Cherry Chocolate Cake

vegan cherry chocolate cake
On July 4th, I took a few bites of a scrumptious cherry chocolate cake made by one of my favorite relatives. I asked for the recipe, and my heart sunk a little when I found out that her secret ingredients were a box of devil’s food cake mix and canned cherry pie filling.

A month and a half later, I bought a massive bag of dark red cherries, made a couple of amazing cherry arugula salads, and wanted to make a dessert with the rest. Memories of my cousin’s cherry chocolate cake came back to me and wondered if I could make a healthier version. I was sort of buttered out after eating this entire blackberry peach galette, so I searched around for a vegan chocolate cake recipe. The first page of google results contained several references to Moosewood Restaurant’s recipe, and lots of raving reviews. The recipe has a lot going for it: it’s vegan, easy to make, and doesn’t require any unusual ingredients. I was sold.

I swapped whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour, added a bit of almond extract in place of some of the vanilla extract and mixed in over a pound of cherries. Pouring in the apple cider vinegar felt like performing a chemistry experiment. The batter foams up! Once the cake cooled, I iced it with pure semi-sweet chocolate and sprinkled it with powdered sugar. I brought the cake to breakfast club and my friends loved it!

carton of fresh cherries

pitted bing cherries

vegan chocolate cake dry ingredients

cherry chocolate cake mix

cherries in chocolate cake
baked vegan cherry chocolate cake

cherries on cake

slice of vegan cherry chocolate cake

slice of cherry chocolate cake

Vegan Cherry Chocolate Cake
5.0 from 2 reviews
Recipe type: Dessert
  • 1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 scant cup raw (turbinado) sugar
  • ½ cup melted coconut oil or quality vegetable oil
  • 1 cup coffee (I mixed one packet of Starbucks VIA instant coffee with cold filtered water, you could also just use 1 cup of cold water)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1¼ pound dark cherries (roughly enough cherries to cover the bottom of your cake pan)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Pit the cherries. I invested in this cherry pitter and it makes pitting cherries about as easy as it can be.
  3. Line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper. I used a 9 inch non-stick springform pan, which made removing the cake a cinch.
  4. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, soda, salt, and sugar directly into the cake pan.
  5. In a measuring cup, measure and mix together the oil, cold coffee (or cold water and Starbucks VIA), almond extract and vanilla extract.
  6. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking pan and mix the batter with a fork or a small whisk until it is smooth.
  7. Add the vinegar and stir quickly. You will see pale swirls in the batter as the vinegar reacts with the baking soda. Stir just until the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  8. Mix in your cherries with minimal stirring. I poked the cherries down into the batter with my finger.
  9. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant.

Chocolate Icing Ingredients:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao dark chocolate chips but seek out dairy-free if you want the cake to be totally vegan)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Notes on the chocolate icing:
Moosewood’s glaze calls for 3/4 cup water, but I found that to be way too much. Instead of using a double broiler and diluting the chocolate with so much water, I microwaved the chocolate chips in twenty second intervals, stirring after each. I thinned the chocolate with just a little bit of very hot water, and mixed in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. It’s as easy as icing gets, and the dense chocolate flavor suits the cherry chocolate cake nicely. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar for a pretty effect.

my dog ate my cherry chocolate cake

WARNING: Don’t let your dog near this cake! I stepped outside for one hot minute and came back inside to find Cookie nose deep in chocolate cake. A very nice woman in poison control told me to feed Cookie a tablespoon and a half of hydrogen peroxide. Let’s just say that this cake didn’t look so appetizing the second time around. Fortunately, Cookie was just fine. Bad dog!


  1. says

    oh my the dog! but the cake looks so good! Hugh is a big breakfast sweets guy, and I think this would go over quite well. I have a tough time baking with no egg at all, as I always end up with a mess of crumbles, but I’ll consider it ;)

  2. says

    This cake looks and sounds absolutely phenomenal!! I love chocolate and cherries together, and Moosewood recipes are always a great basis on which to put your own spin. I’m glad to hear/read that Cookie was alright after eating some of the cake – it’s good to know that hydrogen peroxide is a safe and effective remedy for canines who consume chocolate.

  3. Claudia says

    Hello from TX! I just found your blog a few weeks ago and have enjoyed reading your posts! This cake looks amazing and it has jumped to the top of my baking to do list :)

    P.S. I feel your pain when it comes to the heat.

    • says

      Hi Claudia, thanks so much for commenting! Please let me know how your cake turns out if you get around to baking it. I’m so ready for cooler weather, aren’t you?

      • Claudia says

        Hi Kate! I did baked the cake yesterday for a BBQ and it was a hit! Thanks for a great recipe. Oh and yes, I am definitely ready for some cooler temps. Even the low 90s would be welcome :)

  4. says

    Oh wowwww, this is the most gorgeous cake ive seen in a while. Its just stunning and i bet taste FABULOUS. Massive thumbs up on healthifying the box-mix recipe, it really looks just perfect! :)

  5. says

    this cake looks so moist and perfect. i’m not a fan of chocolate cake, but i might try this one with those juicy cherries if i can find some time before they go out of season. beautiful photos.

    • says

      Yes, she’s fine! Thank you for asking. I acted quickly so I think she got it out of her system before the chocolate could affect her. I’m thankful that she’s such a healthy little dog!

