Healthy Chocolate Cake

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This healthy chocolate cake recipe is moist with the perfect crumb and a rich chocolate flavor. It’s so delicious no one will ever guess that it is made with more nutritious ingredients!

a slice of Healthy Chocolate Cake on a plate


We have a large family, so we celebrate lots of birthdays every year.

I worked hard to create the best chocolate cake recipe and succeeded (seriously it’s absolute perfection). But as my baby’s first birthday was approaching, I just wasn’t ready to feed him that much sugar when he had eaten basically none up until that point in his life.

So I took that perfect cake and tweaked the ingredients to make this healthy chocolate cake recipe that is a little more nutritious! It’s a cake I felt good about feeding my sweet baby boy!

And it’s not lacking in the flavor department. This healthy chocolate cake is moist and rich with a perfect crumb. Frosted with our favorite chocolate buttercream recipe, it’s so delicious that no one even suspects that it’s healthy.

Healthy Chocolate Cake with a slice cut out of it

Healthy Chocolate Cake Recipe: Ingredients & Substitutions

overhead photo of the labeled ingredients in this Healthy Chocolate Cake recipe
  • All-purpose flour. Cake flour can be used in place of all-purpose flour. I have not tried all-purpose gluten-free flour so if you do report back and let me know how it goes. You can replace up to half a cup of the flour with white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour.
  • Coconut sugar. you can use organic cane sugar or granulated sugar if you don’t have unrefined coconut sugar.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder. Choose your favorite variety. For an extra-dark cake use dark cocoa powder. 
  • Espresso powder. always have espresso powder on hand to make chocolate desserts (like this chocolate zucchini cake, chocolate cupcakes, etc.). It’s totally worth purchasing if you love baking. You can substitute instant coffee.
  • Salted butter. coconut oil or ghee can be used in place of butter.
  • Applesauce keeps this chocolate cake moist and light. It also adds sweetness. You can substitute equal amounts of melted butter or another neutral oil if desired.
  • Greek yogurt. Sour cream can be used in place of Greek yogurt.
  • Whole milk.  I am an advocate for using full-fat whole milk in this healthy chocolate cake recipe. You could substitute 2% milk or half and half, but nothing with a lower fat content. 
  • Vanilla extract. You can switch up the extract and use almond, peppermint, orange, etc. if you prefer a flavored chocolate cake. 
  • Mini chocolate chips. Regular-sized chocolate chips sink to the bottom of the cake while baking. Be sure to use mini chips for the best results. 
Healthy Chocolate Cake with a piece cut out so this inside is showing

How to Make Healthy Chocolate Cake

Let’s walk through how to make this healthy chocolate cake recipe step-by-step, and don’t forget to watch the video.

Begin by lining two 6” round cake pans with parchment paper and greasing the sides well. I like to line my cake pans by tracing the bottom of the pan on parchment paper and drawing “handles” on either side (as picture below).

two photos showing how to line cake pans to make Healthy Chocolate Cake

Then, in a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and espresso powder. Set aside.

two photos showing mixing the dry ingredients for Healthy Chocolate Cake recipe

Next, whisk together melted butter, coconut sugar, eggs, applesauce, Greek yogurt, whole milk and vanilla in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth.

two photos showing whisking the wet ingredients to make Healthy Chocolate Cake

Next, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined.

two photos showing combining the wet and dry ingredients in this Healthy Chocolate Cake recipe

Then fold in the mini chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed.

two photos showing mixing chocolate chips into the Healthy Chocolate Cake batter

Next, divide the batter evenly into the two prepared cake pans.

Bake the healthy chocolate cake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean or with a few crumbs.

two photos showing Healthy Chocolate Cake in baking pans before and after baking

One the cakes have finished baking, transfer the cake pans on a wire cooling rack to cool to room temperature (takes about 1 hour).

Once cool, lift the healthy chocolate cake out of the pans and remove parchment paper. Let cool completely on the wire cooling rack.

two Healthy Chocolate Cake rounds cooling on a wire cooling rack

Frost

Once the cakes are completely cooled, frost or decorate them any way you’d like. I either use this chocolate frosting, vanilla buttercream, peanut butter frosting, or vanilla frosting to make healthy chocolate cakes for birthdays. Don’t forget to do a crumb coat first – a thin base layer of frosting to keep crumbs from getting into your final design. 

Chill the Cake

If you decorate the cake with a design (like rosettes, etc.) I recommend chilling it in the refrigerator until the frosting hardens and the design sets. 

Healthy Chocolate Cake frosting and decorated with chocolate chips

Freeze

often bake this healthy chocolate cake recipe a few days before I need to frost it and store it in the freezer. Simply wrap each cooled chocolate cake layer tightly with plastic wrap, put them in a ziplock bags and store in the freezer.

Even if you plan on frosting the healthy chocolate cake the same day you bake it, I still recommend freezing it before frosting. Frosting a a cake when it’s frozen reduces the number of crumbs that make their way into the frosting.

Healthy Chocolate Cake frosted and decorated with chocolate chips

Serve 

Remove the cake from the fridge 1-2 hours before serving so it can come to room temperature – because that’s how it tastes best!

We like eating healthy chocolate cake with a side of ice cream, like this homemade vanilla ice cream or this paleo vanilla ice creamhomemade chocolate ice cream or healthy chocolate peanut butter ice cream.  A dollop of homemade whipped cream also tastes amazing! 

