Zero Waste Chocolate Cake Recipe - Vegan


I filmed a video with Buzzfeed Tasty about making a chocolate cake with zero waste! Alongside Tasty producer Alix, who had no prior experience or background in zero waste, we both attempted our own versions of "zero waste" chocolate cakes and kept track of any trash we created.

Having a background in baking (and especially layer cakes), I was concerned with making something truly delicious without any added butter or oil, which are difficult to find package free. I know it's possible, but is it something I would personally want to eat? Then I remembered the popularity of avocado chocolate mousse recipes and ran with the idea of using avocado as my source of fat. I'm happy to say that the final outcome was delicious! There is enough chocolate and cocoa powder in the recipe to cover any savory notes of the avocado, though if you have a sensitive palate you will still taste a hint of it. Not that that's a bad thing! Best of all, there are no eggs or dairy in the recipe, making it plant based and vegan friendly. (Note: I have not tried this with a gluten free flour, yet! Let me know if you do!)

It was so much fun to see how we went in such different directions with our cakes. I am also super impressed with how Alix made her cake completely on the fly, and without any plastic! In fact, the only pieces that would have to be landfilled were the stickers on my avocados (which could be avoided next time by shopping at the famers market).

Below is the recipe I created and followed exactly like in the Buzzfeed video. There are so many variations you could do (like omit the coffee, make a 8" cake instead of a layered cake, etc), but I wanted to share it with you just like how it was filmed. We purchased everything at Sprouts by having the cashier tare the weight of our containers first, then filled them in the bulk section. That way we only pay for the contents and not the weight of the jar. Even though food waste is compostable, glass jars are reusable, and egg cartons are often compostable or recyclable, for this video we tried to create as little excess waste as we could. So while I could have purchased coconut oil in a glass container or used eggs, we were aiming for as few compostable and recyclable materials as possible. This is beneficial as not everyone has access to composting or recycling, or even landfill trash services. 

Of course, I have to add that there is truly no such thing as being zero waste unless you've lived completely off the grid your entire life. Waste happens regardless of if we personally throw it away or not. The most important thing is being conscious and mindful of the trash we do create and dispose of it properly.

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(Proper photos of the cake coming soon, for now here are some screenshots)

Zero Waste Chocolate Cake (Vegan)

Chocolate Cake ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup cashew milk (see notes on how to make your own)
  • 1/4 cup avocado, mashed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp coffee beans (optional)

Ganache Frosting ingredients

  • 1 cup avocado, mashed
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup semi or bittersweet chocolate chips, melted 
  • 1/2 cup cashew milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of two 6" baking pans with compostable parchment paper (I like to use If You Care brand, which is certified home compostable). I did not grease the bottom or sides of the pan since I did not have access to package free butter or oil.
  2. In a large bowl, sift or whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a blender, combine cashew milk, avocado, and optional coffee beans and blend until smooth. Coffee grounds can be strained and composted or left in the liquid. 
  4. Pour the cashew milk mixture into dry ingredients and gently mix together until 90% combined. Add lemon juice and stir just until everything comes together. The lemon juice will react to the baking soda and you may see lighter colored streaks. Mix until the lemon is just stirred in. Be mindful not to over mix, as this activates the gluten in the flour and will make for a tougher cake texture.
  5. Bake for 22-28 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean if tested in the center. Let cool for a minute, then run a butter knife or offset spatula along the sides to release the cake from the pan. Continue to let cool for 10 minutes, then invert on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

  1. In a large bowl, add avocado and sift cocoa powder into bowl. Sifting will help remove any lumps and make for a smoother frosting. 
  2. In a double boiler or microwave, gently melt chocolate chips until half the chips are melted. Remove from heat, then continue stirring until all the chocolate chips have melted. We want the chocolate to be smooth and fully melted, but not so hot that the frosting won't set. Around or just above your body temperature is best.  If it's too hot, put it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes, stirring every now and then so the edges don't harden.
  3. Pour melted chocolate into your bowl of avocado and cocoa powder. Start mixing gently with a rubber spatula until everything is relatively combined. Switch to a hand mixer with a beater attachment and whisk until smooth. Gradually add cashew milk to reach a light and fluffy consistency; you might not need all of it. 


  1. Cut off any domes from the chocolate cakes. Crumble cake pieces onto a baking sheet and gently toast in an oven until crisp. Let cool, then blend to make crispy cake crumbs. I used a spice blender as it is such a small quantity. You can also use a mortar and pestle, small food processor, or blender. 
  2. Optional: Brew coffee and brush the layers of cake with it to add moisture. I did this in the video because I had extra coffee beans, but it's totally optional.
  3. Place one layer of cake on a platter, then scoop about 1/4-1/3 cup frosting on top and smooth with an offset spatula.
  4. Place the next layer of cake on top, upside down so the cut side is facing the frosting. Top off with remaining frosting and smooth out until the cake is completely covered. 
  5. Gently press toasted cake crumbs into the side of cake. I garnished the top of my cake with some extra crumbs and lemon zest from the lemon I bought for the juice. Enjoy!


  • You can make your own cashew milk for this recipe by blending together 1/2 cup plain (not roasted or salted) cashews with 2 cups filtered water. Cashew milk doesn't usually need to be strained, but if your blender is not too strong, I would recommend soaking the cashews for an hour first to soften them. 

  • Leftover avocado skins and pits can be used to dye natural fiber fabrics! There are directions online, but I'll share a tutorial in the future as well. The dyed fabric comes out in beautiful soft tones of pink, peach, and brown. 
  • If you don't have access to bulk ingredients, try to purchase them packaged in recyclable or reusable materials. Some examples of this are paper bags/boxes for flour, sugar, and baking soda. If these options aren't available, you can also purchase the largest size and split the cost with friends. Azure Standard is a great resource for this. Keep in mind, these are the same large quantities that bulk bins are often filled with, so don't feel guilty about any non recyclable waste.