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+ servings
One piece of cake on a plate

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting (Gluten Free option)

This cake is made with layers of moist and deeply chocolatey cake, luxurious salted caramel frosting, and rich chocolate shavings on top.  Oh right, and it’s undetectably VEGAN.  Anyone looking for a new favorite cake?!
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Course Birthday Party, Dessert
Servings 12 slices


Salted Caramel Frosting Ingredients *note this makes EXACTLY the amount seen in these photos. If you want more frosting, or want to make sure you won't run out if you mess anything up along the way, do 1.5x this amount to be safe.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) vegan butter
  • 2 PACKED cups brown sugar
  • 10 tbsp coconut milk or coconut cream divided
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 5 cups powdered sugar *if you want a sugar free option, this links to my favorite powdered sweetener, you can substitute it 1:1 in place of regular powdered sugar

Chocolate Cake Ingredients *note this makes THREE layers

  • 3 cups gluten free flour can sub all-purpose if desired. This links to my favorite store bought gluten free flour blend that works best with all of my recipes, or see "Ingredients Needed" section for further info.
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups granulated sugar *if you want a sugar free option, this links to my favorite sweetener, you can substitute it 1:1 in place of regular granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • cups non-dairy milk room temperature
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar can also be lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1 cup MELTED coconut oil
  • 6 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup filtered water HOT or boiling
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Shavings Ingredients *optional

  • 2 oz vegan chocolate bars or chips
  • 2 tsp neutral oil or coconut oil


  • There are a lot of pieces to this recipe, so if you have the time, I recommend reading the How To Make It section above to go more in depth here.  The order of operations will be – making the vegan salted caramel sauce, then making the cake while the sauce comes to room temperature, then making the chocolate shavings if you are using those, then making the caramel sauce into frosting, then putting it all together.
  • In advance – preheat the oven to 350°F and grease 3 8-inch cake tins plus line with parchment rounds if you have those.  Remove the non-dairy milk from the fridge as that will need to be at room temperature later on.
  • Make the salted caramel sauce: Note that the amount of sauce and ultimately frosting amounted for in this recipe will get you pretty much EXACTLY the amount of frosting you see in the photos I’ve used in this entry.  If you plan to frost your cake more heavily, or if you want some extra in case of mishaps, you may want to do 1.5x the amount here, but I am warning you that will be a LOT. 
    In a small pot or saucepan, melt the vegan butter, and then add in the brown sugar, salt, and 4 tbsp of coconut milk or cream, setting aside the other 6 tbsp for later.  Whisk until fully combined, then let it bubble and continue to whisk every 30 seconds or so for about 4 minutes.  After 4 minutes, pour the sauce into a large heat-proof bowl (ideally whatever bowl you will make the frosting in later on).  We do this first since you want the sauce to come to room temperature before making it into frosting, so place the bowl onto a cooling rack that way air circulates around the bottom as well, and set aside for about an hour.  I like to whisk mine every so often during this time to make sure it doesn’t harden.
  • Make the cake: Note this recipe has the amounts for THREE layers.  If you are making fewer layers or more layers, be sure to adjust your amounts accordingly.  Start by prepping some of the wet ingredients – first off, your non-dairy milk should be room temperature.  If it’s not, heat it for a few seconds in the microwave until it’s room temp, you don’t want it to be cold here.  Then make vegan buttermilk by combining the non-dairy milk with apple cider vinegar, stir, and let sit for 5-10 minutes to curdle.  Next, melt the coconut oil. Remember to measure it based on the melted amount.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients – flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Then add in the vegan buttermilk, melted coconut oil, unsweetened applesauce, HOT or boiling filtered water, and vanilla extract.  Fully combine, then pour evenly into your greased and lined cake pans.  Bake for 23-28 minutes – mine are perfect at exactly 25 – check to be sure they’re done by sticking in a toothpick and removing the pans when the toothpick comes out with just crumbs, not wet batter. 
  • Set aside your cake pans to cool for about 15 minutes before removing the cake from the pan and putting onto a cooling rack to come to room temperature.  Personally I like to let them come to room temperature for a few minutes and then stick in the fridge, as I find it easier to build a layer cake when the cake itself is cold.
  • Make the chocolate shavings: if you want to use chocolate shavings, make these while the cake is either baking or cooling.  Melt the vegan chocolate with neutral or coconut oil, either in the microwave or using a double boiler.  Pour the chocolate onto the bottom of an overturned sheet pan and spread into a very thin layer – I use an offset spatula to do this.  Stick the pan into the freezer for about 4-5 minutes, then remove and use a metal spatula or the offset spatula again to scrape the chocolate off.  If you are skilled, you can make them into curls, or just use as shavings.  If the chocolate is melting, put it back in the freezer for a few minutes.  If it’s breaking too easily, let it warm up for a minute before trying to scrape it off again.  Collect curls or shavings on a plate or in a bowl and stick back into the freezer to remain there until ready to be used.
  • Make the frosting: by now your caramel sauce should be at room temperature.  Add the additional 6 tbsp of coconut milk or cream to the bowl, and then ultimately you will also use 5 cups of powdered sugar, but I like to add a little at a time, mixing and scraping down the bowl along the way.  I use a hand-mixer to make frosting, of course you can use a fancier mixer too.  If the frosting is too thick, add some more coconut milk.  If it’s too thin, add some more powdered sugar.  Once it’s at your desired consistency, it’s time to build the cake.
  • Build the cake:  If you are not comfortable frosting a cake, I highly recommend checking out some videos online, as it looks scarier than it is!  But basically – frost one layer at a time, adding as much as you want to the top and sides as you go, and stacking the layers evenly atop one another.  It often helps to stick everything into the fridge occasionally as you go to keep it all cold and easier to work with.  Finally, sprinkle the chocolate shavings or chips over the top if you are using them.  And voila!  You’ve made a cake.
  • Eat and enjoy!
Keyword chocolate, chocolate cake, chocolate shavings, layer cake, salted caramel, salted caramel frosting
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