Chocolate lovers rejoice! This Chocolate Layer Cake is lightened up with whole grain flour and dairy-free friendly. Deliciously moist and full of flavor. Oh, and chocolate peanut butter frosting is involved.
Because everyone needs to know how to bake a chocolate cake from scratch. And I want it to be this one.
Because it is GOOD, my friends.
Well, better than good. It’s freaking amazing.
A little healthier, but still so much flavor.
The Best Healthier Chocolate Cake
I’ve made this chocolate cake recipe several times now and it is officially my go-to! It’s adapted from a traditional recipe, and if you’ve made a chocolate cake with hot coffee before this recipe may look somewhat familiar to you.
I’ve made some (healthier) adaptations like:
- cutting back on sugar
- reducing oil
- using whole grain flour
Even with these changes, no one knows this easy chocolate cake recipe has been lightened up!
The chocolate peanut butter frosting may or may not have something to do with it.
Ingredients needed for a healthier chocolate cake recipe
- whole wheat pastry flour – When baking cakes with whole grain flour I prefer using whole wheat pastry flour as the texture of the cake will come out lighter and not as dense. If you have both all purpose and whole wheat flour on hand, you can use 1 cup all purpose flour and 3/4 cup of the whole wheat flour.
- unsweetened cocoa powder – make sure it’s plain unsweetened cocoa and not dutch process.
- baking soda, baking powder – both needed to get the right rise for this chocolate cake.
- salt – always needed for a little flavor balancing and enhancing
- eggs – help maintain the structure of the cake. I did not text this recipe with a vegan alternative but I do have a Vegan Carrot Cake that uses flaxseed “eggs” so it may work here.
- oil – keeps this chocolate layer cake super moist and extra delicious.
- maple syrup – I decided to reduce some of the granulated sugar in the original recipe with maple syrup. I don’t recommend omitting this as it accounts for some of the liquid needed in this cake recipe.
- vanilla – flavor!
- granulated sugar – This cake still needs some additional granulated sugar for the best flavor. If you try to reduce the granulated sugar too much, your cake will turn out bitter.
- milk and coffee – we’re using a mix of milk (I used non-dairy but whatever you have on hand is fine) as well as hot coffee. The coffee will enhance the chocolate flavor, but you won’t taste the actual coffee. If you don’t have coffee on hand, sub with hot water.
How to Make a Double Layer Chocolate Cake from Scratch
If you’re thinking, “I can’t bake a cake from scratch, let alone a layered one!”
YES. YOU. CAN.
It seems daunting but I promise it’s truly not that difficult. With this chocolate layer cake, you can mix the ingredients all by hand.
As with any recipe, you’ll want to read through the entire recipe first, then gather your ingredients and read through it again as you begin the first steps.
Mix together all of your dry ingredients in a medium separate bowl and set aside.
Whisk together the wet ingredients in a large bowl – eggs, oil, maple syrup, vanilla and sugar, then stir in milk.
Add the bowl of dry ingredients into the wet, then slowly begin to pour in the hot coffee and gently mix until combined. The batter will be very thin. It will seem odd but just trust me, this is correct.
Evenly distribute the batter into two lined 9″ round cake pans and bake for about 20 minutes, until inserted toothpick comes out clean. Make sure to let the cakes cool completely before frosting. You can place in fridge for about 45 minutes, or make a day in advance.
The Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting
Realistically you can use whichever frosting recipe you’d like. If dealing with a nut allergy, I’d recommend a plain chocolate frosting.
But the chocolate-peanut butter combo is just too delicious to pass up, IMHO. (Yes, you could sub cashew butter or almond butter too!)
All you need is butter (can be plant-based) or palm shortening, peanut butter, powdered sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla and milk (I used cashew).
While you didn’t need an electric mixer for the cake recipe, it is best to use an electric mixer for whipping the frosting ingredients together.
Chill the cake for at least 1 hour before slicing into so it’s easier to cut and the frosting holds up better as well.
If you make this recipe, don’t forget to comment and rate below! I love hearing from you and it helps others learn more about the recipe too!
- 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup oil
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 TBSP vanilla
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar* (coconut or cane both work)
- 1 cup non-dairy milk (or milk of choice)
- 3/4 cup hot strong coffee (or hot water)
Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting
- Preheat oven to 350ºF and line two round 9″ baking pans with parchment paper; set aside.
- Mix together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, maple syrup, vanilla and granulated sugar. Whisk until sugar has just about dissolved, then slowly stir in milk.
- Begin to add dry ingredients into large bowl of wet ingredients, whisking until almost combined. Then stir in hot coffee. Note: The batter will be very thin, this is correct. Evenly distribute cake batter into two lined pans and place on middle rack. Bake cakes for 18-24 minutes. I checked my cakes at 18 minutes and they were done at 20. Every oven is different so just be sure to watch. Cakes are done when inserted toothpick into the center of cakes comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely, about 45 minutes before inverting onto wire racks and peeling off parchment paper.
- Make the frosting: In a large bowl using electric mixer (or stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment), beat together butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add cocoa powder and begin to mix on low speed while adding a couple of tablespoons of the milk. With the mixer running on low speed, add in powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, adding in the milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency of frosting is reached. Once you’ve added all of the powdered sugar, beat the frosting on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Frost the layered cake: Spread a couple of tablespoons of frosting at base of cake plate or cake stand (this will help hold the cake in place). Place one cake upside down onto the frosting. Spread an even layer of frosting on top of layer, about 1/2″ thick. Top other cake onto frosting (you can place layer upside down or bottom side down and shave off any extra round height from top if you’d like) and frost rest of cake. I’ve been using an off-set spatula for frosting cakes and love it.
- Chill cake in fridge for at least one hour before slicing. This cake can also be made a day in advance!
*Use coconut or date sugar for an unrefined granulated sugar option.
*You can also make powdered sugar with coconut sugar by combining 1 cup coconut sugar with 1 TBSP arrowroot and processing in a blender until super fine.
If looking for a plain dairy-free chocolate frosting, double this recipe – only use as much milk is needed for desired consistency.
Cake can likely be made in a 9×13 pan though I haven’t tried this yet myself. Bake at 350ºF and watch baking time after 25 minutes. Checking every few minutes until inserted toothpick into the center of cake comes out clean.
Cake recipe adapted from: Ina Garten