This vegan chocolate sheet cake features a moist, rich chocolate cake topped with an silky smooth chocolate ganache dotted with chopped pecans. It’s as easy to make as a boxed cake mix, but the flavors are so much better. If you’re a chocolate lover, this sheet cake will be the ultimate in indulgence. Make it today!
Why Sheet Cake Rules
My mom introduced me to her recipe for Chocolate Sheet Cake several years ago. It’s one of the staples in her selection of family dinner desserts. Our family always requests it and my mom never likes to disappoint anyone.
Talk about disappointing people, I did a grand job of that when I decided to go vegan. My mom wasn’t so thrilled with the idea of it. She’s an interestingly complex person (aren’t we all?) because she loves to talks about losing weight and being healthy, but she’s not too happy when someone walks away from the table without having some of her fabulous desserts. We always try to bring our own, but my mom insists on making her own food for everyone.
But my mom is also a trooper. Once she realized we were vegan to stay, she began transforming some of her tried and true recipes to meet our needs. So, my mom will fix for us vegan stuffing, gravy, casseroles, and now we even have vegan chocolate sheet cake.
That means our family dinners includes a dessert table graced with a that regular chocolate sheet cake. And that’s for 20 people to share. But now there another sheet cake on the table. An entire vegan chocolate sheet cake for the 3 vegans to consume.
Sounds fair to me!
Veganizing Sheet Cake
I found it fairly easy to take my mom’s recipe to create this vegan chocolate sheet cake.
I did make a change or two (Don’t tell my mom). For example, her recipe calls for 1 cup of margarine. I changed that. In my recipe I use a half cup and added a half cup of peanut butter instead. That’s because we like to try to reduce margarine when we can.
I then boosted the cocoa a bit to try to cover up any residual peanut butter taste.
Also, a typical sheet cake has a lot of eggs involved, but I just said pshaw to that and the only attempt at an egg replacer is applesauce.
My family and I loved this recipe. It’s very moist and well worth the calories!
Why is it called a Sheet Cake?
There are differences between the types of baking pans used in baking, and a sheet cake pan is a large pan with low sides, creating a cake that is more dense (not as tall) as a typical cake. A typical sheet cake is more like a brownie in that regard.
Sheet cake pans come in different sizes, and this recipe calls for a half size sheet cake pan which is typically 12″ X 16″ X 3″.
We’ve called those cookie sheets or baking sheets, my mom and me. But it’s good to recognize and call things by their proper names. So, if your pan is slightly longer than it is wide and the sides are about 3″ tall, you have a sheet pan.
Make this Vegan Chocolate Sheet Cake
OK, Let’s get to this recipe. For the sheet cake itself, I was going for something moist and delicious. I love to have this sheet cake on holidays or my splurge days, so healthiness was not a consideration. Sometimes it’s good to be indulgent.
Here are the ingredients used to make the cake:
- vegan butter
- peanut butter
- cocoa powder
- baking soda
- soy buttermilk, made from combining soy milk with apple cider vinegar
- vegan sour cream
Nothing too surprising there. These are very typical ingredients used in making a cake. Obviously things take a turn towards interesting when it comes to the soy buttermilk. You can use whatever plant-based milk you have on hand, just add some apple cider vinegar to help it curdle, like buttermilk.
For vegan sour cream, I most often use Tofutti’s. I can find it in the health food section of our local grocery store. Health food stores carry it too.
Healthy Chocolate Sheet Cake
Let’s be real, this sheet cake recipe is not the stuff of health food dreams. But there are some tweaks that can make it healthier.
First, let’s talk about flour. I like to use whole wheat pastry flour (WWPF) and for this recipe. I call for using half all-purpose white flour and half WWPF. It works.
Now, let’s chat about sugar. You can use plain-ol’ granulated sugar if that’s what you have on hand. We have slowly transitioned to using things like coconut sugar and reducing the sugar in our recipes when we can. I have a note in the recipe below about ways you can reduce the sugar toll on this recipe if that’s what you want to do.
