This is a super moist, richly flavored chocolate cake, topped with a fluffy cloud of espresso buttercream. No sacrifices in texture or flavor are made to achieve this easy as…cake vegan treat!
I’m not sure there’s a better match than chocolate and coffee? At least when it comes to sweet treats, this combination has always been a favorite. The coffee sn’t overwhelming, rather it compliments the chocolate and intensifying its flavor.
Tips for Perfect Vegan Chocolate Cake and Fluffy Espresso Frosting:
- Sift! Sifting is a must to avoid bitter lumps of cocoa powder and other dry ingredients in your cake. You might be surprised at how much doesn’t get through the sifter and could have ended up in your cake! Use the back of a spoon to break up the lumps so they sift through.
Don’t reduce the amount of sugar or the oil – these are both very important for the structure and texture of the cake. Reducing them or substituting with other ingredients will effect the quality and moist character of the cake.
- Add the hot water or coffee at the end. I really love how coffee enhances the chocolate flavor but if you prefer not to use caffeinated liquid, you can use hot decaf or even hot water. The hot liquid is added at the end which gets the chocolate to bloom and the intensity of the chocolate flavor and a bit of fudginess happens!
- Prepare your pan really well to avoid a disappointing situation where the cake sticks to the pan or even tears. For a sheet cake, I like to line the baking pan with parchment paper, and then lightly grease the sides of the pan which aren’t covered. Leaving some paper overhanging is helpful if you’re looking to remove the entire cake at once to serve. Vegetable spray is the easiest. If you don’t have vegetable oil spray, you can grease the pan with shortening, being sure to get into all of the nooks and crannies. Don’t use margarine/vegan butter, it can sometimes cause more sticking!
- Let the cake cool completely to room temperature before adding the frosting, or it will melt.
- This recipe calls for instant espresso powder. This is a fine powder which readily dissolves in the frosting. Larger granules like you’d find in instant coffee would need to be dissolved in water first, and this will thin out the frosting. If that’s all you have, you can put in into a grinder or food processor to break it down into a fine powder.
- If you don’t have stick style vegan butter, resist using the tub style. While it holds up well when kept in the fridge, it’s too soft at room temperature and the frosting may melt or become thin. The frosting can be made with all shortening if desired but tastes better with half vegan butter sticks.
If you make this Vegan Chocolate Cake with Fluffy Espresso Frosting, please let me know in the comments below and give it a rating in the recipe card! Also, I love connecting on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes. Thank you for reading along!
Vegan Chocolate Cake with Espresso Buttercream
For the Cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup plant-based milk
- ⅔ cup neutral oil eg avocado, canola etc
- 3 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup fresh hot coffee or hot water
For the Espresso Frosting:
- ½ cup vegan butter (stick, not tub style)
- ½ cup non-hydrogenated shortening
- 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 3 tbsp instant espresso powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-4 tbsp plant-based milk
- chocolate shavings for garnish, optional
For the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ with parchment paper, lightly greasing any areas not covered with paper.
- In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the plant-based milk, oil, vinegar and vanilla extract.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and pour in the hot coffee or water. Whisk together just until combined.
- Add the batter to the baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with a few cooked crumbs.
- Let the cake cool completely.
For the Frosting:
- In a stand mixer with a balloon whisk (or with a large bowl and beaters), beat the vegan butter and shortening together until fluffy. Add in the confectioner’s sugar, one cup at a time. Beat for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally. Add in the vanilla and espresso powder and beat another 5-7 minutes. Add plant-based milk only if necessary and 1 tbsp at a time. I normally don’t add any. If you do add some, beat for a couple of minutes after each addition.
- Spread the frosting over completely cooled cake. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, if desired.
Sunday 17th of April 2022
Very good cake recipe--but I did only use 2/3 cup of oil! Next time will use 1/2 cup oil, I found it quite enough. I heated 4 T oatmilk and mixed in crushed instant coffee crystals and let cool. I ended up needing more liquid to have a fluffy frosting, using only Country Crock plant based sticks. I also added 1/4 cup cocoa so that may be why. Decadent and beautiful cake!
