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Cake recipes

Vegan chocolate cake with maple filling and dark chocolate ganache

Prep time 15 minutes | Cook time 45 minutes
serves 8 people

Photography by Tracey Creed
Assisted by Amandine Paniagua
Recipe by Amandine Paniagua and Tracey Creed
Words by Tracey Creed

Recipe best prepared all year

Published May 10 2019
Updated July 29 2020


Chocolate Cake
3 cups wholemeal spelt flour**
23 cup raw cacao powder
2 tsp baking soda
34 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cups almond milk
23 cup olive oil
1 34 cups coconut sugar
Pumpkin Maple Filling
34 cup pumpkin puree*
14 cup raw cacao powder
14 cup maple syrup
12 cup almond butter
Dark Chocolate Ganache
170 grams of good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
12 cup full fat coconut milk
Maldon Sea Salt Flakes, to garnish


Preheat your oven to 180°C and grease a 7-inch cake tin with olive oil.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cacao powder, baking soda and sea salt. In another bowl combine the vinegar and almond milk and whisk. Whisk in the olive oil, and sugar. Combine your wet and dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into your cake tin.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre of your cake comes out clean.

To prepare the pumpkin maple filling, add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Place in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the cake.

*To make your pumpkin puree, you’ll need around a quarter of pumpkin - you’ll still have leftovers. You can either boil or roast your pumpkin, this is up to you.

If baking your pumpkin, cut pumpkin into wedges and bake at 200°C until the flesh is tender - about 30 minutes, however, this will depend on the size. If boiling, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, add pumpkin and boil for 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside. To puree, add cooked pumpkin to a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside a ¾ cup for the pumpkin maple filling. The remainder will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for a month.

To prepare the pumpkin maple filling, blend all ingredients until smooth. Place in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the cake.

To prepare the ganache roughly chop the chocolate into thin shards, this makes the chocolate easier to melt achieving a smoother ganache more easily. Using the double boiler method bring a small saucepan (we used a milk pan) with water to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Sit a glass or metal bowl over the top of the pot, the bottom of the bowl should not reach the water. The intention is to heat the bowl with steam and not the water. Add your chocolate constantly stirring until your chocolate has melted. Remove from heat.

Tip the water out of the saucepan and add your coconut milk, bringing to a gentle boil. Pour this heated coconut milk over the chocolate and whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth.

Allow your ganache to cool to room temperature, stirring every 10 minutes or so until the chocolate has thickened and becomes spreadable. To achieve a beautiful texture you will want to work quickly with the ganache as at this point it will set within 10 minutes. Leave cake at room temperature until you are ready to slice.

To assemble, slice your cake in half using a bread knife. Generously spread pumpkin maple filling on top of the bottom half of your cake. Using a butter knife or small spatula, spread ganache over the top of your cake and around the sides.

Any remaining cake will keep for up to 3 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature. That’s if there is anything remaining.

A vegan chocolate cake you would never know was vegan

This vegan chocolate cake was the first recipe we made together, and I liked the almost crumbly texture yet it’s still moist and rich with a mild sweetness. It’s layered with a pumpkin maple filling though not necessary but recommended if you want to spend the time, frosted with a chocolate ganache; liquid gold: melted Bennetto Intense Dark 75%. No occasion required, just some good company to help you eat it.

I’ve made this cake a number of times, your cake will puff up in the oven, and that is fine as it will slowly settle itself back down, it also requires several hours to cool before frosting. We hope you enjoy this vegan chocolate cake as much as we have, it’s perhaps one of the best and equally easiest cakes we’ve ever made. Ever.

This ganache is hands down my favourite for frosting anything including salted caramel slice where it’s really it’s more of a coating than a frosting. Needless to say prior to these photographs we’ve made this chocolate ganache several times. Sometimes it failed. Others not, so use the double boiler method, it’s the only way to ensure consistent results. Using the melt setting on your microwave won’t end well. We tried.

