This Healthy Chocolate Cake is made healthier with whole wheat flour, maple syrup, yogurt and covered in vegan 4 ingredient frosting. It is moist, easy and is every chocolate lover’s dream!
You may also enjoy this almond flour chocolate cake (gluten free).
Table of contents
When I am not enjoying almond flour brownies, I enjoy this healthy chocolate cake! It is moist and not overly sweet. I based it on a vanilla sour cream cake recipe I grew up with in Ukraine. I also blame this healthy cake appearance on a batch of Instant Pot yogurt.
I originally posted this healthier cake recipe back in 2017 and updated it at the end of 2021. Well, just like a good wine, I improve with time aka my baking skills.
The cake itself has very slight modifications. However, instead of using yogurt frosting which was too runny, I included a 4 ingredient thick frosting that you can actually spread. Please see recipe notes for old recipe frosting.
If you are “not a baker”, this recipe is for you. The process and ingredients list couldn’t be more simple!
Ingredients for Healthy Chocolate Cake
For the Cake
- Flour: Whole wheat or spelt flour. I have not tested this cake with all-purpose or gluten-free flour, so can’t say but it is possible recipe will work.
- Cacao powder: Cacao powder is less processed than cocoa powder but either will work. I use unsweetened.
- Eggs: 3 large eggs, no need for room temperature eggs. I also think chia seed egg or flax egg replacer will work.
- Yogurt: You will need regular (not Greek) yogurt with 3% and higher fat content (whole milk) for the cake batter.
- Oil: Any mild tasting oil like avocado oil or light olive oil. Melted coconut oil is great too if you love its taste (I do!). We will use just 1/4 cup.
- Sweetener: Any liquid sweetener will work. I prefer maple syrup because I find honey comes through a bit too strong and makes the cake less sweet.
- Baking essentials: Baking powder, baking soda, pure vanilla extract, salt.
- Boiling water (not pictured): To enhance the chocolate flavor.
For Healthy Chocolate Frosting & Decor
- Coconut milk: A can of full-fat coconut milk (not coconut cream). I believe you can also use heavy cream.
- Chocolate chips: A pack of chocolate chips, chunks or chopped up chocolate bar.
- Vanilla: What’s a frosting without a dash of pure vanilla extract?!
- Salt: Just a pinch because chocolate and salt are a perfect match.
- Chocolate bar (optional): If you would like to decorate with shavings on top like in a photo.
How to Make Healthy Chocolate Cake
Making healthy chocolate cake recipe from scratch is easy. However, baking is a science and for best results I recommend to follow the recipe closely. If you would like to make some substitutions, please see Common FAQs section below.
- Prep: Place two 9 inch round cake pans bottoms down on parchment paper, circle around with pen, then cut out with scissors. Place cut outs inside each pan and spray with cooking spray covering the sides.
- Mix dry ingredients: Combine flour, cacao powder, baking soda + powder, salt and whisk until you see no lumps. If your cacao powder is lumpy, I recommend to sift it through a mesh sieve pushing with a spoon.
- Mix wet ingredients: In another large bowl, add eggs, maple syrup, yogurt, oil and vanilla extract. Whisk or beat with an electric mixer for 30 seconds.
- Combine into batter and bake: Combine wet with dry ingredients and whisk until smooth (I did have some clumps and cake turned out great!). Add boiling water, and whisk until combined well. Divide batter evenly between two previously prepared pans and bake on a bottom rack for 25 minutes.
- Remove from pans and let cool completely: Remove pans from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes. Using a spatula, separate the edge of each cake from the pan, flip on a wire rack, peel off parchment paper and let cakes cool completely before frosting.
How do you know it is ready? Chocolate cake should be moist so it is important not to overbake it. When you insert toothpick in the center after 25 minutes of bake time, it should come out with some crumbs attached to it, not clean.
The Frosting Options
I originally posted this healthy chocolate cake recipe a few years back and updated it now. The cake itself has very slight modifications. However, instead of using yogurt frosting which was too runny, I included a 4 ingredient thick frosting that you can actually spread.
Yogurt Chocolate Frosting
If you loved that yogurt frosting, here is the recipe. You will need 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt (2%+ fat), 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/3 cup cacao powder, and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract. Whisk and spread in between layers and pour over the cake.
Healthy Vegan Chocolate Frosting
This is the healthy chocolate frosting you see in the photos here. Essentially it is a ganache. Once chilled, frosting becomes thick enough to spread and we whip it to add fluffiness.
- Just melt the chocolate chips with a can of coconut milk, vanilla extract and salt. Then chill for about 3-4 hours.
- Chocolate frosting is ready when there is a dent from your finger. Whip it up with an electric hand mixer for a few minutes or until a bit fluffy.