Bronwyn Fraser | Crumbs & Caramel
Tuesday 26th of April 2022
I'm so happy you enjoyed the cake, Denise! Thanks for sharing your experience and tips! I've been excited to try the Country Crock sticks - I've heard good things!
Monday 1st of March 2021
Hi! Do you think cane or coconut sugar (or both) would work in this recipe for the batter in place of white sugar?
Thursday 11th of November 2021
@Crumbs&Caramel, I just made this cake again today (the first time in March when I initially asked the question. I used a combo of white and coconut sugar this time as I keep running out of white. I used 1cup of white and the rest coconut. Turned out great!
Crumbs & Caramel
Thursday 4th of March 2021
Hi Camille! Thanks for your interest in this recipe! Cane sugar would taste the same as granulated sugar in this recipe, I would think and you'd use the same amount. As for coconut sugar, it has a toastier/caramelized flavor which will shine through in the cake - some people enjoy this, others don't. It also doesn't behave the exact same way as granulated or cane sugar in baking so the structure/crumb of the cake may not be as tender and moist. If I had to choose between the two (cane or coconut sugars) in baking, I would go with the cane. Hope this helps and that you enjoy the cake! ~Bronwyn
Monday 14th of September 2020
I'm not a cake person, but I do love coffee and this indeed is a perfect cake. Very rich and moist and bursting with coffee flavour. I decided to turn it into a layer cake and nudge it into tiramisu territory by sprinkling the bottom layer with a mixture of approximately 150 ml of strong coffee and a splash of rum before applying the fill layer of frosting.
The only complication I encountered: I didn't have any espresso instant coffee so I had to substitute it with the standard instant coffee. The standard instant coffee is too coarse so it failed to completely dissolve. This made the frosting taste somewhat bitter due to the concentrated flavor from undissolved granules. Next time I will pulverize the coffee in a coffee grinder. I'm not familiar with the espresso instant coffee variety. I assume it's significantly finer than the standard type and adhering to the recipe eliminates this problem entirely.
Thank you very much for this delicious recipe.
Crumbs & Caramel
Monday 14th of September 2020
Hi Sam, Thanks for taking the time to leave some feedback! I'm in love with your tiramisu spin - sounds like heaven! And yes, instant espresso powder is extremely fine, dissolves in effortlessly and has a smoother taste than instant coffee. Sorry that part didn't go to plan! Thanks again :) ~Bronwyn
Friday 14th of August 2020
Do you think this would turn out okay as a layer cake? Is there enough batter and frosting to do this?
Crumbs & Caramel
Sunday 16th of August 2020
Hi Marcie! Yes, you could make a layer cake from this recipe. There are a couple of options: you could bake the batter in the rectangle shaped pan as directed, cool completely, wrap/chill in the fridge and then level off the top and sides. As for the frosting, there would be enough to frost the cake as a naked cake, but if you'd prefer more then either multiply the frosting by 1.5 or 2 depending on the look you're going for. Another option is a round layer cake: you could do two 8" rounds (check at 25 minutes), or three 6" inch rounds (check at 18 minutes). As for frosting, I'd increase the amount shown in the recipe by 1.5 or 2 for these as well so you have enough for the top and the sides. If you have too much, the frosting freezes well and just needs to be re-beat once completely defrosted! Hope you enjoy the cake if you make it! ~Bronwyn
Monday 1st of June 2020
if we don't have shortening, would substituting in more butter work?
Crumbs & Caramel
Tuesday 2nd of June 2020
Hi Emma! Yes, you can use more vegan butter instead. Just make sure to use stick style not the type sold in tubs. If your kitchen is warm, the frosting may end up softening as vegan butter melts faster than shortening so just stick the frosting in the fridge for a bit if this happens and then rewhip. Enjoy! ~Bronwyn