Best Vegan Birthday Cake


“I’m feeling so weird. I have no interest in making a cake.”

“WHAT?” Erik’s raised eyebrows were the equivalent shouting in surprise, given his level of exhaustion after days of working on his latest grad school paper.

I know.”

Best Vegan Birthday Cake // The Pancake Princess

I don’t know if it was business school or the fact that I hadn’t been craving sugar in the weeks leading up to my birthday, but when it finally rolled around, I really did have pretty much zero interest in making a cake for myself. Of course, a cake wasn’t even at all necessary thanks to cupcakes from my sister, a pastry-laden brunch with a good friend, and an extraordinarily lavish seafood birthday dinner with Erik that ended with a spectacularly large bananas fosters cake, onto which our waiter poured a stream of fiery rum that sizzled away quietly on the table. I attribute my dream of being pregnant that night to the food baby aftermath.

Best Vegan Birthday Cake // The Pancake Princess

Best Vegan Birthday Cake // The Pancake Princess

Best Vegan Birthday Cake // The Pancake Princess

But then I had the bright idea to throw myself a birthday gathering and even though they say do whatever you want on your birthday, I couldn’t reconcile myself to the idea of a cake-less party. Expectations, you know.

Best Vegan Birthday Cake // The Pancake Princess

So the night before the gathering, I mindlessly mixed up a batch of coconut milk ice cream and baked up my favorite vegan chocolate cake recipe (splitting the cake into one portion chocolate and one portion vanilla-chocolate-chip with the vague idea of making some kind of hybrid layered cake served with ice cream). Upon releasing the chocolate chip cake from its pan, I found the chocolate chips had cemented themselves to the bottom of the pan, causing the cake to fall out in approximately 9,000 uneven chunks and crumbs. Exasperated and still uninterested in the end result, I threw all the cake in the freezer and went to bed.

The next morning, I did what I always do when I end up with cake scraps instead of layers: made a momofuku style cake. A layer of squashed chocolate cake remnants. A layer of chocolate chip cake molded with the help of extra-soft ice cream. More chocolate cake. A slick of ganache to hold toasted cake crumbs.

Best Vegan Birthday Cake // The Pancake Princess

Ultimately, it was a hit. Tremendously moist, dewy chocolate cake, a chocolate-chip-studded cakey middle molded into place by thick ribbons of caramel-tinted ice cream and topped off with toasted morsels of cake: perfect summer food. And of course, it turns out that I didn’t even need to make it. Fretting that there wouldn’t be enough food, I decided to double up on dessert and picked up a package of doughnuts to make a DIY waffled doughnut bar in addition to the cake…and then my siblings surprised me at the party by bringing me a mini cake tasting.

So just in case anyone was worried, more than enough sugar was present on and around my birthday–including this cake, which is personally the best vegan birthday cake I’ve ever had. And now, though there is no way on earth you can argue that this cake is the least bit healthy, I’m sharing the recipe for this really awesome vegan ice cream cake. Because I think we can all agree that birthdays are for splurging.

Best Vegan Birthday Cake // The Pancake Princess


While this is a momofuku-style cake (which is characterized by a structure of using cake scraps for the bottom layer instead of whole cake layers and studded with milk crumbs in between layers), I switched things up a little by toasting cake crumbs in lieu of the milk crumbs for the extra crunchy texture + garnish. Less work, but just as effective.

If you try making this cake, I highly recommend baking the cake layers ahead of time and freezing them overnight so there’s no residual warmth to melt the ice cream. I also recommend making the ice cream base the night before, chilling it overnight, and then churning it right before you assemble the cake so the ice cream is extra-soft and pliable.

Lastly, I promise this cake looked a lot neater and more photogenic before it was defrosted, cut, half-eaten, and re-frozen. Your finished product will not look like it’s hemorrhaging ice cream and bits of cake.

Best Vegan Birthday {Ice Cream} Cake

Yield: 1 triple-layer, 6-inch cake


  • For the cake:
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cup almond milk
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract

  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips, tossed in flour

  • For the ice cream:
  • 2 cans full-fat coconut milk
  • ½ cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons spiced rum*

  • For the ganache:
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons almond milk


For the cake:

Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans and heat oven to 315 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla and stir until combined--do not overmix.

Divide batter equally into two bowls. Stir cocoa powder into one bowl and half the chocolate chips into the other bowl. Pour each bowl of batter into a prepared cake pan. Sprinkle the rest of the chocolate chips over the vanilla cake.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back slightly when pressed. Remove and let cool completely. Remove layers from the pans and freeze, well-wrapped in plastic wrap, until ready to use.

For the ice cream:

Prepare an ice bath. Combine the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan. Remove about 1/2 cup of the milk and whisk in the cornstarch until smooth. Whisk cornstarch mixture back into the pot.

Bring mixture to a low boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 1-2 minutes, then remove heat and place in an ice bath. Whisk in the vanilla and rum. Let mixture chill fully (about 1.5 hours) or chill overnight before freezing in an ice cream maker.

To make the cake crumbs:

In a frying pan over medium heat, crumble about 3/4 cup of the chocolate chip cake into the pan and toast for 5-10 minutes until the crumbs start to turn golden. Let cool completely before use.

To make the ganache:

Place chocolate chips and milk in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 45 seconds. Stir until melted.

To assemble:

Stamp out a 6-inch circle of chocolate cake from the 9-inch layer, reserving the cake scraps. Line a 6-inch cake pan with a large sheet of plastic wrap.

Place all the scraps from the chocolate layer on the bottom of the cake pan, pressing down gently to form a flat layer. Add a scoop or two of softened ice cream, then the rest of the chocolate chip cake, breaking it up to form a second layer of cake. Add another scoop or two of ice cream on top, flattening with a spatula. Top with the 6-inch circle of chocolate cake. Spread ganache across the top and top with the toasted cake crumbs. Freeze for at least four hours before serving.


