Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake & a Surpise Party

Vegan Chocolate Cake. It comes together easily and is perfect for tea time.Listen up, everybody! The rumors are true. I’m throwing a surprise party and everyone’s invited. For whom, you ask? This grande soiree is for Margaret Fox.

I mean…I don’t know her personally, but what the hell? If she’s responsible for one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made, then she deserves a vat of bourbon and a chocolate cake. One that she doesn’t have to bake herself, of course.

I spotted the recipe for Margaret Fox’s Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake on Food52. Immediately, I knew that it was something I had to make and probably very soon. One of the great things about this recipe is its simplicity. If you’re a baker, you probably have everything you need on hand. There will be no trips to the market because your boyfriend finished the eggs this morn. And don’t worry if your milk has gone south; you won’t need it, this go ’round. You’re good. Sit back and relax. You’ve got this.

Vegan Chocolate Cake. It comes together easily and is perfect for tea time.

You can file this recipe under quick. Well, not as quick as Usain Bolt, but quick nonetheless. Quick as in: your batter has come together, you’ve placed it in the pan and it’s all set to go, but your oven hasn’t preheated yet. What? Yeah, this recipe is no joke. Just think of all the things you can do with that extra time. You could wash all the dirty dishes before you even open your oven door. Now, I’m not telling you to do that, I’m just saying it’s a possibility.

Vegan Chocolate Cake. It comes together easily and is perfect for tea time.

Full disclosure: if you’re looking for a super-chocolatey cake, I’d give this one a pass. However, it’s super moist, pairs well with a straightforward icing and will be ready in 45 minutes-start to finish. I went with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar which made the preparation even quicker. As a result, I had just enough time to wrap Margaret Fox’s gift. I hope she likes Chia Pets.


Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe

Recipe Slightly adapted from Food52

Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6-8
  • 1½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons neutral oil (like corn, canola, or vegetable)
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cider or white vinegar
  • Confectioners' sugar (optional, for dusting)
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Sift. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar.
  3. Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures. If lumpy, whisk until smooth.
  4. Pour into a greased and floured 9-inch round cake pan. (I used an 8-inch which I lined with a greased aluminum foil round)
  5. Tap the edge of the pan against the edge of the counter, or drop from 6 inches to the counter several times to pop air bubbles.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed gently. (My 8-inch cake needed the full 30 minutes)
  7. Cool before removing from the pan and dusting with confectioners' sugar, or frosting if desired.


Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake Photo Notes

After being away from the studio for a few weeks due to illness, it was good to be back in the saddle.  Unfortunately, I share a studio with a couple of fashion photographers and I’m the Felix Unger of our crew.  Needless to say, the studio was in rough shape.  Models are some of the messiest people on earth, so this ended up being more of a studio decontamination than photo shoot.


This was going to be pretty simple.  I wanted to replicate window light with a bit of on-axis fill.  The large simulated window would hopefully reduce the specularity created by the shiny surface of the easy vegan chocolate cake.


I setup a light panel made up of 400 leelux as my main light 45 degrees behind the cake and used a silver umbrella for on-axis fill.  I also added a white bounce card opposite the main light.  I dialed in the exposure with my trusty Sekonic L-758dr and everything went according to plan.


The real challenge wasn’t the lighting but the styling.  A round dark cake without frosting isn’t the most photogenic object, so I decided to do something graphic and focus on the shape from above.  To finish off the shoot, Mondo cut the cake and we did the traditional commercial shot with a slice on a plate.  Overall, it was a pretty easy shoot with a clean studio as the payoff.

Set Shot

Vegan Cake photo Setup


Tech Notes

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Tamron 17-50mm 2.8
Strobes: White Lightning x1600
Tripod: Manfrotto
ISO: 200
Focal Length: 48mm
Shutter: 125
Aperture: f/11

Easy Vegan Cookies & the Dman’s Meltdown

Vegan Chocolate Cookies with a hint of espresso. Eat them with a hot cup of coffee and enjoy!