Healthy Buttercream Frosting
If you are OK with white color frosting, use this healthier buttercream frosting. It uses a bit of butter, less sugar than traditional recipes and a lot of volume is created with a lighter than butter roux.
This recipe makes enough to frost this chocolate cake. It will become kind of like a Tuxedo cake. If you love cream cheese, healthy cream cheese frosting is also an option, or try thick Greek yogurt frosting which is optionally sugar free!
Tips for Frosting the Cake
I have a few options for healthy frosting to use in this cake. The process will be the same no matter which one you pick.
- Spread a bit of frosting on the plate to prevent it from sliding.
- Place one cake. Then I recommend to spread about 1 cup of frosting for the middle layer.
- Then place second cake on top and spread the rest of frosting for full coverage of the top and sides. I love this offset spatula.
Once assembled, frosting will be a bit soft. I recommend to place cake in the fridge for 3 hours to help it solidify, especially the middle layer.
I went with a classic look of chocolate shavings. I used “less healthy” Hershey’s chocolate bar because it has more cacao in it and shaves better. If you would like to decorate with chocolate shavings, using a vegetable peeler shave the chocolate bar into a bowl, then add on top.
Also a chocolate bar will shave better if left at room temperature for 30 minutes beforehand. You can use organic chocolate bar and grate it for fine shavings.
Fresh slices strawberries or raspberries, or freeze dried crushed raspberries will be great! Also try sprinkles for a festive healthy birthday cake. So many options!
If you would like to take this cake to the next level, piping is an option. You can pipe either the chocolate frosting or buttercream frosting on top. I piped the buttercream in these healthy vanilla cupcakes and it help up very well.
Here is handy piping tutorial that I found.
- Springform pans: If using springform pans, keep in mind they are not 100% leak proof and thin cake batter like this one will leak through. Line the base with parchment paper coming up where the sides meets the base to create a “cover”.
- Triple layer cake: You will need 8 inch round baking pans. Bake 20-25 minutes.
- Sheet cake: Use 9 x 13 large baking casserole dish lined with parchment paper and sprayed well. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
- Cupcakes: Line regular muffin tin with unbleached parchment paper cups or cupcake liners. Fill 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22-25 minutes. Makes about 30 cupcakes.
How to Store
This healthy chocolate cake recipe is a perfect candidate for make ahead cake. Its texture, moistness or flavor do not change with time.
Making ahead: Bake and cool off the cake layers completely. Then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Same goes for the chocolate frosting – it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, just whip it up before you are ready to assemble.
If you would like to freeze the cake layers, double or triple wrap them in plastic wrap, place in resealable Ziploc bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter for a few hours. I have not tried to freeze frosting but I think it will be fine because it is high in fat and low in water.
Storing leftovers: Refrigerate cake covered for up to 5 days. Make sure container is airtight otherwise frosting will dry out slowly. I use this dome cover on top of a cake platter.
Freezing leftovers: Freeze cake tightly wrapped in plastic and then placed in a resealable Ziploc bag. Or in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Whole wheat flour has a reputation of being heavy. However, this cake doesn’t have a typical whole wheat taste because cacao powder, maple syrup and yogurt cover it up.
It is not overly sweet. It also has a tiny bit of a tang from yogurt. Overall, it tastes sweet enough and delicious to all of us.
I have not tried using any kind of granulated sugar in this healthy cake recipe but I do think it will work. I have tried swapping erythritol for sugar in almond flour banana bread recipe and it worked well.
Please note you will need to add 1 3/4 cups of dry sweetener instead of 1 cup of liquid sweetener. Healthier sugar options are coconut sugar or cane sugar. Please let me know if you try!
I have not tried to make this cake with gluten free flour, however I do believe it will work. I recommend to use Bob’s Red Mill gluten free blend.
If you would like to use almond flour, check out my almond flour chocolate cake. Please note coconut flour will not work in this recipe.
Butter consists of 80% fat whereas oil is 100% fat, so cake might come out on a drier side.
I do not recommend to use less maple syrup because this chocolate cake is not overly sweet. But if you wish, you can – recipe will work.
Yes. Boiling water reacts with cocoa powder and enhances the chocolatey flavor of the cake. It has to be not hot tap water but boiling water because it blooms and hydrates the cacao powder making the chocolate cake more tasty and its texture more fluffy.
