Sweet Potato Chocolate Cake – Vegan and Gluten Free


img_6321I’m not usually one to make cakes, cookies or sweet breads, but if they are made with chocolate and sweet potatoes, I am easily convinced! Dinner with vegan friends on Saturday night and a promise to bring dessert has thrown my sweet tooth into a crazy chocolate frenzy! Perhaps more than the idea of baking something with both sweet potatoes and chocolate was the challenge to create something with whatever I have in the pantry at the moment. I do get a kick out of being able to make something out of nothing especially when I am cooking from the farmhouse and the nearest grocery is twenty minutes away.

I don’t know how many of you do this, but when I am looking for a new recipe, I use keywords like vegan chocolate cake, but instead of looking at the recipes, I look at the images. I want to find something that gives me a visual of what I might like to eat. And, with the very talented food photographers in the world today, it can be a dangerous hobby to do on an empty stomach! In my quest for Saturday dessert ideas, I stumbled across the Minimalist Baker’s beautiful Chocolate Hazelnut Cake and knew that I had to create something along those lines. I love that she has whole hazelnuts between her cake layers and for tasteful decorating on top – classy! I am a huge fan of a powerful nut crunch of any sort along with a forkful of gooey, fudgy chocolate.


So, once I choose a picture of something I think I might like to recreate, I toggle over to check out the recipe. Minimalist Baker’s recipe Chocolate Hazelnut Cake calls for lots of things I do have in the pantry and lots of things I don’t have. Her recipe obviously calls for hazelnuts, but I only have almonds. Her recipe calls for applesauce, but I only have a sweet potato. Her recipe calls for gluten-free flour, but I only have brown rice flour. Basically, I decide I have pretty much everything I need to riff off her fabulous ideas and delve into a little jazz improv of my own. Some key ingredients used as replacers for original components in the recipe are medjool dates and one giant sweet potato to replace the applesauce and sunflower seeds and almonds to replace the hazelnuts. I also traded out balsamic vinegar for apple cider vinegar and reduced both quantity and types of sugars. Because baking soda always seems to find me in sweet bread – yuck, I cut it by one-third. I figured with the vinegar, this cake will rise with less baking soda and I wanted it to be dense and fudgy. Goal accomplished!


This cake is everything I dreamed it would be – rich, dense and fudgy – punctuated with toasted almonds and deeply satisfying for someone who does not want to include animal products in their diet. It is completely plant-based and delicious! Try it. I even made a small extra in case I need to go to another party…or just eat it all myself!


Ingredients for Cake:

  • 1 large sweet potato or 2 small (enough for about 2 cups mashed)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds, toasted and ground into meal
  • 1 cup whole almonds, toasted then chopped
  • 12 large pitted medjool dates
  • 4 Tbs. flax seed meal
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup raw honey
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (I recommend unrefined virgin coconut oil retains more coconut flavor)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup gluten free oats ground into flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour

Ingredients for Icing:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. amaretto liqueur

Directions for Cake:

Step 1: Wash and prick sweet potatoes. Place them in a bowl to microwave on high for 5-7 minutes depending on the size. Cook the sweet potato(s) until soft and allow to cool.

Step 2: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place sunflower seeds and almonds on separate baking sheets to toast (unless, of course, you bought pre-toasted, unsalted nuts). Toast seeds and nuts until they start to brown. It helps to stir the sunflower seeds as they toast. Once toasted, remove from oven to cool.

Step 3: Once sunflower seeds are cool, grind to flour in a food processor with 1 cup gluten free oats. Add 1 cup brown rice flour and 1 cup cocoa powder then transfer these dry ingredients to a mixing bowl.

Step 3: In food processor add dates, flax seed meal, water, almond milk, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, honey, coconut oil, vanilla, salt, baking soda and scooped out flesh of the sweet potatoes. Pulse until the dates are pureed.

Step 4: Add the wet ingredients from the food processor to your dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Mix by hand or with a mixer.

Step 5: Oil cake pans or line with parchment. This recipe will make two 8 inch diameter cakes, two loaf pan cakes, a dozen cupcakes or one shallow 9 x 13 pan.

Step 6: Bake cake(s) for 35 – 45 minutes depending on thickness or depth of pan. Check with toothpick or knife. This is a moist cake, so never leaves the knife completely dry, but you will be able to see the crumb develop.

Directions for Icing:

Step 1: Put 1 cup almond milk and 4 squares of unsweetened baking chocolate in a bowl for 2 minutes in the microwave.

Step 2: Remove mixture from microwave and stir until chocolate melts into the almond milk. At this point it will seem grainy.

Step 3: Add coconut oil and mix until melted into baking chocolate and milk.

Step 4: Add 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp. amaretto. Mix well. Now the chocolate icing will be smooth and pourable.

Step 5: Pour the icing over the cakes and decorate with chopped toasted almonds.