Chocolate & Toasted Coconut Olive Oil Cake [with vegan option]

Posted on: April 14, 2014

Every year our local radio station puts on an all day music event in the park. To me, it always marks that first day of true spring in Bloomington. It is often times the first Saturday that its warm enough to grill out and enjoy a picnic in the park while listening to some wonderful local and national music. It also usually lines up with being the first Saturday that the outdoor farmer’s market is in full swing.


This year’s event was this past Saturday and the spring fever did not disappoint. I started the day with a walk to the farmer’s market and enjoyed smelling all the budding trees along the way. The sun was out and we welcomed temperatures above anything we’ve felt in 6+ months. I spent the afternoon planting wildflowers and playing around in the kitchen with the sun streaming in (oh what a difference it makes!).

We grilled out for dinner and I whipped up a cake for our guests. Ha, I know – a cake for a grill out? You can tell I’m rusty since a well disciplined griller would have found something that could be made over the hot coals. Unfortunately, it’s still a little early for berries and our citrus bounty has long since disappeared so cake it was! Delicious, moist, chocolatey cake – I must add!


This cake did not turn out as planned. The whole reason I wanted to make a cake to begin with is because I had plans of making hibiscus frosting to smother all over it. I imagined a light pink glaze with speckles of flower throughout the whole thing. However, as I struggled to find dried (or fresh) hibiscus anywhere (other than in tea which had other things added to it), it became clear that this was not the flavor profile I was meant to create. Instead, I went with coconut since coconut flakes are available all year round and have a wonderful warm-weather vibe to them.

I used hibiscus tea for part of the milk in this recipe in hopes that there’d be a touch of floral flavor in the chocolate but it ended up pretty masked by other sweet flavors. Feel free to just use all milk as that is probably what I will do next time since brewing fresh tea was just an extra step without extra added flavor.

Also, half the fat is replaced with mashed fruit (in this case applesauce but you can use mashed bananas as well) for a slightly healthier cake that retains just as much moisture. For the fat I did use, I went with olive oil to give it a nutty aroma. I get the vibe that a lot people are hesitant to bake with olive oil because of its low smoke point but this cake bakes at 350 which is way below any burning point for olive oil. I also love olive oil cakes because they sound very European to me which conjures up thoughts of enjoying a slice as an afternoon snack with tea.


 Chocolate & Toasted Coconut Olive Oil Cake

Serves 8 // adapted from Minimalist Baker
  • 2 cups milk (use nut milk to make vegan) OR 1 cup milk / 1 cup hibiscus tea
  • 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • beans from 1 vanilla pod OR 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose)
  • 1 1/3 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt


For the buttercream:

  • 1 cup butter, softened [use vegan butter if making vegan]
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two 8 inch round pans with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper and dust with enough cocoa powder to cover the bottom (but remove any excess).

Add the vinegar and milk to your stand mixer bowl (or mixing can be done by hand if you don’t have a mixer) and let sit for 5 minutes. Next, add in the applesauce, hibiscus tea (if using), olive oil, and vanilla extract (or beans) and mix until just combined.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Turn your mixer to medium-low and slowly pour the dry ingredients in until everything is incorporated. Turn the mixer speed up to high and let run until your batter is evenly smooth and no lumps remain.

Divide the dough between the two prepared pans and let bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. Remove from oven and let cool.

While the oven is still heated, place coconut on a lined baking sheet in a single layer and stick in the already heated oven. Bake for about 10 minutes (stirring every 3-5 minutes to avoid burning) or until most of the flakes have browned (please note that the time will vary depending on how large your flakes are and you should check them frequently since burning coconut flakes is super easy to do).

While everything is cooling, beat together the frosting ingredients.

To assemble, use 1/3 of the frosting for a center layer and the rest to frost the outside of the cake all over. Immediately sprinkle the toasted coconut all over (it’ll stick to the frosting perfectly if the frosting hasn’t set yet) and you should be able to press the coconut into the sides so that it completely covers the cake.

Serve with ice cream or enjoy on its own!




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