Easy Chocolate Cake {DF, Plant Based}


Chocolate, like coffee, is a food that comes with some very ugly baggage that most of us would never know about. I’ll never forget the day I learned about it all, I was sitting in my little boutique foods store, Taste, thinking about having to run out after I closed and grabbing loads of Halloween candy to hand out the next week. I just happened to check my email before I left and there it was, in big bold letters:

Does Your Chocolate Have A Secret?

Taste had a large selection of fairly traded foods and gifts for food lovers so I routinely received emails from fair trade organizations about issues related to human rights. This one was all about chocolate, and it is something that stuck with me as a cook and really changed the way I looked all all the foods I ate, not just my love of local eating but every ingredient especially chocolate.

Last week I shared a meme on Instagram about the chocolate trade, and all its dirty little secrets like child labor, human and sex trafficking and inhumane working conditions. It’s not fun to talk about and here is the reality... the chocolate we consume comes at a very heavy price, the lives of men, women and children.

The majority of the chocolate we eat comes from West Africa, specifically Ghana and the Ivory Coast. There are three major players in the chocolate trade, Nestlé, Mars and Hershey, which control nearly 80% of this $100 billion dollar industry. At the heart of it all is an estimated 2.3 million children who are forced into work as young as 5 years old, beaten, starved, kept in slavery and then sold into human and sex trafficking when they are no longer “productive.” Is any chocolate treat worth that amount of suffering? These corporations have been promising for more than 14 years to end these inhumane practices, yet nothing ever changes. 

So what can we do? Like all things, you can send a message with your dollars. Stop buying any chocolate that doesn’t have a fair trade certified label. It’s really that simple. When you buy a fair trade certified product you’re assured that fair labor practices are used in the items production. Bear in mind that it isn’t perfect solution, but it is a starting point. I’ve included a link to some additional resources for you at the end of this post. 

I do apologize for sneaking this discussion into a post about chocolate cake, but as a blogger especially a food blogger, I find it revolting that the millions of us out there aren’t taking a stand on this. Right now there are posts everywhere with all things chocolate and we could effectively shut this all down and force these corporations into compliance by each making a single post...just like this one.  

Are you mad that you’ve been loving chocolate and spending your money on it without knowing all this? I’m sure you are, and you have every right to be. I remember sitting there in my store thinking to myself that I was just about to go out and buy bags full of chocolate candy to hand out to hundreds of happy little children, that was made by BABIES. My God. That was the end of it for me, and I hope the beginning of the end for you. Does this mean you should give up chocolate? No. Not at all! In fact, by buying fair trade certified chocolate you’re giving new opportunities to families that will help lift them from poverty, send their children to school, and create an equitable balance of trade. That’s a very good thing!

Let’s kick this off with my favorite chocolate cake recipe, shall we?  I’ve used Navitas Organics Raw Cacao in my cake, and a relationship based coffee (more on that later). As always, I recommend using organic and keeping your ingredients as local as possible. 

Colleen’s Favorite Chocolate Cake


This is the ridiculously easy, omg delicious cake I’ve been making since I had my cafe. I think the original recipe is from Moosewood. I honestly don’t remember because I’ve made so many adaptations of it over the years. It’s perfect for a crowd, can be iced or not. I like it as is will a little plop of my bourbon whipped Creme. 


3 cups unbleached white flour⠀

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder⠀

2 teaspoons baking soda⠀

1 teaspoon salt⠀

2 cups sugar⠀

1 cup vegetable oil⠀

2 cups cold strong coffee⠀

4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract⠀

4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar⠀

Preparation: ⠀

Lightly spray or oil a 9 x 13 oven proof dish and preheat the oven to 375⠀

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl.⠀

In a second bowl, mix together the oil, cold coffee, and vanilla.⠀

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and mix until smooth. ⠀

Add the vinegar and stir quickly until pale streaks form and are evenly distributed throughout. Don’t dawdle, and don’t worry about it being completely mixed. Now pour it into your prepared pan. 

Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.⠀

Set aside to cool. Ice or top if like, or serve right from the pan. This is better the next day, so make it tonight for your dessert tomorrow 😘 You can divide the recipe in half for a 9” cake pan. Enjoy!

Link To Fair Trade USA Chocolate Makers