  6. says

    OMG, that made me laugh, I know its not funny but it reminded me of when our dog discovered the easter eggs the night before easter and ate 12 of them, cardboard & tin foil included! Lovely Photos

  7. says

    Chocolate & cherries is always a very happy combo. Love the cake Kate!
    Please join me to bake & remember lives lost in 9/11. I am hosting a link up called *Remembrance Cakes* Would love to have you. We are baking cakes, muffins, cupcakes. Anything is great! You can also share posts you have all ready published like this one. Just add the badge to show your support.

  8. says

    That cake looks SO GOOD, and the photos are beautiful!

    I once made a chocolate beet cake, also from a Moosewood recipe, left it to cool on the counter, and returned to find it mauled by my housemate’s German shepherd! Now I’m more careful about where I leave my baked goods. (The dog was fine, though!)

  9. Sachi says

    Amazing recipe. Made this cake twice in a week already. For an even healthier variation, I modifed the 1/2 cup oil with 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce. Turned out fabulous.

  10. Rachel says

    Kate, I made this last Sunday and it was so delicious! My husband and I ate half the cake the first night (I probably could’ve finished it off, ha!). I’ve never made a vegan cake and was so surprised at how easy this was… loved that everything was mixed right in the pan! This was so good and such a cinch to make that we made another one this evening. It is in the oven RIGHT NOW. Can’t wait. :)

    Thanks for the fantastic recipe!

    (P.S. No joke, my dog tried to eat this cake… he got one lick of the frosting, but I was able to wrestle him away from the counter after that. Thanks for the fair warning, haha!!)

    • says

      Glad you two enjoyed the cake, Rachel, and that you caught your dog before he got any more of it! I was in a total panic today because I realized I left a brownie within reach of my Cookie, but I made it home before she found it! Whew.

  11. Wanda says

    Made this for my son’s seventh birthday. It was a big hit, nice and moist. I made 1 1/2 times and used an 8 inch pan for the top layer. Greased my pans too, just to be sure. Used about a tbsp of non-dairy margarine in the divinely easy icing as well as water to make it a little creamier. Decorated with some fresh cherries and those tiny silver sugar balls that look like ball bearings. Thanks so much for sharing, and our vegan friends were grateful.

  12. Skye Campbell says

    This cake was absolutely delicious and the recipe was great.
    Made it for my great grandma’s 90th birthday and everyone enjoyed it. Really moist and the flavour of the cherries wasn’t to over powering, just perfect.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Thanks for commenting, Skye. I’m so glad you and your family enjoyed the cherry chocolate cake. Wishing your great grandmother a happy (belated) birthday!

  13. Noemi says

    I’ve just baked this cake but it turned out (very yummy! but) super moist after the recommended 35 mins bake time, so I’ve been putting it back in the oven for plus 10 minutes at a time, now I’ve baked it in total at least 60 mins and it’s still kinda moist, especially in the center, not crumbly at all. Any suggestions? I used a gluten free flour mix, could that be the reason?

  14. D says

    Oh my! This is delicious! Baked this cake a few days ago to take to a friend for lunch -everybody was surprised that it was whole wheat with no butter and eggs. Incredibly light and chocolatey. I used frozen pitted dark cherries.
    Thank you for such delicious and healthful recipes. Your website is the first I turn to when in need of some inspiration! :-)
    Your waffle recipes look delicious too – I’ve just ordered a waffle iron so I can sample them!

    • says

      D, thank you for commenting! I’m sorry for my slow response. I’m so glad you and your friend enjoyed the cake. It’s a good one. Hope you love the waffles. Please let me know how they turn out!

  15. says

    Thank you so much for this amazing looking recipe! I love healthy recipes and I will look forward to trying it out and sharing it with my followers at As Arnold says “I’ll be back” :) Thanks again!

  16. Anna says

    Hello Kate! This looks SO yummy! Sadly, I don’t have any cherries right now but I have all the other ingredients. Do you think raspberries or strawberries would work instead? Thanks! :)

  17. Petra says

    Hallo Kate, I just found out your recipe for this cake today when I brought some fresh cherries from my friend. I had to experiment a little bit as I did not have for example coconut oil and almond extract (used ground almond). Also did not have chocolate chips so I made avocado nutela :-) It was exciting and fun! I think I know now how the ladies felt when they experimented and made these old cooking books in the beginning of 20th century :-) Now I am wanting for cooling down of the cake. Already tried one hot piece and was great – so chocolate :-) Thanks for you recipe and I am looking forward to read and experiment with your other recipies! :-)
    Best regards from Europe! Petra
    PS: My dog Lucky was assisting me all the time looking forward for the final. It is so shame that dogs can not eat chocolate.

    • says

      Petra, thank you for commenting! I’m glad your cake turned out great with your substitutions. I’m intrigued by your avocado nutella!

  18. says

    Just made this, with coconut sugar and cacao. My dad LOVES it, but it’s a little to coffee-ful for my taste! I used leftover coffee made at home and I probably should have considered how freakishly strong my parents take their cup of joe. They’ll gladly finish off the cake for me :) BTW I tasted the batter to make sure my coconut sugar sub was ok and I had to add a couple more tbsps. thanks for the recipe! Might be something to make when we have an adult (read: coffee loving) group over for dinner or a book club.
    P.S. I really hope you don’t mind that I keep promoting my content here, but I posted another healthy food-centered video a couple days ago and thought you might be interested. Here’s the link!
    Thanks :)

  19. says

    I am tying this cake tonight or tomorrow! I can’t wait! I just have one question, could I substitute the whole wheat pastry flour for an all purpose or perhaps another one? I have not been able to find whole wheat pastry flour in my small hometown :(
    ps. Your dog is the cutest!!

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