Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Vegan chocolate cranberry layer cake with a cranberry ganache icing

Last weekend was my birthday and therefore a good opportunity for cake experimentation. It is helpful when the only person you'll let down with a baking failure is yourself; it frees one up to try something new and not worry too much about what may go wrong. In my case, the 'new' was this chocolate cranberry layer cake with a cranberry ganache icing.

I surprised myself by choosing a chocolate cake, as I think of my cake tastes as more aligned with fruit and vanilla. Not this year! In saying that, there was a definite fruit component to this cake and (I think) the cranberries made it more exciting than your typical chocolate cake.

I adapted the cake from a chocolate cranberry cake on Brave Tart, which wasn't vegan but did provide gluten-free options. My cake contained gluten but omitted the eggs and used dairy substitutes. It was dense and decadent whilst also being fluffy, and chocolatey without being overpowering. The cranberries within the cake were subtle and those in the icing allowed for a tart edge that balanced the usual sweetness of ganache.

Happily, Mr Bite loved the cake as much as me (although he avoided the fresh cranberries on top as too tart for his tastes). I will definitely mark it as an option to make again, although possibly would go for a more straightforward buttercream icing next time around. The ganache was good, but took a bit of effort to set before spreading and I'm not sure it was any better than a simpler icing would have been.

Whilst I made this for my birthday, I also think it would be perfect for Christmas. Further, while I made it with fresh cranberries, you could use frozen cranberries if needed, or sub in raspberries if you live somewhere (like Australia...) where cranberries are hard to find. The end result would be different, but I suspect still delicious.

This cake actually improves a little with standing, so it is well suited to making a day or two ahead of when you need it. If you can keep it going, it lasts well for up to a week too!

Chocolate cranberry layer cake with a cranberry ganache icing
Decadent and delicious
Makes two medium cakes to combine to a larger layered cake

Author: Bite-sized thoughts, adapted from Brave Tart

Food processor or blender needed


For use in the cake and icing
250g cranberries (approximately 1 punnet / 1-1/2 to 2 cups), pureed

For the cake
1/4 cup of the cranberry puree, from above
1 cup minus 1 tsp (185ml) almond milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
100g dark dairy-free chocolate (I used 50g of plain 70% cocoa chocolate and 50g of a 60% cocoa cranberry chocolate block)
100g cocoa powder
1 tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup maple syrup
220g sugar
100g non-dairy spread, melted
225g all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

For the icing
Remaining cranberry puree, from above
50g dark dairy-free chocolate (I used plain 70% cocoa)
1 cup (250ml) soya cream or coconut cream or equivalent
125g icing sugar

To decorate
Extra fresh cranberries
Chocolate chunks

For the cake
Preheat your oven to 170'C (350'F) and line two medium round cake tins.

Combine the almond milk and vinegar and set aside to curdle.

Roughly chop the 100g chocolate and place in a medium saucepan. Add the cocoa powder, 1/4 cup of the pureed cranberries, and the vanilla and maple syrup. Heat over low heat, stirring regularly, until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the white sugar and non-dairy spread until creamy. Add the chocolate mixture and beat to incorporate.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Gradually add the milk (curdled with the vinegar) and flour mixture to the creamed sugar / chocolate, beating as you go, and alternating milk and flour until all ingredients are incorporated.

Bake for 34 to 40 minutes, checking regularly from 34 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the cakes is clean.

Allow to cool fully or overnight before icing.

For the icing and decorating
Combine the remaining pureed cranberries, soya cream, chocolate and icing sugar in a medium saucepan and heat over low heat until the chocolate is melted, stirring regularly. Continue to heat, stirring regularly for a further 5 or so minutes, until the mixture thickens.

Transfer to a bowl and, when slightly cooled, place in the fridge or freezer to chill and firm up. The mix should reach the consistency of a thick ganache / thick icing.

Layer icing between the two cakes and then coat the outside. There should be sufficient icing to do a double coat if needed.

Top with extra cranberries and chocolate chunks if desired.

Have you tried any good cakes lately?


  1. Hi Kari:)
    It's been a while since I've been here but it looks like you're still serving tasty delights! Happy belated birthday. Looks like you made your cake and ate it too, lol...Love the notion of this vegan cranberry cake although, I too am not sure about the tart frosting.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Kari...I noticed you have a few of my blogging friends in your side bar, Gaye and Johanna. I'm off to visit them. I'll pinning this yummy cake too:)

    1. Thanks for stopping by Louise! I'm glad you like the look of this :-)

  2. I think the tartness of the cranberries on the top of this would go really well with the chocolate cake. it looks delicious.

  3. Isn't it funny that making your own cake can be birthday decadence while other think it the worst thing ever! I am with you in making birthday cakes and glad you enjoyed your experimenting. The cake sounds very fancy and delicious and looks very pretty - must be great if it makes your balloons smile :-)

  4. Happy Belated Birthday!!! What is it about people having to make their own desserts for their birthdays? I'm the same ;p Yours turned out great and I agree, it would make a great Christmas cake too!

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    This means that you actually kill fat by eating Coconut Fat (also coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut oil).

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