Chocolate & Coconut Cake (Shh! It’s Vegan)

Last week was dedicated to wild experiments in vegan dessert making. This was in aid of producing one scrumptious cake for my vegan work colleague’s birthday. I stocked up on Nuttlex, silken tofu, dark milk-free chocolate and even a tub of soy cream cheese (Oh Lord, do not ever, ever go there!). Some things worked better than others, but overall I was pretty pleased with what can be achieve sans dairy and eggs.

Chocolate & Coconut Cake (Vegan)

Firstly, I made a tofu-based chocolate mousse which was quick and easy to prepare and not too bad at all to eat. I based it on a few recipes found on the web but essentially it’s just a package of silken tofu blended nice and smooth in a food processor (of course the Thermomix made light work of this) with about 100g of dark chocolate, 3 tablespoons of maple syrup and a teaspooon of vanilla extract. I’ll admit to being initially dubious about how much of the tofu taste could be masked by chocolate but I was pleasantly surprised. More than just edible. Master Seven gave it a go too but declared it ‘something adults would like maybe’. I think he was referring more to the bitterness of Lindt’s 70% dark chocolate.

Indeed that was my only problem with the mousse. My vegan colleague said it was a nice mousse but I should have used Lindt’s cooking chocolate which was a milder blend. Another colleague (non-vegan, Indonesian) said he couldn’t detect the tofu but agreed that the chocolate was too bitter. Damn you Coles for having regular Lindt blocks on special!

Vegan Chocolate Tart

Heartened by my relative success in making vegan mousse, I decided to experiment with baking the mousse into a kind of baked cheesecake style dessert. I made up a quick batch of biscuit base (1 cup of processed oatmeal, 1/3 cup of Nuttlex, 1/3 cup of caster sugar and a dash of water mixed together then baked on moderate oven for 15 minutes) in mini round cake pans and put a good dollop of the mousse on top. I baked the mini cakes in the oven (at around 180C) for about 25 minutes or until the mousse was no longer super jiggly. Chill the cake and serve. With this recipe the bitter dark chocolate worked well with the sweet base and you could really not detect the tofu at all once baked.

With all this tofu tinkering, you would be forgiven for thinking that tofu was going to feature in the birthday cake but I just wasn’t game enough in the end. After all, this cake was to delight not only my vegan colleague but ten other non-vegan work folk. Yep. I played it safe.

Chocolate & Coconut Cake (Vegan)

After quite a few attempts (two of which were complete and utter fails), I finally struck gold with a gorgeous, moist chocolate and coconut cake. I adapted the recipe from Sweet Utopia: Simply Stunning Vegan Desserts but simplified the ingredients a tad. I found that the wetter the vegan cake mix, the more likely the cake is to cave in if you’re using a large round cake pan. There’s just no support for ingredients that aren’t getting held together by the mighty egg. I also used a loaf tin for more support. Vegan cakes are pretty fragile once out of the tin.

If I may say so, the cake was a winner! Even my most critical of critics (aka hubby) enjoyed the cake and couldn’t believe it was vegan. I was personally amazed how beautifully moist the cake was on the inside as my previous successful cakes still seemed a touch dry. I credit this entirely to the coconut milk used.

Requests to make this cake again have already come in and oddly enough, mostly by non-vegans!

Chocolate & Coconut Cake (Vegan)

Chocolate & Coconut Vegan Cake

2 cups of self-raising flour (or regular flour with 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda & 2 tsp white vinegar to get the rise happening)
3/4 Dutch processed or baking cocoa
1/2 cup of vegan butter substitute (Nuttlex works great or butter if making non-vegan version)
1 cup icing (powdered) sugar (I suspect to help keep the batter light and to help rise the cake)
1/2 cup maple syrup (can use more icing sugar instead)
1 cup light coconut milk (non-light is OK, I just had light)
1/2 cup soy milk (if you’re not worried about keeping things vegan, use cow milk)

Vanilla frosting with roasted coconut – 1 cup of icing sugar, 2/3 cup of Nuttlex, 1 tsp vanilla (1 tsp of soy milk to soften if required)

To make: Pre-heat oven to 180C. Beat Nuttlex and icing together until smooth. Add maple syrup and beat again. Add coconut and soy milk and blend well. If not using Thermomix, sift together flour and cocoa (and other ingredients if not using self-raising). Add dry mix to the wet mix and blend well. Be careful not to overmix with Thermomix. Cake mix should be firm. If too wet (ie – slides out of bowl easily), add 1/4 cup of flour and mix well. The ideal mix is one that needs to be coaxed out a little with a spatula. Put mix into a large loaf tin or a smaller round cake pan (18cm). Cake may be taller this way but the centre shouldn’t cave in. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. If skewer test is clean, the cake is done. Keep oven on to toast shredded coconut (10 – 15 minutes or until browned – keep an eye on it).

