Basic Chocolate Cake Recipe

This is a rich, decadent, but basic chocolate cake recipe. It is chocolate-packed, moist, and not-too-complicated. Baked and served in one pan slathered with a layer of fresh chocolate whipped cream frosting.

Basic Chocolate Cake

There are a few things that make my basic chocolate cake recipe different from others, but before I get into the details, I should write a bit about the type of chocolate cake we are dealing with. This is not one of those, multi-layered, fancy-pants chocolate cakes. I'm not much good with those. This is a simple, relatively unassuming chocolate cake. An everyday chocolate cake that you might not make everyday. It is chocolate-packed, moist, not-too-complicated and delicious. I bake, frost, and serve it in one pan - typically a Pyrex I picked up at a yard sale years ago. It has no added sugar in the cake or frosting (I use maple syrup), and whole wheat pastry flour is used in the batter. A generous slather of fresh, chocolate-whipped cream frosting tops it all off (also maple sweetened).

Basic Chocolate Cake Recipe

You will want to refrigerate any leftover cake that has been frosted. I should also mention that as the cake chills it become more and more truffle-like in texture. Feel free to let it come back up to room temperature if you like a more crumb-like texture. Likewise, the frosting will set up as it chills, but stays billowy and light at room temperature.

I've been trying to develop more recipes like this one. Cakes, tarts, cookies and treats that approach the sweeteners and flours a bit differently than most traditional recipes - less refined sugar, less white flour, etc. Let me know if this is something you're interested in seeing more of, and I'll keep posting the best-of what I come up with.

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Basic Chocolate Cake Recipe

I typically make this frosting just before serving. I should also mention that you'll want to give your coconut milk a good shake (or stir) before using it - it tends to separate in the can. If you have a hard time finding whole wheat pastry flour, feel free to substitute unbleached all-purpose flour.

2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup non-alkaline/non-Dutched cocoa powder (I use Dagoba)
1 tablespoon baking powder (look for non-aluminum type)
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup barely melted unsalted butter (or coconut oil)
1 cup real maple syrup, room temperature
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup coconut milk, room temp
8 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, shaved or finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F degrees with a rack in the middle. Butter and flour an 8x8 square cake pan (I've also had success using a 9x9 pan, just adjust your baking time).

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In a separate medium bowl whisk together the melted butter and maple syrup until it looks like caramel. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, and then the coconut milk. Pour the maple syrup mixture over the flour mixture and stir until barely combined. Add the chocolate and stir until everything comes together and is no longer dusty looking - avoid over-mixing. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 30 - 40 minutes. This is a cake I like slightly under-baked, so I pull it out when the center is still a bit under cooked - the toothpick doesn't quite come out clean when testing. If you are going to use it for a layer cake - then bake it all the way (clean toothpick). Remove from oven and allow to cool (absolutely completely) in pan before frosting (frosting recipe below).

Chocolate Whipped Cream Frosting

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (chopped)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks

To make the frosting melt the chocolate in a double-boiler, or in a bowl placed over a pan of boiling water. In a medium bowl beat the butter until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the maple syrup. Then add the melted chocolate. Stir until silky smooth - any flecks of butter should be melted. Pour the chocolate mixture over the whipped cream and fold the chocolate into the cream. Keep going until the chocolate is well incorporated. Use an offset spatula to frost the completely cooled cake. If the cake is at all warm, the frosting will weep and melt. It still tastes good, but isn't what you're after.

Makes one 8x8 or 9x9 cake.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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This cake looks perfect. I am all for using whole grains and unrefined sweeteners, so keep those recipes coming!

ashley (sweet & natural)

Yes, yes, more like this!! Love your recipes!

Joan Rough

Yes, yes, more like this!! Love your recipes!

Joan Rough

Hi Can u suggest an alternative to Maple syrup? They are scarce and very expensive in India. I would like honey/palm sugar/ some such alternative. I definitely love healthy junk ;) recipes (healthy cakes, pastries etc..) Thanks, KP


I love these kinds of recipes - a healthier way to bake! Please keep them coming...


I love this. I am not generally one for complicated desserts and layer cakes, mostly because I am a dunce at frosting anything. I also often prefer eating simpler desserts and like to have a little something sweet on hand. I love the idea of re-inventing classic desserts with less of the classic ingredients - what a great way to introduce natural ingredients and flavors into the diet!

Haley W.

I applaud you for baking without sweetners, though I'm a happy butter and sugar fiend. That said, I've posted a splendid cake that uses pureed beets, and I love coconut milk in a chocolate cake, too. We used to buy two-three gallons of maple syrup at a time, but now with a gallon running right around 50 dollars, we're cutting back, which I hate doing since maple syrup is really the better dietary choice, by a long shot...

Mama JJ

I can't wait to try this! I love recipes with natural sweeteners. :)


Very good


This is brilliant and perhaps a chocolate cake that we can eat guilt free? (well almost) good timing for Easter as well

Gourmet Chick

The idea of using alternative sweeteners and flours is a great one - please keep the recipes coming!


I think that featuring revamped classics with alternative sugars and flours is a great idea! Sometimes you crave something classic, like a chocolate cake, but it's hard to find a recipe reflecting your general food philosophy. A more specific question: if I used plain milk (from a cow rather than a coconut!), would the recipe still work, or would the cake end up drier because coconut milk is fattier than dairy milk? Should I use (dairy) cream?


This looks delicious! After discovering this site my approach to all things healthy have changed - I just love every dish I try either from this site or from your cookbook! In particular the sweet things have such a great deep and complex taste, so please more more more of everything sweet!

Alisa delicious!


Ooooh wonderful! Can't wait to try this one out! thumbs up for future recipes!!!


This looks great--just what I've been craving--but sadly over the last year or so chocolate has come to aggravate my migraines. Do you have any tips for converting this to a carob cake? Since carob flour is sweeter than cocoa powder, maybe it could replace some of the maple syrup--but would it affect the amount of regular flour used? I'm just starting to explore carob in baking--any tips you have would be greatly appreciated!


I really like the idea of non-sugar sweeteners, but maple syrup is really pricey and hard to come by where I live (Japan). Any other alternatives to try? Thanks as always for the great ideas!


Mmmmm... chocolate cake. The frosting sounds awesome!


This is great! Please show us more baked goods (cakes tarts whatever) using sweeteners other than sugar. Thank you.


Am I the first one to comment!? Looks yummy! I should make this for the next potluck we have at work. :)

Kitchen M

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