Superfood Chocolate Cake (gluten-free!)

When life gives you black beans, make chocolate cake.

Superfood Chocolate Cake // The Pancake Princess

It is really the only logical thing to do other than to throw them into my favorite soup or a maybe delicious cheesy skillet. But it’s been far too long since chocolate cake has shown up on this blog—maybe never, in fact *gasp*—and I owed someone chocolate cake.

Superfood Chocolate Cake // The Pancake Princess Superfood Chocolate Cake // The Pancake Princess

The first time I saw Angelica Kitchen’s recipe for chocolate cake, I was fascinated by the frosting—it didn’t use any fat or sugar: instead, maple syrup, cornstarch and something called agar flakes, which it turns out, are a kind of sea vegetable that serves as a gelatin substitute (superfood #2).

When boiled with water, the flakes create a jelly-like concoction. When you add cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla, it turns into liquidy chocolate jelly and when you add some milk and cornstarch, it thickens up into a sludgy chocolate pudding which actually tastes pretty good despite my less-than-appealing description. The downside? You can definitely tell it’s fat-free—there’s a lack of richness that all the maple syrup in the world can’t make up for (and it calls for a lot of the world’s maple syrup: 2 ¼ cups! I cut this down.) So that’s the frosting. It wasn’t my favorite, but it worked with the cake and I’m posting it in case you are curious about a completely fat-free frosting. (And because I felt like you can’t post a cake recipe without a frosting recipe.)

Superfood Chocolate Cake // The Pancake Princess

Onto the cake: after a few scarring experiences with black bean baking, I never thought I’d be back for more, but this brilliant lady found a combination of ingredients that come together in a baked black bean creation that tastes exactly like chocolate cake that’s not too sweet and a tiny bit fudgy, but still mostly cakey despite the fact that it has zero flour! I think it only serves as a symbol of how muddled my mind is right now that I baked up a gluten-free cake with a vegan frosting. I suppose gluten-free folk would be able to eat the entire cake, but sorry vegans–I haven’t figure out a way to veganize black bean cake :( Yet.

Superfood Chocolate Cake // The Pancake Princess

And now, I’m off to the airport tomorrow where my winter break shall be kicked off with an all-you-can-eat Asian buffet and a dinner party co-hosted by this lady, middled with Christmas and put to bed in LA at what will surely be the most hoppin’ NYE party in all of that tiny beach town. Whee!

Superfood Chocolate Cake

Simply the best black bean cake I've ever tried. This will make up for all the black bean baking failures you've ever had.


  • For the cake:
  • 1 15.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed (or: ~1 ¾ cups cooked black beans)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil OR butter or coconut oil at room temperature*
  • scant 3/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • For the vegan chocolate pudding frosting:
  • 6 tablespoons agar flakes
  • 1.5 cups water
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ - 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla
  • scant ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoons almond milk


For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 6-inch round cake pan.

Blend the beans, two eggs, vanilla and sugar in a high speed blender until completely smooth.

If using olive oil: add the olive oil and two remaining eggs and blend again. Add the cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda and blend until smooth.

If using butter or coconut oil: In a separate large bowl, beat the butter or coconut oil until fluffy. Add the remaining two eggs, beating well after each egg. Beat in the bean mixture until fully combined, then the cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. Beat for 1-2 minutes.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top springs back.

Let cool for 5 minutes before flipping the cake out onto a cooling rack. Let the pan cool completely before pouring the remaining batter into the pan. Bake until done. Let cool for 5 minutes. Allow for both layers to cool completely before icing.

For the frosting:

Simmer the agar flakes and water together for 3 minutes, then whisk in the cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla and salt.

Whisk the cornstarch and almond milk in a small bowl and add to the agar mixture. Let simmer for five minutes until very thick, then remove from heat.

Pour into a glass pan or measuring cup and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, or until the cake is ready to be frosted. Whisk the frosting by hand or with an electric beater before frosting.


*I've tried both olive oil and butter. The one with butter was slightly better, but requires extra steps. I would go with either depending on my level of laziness.

Adapted from here and the Angelica Kitchen cookbook.

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34 thoughts on “Superfood Chocolate Cake (gluten-free!)

  1. Christine

    You call for 6″ round cake pans. This isn’t a typical size. How do I use this to make a normal sized cake??

    1. erika Post author

      I would try doubling the recipe and baking in an 8″ or 9″ cake. Although I haven’t tried this, so I’m not sure how long it would need to bake for–keep a close eye on it!