*You can use nearly any alcohol--this is just what I had on hand. The original recipe called for vodka, which is virtually flavorless..

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28 thoughts on “Best Vegan Birthday Cake

  1. Pingback: 13 Vegan Birthday Cake Recipes + 1 Extra for Good Luck - Vegan Food Lover

    1. Michelle Lindholm
      Did you mean to say 315 degrees F? I baked this cake twice, without the cocoa powder & chips, just as a vanilla cake, & it smelt delicious. The first time, I added 1 tsp lemon essence also, to the batter. I put the entire batch into one 3" oval cake pan, & baked it as directed. It rose beautifully, but in cooling, completely sank, & was dreadfully uncooked in the middle. The test stick came clean, & it was up risen in the pan, so I took it out to cool. I later put it back in the oven, at 350 degrees F, & let it cook another 25 minutes. It was a caramelized cake, & still edible, but I said: "what happened?" Was 315 degrees F a misprint/typo/error? I looked up on line temperatures to bake a 3" high cake at, & 350 for 50-60 minutes was the reply. Every other cake recipe I have says 350 degrees F. I just thought that maybe there was something special about your cake recipe here. I tried the cake again today, at 315 degrees F, this time in 2 9" round pans, as directed. They are still cooling in the pans, & I haven't even dared to touch them, other than to lightly press on each middle. They appeared to be ready after 30 minutes, to come out the oven. They are cooling completely in their pans, as directed, but they have sunk pretty low in the pan, & not stayed high up to the top, the way they were in the oven, just when I took them out. They smell nice still - I added 1/8 tsp coconut essence to these. I have been using gluten-free flours in both recipes, but I use these various flours all the time, and don't have this sunk down in the pan result. Can you tell me, am I supposed to be baking this recipe, in whatever pan, with whatever flour(s), at 350 degrees F?
      1. erika Post author
        Hi Michelle--sorry for the delay in my response, but yes, the cake should be 315 degrees F. It's based off of Sweetapolita's vegan chocolate cupcakes ( I've never tried baking this cake without cocoa powder and with gluten-free flours, so I'm afraid that may be the culprit. I recently retested the recipe as written and does cook all the way through! Sorry to hear your modifications didn't work out--I'll see if I can find a good gluten-free cake to share soon :)
  2. Janet @ the taste space
    Happy birthday! I have also lost my kitchen mojo.... too long out of the kitchen with snack foods has become a new habit. But how could one not get excited about this??? Also, you are just too ingenious. A flop totally turned into a gem. :)
  3. Anne
    Happy belated birthday!!! There are two kinds of people in the world. One kind of people can make disasters delicious. The other kind feeds it to the squirrels. I'm part of the squirrel group. I mean squirrels need food too, no? I dunno how you guys make disasters so delicious... Seriously, I have got to make this soon!!! Too bad my birthday is half a year away... But who says cake is only for birthdays? :D
  4. cynthia
    Oh my goodness, I would have no idea that you had any mishaps with this cake! It's GORGEOUS. I'm always a little relieved when I'm not craving sweets (you know, all two times in my life).. but the next time that happens all I'm gonna need to do is look at this cake to revive it. :) Happy birthday!!!!
  5. Katie (The Muffin Myth)
    Happy Birthday! And hats off to you for turning a baking fail into something magnificent. I think we can all learn a good lesson about life, and cake, from this. Just chill and mash something together. Yum!
  6. Sophie
    Oooooh! Love everything about this! All the flavors and textures. Way to turn a sad cake into an epic masterpiece! Woohoo. And happy birthday to the princess of all cakes :) :)
  7. stephanie
    hip hip happiest of birthday to YOU sweet Erika!!! this cake looks absolutely delicious: Tremendously moist, dewy chocolate cake, a chocolate-chip-studded cakey middle molded into place by thick ribbons of caramel-tinted ice cream and topped off with toasted morsels of cake: perfect summer food. That is HEAVEN. and i love your waffled donut bar idea!! so sad you didn't take any pics!
  8. Nancy @ gottagetbaked
    "Your finished product will not look like it’s hemorrhaging ice cream and bits of cake." <-- lmao, Erika. Ain't nothin' wrong with any of that! It would still look and taste just as delicious. I'm glad you had a wonderful, sugar-laden birthday, my friend. You deserve it. And next year, if you don't feel like making a cake again, screw the expectations and delegate. Have someone else make/bring you one. It's your day, girl. You shouldn't have to do anything you don't want to! Although your efforts yielded something amazing - I would cram this beauty into my mouth like nobody's business. I hear ya on the lack of effort - I really haven't done much baking, blogging or social media engagement this summer and it feels great. I feel like a weight has been lifted and I'm actually concentrating on things that matter. Maybe now that it's fall, I'll get back into the groove. Anyways, hope you're enjoying school so far and aren't too stressed!
  9. Joyti
    It's strange, those not-craving-sugar periods...happens to all of us I guess. I'm glad you changed your mind about sugar/birthday cake though becuase your cake looks and sounds INCREDIBLE. And happy belated birthday :)
  10. Kathryn
    Happy happy birthday Erika! I totally get where you're coming from re cake burnout but I'm totally in awe of what you managed to come up with here. Seriously the best cake ever and one I can't wait to recreate!
  11. The Vegan 8
    Happy birthday Erika!!! The cake looks gorgeous and amazingly rich and decadent, just perfect. Combining two of my favorite cream and cake, yum!! I love making coconut ice cream...I'm kind of obsessed with it. You weren't craving sugar?? What's wrong with you?! Haha just kidding...I kid because I'm pretty much always craving sweets

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