This chocolate birthday layer cake uses oil instead of butter in the mix. It can be made with dairy free by swapping to other plant based ingredients to make a stunningly delicious Dairy Free Birthday Cake or great dairy-free dessert all special occasions.
The Price of Butter
Have you seen the price of butter recently? At the time of writing this post it would seem a small mortgage is needed to stock up on butter. Which made me decide to write this recipe. The cake layers of this dairy-free cake are made with oil instead of butter. To make it a fully dairy-free chocolate cake you can swap out the milk for non-dairy milk. And if you want to decorate it with chocolate buttercream frosting, like I have here, there are some great plant based or vegan butter alternatives now in the shops.
Shopping for cake supplies at the moment is a tricky business. Prices are all increasing so we have to find ways of making delicious cakes with less expensive ingredients. If you've read my post Cakes Essential Ingredients, you would know that a cake needs butter for flavour. Well, to be honest it's not the butter but the fat the butter contains. And this delicious cake uses vegetable oil which replaces the fat usually found in the butter.
The best part about this cake is you can also make this into a gluten-free cake recipe by swapping the regular flour for a gluten-free flour blend.
Dairy Free Ingredient Substitutes
OK, normal dairy butter tastes amazing, but in the right recipe other fats taste great too. I generally use Rapeseed Oil if an oil is needed in a cake recipe. However, you can use Sunflower oil, Vegetable oil, canola oil or any other low tasting oil. I wouldn't recommend Olive Oil unless a recipe specifically calls for it as it introduces other flavours.
The market for plant based milks has massively progressed in recent years. As a dairy-free milk I use oat milk as it’s reassuringly comforting and great in most cake mixes. You can also other non-dairy milk such as almond milk, coconut milk or an unsweetened soy milk.
The best way to get a yummy dairy-free chocolate flavour is by using cocoa powder. Buy a good quality cocoa powder. Some are darker than others. The darker they are, generally the more bitter they are. I use either a supermarket own brand or Bournville for a good sweet chocolate flavour.
Dairy-free or Vegan Buttercream
Dairy-free chocolate buttercream or chocolate frosting used to be very hard to make well. It was either very sloppy because of the moisture content in the dairy free spreads or actually not very nice tasting. The dairy-free butter now on the market are a great dairy-free alternative to usual block butter. I highly recommend Unsalted Flora Plant B+tter. It has a good fat to moisture ratio, which means it acts just like normal dairy butter. It tastes great and at the time of writing it is less expensive than normal block butter so if you are on a budget you might like to try it anyway.
Why Add Coffee to Chocolate Cake?
Did you know coffee enhances the flavour of chocolate? I know right?! Amazing!
The coffee in this cake mix works as a kind of seasoning. It brings out the bitter tones of the chocolate which makes if taste more chocolatey. You can leave the coffee out. It will affect the flavour, but if you are worried about the caffeine content it won't be a complete disaster! Do, however, still include the boiling water, you need that to help keep the cake moist.
This cake is very easy to make. In it’s most basic form it’s a case of mixing all of the dry ingredients and then adding all of the wet ingredients. Unlike a butter based cake there is no need for the creaming process at the start.
This is a very runny cake batter, as would be expected with the oil, milk and water in the mix. Therefore, if you are using a loose bottomed cake pans make sure you line it well so you have none spilling out.
Yes, absolutely. If you use regular milk then it’ll be fine in the mix. You should still use the oil instead of butter to give the best texture cake. For the chocolate frosting, if you do not need it to be dairy free you can use regular dairy butter or dairy products.
Yes, if you don’t like the idea of adding extra caffeine to the cake the coffee can be omitted. It may affect the taste slightly but all it will do is give you a less intensive chocolate flavour. Do however still add the boiling water as you’ll need it to keep the cake moist.
You can store this Dairy Free Birthday Cake at room temperature, in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
If you wrap well this cake can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Yes, use a gluten-free flour blend, with gluten free baking powder and a little Xanthan Gum. This would make a great dairy-free and gluten-free birthday cake.
This is not a vegan cake as it has eggs in the recipe.
No, you can make this as a traybake or sheet cake if its easier. Make sure you bake it as single layer. Don't try to bake a deep cake and try to split it as it won't bake well.
Dairy Free Birthday Cake Pro-Tips
If you need to ganache this cake for a better finish under fondant you can get some great Vegan Chocolate and Cream Alternatives. A company I recently met with were Plamil, who specialise in Vegan Chocolate, and their dark chocolate was amazing.
To make a great dairy free ganache you could use an alternative cream product such as Plant Based Elmlea. It reacts and tastes no different to usual Elmlea and is fab in ganache.
If you like this cake you might also like to try:
Dairy Free Chocolate Cake Recipe
- 3 5" round baking tin or 2 x 7" round baking tins
- 1 mixing bowl
- 175 gms Plain Flour
- 1.5 tspn Baking Powder
- 3 tbspn Cocoa
- Pinch Salt
- 150 gms Brown Sugar
- 150 ml Oil Rapeseed, Vegetable or Sunflower
- 2 tbspn Golden Syrup Or Maple Syrup for a different taste
- 2 Large Free Range Eggs
- 100 ml Milk - Dairy or Oat
- 2 tspn Instant Coffee
- 50 ml Boiling Water
- 125 gms Softened Block Butter or Plant Based Block Butter I recommend the Flora brand
- 220 gms Icing Sugar
- 30 gms Cocoa
- Preheat your oven to 150c fan, 170c, 325f, GM4
- Grease and line your cake tins
- In a bowl sift together the Flour, Baking Powder, Salt and Cocoa
- Add the sugar and mix through
- Add the Syrup, Eggs, Oil and Milk/Oat Milk and mix until combined
- In a small/cup mix the instant coffee with the boiling water and then add to the rest of the mix
- Mix everything together to get a smooth, glossy mix
- Divide into the baking tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, or a cocktail stick place into the centre comes out clean
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool into the tins for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the tins and transferring to a cooling rack to cool fully.
- To make the buttercream, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Ideally in a stand mixer
- Add the icing sugar and cocoa and carefully mix until fully combined
- Mix on high for 5 to 10 minutes or until its light and fluffy
- Assemble by sandwiching buttercream between each cake layer and then decorating the outside.
- Add sprinkles if you fancy!