That said, every now in then you want a completely indulgent, full sugary, vegan version of a chocolate sheet cake in its complete and utter gloriousness.
I get that.
Feeling Grateful for Chocolate
Interestingly enough, the chocolate sheet cake (along with brownies) became more popular during the early years of the 20th century. Why? Because the availability and affordability of chocolate made using chocolate in baking quite popular.
It’s easy to take things like cocoa powder for granted because it’s so relatively available these days…and so affordable.
Do you ever have those days when writing in your gratitude journal feels like a struggle? You can always add “I’m grateful to have cocoa powder and dark chocolate in my cupboard.”
And if you’re in a “grateful for chocolate” moment, feel free to try my vegan chocolate cake recipe. It’s simple, but also perfection. And I can’t seem to get enough of my vegan chocolate chia pudding. Its healthy enough to have on the regular!
Old Fashioned Chocolate Sheet Cake
Truth be told, the old fashioned chocolate sheet cake is made on the stove. I just modernized it by using the microwave. You can still use the stove if you’d like, but just to be clear here, it will taste the same.
And I know some people are worried that microwaves cause strange electrical impulses (in the food, in our brains? I’m not sure), but I’m not in that category. We use our microwave regularly, like many tools in the kitchen.
So, whereas many of the ingredients are standard for a sheet cake recipe, I did adapt a few ingredients (to veganize it) and the processes (to make it easier/faster).
We hope you love this recipe for vegan chocolate sheet cake. I know we sure do! If you decide to make it, be sure and grab your phone and snap a photo! And then share it with me using #namelymarly on Instagram. We love seeing your photos!
- ½ cup plant-based milk (vanilla or plain)
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup vegan butter
- ½ cup peanut butter
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup cocoa powder , unsweetened
- 2 cups sugar (see notes)
- 2 cups flour (1 cup white & 1 cup whole wheat)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup applesauce
- ½ cup vegan sour cream we use Tofutti Sour Cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup vegan butter
- ¼ cup cocoa
- ¼ cup soy milk
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup chopped pecans
Heat your oven to 350. Prepare a half-sized sheet cake pan (12X16X3) by spraying with cooking spray, or lining with parchment paper.
In a small bowl combine plant-based milk and apple cider vinegar. Stir. Set aside.
Combine vegan butter, peanut butter, water, and cocoa powder in a microwave-safe mixing bowl. Place in the microwave and heat until butters melt. I used 20 second increments followed by stirring. Repeat until everything is melted. (You can also use a saucepan and place over medium heat, stir, and then transfer to a mixing bowl).
In a separate bowl, add sugar, flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir to combine. Add this to the vegan butter mixture and stir to combine.
To the bowl with the milk, add the apple sauce, vegan sour cream, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Add this to the batter. Stir to combine.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350F for 20 - 25 minutes. Insert a tester in the middle of the cake to see if it comes out clean. If so, the cake is done. If not, bake for a few more minutes.
While the cake is baking, begin mixing your frosting. Combine vegan butter, cocoa powder, and milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30-second increments until the mixture begins to boil.
Remove from microwave and add powdered sugar and vanilla and mix well. Stir in the chopped pecans.
Once cake is done, remove from the oven. Spread frosting over cake while still hot. Place a half pecan piece in the center of where each slice will be.
Let's talk about sugar. Make this recipe as is for a delicious, sweet, indulgent chocolate sheet cake. Or, use 1:1 coconut sugar or turbinado sugar. If you're looking for a less sweet version of this recipe, you can reduce the sugar in this recipe by up to a full cup! Don't worry, the cake will still be good, and the sugar from the frosting will make up for any reduced sweetness in the cake itself. So, feel free to play around with the types of sugar and quantity to get your desired result. You can even use an ingredient like Swerve (made from Erythritol), to create minimal impact on blood sugar.