Store

Store any leftovers wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

You can also flash-freeze individual slices of leftover cake, then wrap them in plastic wrap and transfer them to an airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature – do not microwave.

a slice of Healthy Chocolate Cake being removed from the cake

Healthy Chocolate Cake Recipe FAQs

Can you double this recipe? 

Yes! This recipe is easily doubled and baked in two, 9″ round cake pans. This is a great option if you will be making the cake for a large crowd. When I make this recipe as written for my family of 8, everyone usually eats three servings (slices) before the cake is gone. 

How do you make a moist chocolate cake? 

This recipe yields the best, moist, healthy chocolate cake ever. To ensure it turns out that way be careful not to over-bake, and measure all the ingredients properly and precisely. 

How do you decorate a chocolate birthday cake? 

I use either this chocolate buttercream frosting or homemade vanilla frosting to decorate this easy chocolate cake recipe. I use the following tools to decorate (after my kids choose their design): 
Piping bags – I have both reusable and disposable piping bags and use them all the time. 
Piping tips and couplers – I recommend a great starter tip and coupler set. However I always make this rosette style cake with a Wilton 1M tip and large coupler. 
Pastry Scraper. I use this pastry scraper to make a smooth crumb coat. I love it so much!

a slice of Healthy Chocolate Cake on a plate with a bite taken out of it

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Healthy Chocolate Cake Recipe

Laura
This healthy chocolate cake recipe is rich, chocolatey & moist with a perfect crumb. It's so delicious no one will guess that it's made with nutritious ingredients!
5 from 12 votes
Course cake, Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 Servings
Calories 164
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Cooling2 hours
Total Time2 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line two 6” round cake pans with parchment paper and grease well. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and espresso powder. Set aside
  • In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, coconut sugar, eggs, applesauce, Greek yogurt, whole milk and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.
  • Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
  • Add mini chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed.
  • Divide the batter evenly into the two prepared cake pans.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean or with a few crumbs.
  • Place cake pans on a wire cooling rack to cool to room temperature (takes about 1 hour).
  • Once cool, lift cakes out of the pans and remove parchment paper. Let cool completely on the wire cooling rack.
  • Once cool, with chocolate frosting and serve.

Video

Notes

To make two, 9” round cake layers double the recipe and bake in two 9” round cake pans.
*Nutritional information calculated for the cake without frosting. 
Ingredient Substitutions
  • All-purpose flour. Cake flour can be used in place of all-purpose flour. I have not tried all-purpose gluten-free flour so if you do report back and let me know how it goes. You can replace up to half a cup of the flour with white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour.
  • Coconut sugar. you can use organic cane sugar or granulated sugar if you don’t have unrefined coconut sugar.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder. Choose your favorite variety. For an extra-dark cake use dark cocoa powder. 
  • Espresso powder. always have espresso powder on hand to make chocolate desserts (like this chocolate zucchini cake, chocolate cupcakes, etc.). It’s totally worth purchasing if you love baking. You can substitute instant coffee.
  • Applesauce keeps this chocolate cake moist and light. It also adds sweetness. You can substitute equal amounts of melted butter or another neutral oil if desired.
  • Salted butter. coconut oil or ghee can be used in place of butter.
  • Greek yogurt. Sour cream can be used in place of Greek yogurt.
  • Whole milk.  I am an advocate for using full-fat whole milk in this healthy chocolate cake recipe. You could substitute 2% milk or half and half, but nothing with a lower fat content. 
  • Vanilla extract. You can switch up the extract and use almond, peppermint, orange, etc. if you prefer a flavored chocolate cake. 
  • Mini chocolate chips. Regular-sized chocolate chips sink to the bottom of the cake while baking. Be sure to use mini chips for the best results. 
Freeze Before Frosting
often bake this healthy chocolate cake recipe a few days before I need to frost it and store it in the freezer. Simply wrap each cooled chocolate cake layer tightly with plastic wrap, put them in a ziplock bags and store in the freezer.
Even if you plan on frosting the cake the same day you bake it, I still recommend freezing it before frosting. Frosting a a cake when it’s frozen reduces the number of crumbs that make their way into the frosting.
Store
Store any leftovers wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
You can also flash-freeze individual slices of leftover cake, then wrap them in plastic wrap and transfer them to an airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature – do not microwave.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 slice | Calories: 164kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 213mg | Potassium: 106mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 186IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe Rating




4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This would be a fantastic recipe as written, but I wanted to experiment a little based on what was in the pantry. I browned the butter, used the fancy cocoa and all-purpose einkorn flour, and omitted the chips. I frosted it with a chocolate ermine buttercream. This cake is so delicious and satisfying that one small piece at a time is enough. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I made this as an anniversary cake for my husband and I. It has a delicious flavor. I also love how quickly it comes together, no fuss. I switched the butter to vegetable oil and bumped it up to 1/3 cup. I don’t buy espresso powder, but I did have instant coffee, so I dissolved a spoonful of that in hot water and added it to the liquid measure. I didn’t have 6 inch pans, so used 7 1/2 inch – worked fine. The texture is slightly chewier than traditional cake, as I expected it would be with the lower fat and sugar, but it’s still a treat. There’s no way in our household we could make this cake stretch to 24 servings though. I suspect we’ll get about 8-10 out of it.

  3. 5 stars
    Loved this recipe! I baked it in a 9×11 baking dish and it turned out perfectly! For the frosting I used melted chocolate chips and coconut cream. Super delish! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  4. 5 stars
    So delicious and moist! My entire family loved it! I’ll definitely will be making it again in the future. Thank you!