I got incredibly excited as I was making Nigella's Dark and Sumptuous Chocolate Cake because I realised it’s just like Samin Nosrat’s divine Chocolate Midnight Cake. Vegan baking has been hit and miss for me with vegan margarine sometimes letting the side down. Nigella uses coconut butter and coconut oil instead and this cake is a triumph for it.
The online version of the recipe has been updated to offer vegan margarine and vegetable oil as substitutes but I’m done with using margarine in cakes*. Vegetable oil is A-OK though and coconut butter is a revelation. A quick thing - coconut butter is used in the icing and it dries solid so use a good, sharp knife to slice through it or you’ll squish the cake underneath.
This isn’t just “good for a vegan cake”, it’s a fantastic cake and wonderfully similar in taste and texture to Samin’s Chocolate Midnight Cake.
Both recipes have a very liquid batter. I use my 20cm springform tin from Lakeland and it hasn’t leaked on me yet. Something I do that’s not mentioned in either recipe is to sieve the batter before pouring it into the tin. Combining the wet and dry ingredients always results in loads of lumps and I think this step is important. I do sacrifice a little of the batter but it’s a small price to pay for a smooth and uniform cake.
The same goes for greasing the tin. I’ve stopped thinking “this is a good tin, it’ll be fine”. I’ve ruined too many cakes at the last hurdle so I grease generously and replace my tins as soon as they look tired.
*Unless it’s a 50/50 blend of Stork and butter. I’m fine with that.
The cake can be stored for up to 5 days in an airtight container. It freezes well too.
Make sure that your dark chocolate is vegan - some aren't. I use Dr. Oetker's Extra Dark Chocolate, which conveniently comes in a 150g bar.
Simply Nigella (affiliate link) by Nigella Lawson.
- 75g coconut butter (this is different to coconut oil)
- 50g soft dark brown sugar
- 1½ tsp instant espresso powder
- 1½ tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
- 60ml cold water
- 150g dark chocolate, chopped (around 70% cocoa solids)
- 225g plain flour, sifted
- 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 1½ tsp instant espresso powder
- 75g cocoa powder, sifted
- 300g soft dark brown sugar
- 90ml vegetable or sunflower oil (or 75g coconut oil, plus extra for greasing)
- 1½ tsp white wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
- 375ml recently boiled water
- 1 tbsp edible rose petals (optional)
- 1 tbsp chopped pistachio nuts (optional)
You will need
- 20cm springform cake tin
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan) and put a baking tray on the bottom shelf.
- Icing: Add 75g of coconut butter, 50g of soft dark brown sugar, 1½ teaspoons of espresso powder, 1½ tablespoons of cocoa powder and 60ml of cold water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
- Bring to a boil and make sure everything has dissolved. Turn off the heat and stir in 150g of chopped dark chocolate. Leave for 1 minute then whisk until the chocolate has dissolved. Set to one side to cool. The icing should be ready to spread by the time the cake has been baked and cooled but give it an occasional stir.
- Cake: Line the bottom of a 20cm springform tin with baking paper and grease the sides with vegetable oil (or coconut oil).
- Add 225g of sifted plain flour, 1½ teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda, ½ teaspoon of salt, 1½ teaspoons of espresso powder and 75g of sifted cocoa powder into a large bowl. Mix well.
- Add 300g of soft dark brown sugar, 90ml of vegetable oil (or 75g coconut oil), 1½ teaspoons of white wine vinegar and 375ml of water from a recently boiled kettle to a large bowl or jug. If using coconut oil, make sure it has completely melted, then stir the wet ingredients into the dry.
- This step is optional but I sieve the batter back into the bowl or jug that contained the wet ingredients to get rid of any lumps.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin then bake for 35 minutes (but check after 30 minutes - in my oven the cake needs 35 minutes). A cake tester should come out mostly clean but a few crumbs are fine as this is a fudgy cake that shouldn’t be overcooked. Once the cake is ready, transfer it to a wire rack and leave it to cool in its tin.
- Icing: Give the icing a good stir. It should be easily spreadable but thick enough to mostly stay on top of the cake. Remove the cake from its tin, pour over the icing and use a spatula to spread it around if needed. Decorate immediately with rose petals and chopped pistachios (both optional). Leave the icing to set for 30 minutes before slicing into the cake.