More Healthy Cake Recipes
- Healthy carrot cake
- Healthy pumpkin cake
- Gluten free carrot cake
- Healthy coffee cake
- Almond flour cake
- Healthy cheesecake
Moist Healthy Chocolate Cake
For Healthy Chocolate Cake:
- 1 3/4 cups whole wheat or spelt flour
- 3/4 cup cacao or cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup plain yogurt 3%+ fat
- 1/4 cup avocado oil or any mild tasting oil
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup boiling water
For Healthy Chocolate Frosting:
- 14 oz can coconut milk full fat (not coconut cream)
- 2 cups chocolate chips 10 oz bag
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
For Decor (Optional):
- 1 chocolate bar room temperature
To Make Healthy Chocolate Frosting:
- We start by making frosting first because it needs to chill. In a medium pot, warm up entire can of coconut milk (cream and clear liquid) just until it starts to boil but not boiling.
- Remove from heat, add chocolate, vanilla extract, salt, and whisk until smooth. It will be runny. Place right in the pot in the fridge to solidify – should take about 3-4 hours.
- Frosting is ready to be whipped when there is a dent from your finger. Whip it up with an electric hand mixer for a few minutes or until a bit fluffy. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake
To Make Healthy Chocolate Cake:
- Place two 9 inch round cake pans bottoms down on parchment paper, circle around with pen, then cut out with scissors. Place cut outs inside each cake pan and spray with cooking spray covering the sides. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, cacao powder, baking soda + powder, salt and whisk until you see no lumps.
- In another large bowl, add eggs, maple syrup, yogurt, oil and vanilla extract. Whisk or beat with an electric mixer for 30 seconds. Add flour mixture to the bowl with wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add boiling water, and whisk until combined well.
- Divide batter evenly between two previously prepared cake pans and bake on a bottom rack for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with some crumbs attached to it. Do not overbake.
- Remove cakes from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes. Using a spatula, separate the edge of each cake from the pan, flip on a wire rack, peel off parchment paper and let cakes cool off completely before assembling.
- When ready to assemble the cake, use about 1 cup of frosting for the middle layer, and the rest will be enough for full coverage of the top and sides.
- To decorate with chocolate shavings, using a vegetable peeler shave the chocolate bar into a bowl, then add on top. Also fresh berries or freeze dried crushed raspberries will be great! Cut into 16 slices, serve and enjoy!
- Store: Refrigerate covered for up to 5 days.
- Freeze: Tightly wrapped or in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
This was really yummy. It’s a proper ‘birthday cake’ so enough for 8-10 people so I’ve frozen some slices. I was worried that the yoghurt would make it too heavy, but it was a nice texture, not too dense. I used 50% plain white flour, 15% buckwheat and remainder strong wholemeal bread flour because that’s what I had in my store cupboard and it still worked. Thanks for a great recipe!
You are very welcome Camilla!
Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful with this recipe – but no doubt I did something wrong. The batter was too dense, almost dough like. Maybe I used the wrong type of yoghurt? I didn’t have whole wheat flour, so I used regular (King Arthur) unbleached flour. I also was trying to make cupcakes versus a layer cake and so adjusted the cook time to compensate (but I have a feeling this wasn’t the issue). They ended up looking kinda like large brown golf balls! If anyone else had a similar issue or Olena – if you think you know what I did wrong, please do share. I will eat what I made (since I don’t want to put those three beautiful eggs to waste), but being single its gonna take me awhile, as I don’t want to hoist them upon anyone else!
It’s the flour. You have to use whole wheat and follow the recipe when baking.
Just what I’ve been looking for trying to use less fat but I had to improvise on the flour and the baking soda, and added trifle sponge fingers or nice crunchy bits inside lovely and chocolatey thank you
You are welcome Colin!
I absolutely LOVE this recipe 😍. The only healthy cake I found which tastes absolutely devine ❤. I have done it 3 times already and today I added chopped hazelnuts and used Soy Yogurt instead of Greek Yogurt which worked absolutely fine ❤. Highly Recommend 😊
I am so thrilled to hear this Amanda! Thanks for sharing your experience with soy yogurt.
Can’t see a quantities ingredient s list
Hi Sarah! It’s there (I just checked). Keep scrolling through the write up and you will find a recipe card at the end with a complete list of ingredients, quantities and thorough instructions.
I can only find 5% Greek yogurt. What do I need to add to make my batter not so thick?
A tiny bit of milk.
Made the cake for my husband’s bday. Himself and my 5 year old (who hates yogurt) loved it. Now on, I don’t need to think twice when he ask for cake. Thanks a lot Olena for this wonderful recipe.
You are very welcome Viji!
Hi! Thank you for your post! I was wondering if I could use dairy alternative yogurts like soy or almond yogurt?
Hi Brittany! Yes, you can. The web has lots of tips on the best non dairy yogurts to use for frosting (as some non dairy yogurts can be more bitter and not that great in baking). Hope that helps.
What size of cake pan did you use?
I use 9 inch cake pans.
This is the first healthy chocolate cake that I love even my picky husband likes it
I am so pleased! Thanks for sharing Marcia!