To prepare frosting, process icing sugar, Nuttlex and vanilla together until smooth. Ice cooled cake with frosting and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Serve :)

I highly recommend allowing the cake to cool completely before icing as Nuttlex based frosting gets soft fairly easily. It may be best to ice the cake and leave in fridge before serving. Me? I had to madly cool the cake on the floor of the passenger side seat before icing it at work!



  1. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    November 16, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Oooh you can see how lovely and moist that is from the slice! Thanks for sharing this recipe! :D

    • Moni

      November 16, 2010 at 10:23 am

      Thanks :) Sounds odd but I was *really* surprised how moist it came out. Must all be in the coconut milk!

  2. Emma @CakeMistress

    November 17, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Oh wow, great work on that cake. It looks so moist and delicious! Must try substituting coconut milk or cream into a recipe one day.

    • Moni

      November 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm

      Thanks :) Loving your Mint Patties btw!
      Given anything else vegan I’ve baked often ends up dry, me thinks coconut milk may be the answer. Will experiment more :D

  3. Conor @ HoldtheBeef

    November 18, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I’m also been amazed by my non-vegan friends requesting my vegan cupcakes!

    This looks like a winner of a recipe, I will have to give it a crack.

    Hehe, good on the passenger side seat cooling method! Works a treat :)

    • Moni

      November 18, 2010 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks :) The coconut milk also give the cake this chocolate crackle like flavour. Not overly coconut-y. Just a hint :D
      Would love to have explained things to a cop if one pulled me over for driving too slowly over hills. The cake kept threatening to slide off the plate!

  4. mademoiselle délicieuse

    November 21, 2010 at 7:21 am

    This cake actually looks really good with a nice crumb. I think the trick is not to tell people it’s vegan, allow them to eat it and make their own conclusions. For some reason as soon as you tell people something is low fat/sugar/salt or vegetarian/vegan, they go into tasting with bias so it’s never clear cut whether it really is good or not!

    • Moni

      November 21, 2010 at 9:27 am

      Thanks :) You’re so right about bias. I was very tempted to put a tofu-based mousse layer in the cake but held back as the people at work would have assumed there would be something ‘weird’ in the vegan cake (they knew I’d be making a vegan cake for my vegan colleague). I should try and pass a tofu mousse cake off as a regular cake! (because of course my work mates enjoy being guinea pigs…).

  5. Spencer @ Moo-Lolly-Bar

    November 26, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Looks absolutely fantastic! I love to chow down on a huge plate of that!

    • Monica

      November 30, 2010 at 11:53 am

      Hi there. Thanks for your comment. I just fished it out of the Spam folder (hope you’re not a spammer…) I recognised your site as that cool candy shop on the Esplanade in Mooloolaba. Hope you’ve got some Hershey bars in stock! Heading over for Christmas :)

  6. Claire

    May 31, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Hey! This cake tastes amazing, but I need to bake it for way longer than 30 minutes and I had to turn the heat up significantly before it even starting baking – I had it in at 180 for 30 minutes, then 250 for 15 minutes and it was still uncooked ands gooey in the middle :(
    It tasted great, but if I make it again I will definitely adjust the timing/temperature!

    • Monica

      May 31, 2013 at 10:20 am

      Glad you tried the recipe. I think vegan cakes need a bit of trial and error and the deeper your cake pan, you definitely need to adjust things. I made a similar cake yesterday actually with coconut flour and applesauce and that did need a little adjustment as the mixture was more moist. If you make it again and you consistently find that you need longer in the oven and your cake pan isn’t particularly deep (ie – the cake rises to about 6-8cm), please let me know and I might have to revisit this recipe myself. My vegan colleague will be happy for it :D

  7. Tiffany

    July 7, 2014 at 7:58 am

    Just made this cake, and I agree the previous poster…The cooking time is not long enough at 180. The flavor is nice and I salvaged the edges but the middle was totally sunken in, even though I had baked it closer to 50 minutes at 180.

    • Moni

      July 8, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Hi Tiffany. Thanks for visiting. Sorry to ask but as I can’t see if you’re a fellow Aussie or a North American, could you please confirm if you’re baking at 180 Celsius? That’s a reasonably high temperature (and I think I may have based that on fan-forced so should be 190C for regular ovens) so should be fine for a cake batter that isn’t overly wet. I haven’t made this cake for a while so I might have to do that and make sure the time is correct for the temperature I stated.

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