This super easy stir-together healthy Chocolate Cake is a cinch to make and it has less sugar than traditional cakes. Maybe “healthier” is a better term, but whatever you call it, it’s so darn good! (PS: It happens to be egg-free and vegan, too.)

healthy chocolate cake in slices on counter.

Healthy Chocolate Cake

I’ve been searching for a “house cake”—you know, one that becomes the traditional cake we make for birthdays and special occasions. One that we’ll think back on fondly.

And also one that’s easy enough to make without much notice because as we all know, sometimes you just need a slice of cake for no good reason! I’m happy to say this cake fills the bill.

This cake is made with less sugar than traditional cakes (which is my personal flavor preference) and has some ingredient options so you can decide how “healthy” to make it. My whole family loves this layer cake recipe–especially as a birthday cake or a holiday dessert—because it delivers on the classic chocolate cake flavor you expect.

(I also have a delicious Vanilla Cake version that’s vegan too.)

slice-of-healthy-chocolate-cake-on-pink-plate

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Ingredients You Need

To make the cake, you’ll need to have the following ingredients on hand.

ingredients-in-chocolate-cake
  • Flour: You can use whole wheat, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two. I usually use all-purpose flour.
  • Vegetable oil: I typically use canola oil or vegetable oil here, but avocado oil would work, too.
  • Sugar: A little granulated sugar is the sweetener of choice in this cake because it blends in so well and adds moisture.
  • Baking soda: Fresh, active baking soda helps the cake bake through and rise nicely. (This works much better than baking powder, so do be sure to use baking soda.)
  • Cocoa powder: I like SACO or Hershey’s Special Dark for the best chocolate flavor.
  • Salt: A dash of salt helps enhance the rest of the flavors.
  • White vinegar: This works with the other ingredients to deliver the perfect texture you expect in a chocolate cake.
  • Vanilla extract: Paired with cocoa powder, vanilla extract is an extra flavor note.
  • Quick Chocolate Frosting: Or a frosting of your choice.

TIP: The cake is dairy and egg-free, and there’s not even any butter. You can make it gluten-free by using a gluten-free cup-for-cup flour blend. It’s like a magic cake!

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s the basic process of making the cake. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the full recipe.

how to make healthy chocolate cake step by step.
  1. Preheat the oven and grease two 6-inch round pans very well. I typically spray with nonstick cooking spray and place a round of parchment cut to fit the inside of the pan to ensure the cakes don’t stick. Stir together the ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk. Make sure you get all the lumps out of the cocoa powder.
  2. Divide batter between the pans evenly.
  3. Bake until just firm to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  4. Let cool on a wire rack and frost.

TIP: I like making this cake in two 6-inch pans, as it’s a nice size for a smaller gathering of up to 10 people. It also means you don’t need a ton of any of the ingredients AND is a great size for a smash cake.

chocolate-frosting-on-mixer

Frosting Options

Frost with either my Quick Chocolate Frosting, Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, or Strawberry Frosting. Or use any other frosting that you enjoy.

Of those options, we almost always use the chocolate cream cheese frosting for a double chocolate cake.

how-to--frost-chocolate-cake-step-by-step

How to Frost a Chocolate Cake

I have a few frosting options for this cake, but the basic method of frosting the cake is the same.

  1. Place one of the cakes onto a platter or cake stand. Add a big spoonful of frosting and spread to cover the top.
  2. Add the second cake and the rest of the frosting.
  3. Spread over the top and sides.
  4. Add sprinkles if desired. I like to use a cookie cutter to make a star design (imperfect as it is!).
frosted chocolate cake on cake stand.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes this cake healthy?

I use that word to signify that this cake is lower in sugar than most comparable chocolate cake recipes. I worked hard to make sure it’s plenty sweet, without being too sweet.

What’s an easy way to decorate a kids cake?

We like to use a cookie cutter to form a shape, then fill with sprinkles. We also sometimes just do chocolate frosting and forget any other decorating!

Can I freeze chocolate cake?

Yes, you can freeze chocolate cake and this one freezes so well. We love to do that if we want half one day and half another day a few weeks ahead. Wrap a section or slices of cake in plastic wrap and place into a freezer bag. Remove as much air as you can and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.

healthy chocolate-cake-with-star-sprinkles

How to Store

You can make the cakes the day before you plan to serve. Let cool fully, then place on two separate plates and wrap well with plastic wrap. Store at room temperature. Frost just before serving if possible.

With leftovers, you can store wrapped well in the fridge. I am partial to how this cake tastes when it’s chilled, so we store it in the fridge.

You can also freeze slices for future enjoyment. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap (wrapping slices on small paper plates makes this easy) and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw at room temperature or in the fridge.

slices of chocolate cake on counter.

Best Tips for Success

  • To make this in a 9-inch cake pan, use just one pan and bake for 16-20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Be sure to grease the pan well to ensure it doesn’t stick. Double the recipe to make a two layer 9-inch cake.
  • To bake as cupcakes, use ¼ cup batter in each standard size muffin cup (greased well with nonstick spray) and bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out cleanly.
  • Gluten-free: Use cup-for-cup gluten-free flour blend in place of the wheat flour.
  • Use a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flour or all of one or the other. (All whole wheat will be a smidge more dense.)
  • Try to avoid over-baking to ensure the cake is moist and doesn’t crumble too much.
  • Be sure to grease the pan well to ensure the cake doesn’t stick.
  • If you are at all worried about your cakes sticking to the pans, (these 6-inch pans do not tend to stick, but I can’t speak for every other cake pan) trace the pans onto parchment paper. Cut out the rounds, trimming slightly so they fit inside of the cakes. Place each round of parchment paper into the cake pan, then spray the paper and sides of the pan with nonstick spray. Proceed with the recipe.