  2. Felis Gober

    I just made cupcakes with this recipe. Turned out beautifully and they taste so good. I used coconut oil. So excited how this turned out. Thank you Erika for sharing. :-)

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  4. Marianna

    Hey, will this recipe work if I substitute black beans for red kidney beans?
    Also, 15.5 oz is the total weight of a can, before draining, right? (Sorry, outside US!)
    Thanks in advance, I’m planning to make this tomorrow!

    1. erika Post author

      Hi Marianna! Yikes I honestly have no idea about using red kidney beans, sorry! I’ve only ever tried it with black beans but I’m curious what the product would be like red kidney beans…let me know if you try it! Yes, that is the weight before draining. According to the can, there should be 1 and 3/4 cups of beans total, which probably isn’t that helpful, but you can convert that to grams or whatever you’re using.

      Hope you like the cake and thanks for stopping by! :)

  5. Lianna

    HOW IS THIS SUPERFOOD WHEN IT LOOKS SO SINFULLY GOOD?!?! I must have done something right in this world.

    I’ve bookmarked this. I can’t wait to not feel as guilty as I usually do when I give in to chocolate cake. I can’t get over how moist and chocolately and fantastic this looks seeing as its made of black beans. This is the best new years present ever!

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    1. erika Post author

      Haha Erik is not too big on the idea of black bean baking either, but I’m pretty sure he would have loved this cake had I saved him a piece! (muahaha. Did not share.)

  8. Nancy @ gottagetbaked

    As someone who has butter and sugar running through her veins, this frosting scares me a bit but damn girl, this cake! It looks amazing! I would’ve never guessed there are super healthy black beans in there. The texture is perfect – it looks so fluffy and moist. Merry Christmas, dearest Erika! You are one of the best blogging friends a gal could ever ask for. I hope you eat yourself into a wonderful food coma. Enjoy every minute of your winter break. Much love to ya, Nance.

  9. laurasmess

    Wow. I had no idea that a black bean cake with fat-free frosting could look this darn good!!! It’s amazing Erika… gorgeously moist, seriously dark and mysterious, thick fudgy frosting, not at ALL healthy looking (I mean that in the most positive sense!). Definitely want to try this, though I definitely echo everyone’s comments about both black bean chocolate baking and chickpea cookie dough. I am not normally a fan of either but I am definitely going to try this cake regardless!!! I hope that you and Erik have an awesome Christmas, full of merriment and everything sweet xxx

  10. Irina @ wandercrush

    I completely agree about scarring black bean dessert experiences! I was always enamoured with the idea because of my black bean obsession and fascination with healthy baking alternatives… but I have had SO many disasters with bizarre black bean brownies over the past few years that I’ve never attempted making cake with them. This looks perfect, though, and I trust your judgment as the Pancake Princess 😉 Have you ever made black bean chocolate pancakes? Heh.

  11. Joanne

    Whoa! I never would have guessed that this was anything other than a crazy rich decadent chocolate cake! Definite bonus that it actually has redeeming qualities!

  12. Alice

    Love these stunning snaps and I’ve got to say, for a black bean chocolate this must’ve been awesome! That frosting looks super slick & good too, ‘oh so glossy!’

  13. The Vegan 8

    Ugh, I hear ya….black bean baking is so GROSS! But by the looks of this, you’d never know….I can see how all the eggs would help the texture. Wouldn’t work as a vegan cake, but for people who eat eggs, this is purely gorgeous and looks so chocolatey!! You made it look like a PERFECT chocolate cake! Oh, and now I see what you meant when you said my chocolate ganache reminded you from something from this Angelica’s kitchen….mine has similar ingredients, just no heating or agar flakes. I may try this sometime and use tapioca starch and some other liquid for rise and see if it will work :)

    1. erika Post author

      Cool! Thanks for the compliments :) Minimalist Baker has some vegan GF black bean brownies that look pretty good but yeah–other than that, I really haven’t found very many successful vegan black bean recipes!

    1. erika Post author

      Oh my gosh Katie!! I meant to tell you that I made a rice krispie cube for my office white elephant exchange and it was the hit of the party! Apparently all the execs were talking about it at their dinner event yesterday. The lucky guy who opened it sliced it up and left it in the kitchen yesterday (and brought me a box with four giant pieces), so it was a win all around. Thanks for the brilliant idea!!

  14. Kaylie @ Skinny Muffin

    Totally learned something new. Agar flakes have always freaked me out (isn’t it agar-agar that they use in science labs??) but now I know it’s not scary! Win! And chocolate cake is a must for blogs. I have no chocolate cake, only chocolate cupcakes. This needs to change.

    1. erika Post author

      Lolll so THAT’S why it sounded familiar!! And I know right? I did a double take when I realized I have no chocolate cake recipes. Must be fixed!


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