This photo shoot did not go well-not on the first day or the second. And when photo shoots don't go well the d-man has a meltdown. You know, the "I don't need this shit!" kind of meltdown. It's not fun to be around, but I stick it out. Why, do you ask? Three words...Post. Meltdown. Magic. Let me explain. When something goes wrong the d-man gets mad-angry, temporarily succumbs to defeat and you think he's given up. But if you give him a minute, he refocuses, kicks it into high gear and puts-it-on-ya...photography-style. See Exhibit A below. ...but enough about the d-man's temperament. Vegan Chocolate Cookies with a hint of espresso. Eat them with a hot cup of coffee and enjoy! Let's talk cookies. Vegan. Quick. Yummy. These bad boys are crazy-easy and you'll be finished inside of thirty minutes. What? You read me. The main flavor of this cookie is espresso combined with a dash of vanilla and a hint of cinnamon. What's surprising is not one flavor dominates. I loved this cookie with its crunchy edge, non-dairy buttery-ness and melt-in-your-mouth texture. Fresh, out of the oven these cookies were amazing. With its espresso base the cookie is perfect for dunking in hot black coffee. Guess what Dave did the next morning? Easy Vegan Cookies? Meet my Go-To List.

Easy Vegan Cookies Photo Notes

by David Game Plan This was going to be easy.  I've shot a million cookies so I had this shoot in the bag.  Since I went high key on the white acrylic for the Chocolate Covered Potato Chips, I would go low key and moody for the Easy Vegan Cookies.  Simple. The Reality I've never seen moody cookies and now I know why.  Cookies are happy and fun and going dark defeats the inherent nature of the subject.  I put the cookies on gray slate with a dark background and started shooting.  From a technical standpoint, I had my lighting mojo going but brown cookies against a gray surface is like wearing brown shoes with a black suit.  It just doesn't work.  Here's the shot: Rejected Vegan Chocolate Chip   Since the shot wasn't working, Mondo and I called it a day and went to the opening of an art show.  Considering I was shooting the same thing the next day, I left everything setup in the studio.  I never do this and always break everything down, but what could go wrong? The Next Day On the way down to the studio, I started thinking about Victor Schrager and the Martha Stewart Cookie book.  I loved this book and always wanted to shoot a job like this.  I had my inspiration. I reset the studio, metered the lights down to perfection and was ready to rock.  One problem: ------>I forgot to turn off my camera the night before and the battery was dead! I didn't have a backup and I didn't have the charger with me. Damn!  Mondo says I had a meltdown, but I was just a guy working through some things.  I got in my car, drove through 45 minutes of LA traffic, recharged the battery for a couple of hours and drove back to the studio. The New Setup This was going to be super clean and super Martha Stewart.  Mondo did her styling magic and staged the cookies.  Here is the lighting setup: vegan chip lighting setup This lighting setup is so simple, it's stupid.  The main light is a V-Flat (two 5x8 foamcore panels taped together) closed to a narrow strip with some bounce light going into it.  The white background is just a light bounced into the back of the studio and the fill light is from a piece of white cardboard.  For the stack shot, I used a piece of silver foil instead of the white board so I would have more texture and specularity on the side cookie. The Takeaway When things go wrong, I should chill because most of time everything works out.  After all, life's pretty good when you get to eat a big plate of cookies at the end of the day.

Easy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

Recipe slightly adapted from TLC
Easy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe makes 22-24 cookies, depending on size.
Recipe type: Cookie
Serves: 6-8
  • 2 cups unbleached flour, 240g
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • ½ cup vegan chocolate chips(I used Guittard Semisweet)
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ground coffee. Reserve a teaspoon of the dry ingredients and set aside. Coat the chips with the teaspoon of the dry ingredients.
  3. In a mixer add sugar and oil and mix for 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and then add the water. Again, mix well. Add the dry ingredients. Fully combine but don't overwork the dough.
  4. Stir the chocolate chips into the dough.
  5. Use a tablespoon to scoop onto ungreased cookie sheets (I used a size 40 scoop). Put them in the oven. Bake for 6 minutes and then rotate the sheet 180 degrees. Bake another 4 minutes. Remove from the oven. They will continue to cook a bit after being removed so they won't appear fully cooked yet.