And pan sizes, for this cake we've used a 7-inch pan, 18 cm equivalent — the main consideration when using varied pan sizes is baking time. You need to watch your cake, ovens all function differently, and as such, baking time is somewhat approximate. You're looking for the centre to set, test with a sharp knife or cake tester if you have one. When it comes out clean, your cake is good, and you can remove it from the oven. You want to catch it just as it sets, so your cake remains moist.

If you don't yet own a good cake tin, I highly recommend Nordic Ware. I have two of their Leakproof Springform Pans; the 7-inch used here and a 9-inch which I purchased at the same time five years back now. One thing I've learned about using pans is that they need to be leakproof. And not all cake pans are.

**UPDATE — Yesterday was a celebration of another year around the sun for our friend Loic, and this represented an opportunity to prepare a gluten-free version of our favourite cake. We used Bob’s Red Mill Baking Flour — it turned out perfectly, airier though still moist. If you are Coeliac or rely heavily on gluten-free alternatives because your body feels better without gluten, there are so many flour choices now. If blending is beyond your abilities — it is for me. A 1 to 1 replacement is super practical, and ideal for if you need to prepare a cake to accommodate for your celiac guest. If you make a gluten-free version, we would love to know how you go with adapting this recipe. Now we know gluten or without, both are equally delicious!

Notes on preparing the vegan chocolate ganache

The level of attention required in the final stages of the ganache cannot be overstated. Once you’ve whisked the coconut milk into your melted chocolate, the ganache is best placed in the fridge to set. This results in a stable, very spreadable ganache that won’t weep down the sides of your cake. However, it’s a fine line between being spreadable and returning to a solid state. Fair warning. That said, lick the whisk — also, the bowl.

We prepared the pumpkin puree from scratch; you can always freeze the leftovers. Use store-bought by all means if you’re short on time; that said, there shouldn’t be anything other than pumpkin on the ingredient list. We used store brought almond milk, Nutty Bruce is my preference for baking, it’s organic, contains no fillers or preservatives. It’s also ten per cent almond, a higher nut percentage is preferable. The alternative milk options today are immense and that said, good doesn’t have to mean expensive. For anything else, I’ll get a five to six per cent almond milk which is easy enough to find. You need a bit of fat.

If you are striving to reduce your impact and food packaging is your priority, and that drives your intentionality and actions it is not insubstantial. That said, thinking beyond visible consumption and expanding your understanding of the waste crisis beyond social media will widen your perspective. We cannot separate ourselves from product production and aligning values and actions isn’t always easy. Our daily decisions have a collective impact, which is to say that every single use plastic we refuse, food scrap we compost, boxes, packing paper you save to reuse all adds up. There will most probably always be issues regarding food packaging waste. And waste is just one issue.

For this recipe, we used Bennetto Intense Dark 75% chocolate which is Fair Trade certified and certified organic through either Biogro (New Zealand) or with the Bio Inspecta (EU) Organic Standard. Other variants of this ganache have been made with Loving Earth 72% Dark Chocolate and Pana Eighty %. That said, good food isn't cheap, it shouldn't be, and our food choices can provide either incentive or disincentive for practices that compromise environmental and social justice. The decision to purchase anything affects the workers who earn the right to a fair wage, the workers who don’t want to fear for their lives, the workers who have a right to lead dignified lives.

Transparency is the first step towards a different culture, one where brands become open, accessible and accountable, one where we’re brave enough to ask when and how a product is made. Transparency is the “disclosure of information” in a standardised manner that enables comparison. For comparison, I find this list compiled by Food Is Power to be invaluable. While this list is by no means complete, it is a starting point for asking questions. I eat my fair share of chocolate, good chocolate, brands of which are on this list — a few that aren’t.

Chocolate much like coffee, bananas, the foods we celebrate, foods we care about are under threat. Monoculture and the widespread application of pesticides have created environments that have resulted in the loss of agricultural biodiversity, the reduction of diversity in everything that makes food and agriculture possible — our soils. Once we learn to recognise and appreciate that human life is inextricably intertwined in systems of agriculture; that choosing what we eat isn't just about us, what we eat will change, and, subsequently, so will the system that creates our food. And speaking of chocolate, I am off to buy some.

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