Ian Knauer’s Chocolate Eggplant Cakes

September 19, 2018
43 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

When Ian Knauer's wife Malaika showed up with 80 pounds of eggplant from their farm, he wondered if, steamed and blended, it could work its way into a chocolate cake. “Applesauce cake was what got me thinking that it could work,” Ian told me. Somehow the moisture from eggplant also makes the cakes incredibly forgiving. Not feeling honey? (Or going vegan?) Use the same amount of regular sugar, maple, or golden syrup (and the classic ground flax egg substitute trick, if eggs are also a no-go). Feeding someone gluten-free? Skip the tablespoon of flour—the batter will look a little wonkier along the way, but it will work. Adapted slightly from The Farm Cooking School (Burgess Lea Press, 2017) by Ian Knauer & Shelley Wiseman. —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Ian Knauer’s Chocolate Eggplant Cakes
  • Vegetable or other neutral oil, for the pan
  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken or chopped into pieces
  • 2/3 cup wildflower honey
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • Whipped cream for serving (Knauer adds a tablespoon or two of maple syrup and a pinch of salt to his)
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F. Brush the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil. Alternatively, line an 8- or 9-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper and lightly brush the base and sides with vegetable oil.
  2. Place the eggplant in a steamer basket set over boiling water and cook until very tender, about 20 minutes. Combine the hot eggplant and chocolate in a blender and puree until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is melted. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool to warm.
  3. Whisk the honey, cocoa, almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt into the cooled eggplant mixture, then whisk in the eggs till smooth.
  4. Pour the batter into the muffin tin cups (about 1/2 cup of batter per cup) or the larger pan and bake until a crust forms around the edges and the entire top is dry but the interior is still moist and jiggly (not liquid or sloshy), about 15 minutes (or about 45 minutes for a larger cake pan). The cakes will puff in the oven but settle as they cool.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cakes cool until firm but still slightly warm in the pan on a rack. Loosen the sides of each cake with a knife or offset spatula, remove the cakes onto a serving plate, and optionally sprinkle with additional cocoa powder. (If using a larger cake pan, let cool completely in the pan before inverting onto a serving plate.) Serve the cake warm or at room temperature, topped with whipped cream.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Ginny Eaton
    Ginny Eaton
  • plotto
  • sunkisst22
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

