one pictured in this post, double the recipe and bake each layer in a 13 x 9 inch pan.

I haven't tried it, but I'm sure you could make cupcakes with this recipe too - the cooking time would be much shorter.

Anyway, on to the ingredients:

1 2/3 cups flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup pure baking cocoa powder (I like
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

And here's why it's so easy. Mix all the dry ingredients with a fork right in the cake pan - ungreased. Then stir in all the wet ingredients. When well mixed, stick it in the oven for about 30 - 40 minutes. Voilà.

That's the recipe more or less as it appears in the book. I often have a heavier hand with the cocoa powder, using 1/3 of a cup - how can cake be too chocolatey, I ask you? Also since I'm not a fan of super-sweet, I go a bit lighter on the sugar - a scant cup, unpacked.

My oven tends to run a bit hot, so I start checking it at the 25 minute mark. When a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, it's done. Baking too long will result in a dry, crumbly cake. So don't do that!

I usually make 2 - 3 layers at once, then assemble them with jam and/or fresh fruit as a filling between the layers and pour melted chocolate chips (the Safeway Organic brand chocolate chips are a rare dairy-free option) thinned with soymilk over the top as a ganache-style frosting.

I am, however, looking for good dairy-free frosting recipes. Suggestions welcome!


  1. Now I need some chocolate cake. Mmm, chocolate cake!

  2. I had tried a dairy free frosting made with crisco and it was quite literally, like eating a thing of crisco on a cupcake. SICK.
    I wonder if I can rig something up by just replacing milk with almond milk. It will work, I'm sure, for my sugar cookie icing... which is honestly the most important thing in my index.
    Is your son egg sensitive?
    It bugs me that eggs are "dairy".
    they're not DAIRY hens. I can still eat eggs.

  3. Amber, I too need chocolate cake now. It was excruciating looking through photos to find one for this post. :)

    LindsayDianne, I know! Mammals produce milk. Chickens are NOT MAMMALS! That drives me crazy. My favourite frosting is chocolate cream cheese. Having a hard time concocting a substitute for that one.

  4. Looks delicious! What a good mama you are!