Chocolate Orange Layer Cake {vegan recipe}

chocolate cake

chocolate cake

This chocolate orange layer cake is a vegan recipe I found on Instagram as I was doing my daily scroll through posts. Chocolate and orange go beautifully together, and I have loved the combination ever since my first bite into the classically British Terry's Milk Chocolate Orange. 

I had indulged in the chocolate orange as a young girl whenever my family came to visit from England (I have many cousins there). As a travel gift, they brought along British candies. The chocolate orange was my favorite.

It's quite possible I didn't share my milk chocolate orange with anyone back then, however, I will share this cake recipe with you. The original recipe featured here is by Kimberly Espinel of The Little Plantation. Hers looked so lovely on her Instagram, so I attempted to replicate it, loosely guessing the conversions from grams to pounds. It came out quite well for a first try, despite my lack of exact measurements. Also, I only made two layers, but it would be quite majestic as four.

The idea of baking anything was a hopeful act to experience the fall season, as our October fall weather here in sunny Los Angeles, California has been a blazing continuation of our scorching hot summer, with temperatures in the 100F range on the daily. (So much for frothy pumpkin spice almond milk lattes while curling up under a cozy blanket with a good book.) The only sign of October here is the prevalent use and persistent appearance of 'pumpkin spice' anything and everything in every café, supermarket and coffee house. You'd think we live in a perpetual endless summer.

I decided to bake this chocolate orange cake, regardless of the hot weather. It looked so luscious and I wanted to try my hand at baking an entirely vegan cake before entertaining friends and family for the holiday months to come. Let's hope it cools down in time for winter...

During this baking endeavor, I found that flaxseeds work quite magically as an egg replacer. I've tried a few powdered egg replacers before, but the simplicity of soaking ground flaxseeds was a curious thing.

chocolate cake slices

chocolate cake slices

I will be one to admit that my first baking foray using flaxseed-as-egg was successful, albeit, I may have over-baked it for fear that it would be too goopy-- I did the toothpick test and was a little cautious in assuming it was all pudding in the middle. It wasn't. As a result, my cake was a bit dry.

Another method for chocolate cake is to add mayo to the batter, which I did once with a regular chocolate cake recipe (non-vegan, with eggs and such) and it was the very best chocolate cake I ever baked in my life. 

I had that former "perfect chocolate cake" standard to live up to. So, I will try this recipe again, adding a smidge of vegan mayo, just to see how it turns out.

So many people have asked for the recipe on my Instagram post, however, my solution to this (while I sort out the ratios and texture) is to share the recipe that I followed via The Little Plantation, and let you be the better baker who knows how to convert grams to pounds and kilograms to cups, and all of that measuring magic.

I'm fairly good at baking, but I'm a better vegan pastry chef, in the sense that I'm good at raw vegan tart crusts, decorating desserts, whipping up raw vegan cheesecakes, and presenting a pretty sweet treat. My culinary background in French pastry taught me enough: how to make crème au beurre, crème Chantilly, crème anglaise, crème pâtissière, pâte d'amande, pâte à choux, pâte brisée, pâte sucrée, as well as mille feuille, dacquoise, ganache, coulis, and all the many ways one can create with flour, sugar, and butter.

The challenge with replacing butter, eggs, sugar and flour to create a vegan version, is that the chemistry and variations of texture and taste is affected, so there is some trial and error. And trial and error in baking is already a factor, despite proper measurements. Knowing one's oven, or knowing how ingredients respond to one another, how to mix, how to bake, and all the other variables, come into play. It is understandable how most people tend to rely upon going to a bakery to pick up a cake, or to depend upon pre-made mixes.