81 Reviews

Charlotte B. July 13, 2022
I made this recipe yesterday and used Japanese eggplant from my garden. I didn't tell any of my guests the ingredients until after this special dessert was devoured and had gotten rave reviews! Everyone was so surprised - such fun!! The recipe made 12 little cakes nicely, and 15 minute bake time was good. Thanks for this fun & delish recipe!
Mitzi43 September 6, 2021
I have a ton of eggplant that I miraculously grew this season! I made this and it was outstanding! The variety of eggplant I used was Black Beauty and I used duck eggs ;)
Judy December 3, 2020
Christy, I have found that tasting a little bit of the uncooked eggplant gives me an indication of how it will work in this recipe. Very fresh, young and smaller eggplant usually are best. They have softer seeds that blend well. Some try to use a sweeter chocolate but using bittersweet chocolate does not allow the eggplant taste to come forward. Don't give up. This is a great recipe that freezes well.
Christy December 2, 2020
I was so excited to try this recipe but it was such a let down. Not sweet at all and the eggplant taste was way too strong.
emily December 2, 2020
I bet it has todo with your eggplant and not getting all the seeds out. The second time I made this cake, I didn’t like it at all and that’s why. Turns out it’s a bit finicky! First time I made it I LOVED it!
Ginny E. August 18, 2020
Wonderful cake - we have an abundance of both beets and eggplant. Started w/ eggplant for birthday party, next time - beets! I had a cupcake for breakfast - love the fact that the sweetness comes from honey. Best cake right out of the oven - tastes like chocolate mousse.
Nancy August 18, 2020
I think you may love it even more with the red beets!
meg226 August 11, 2020
I saw one user use all all-purpose flour rather than the almond flour - but I would think it can't be a one-for-one swap, given they have different absorbency. Can you please advise? Thank you!
Nancy August 18, 2020
I've used just all-purpose flour and it works. I tried oat flour and that worked to. It is such a moist dense cake that I think that is why the kind of flour is not that important, though I don't think rice flour would work.
Good luck!
meg226 August 18, 2020
Oh great; thanks so much Nancy!
Nancy January 24, 2020
I tried this recipe when it just came out...several months ago. Good yes, but oh so much better if you sub red beets for the egg plant. Such a huge hit that I have shared my version of this recipe with many others, who totally agree red beets are the way to go. Just boil them till soft, cool and remove the skins, then use a food processor to break them down and you are good to go. Enjoy!
Judy January 25, 2020
Thank you, Nancy. I reviewed this recipe in 2018 and have made them many times since. I love the idea of beets. I will be trying that next. Yum!
Starla August 13, 2020
Can you give me a measurement for how many beets to use? My garden is supplying lots of eggplants and beets right now.
Betsy September 3, 2019
This is a crazy yummy cake that I have made egg, dairy, gluten and nut free for my students with allergies. I've added mint or raspberry filling, taken them to parties (mini muffin pan makes 72!!), frozen them, refrigerated them, reheated, eaten frozen, etc. There is NO downside to this recipe. Honestly, I put the hot eggplant in the blender/food processor then the chocolate and flour mixture (I use all regular flour). When it cools a tiny bit I add the eggs slowly while it is mixing the other ingredients. I've never had a problem. Be very careful not to overcook them!
BR95510 September 3, 2019
Betsy, can you tell me what you used to replace the eggs? Flax? Thank you very much!
BeyondBrynMawr September 5, 2019
What did you use as a substitute for almond flour? Thanks!
Robin M. September 3, 2019
A great dairy-free cake - with a dense texture similar to a flourless chocolate cake, but without the fuss of beating and folding the egg whites. It also definitely tastes better chilled after cooling to room temperature - it develops the chocolate flavor much more.
emily August 15, 2019
Wow!! I never review recipes, but this was SO good. I used a Cuisinart to blend the eggplant and chocolate and that worked just fine! Super rich and would go amazingly with some vanilla ice cream! I can't wait to serve these at my farm to table dinner party this weekend! I would probably dust them with a topping of powdered sugar to cut the chocolate a little bit as well.
Kaylee August 11, 2019
I used a little less chocolate because it was what I had on hand, otherwise followed the recipe using a 9x9 pan. It was AMAZING!!! It has the texture of chocolate mousse cake and is literally one of the best chocolate cakes I've ever made. I will be making a batch to bring to my farm's first CSA pickup to encourage people to get creative with eggplant.
Betsy January 16, 2019
I wouldn't change a thing about this!!! It is a fabulous recipe that is easily and perfectly made gluten free, nut free, dairy free, egg free and sugar free. It makes it quite perfect especially for my students who have allergies. I make them in a mini muffin pan and cook for 9 minutes. It makes nearly 6 dozen. I've tried using a mint flavored chocolate, sprinkling with habanero sugar on top, dusting with confectioners sugar, putting a dollop of whipped cream or a bit of French Cream Frosting. This is a real winner on every level and if middle schoolers go crazy anyone will!
Gardener-cook October 7, 2018
This came out extremely well for me. I have a Vitamix blender and there were no detectable seeds. I baked it in a cake pan as a torte and it was quite a hit. I did use sugar instead of honey and added a teaspoon of vanilla, just because I don’t care much for honey with chocolate.
I did notice that the full flavor didn’t develop for a couple of days, which came as a surprise. I saved a couple of pieces tightly covered in the refrigerator and then warmed them gently before serving with cold whipped cream, and I was surprised to find that they were better than when first made.
Cece October 3, 2018
Can you tell me what the calories are per serving - using the 12 small cake size ?
2bikegirl October 3, 2018
Has anyone tried them the next day? Do you think they will hold well? Or perhaps from frozen?
Dannielle October 3, 2018
I didn't freeze them but I took a few to co-workers the next day and they loved them.
Jk. October 4, 2018
Yes—they hold up beautifully! I put one bath in the fridge overnight and just popped them in the oven for a few minutes the next evening. I also froze some and they were still quite good. Topped with raspberries—delicious. I’ve used both flax meal and aquafaba as egg replacements, and I also cut the honey down to 1/3 cup. Heavenly!
sunkisst22 December 8, 2018
I freeze them and then microwave 30 seconds at a time till hot. They turn out great.
Betsy January 16, 2019
They freeze very well, but also keep in a refrigerator for days. If frozen you can eat them like little fudgy pops.
Lynnda September 30, 2018
I made this substituting agave for the honey. Next time, I would not use any of the eggplant parts that have seeds. They are very hard and with young children, they do not pass muster.
Kristen M. October 1, 2018
Hi Lynnda, sorry the seeds were a bother—they've always blended smooth for me, but I've had blenders in the past that might not have managed as well. You could also pass the eggplant/chocolate mix through a strainer after blending, if you don't want to have to avoid the seeded parts.
Jk. October 4, 2018
I used an immersion blender after mixing the eggplant and chocolate. This definitely helped smooth out the seediness factor.
Judith D. September 24, 2018
These cakes were delicious. I had to make a few modifications: my husband is gluten intolerant so I used 1 tbsp of GF flour. I used golden syrup instead of honey. My eggplant was only 10 oz vs 16oz, and I accidentally over-baked them by 8 minutes. With all that, they are still perfect. Best eggplant I've ever had!
Ann September 24, 2018
The eggplant/chocolate mix is super bitter...I am hoping this straightens out in the oven!
Kristen M. September 28, 2018
I hope it did, too! I'm a little surprised by this, but it could be coming from the chocolate as much as the eggplant. I hope the other ingredients mellowed it out.
plotto September 23, 2018
Mine came out still "wet" inside after 20 mins, put them back in for another 10 or so . . . and still they are really really moist, almost gooey? I'm worried they/the eggs aren't cooked and I will make my guests ill. :{

If I try them again, because I love that I can pretend they're healthy and I can make them gluten-free for my GF niece. I think I will NOT use the seeded part of the eggplant. I'm going to tell my 13 y.o. son that the seeds are from raspberries. He will NEVER eat these if he knows the truth.
Kristen M. September 28, 2018
They do turn out very, very moist, even when fully cooked, thanks to the eggplant and very little flour/almond flour. Better to think of them as a molten or moussey chocolate cake than a traditional dry, cakey brownie or chocolate cake.
noms October 27, 2018
If you have a kitchen thermometer you could check the temp in the center of the cake which may reassure you that the eggs are safely cooked in spite of it being gooey?
Jend September 22, 2018
What a great recipe!! I wouldn’t have tried it except for the fact I am on an extremely low fat diet right now and I love chocolate, so it seemed like it was worth trying. The chocolate and eggplant alone was delicious and I am very pleased with the recipe as a whole. Definitely a chocolate dessert recipe that will be repeated regardless of low fat diet restrictions. I used coconut sugar in place of the honey and was very happy with the sweetness. Very rich dark chocolate taste and a great texture and moisture level. No hint of the secret ingredient is apparent in the finished product.Thanks so much for the recipe!