I’d love to hear your feedback if you try this recipe for your family, so please comment below to share!

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healthy chocolate cake in slices on counter.

Healthy Chocolate Cake (Lower Sugar)

This Healthy Chocolate Cake is egg-free, dairy-free, and SO darn delicious. It's lower in sugar, but delivers on classic chocolate cake flavor you expect. (I use two 6-inch cake pans to make this cake, which is a perfect size for a small gathering or even to use as a smash cake. See the Notes for how to make this as a 9-inch cake and as cupcakes.)
4.98 from 175 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 28 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dessert
Calories 238kcal
Servings 8 -10

Ingredients

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Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease two 6-inch cake pans very well on the bottom and sides with nonstick spray. (I use classic Pam spray.)
  • Add the ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk gently to combine. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, using about 1 cup and 2 tablespoons in each pan.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the middle is firm to a light touch and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Try not to overbake.
  • Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then carefully remove the cakes from the pans by running a paring knife around the edges to loosen. Working with one pan at a time, carefully turn the pan over onto a wire rack. The cakes should slide out easily. Let cool completely on the wire rack.
  • To frost, place one cake onto a cake stand or plate. Add ⅓ of the frosting to the top of the cake. Spread to the edges. Top with the second layer and the remaining frosting, then spread over the top and the sides. Add sprinkles if desired.

Notes

  • With leftovers, you can store wrapped well in the fridge. I am partial to how this cake tastes when it’s chilled, so we store it in the fridge. You can also freeze slices for future enjoyment. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap (wrapping slices on small paper plates makes this easy) and freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw at room temperature or in the fridge.
  • You can make the cakes the day before you plan to serve. Let cool fully, then place on two separate plates and wrap well with plastic wrap. Store at room temperature. Frost just before serving if possible.
  • Frost with either my Quick Chocolate Frosting, Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, or Strawberry Frosting. You could also use classic Cream Cheese Frosting.
  • To make this in a 9-inch cake pan, use just one pan and bake for 16-20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Be sure to grease the pan well to ensure it doesn’t stick. Double the recipe to make a two layer 9-inch cake.
  • To bake as cupcakes, use ¼ cup batter in each standard size muffin cup (greased well with nonstick spray) and bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out cleanly.
  • Gluten-free: Use cup-for-cup gluten-free flour blend in place of the wheat flour.
  • Use a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flour or all of one or the other. (All whole wheat will be a smidge more dense.)
  • Try to avoid over-baking to ensure the cake is moist and doesn’t crumble too much.
  • Be sure to grease the pan well to ensure the cake doesn’t stick.
  • If you are at all worried about your cakes sticking to the pans, (these 6-inch pans do not tend to stick, but I can’t speak for every other cake pan) trace the pans onto parchment paper. Cut out the rounds, trimming slightly so they fit inside of the cakes. Place each round of parchment paper into the cake pan, then spray the paper and sides of the pan with nonstick spray. Proceed with the recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 238kcal, Carbohydrates: 37g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 212mg, Potassium: 81mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 17g, Calcium: 9mg, Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

This recipe was first published September 2020.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    AMAZING! This recipe was so easy to make and delicious. I still cannot believe how moist it was. Cannot wait to make it again. Thank you!

  2. Cake flavour is nice. Texture-wise it was more dense than I would like, but perhaps that is the trade-off for an eggless recipe.

  3. 5 stars
    A PERFECT cake if you’re looking for a pastry that isn’t overly sweet so you can taste the chocolate flavor. Also super moist!
    This will be the chocolate cake recipe we always use from now on.

  4. 5 stars
    I live in the UK and you either get distilled vinegar here or white wine vinegar. I used distilled vinegar and the cake was very flat 🙁
    I read the comments after and seems like others have had similar issues with confusion around the vinegar. Could you add a photo of the vinegar you used as part of the recipe? Or maybe a sub if one was to use another type of vinegar like rice vinegar or white wine vinegar (as distilled vinegar is definitely not going to work here). Thank you!

    1. Hi- I actually use regular white vinegar, which is the distilled kind. Not wine or rice vinegar which would have a different flavor. The more likely issue is that the baking soda isn’t working correctly, which would lead to a flat cake. I hope that helps!

      1. I haven’t tried it that way so I can’t say for sure whether it would work or not.

  5. 5 stars
    Tried this for the first time today after waffling for weeks. It is fantastic! I used it to make ‘healthier’ Timbits (donut holes for those not familiar with Tim Horton’s speak – I’m Canadian XD) for my Timbit-obsessed son today, and he loves them. I used the batter in the Babycakes Cake Pop maker and it worked a treat. For those of you who are struggling to find a cake mix that will bake up into the appropriate round shape of the Babycakes, this mix does it!

    Thank you for an excellent recipe!

    1. The most likely explanation is that the baking soda isn’t fresh or active. I’m sorry that happaned.

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