Don’t underestimate the pure deliciousness of whole grain desserts!
I brought over dinner for my friend the other night, and as I was handing her containers of soup, veggies, and cookies, I found myself prefacing each item with an explanation-turned-apology:
Look, I’m trying to eat more unprocessed foods now, and these are healthier recipes that I’m testing, so don’t expect much, and I’m so so so sorry if you don’t like them…
And on and on it went.
Do any of you do this? I am desperate to stop with these ho-hum excuses.
And it’s going to stop with this recipe for whole grain chocolate cake.
You won’t have to issue a formal apology to anyone you serve this to. Let those tiresome explanations-turned-apologies disappear entirely.
While a little healthier than a classic chocolate cake, it still tastes amazing!
This chocolate dessert recipe uses whole wheat pastry flour instead of bleached white all-purpose, vegetable oil instead of butter, and cacao powder instead of more processed cocoa.
The crumb is slightly denser due to the less processed type of flour we use for the batter, but that actually works in its favor – it tastes fudgy, decedent, and indulgent!
Have fun with the icing. You can mingle in the same realm of healthier options by using our recipes for vegan date fudge or avocado fudge frosting.
But if one healthy recipe is enough for one day, sneak over to our recipes for old fashioned cocoa fudge frosting or American-style buttercream instead.
If you’d like a slice, I will try to hand it to you, without any caveats or excuses, and you can tell me what you think!Print
Whole Grain Chocolate Cake
- Total Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
- Yield: 12 servings (One 2-layer 8-inch cake) 1x
Looking for an easy way to incorporate healthier ingredients in your baked goods? Our whole grain chocolate cake is a great place to start.
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 cup cacao powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee, warm
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper, and lightly spray again.
- Sift together the sugar, flour, cacao powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla.
- Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients. With the paddle attachment, mix the ingredients together on medium speed until a thick batter forms. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and briefly mix again.
- With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the warm coffee to the batter. Increase the speed to medium, and continue mixing for another 2-3 minutes to create a thin, smooth batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean with a few crumbs attached.
- Cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Turn the cake out of the pans onto a cooling rack, remove the parchment paper, turn right side up, and allow to cool completely.
- Decorate and serve!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Dessert
Keywords: whole wheat flour, whole grain, chocolate
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep
After setting the oven to 350°F, lightly spray two 8-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper, and lightly spray again. Set aside.
You can trace the bottom of the pans onto parchment paper before cutting it out with scissors to get a good fit.
Brew the coffee. Measure out all of the ingredients.
Step 2 – Sift Together Dry Ingredients
Sift together the sugar, flour, cacao powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Step 3 – Combine Wet and Dry Ingredients
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla until fully incorporated.
Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix the ingredients together with the paddle attachment on medium speed until a thick paste forms. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and briefly mix again.
The mixture will be thick and pasty, but it will thin out once you add the warm coffee in the next step.
Step 4 – Slowly Add the Coffee
With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the warm coffee to the batter. Increase the speed to medium, and continue mixing for another 2 to 3 minutes to create a thin, smooth batter.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and briefly mix again.
You can choose to use whatever type of coffee you would like for this step (including decaf), but avoid flavored coffee varieties. The coffee is an ingredient that subtly enhances the chocolate flavor, without providing a strong flavor of its own.
Step 5 – Bake
Pour the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean with just a few crumbs attached.
Step 6 – Cool and Decorate
Cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Turn the cake out of the pans onto a cooling rack, remove the parchment paper, turn right side up, and allow to cool completely.
Decorate as you wish, and serve! If you need a pep talk in decorating cake, read our tutorial.
Use the Right Type of Whole Wheat Flour!
It’s an easy and very understandable mistake to make if you accidentally grab regular whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour.
Is there really a big difference, though?
Yes, there is!
As with processed white flours, there are also differences among whole wheat varieties.
Whole wheat pastry flour involves milling a softer wheat berry compared to the harder wheat berry used to make regular whole wheat flour, meaning the protein content of the flour will be lower with the pastry variety.
Though denser than processed white pastry flour, a cake that uses whole wheat pastry flour will be more delicate and less chewy than it would be if you used regular whole wheat flour.
Have you experimented with this type of flour? What are your favorite desserts to make using this less processed ingredient? Let’s chat in the comment section below!
If you have a chocolate craving that can’t be satiated with just one recipe, you’ll love baking these cake recipes with an alternative twist next:
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on January 14, 2010. Last updated on August 3, 2021.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
20 thoughts on “Whole Grain Chocolate Cake”
Chocolate and I get along great. I would absolutely love to try this cake, it looks fabulous. And, I like Dutch-process cocoa, a lot, maybe even best. I don’t care if it is less healthy. Ooh, I’m living dangerously now. 😉
This cake looks so decadent OMG. I love it and it looks pretty easy to make.
I will take a piece of that cake!
That looks fantastic! I love healthful food that is also delicious. This cake must be tried soon!
The cake looks delicious!
That cake? It looks absolutely delicious, and I want to crumble some over coconut milk ice cream – immediately. At 10:00 in the morning. 🙂
Your cake looks super yum. Great job at continuing to try out new things!
I’d take a slice of that any day!
Lovely blog, by the way. I just found you today and will be reading often. 🙂
Glad it all turned out great! I concur with the others, the cake looks delicious.
I must confess, that chocolate cake looks just divine — even if it takes a bit of getting used to… would love to have a “go to” cake for weeknights that I don’t need to feel guilty over!
I love your site, I just discovered it. Your pictures make me hungry! Everything looks delicious 🙂
I made this cake minus the granulated sugar which I replaced with canderel sweetener for my sons 6th birthday Wednesday. I used double cream for the inside and made three layers as I had to decorate it for him with icing. It was a great hit with the family. Will be using this recipe again for sure.
I made this cake and it was delicious. My family did not suspect it was made with whole wheat pastry flour. We ate the whole cake in a few days.
YES, we fooled them all! I love being able to seamlessly incorporate healthier ingredients in traditional sweet treats. So glad you enjoyed the cake!
Looks intriguing. Well- written recipe. What can be used instead of coffee?
Hello, Susan! An equal amount of warm, plain water will do the trick! Coffee adds depth to the chocolate flavor, but it can easily be replaced by plain water.
Made this cake today and it is DELICIOUS! My only problem is that it is very crumbly… I know it is moist because the cake sticks to the knife when I try to cut it, also, stuck to my hand when I tried to turn it over after it had cooled… any ideas what to do to fix it next time? Cos, there will be a next time 😁.
Hi, Sherrie! Thank you for your kind words, and I’m so happy there will be a “next time!”
About the crumbly/sticky texture… it is the nature of this cake! You can try a few different things here:
1. Before cutting, run the blade of your knife under hot water and wipe off the excess water with a towel. Repeat this after every single cut. This should help you yield clean cuts with minimal mess.
2. Use a piece of parchment paper as a barrier between your hand and the cake as you are removing it from the pan. This will help transfer any stickiness to the paper, not your hands!
3. If the cake is crumbling excessively, this may be a sign that the cake rounds were baked for a little too long in the oven – try reducing the bake time by about 5-10 minutes.
Hope this advice makes for a cleaner cake experience!
Thank you…. I’ll try these hints.. it is an absolutely wonderful cake!