ReRe's Vegan In-the-Pan Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting

At any family gathering, there are two things my mom can be expected to make: spaghetti sauce and in-the-pan chocolate cake. Depending on the size and duration of the gathering, she may be coerced into making two in-the-pan cakes. This is her cake recipe, veganized. Well, actually, this is her mother's, ReRe's, recipe, veganized.

This chocolate cake is moist, rich, easy, and not obviously vegan. Its perfect mate is vanilla buttercream frosting, and I've provided ReRe's veganized recipe for that, too. This cake/icing duo has survived— nay, thrived— over three generations because it is as easy as it is delicious. I am profoundly biased, however, I suspect this is the best chocolate cake ever. Let's analyze this recipe.

Pros (Besides Deliciousness)

  • The cleanup is easy. You mix the entire cake in the pan, so you don't dirty any mixing bowls.
  • It's covertly vegan. The cake has a rich and complex flavor that's not obviously dairy- and egg-free.
  • It's hard to mess up.
  • Substitution is easy.
    • No margarine? Use a neutral-tasting oil.
    • No flax seeds? Use an egg replacer of your choice.
    • Want an even richer flavor? Use coffee instead of water.


  • Because you don't need mixing bowls for the cake, there's no bowl to scrape out/lick once the cake's in the oven. 
  • You might have to make more than one cake per week, depending on the size of your family.

I'm going to give you the recipe for the cake and frosting, then tell you all about vegan fondant options, so scroll on if you're considering getting fancy and making your own fondant.




1 cup sugar 
1 1/2 cups flour
6 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 tablespoons vegan margarine, melted
3/4 cup boiled water
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon ground flax seeds + 3 tablespoons water)


1/2 stick vegan margarine, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons vegan milk or creamer, approximately 



1. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Retrieve but do not grease a 9"x9" square pan.

2. Prepare your flax egg by mixing together the ground flax seeds and 3 tablespoons water. Set aside.

3. Use the dry ingredients to make 2 mounds in the pan. Make a well in the center of each mound.

4. In one well, pour the vinegar and vanilla. In the other well, pour the margarine. Mix together by hand.

5. Add the boiled water and mix again. 

6. Add the flax seed mixture and mix well. Don't worry about getting all the lumps out.

6. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cake tests done.



When my mom makes this buttercream frosting, she never measures out the ingredients, save the vanilla. She uses as much margarine and sugar as she needs to cover the cake. You might get away with only 1/3 cup of margarine and a bit less sugar. You might use far less milk or creamer. For simplicity's sake, let's pretend you're going to measure everything and make the frosting the same way every time.

1. In an upright mixer or using a hand mixer, cream together the margarine and one cup of powdered sugar. Add the rest of the powdered sugar in two more batches, mixing in between each addition.

2. Add the vanilla and mix.

3. Add milk/creamer a teaspoon at a time until the icing reaches spreading consistency.

4. Ice the cake!

I recently made this cake for my son's birthday party. I doubled the in-the-pan recipe for a 9" round layer cake (2 layers), iced it with the buttercream recipe above, and draped it in fondant. I threw on some ears and whiskers and, BAM, cat cake. It went over very well.

I am not an accomplished cake decorator by any means. I had experimented with making my own colored (black! how foolish of me!) fondant before and largely succeeded, but at the expense of several days of preparation. If you want to go 100% from scratch with your fondant, this recipe is nice. But I won't do it again unless (a) I retire or (b) I suffer financial ruin, lose all my credit cards, and can no longer order anything online. Anyway, for this cake, I cheated. This time, I bought pre-made vegan fondant from Satin Ice brand (available here), and I could not have been happier with it. It was beautiful, easy to work with, and tasted as good as fondant ever tastes.

If you make this cake (and you really should), let me know how it goes. Did you make any great substitutions?


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