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One Bowl Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

I have a bit of a confession to make. I used to not like chocolate. Or at least I used to adamantly express my dislike for chocolate. I'm not sure why. I think I was trying to be different or interesting. I never wanted to be like everyone else. It took me a long time to realize that I didn't need to try so hard to be unique.

As I got older, I started to really appreciate chocolate, and now I can say with full confidence that I am absolutely a convert. Chocolate is delicious. It's also full of health benefits- the good kind is at least. I'm not talking about Hershey's or Almond Joy (my former favorite and part of why I added coconut to the icing of this cake). I'm talking about pure cocoa powder, dark chocolate... the GOOD STUFF.

When I went to Costa Rica a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a cacao plantation and I was blown away by the things I saw. It was a day that I will never forget- and that's without even considering the unforgettable experience of having cleaner ants storm the plantation during the chocolate-making demo.

(If you're unfamiliar with cleaner ants, they are an amazing species that storm in by the thousands, clean your home of all dirt and debris, leave it spotless, and then move on. If you get in their way though- they have a very painful bite. I learned that the hard way as they rushed over my sandaled feet on their quest to find the chocolate house).

Back to the chocolate though. The process of making chocolate starts with some gorgeous looking trees and almost prehistoric-looking pods. Those pods are picked, shucked, dried, put through a mill, separated from the husk... it's an arduous process. The plantation I went to did everything the old-school way and it was amazing to watch.

Making chocolate- old school

Commercially produced chocolate obviously doesn't get made the same way, but the origin is still important to know and fascinating. If you ever get a chance to go to a chocolate plantation, I highly recommend it. Chocolate is not naturally sweet, hence seeing unsweetened chocolate in the baking aisle of your local supermarket. Sweetener is added later in the process. As someone who no longer consumes cane sugar or brown sugar, it is not as easy for me to find chocolate products that I want to put into my body. It is why I have started making things myself. I add a sweetener, of course, but there are plenty of natural ways to do that.

Cutting sugar out of my diet has changed my life for the better in a lot of ways. Sugar truly is addictive and you won't know the way it is changing your body chemistry until you set it free from your life for a little while. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I indulge in my favorite ice cream or a decadent dessert at a restaurant or gathering. I'm human, after all. I take note of the difference in how I feel. It's not always worth it to watch a pimple show up on my chin or to feel joint pain- but sometimes it feels worth it. Everything in moderation, I suppose.

This bring us to chocolate cake. In addition to cutting sugar out of my diet, I also live mostly gluten-free and vegetarian. All of these things help me keep my inflammation levels to a tolerable level. When I bake, I do my best to bake vegan. This cake is no exception.

You'll notice a couple of things in this recipe that you might not have in your pantry.

1) Xanthan gum- an additive that is used as a stabilizer in many gluten-free products. It thickens things. It can give you that fluffiness that you don't always have in gluten-free desserts.

There is much debate about whether xanthan gum is harmful or healthy. I rarely use it myself because I find there are other ways to create texture without it.

*I thought about leaving it out of this recipe, but as I wasn't using eggs and was using a substitute, I needed the binding capabilities.

2) Aquafaba- the liquid leftover from cooked chickpeas (or canned chickpea liquid). You can use it as an egg substitute. It even forms peaks when whipped, like egg whites do. A quick trick to make those peaks form quicker- add cream of tartar.

*In this recipe, I used an aquafaba powder and hydrated it with lukewarm water. 6 tbsp. of powder = 2 eggs.

3) Chia egg- hydrated chia seeds. These are also used as an egg substitute. One tbsp. of chia seeds and 2 1/2 tbsp. of water combine and rest to form a gelatinous substance you can substitute for one egg. *If you use a chia egg in this recipe, make sure to up the amount of water you put into the batter


Preheat your oven to 350°. Grease a 9" round or square baking pan (or two if you don't want to cut yours in half to make the layers). I use olive oil to grease my pan, but you can also line with parchment paper or use coconut oil or a cooking spray. Set the pan/s aside.

In a large bowl, add the flour, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking soda, ginger, salt, and coconut sugar. With a whisk, combine these ingredients. Now create a well in the center of the bowl and add your wet ingredients (oil, vanilla, water, egg-substitute). Mix these well with with a spatula or wooden spoon. The batter will be very thick but still pourable.

Scrape the batter into the pan/s and smooth it into an even layer. Place your pan in the center of your oven. If you have two pans, make sure you rotate halfway through baking for even consistency. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. This is about 30 minutes.

Allow your cake to cool. During this time, you can make your icing. I love cream cheese frosting, so that was my choice for this cake, but you can also make a chocolate ganache or a peanut butter frosting.

In a bowl, combine your whipped vegan cream cheese (I like Myoko's brand non-dairy products), olive oil, coconut sugar, and unsweetened coconut flakes. Mix them together.

Once your cake is cool (seriously, let it cool), spread a third of your mixture across one layer. Place the top layer of the cake on. Use the remaining 2/3 of your icing to finish the cake. Make sure that you have an even surface in between your cake layers for stability.

One more note about this recipe. You can't use just any old olive oil. I use my own, but I know not all of us are lucky enough to have olive trees in Greece. If I can give you one important tip- know where your olive oil comes from. Most of what you will find in the supermarket is not even extra virgin olive oil. Find a producer you trust, and use with reckless abandon, like a true Spartan.

Real Greek Olive Oil- Early Harvest

For more vegan recipes, make sure you check out our upcoming retreat. There is a package for Cooking & Community that includes a weekend full of recipes, a community cooking class, and a tea meditation. Health and wellness can start small and taste great.

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