If you enjoy baking, and don't mind the suspense of how it will turn out, then trying this cake recipe is for you. I'm sure I will attempt this recipe many times before I'm confident that it will turn out perfect, or at the very least something I can serve to guests. I'm also very critical of my own baking and cooking. What I'm not pleased with, someone else may not notice. But I would like to see if the vegan mayo would add some body and luscious cake-y texture to this otherwise brilliant vegan recipe.

chocolate orange cake, the little plantation blog

chocolate orange cake, the little plantation blog

What did impress me the most was the use of sweet potatoes and cacao powder as "frosting" for this chocolate cake. The next time I make this -- which will be soon -- I will whip up twice as much sweet potato and cacao frosting to ensure I have enough. I was moderate on my assessment of 2kg of sweet potatoes equaling about five medium sweet potatoes, only utilizing four of them (I ate one stuffed with tahini sauce and shredded red cabbage for my dinner). So, please don't skimp on the frosting. It's the best vegan version of frosting for a chocolate cake I've tried so far. I did take the liberty of using a convincingly cultured vegan butter (made with coconut oil and cashews) melted in a saucepan, and added a vegan hot cacao mix to the butter with a splash of vanilla. You see, I get carried away with my improvisational baking skills, and so I cannot tell you exactly how to measure whatever I did to get the creamy frosting just right.

Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake Recipe

Author(s): Kimberly Espinel, The Little Plantation and Silvia Bifaro, Salvia & LimonePreparation time: 25 minutes (for everything)

Baking time: 35-40 minutes (for the sponge)

Cooking time: 45 minutes (for the icing)

Cooling time: 3 hours (for the icing)

Makes: a 4-tier layer cake


4tbl ground flax seeds + 12 tbl water

600g plain flour

400g sugar

4tbl cacao

4tsp bicarbonate of soda

a good pinch of salt

200g of dark vegan chocolate (70% cacao and upwards)

450ml almond milk (or coconut or soya milk for a nut-free recipe)

150g coconut oil (melted) + extra for greasing

2-3 large unwaxed oranges


2kg sweet potatoes

350g cacao powder (or more to taste)

1/3 cup rice or maple syrup

1 tsp pure vanilla essence

grated orange peel of 1 orange


We placed some vegan bliss balls coated in turmeric, greenery, candles, orange pieces and ice cream cones on top, but the world is your oyster, so do what you like!


Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease 4 round cake tins (16cm each) with coconut oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the ground flax seed and water with a spoon and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients: the flour, sugar, bicarb of soda and salt.

Take the chocolate and with a knife or grater, break it into little, thin pieces. The finer, the better.

Place the grated chocolate into a large bowl and mix it with the wet ingredients: the almond milk, melted coconut oil and flax seed mixture. Add the juice of the oranges, grate in the zest of the oranges and combine.

Next mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until nicely combined. Though be sure not to overmix!

Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cake tins and place into the oven immediately. Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. (Do a toothpick test after 35 minutes, the cake needs to be cooked through but not dry).

Whilst the cake is baking in the oven prepare the chocolate icing by cutting the sweet potatoes into chunks, placing them over a large pot with water and steam them until they are soft and fully cooked through (about 45 minutes). Pour away the water when done. Let the sweet potatoes cool.

If the cake sponge is ready, remember to remove it from the oven now. Let it cool. Once cool remove any uneven tops gently with a sharp knife, so that the cake layers are relatively flat and even. (Feel free to eat the off cuts:)).

Finish the icing by placing the sweet potatoes together with the cacao powder and syrup in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and add more sugar/cacao until you obtain the level of chocolate-ness and sweetness you desire. Place in the fridge for at least 3 hours before you start icing the cake.

Ice the cake by spooning icing on top of the first sponge layer. Stread evenly. Then place the second cake sponge layer on top of the first iced one. Ince evenly and continue until all 4 have been placed on top of each other. Next ie the outside of the cake, filling any gaps between the slices. Remember this is a naked cake so there will be parts on the outside of the cake with very little icing!

Decorate to your liking.

Tip 1: You can also bake the sweet potatoes for about 45 minutes in the oven (or until soft) instead of steaming them.

Tip 2: You can also use raw cane sugar in the frosting instead of maple syrup. Please do taste!