Vegan Chocolate & Pear Olive Oil Cake

December 20, 2022
1 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • makes 1 10" skillet cake
Author Notes

Allow me to introduce you to your new favorite seasonal cake. This fudgy chocolate pear number—with a whiff of cinnamon, a bunch of jammy pear pockets, and a little olive oil—is vegan (though you’d never know it) and also utterly scrumptious. The cake itself is fudgy, yet soft, with a tight crumb. And is deeply chocolate-y—due to a combination of Dutch process cocoa powder (my fave for both color and flavor) and a touch of espresso powder, which helps amp the chocolate flavor without emitting a single coffee vibe. The cake gets all its lift from baking soda, not from eggs, and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Olive oil takes the place of butter here and not only adds its own complex flavor (depending on the kind of oil you reach for, so note to self: use one you like) but will keep the cake moist for days (oil-based cakes are my fave for that reason alone, as I am very much #teammoistcake).

The cake is based on those of the “wacky” variety, called so due to the aforementioned lack of eggs and addition of vinegar. Typically when assembling wacky cakes, you whisk your dry ingredients together and then whisk in all your wet—done and done. Here, however, I have you bloom the cocoa powder and dissolve the espresso powder in some hot water, before adding the rest of the ingredients. But never fear: despite my modifications, the recipe remains wonderfully one-bowl. And the addition of a little ground cinnamon, plus some juicy chopped pears is just exactly what these cooler temps and farmer-market-wintry-fruit-hauls ordered. Chocolate and pear is just a match made in heaven and this easy-peasy cake makes the most of that match, and then some.
Jessie Sheehan

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup (226 g) hot water
  • 1/3 cup (28 g) Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (75 g) olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • 1 cup (213 g) dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons for dusting the pears
  • 2 cups (270 g, about 1½ medium) pears, skin on, cored and diced into ½-inch pieces
  • confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with olive oil.
  2. Whisk the hot water, cocoa, and espresso powder in a large mixing bowl until combined. Whisk in the oil and sugar; then the vanilla, vinegar, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon one at a time, vigorously whisking after each. Whisk in the flour until about half of it is combined with the wet ingredients. Toss the pears and 2 tablespoons of flour together in a separate, medium bowl with your hands. Transfer the flour-dusted pears to the bowl with the cake batter and fold them in with a flexible spatula until the pears are completely combined and the last streak of flour just disappears. Scrape batter into prepared skillet and smooth into an even layer.
  3. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating at the halfway point, until a cake tester comes out almost clean. Let the cake come to room temperature on a cooling rack and serve slices from the pan with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar. The cake will keep tightly wrapped on the counter for 3 days.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • QueenOfGreen
  • Jessie Sheehan
    Jessie Sheehan
Bio: Jessie Sheehan is the author of The Vintage Baker and Icebox Cakes. Her new easy-peasy baking book, Snackable Bakes, hits shelves in spring 2022. She contributes to the Washington Post, Bon Appétit, Food Network, and the Kitchn, among others.

2 Reviews

QueenOfGreen March 17, 2023
The vegans AND the non-vegans raved! *I* loved that it’s made with everything already in the cupboard (aside from a couple pears).
Jessie S. March 17, 2023
Yay yay yay!! Makes me so happy. xo