dairy free, one layer cake with chocolate buttercream frosting topped with sprinkles

October is birthday month in our house. We celebrate three birthdays (everyone except for me), and this year we celebrated our son’s first birthday. It’s definitely been a memorable month. Even though it’s fun, it can be a bit overwhelming at times, so I’ve been trying to keep things pretty relaxed and avoid big birthday parties for as long as I can.

I know it’s just a matter of time before we will be having a ton of kids over to celebrate. But, even small birthday parties need cake, so I developed a quick and easy one layer cake recipe that makes just enough cake for a small gathering.

It’s also perfect for a bring-your-own dairy free dessert. One of my readers even brought it to a birthday party so her son didn’t have to miss out on the fun. And, that’s why I love this recipe. It’s super simple and I know it will be a dairy free favorite in no time.

I decided to go with a chocolate buttercream for this one since I already did a vanilla buttercream for my dairy free cupcakes last year. If you would prefer vanilla frosting, just make half of that recipe’s frosting.

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Here’s what you’ll need to make this single layer cake:

dairy free, one layer cake with chocolate buttercream frosting topped with sprinkles

How to make this easy, one layer cake

Preheat and prepare your pan. Set your oven to 350˚F (180˚C), and spray your cake pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle a light coat of flour on the oil so that the batter won’t stick to the pan. If you have them, soak your even bake strips for later.

Mix your wet ingredients. With an electric mixer, beat the oil, cashew milk, sugar, vanilla and eggs together in a large mixing bowl until smooth. You can use a hand or stand mixer for this. You can even do it by hand if you want using a whisk, just make sure your really beat it for a while to get the eggs nice and fluffy.

Whisk in the dry ingredients. Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the bowl, and continue beating until everything is smooth and combined. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and wrap the pan with even bake strips (if you have them).

Bake your cake for 25 – 30 minutes. The cake will be done when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool for at least 10 minutes before transferring it to a cooling rack. Let the cake cool completely before frosting it.

dairy free, one layer cake with chocolate buttercream frosting topped with sprinkles

Make your frosting while the cake is baking

Use an electric mixer to beat the frosting ingredients together. Don’t put all of the powdered sugar in at once, though, or you’ll end up with a huge mess. I recommend adding it about 1/2 cup at a time and mixing it into the wet ingredients before moving on the next cup. Same goes for the dairy free milk, add about 2 tablespoons and go from there, adding it as you need it until the frosting is fluffy.

This recipe makes enough frosting to frost the sides of your cake. I just chose not to because I like the way it looks more. I am also not a huge frosting person, so I don’t miss the extra.

Just in case you didn’t know, read this post: are eggs dairy?

dairy free, one layer cake with chocolate buttercream frosting topped with sprinkles

Want to make a substitution? Here are my suggestions:

  • To make this cake gluten free, use gluten free all-purpose baking flour (like Bob’s Red Mill).
  • To make this cake vegan, substitute a flax egg or vegan egg replacer product.
  • To make this cake nut free, substitute coconut milk (not canned) or soy milk for the nut milk.

Looking for a more elegant cake? Be sure to try this one layer, peach almond cake.

dairy free, one layer cake with chocolate buttercream frosting topped with sprinkles
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One Layer Cake

This simple one layer cake recipe is perfect for small birthdays and other celebrations. It’s easy to make and topped with chocolate buttercream and sprinkles.

  • Author: Melissa Belanger
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: dessert
  • Method: baking

Ingredients

Scale

Cake:

  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup dairy free milk (we used cashew)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening*
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 34 tablespoons dairy free milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease and flour a 8” or 9” round cake pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, sugar, vanilla extract and eggs until smooth. Slowly whisk in the flour and baking powder until fully incorporated and smooth.
  3. Transfer to cake pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes (an inserted toothpick should come out clean). Remove from oven and allow cake to cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack or cake plate. Let cake cool completely before frosting.
  4. While the cake is baking, beat shortening, cocoa powder and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add salt and powdered sugar in about 1/2 cup increments until fully incorporated. Add milk until desired consistency has been reached.

Keywords: birthday cake, layer cake, dairy free cake, easy cake

Last Updated on November 5, 2021 by Melissa Belanger

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Recipe rating

17 Comments

    1. I don’t think it’s as simple as just adding cocoa powder. If you add cocoa powder you would need to adjust the amount of flour and/or the liquid ingredients. Cocoa also reacts differently with the fats and leavening agents in the batter, so I really don’t know how it would turn out. I can’t recommend something without testing it.

    1. Sorry for the delayed response (we were on vacation), but yes! You can easily swap dairy milk if you would prefer to use that!

  1. So this is going to maybe sound goofy on a non-dairy site, but I (as an extremely dairy human) came here because I was looking for a one layer yellow with chocolate frosting cake, and this recipe looked great (plus, the pictures are so tempting!). I added all of the dairy back in (ie. milk for cashew milk and butter for shortening), and all of the dairy adds worked just fine. As a matter of fact, this was the best yellow cake recipe I’ve had in a while, AND the frosting was just the right amount. SO. In case anyone in here is wondering whether you can substitute dairy back in, YES. YOU CAN. AND IT IS DELICIOUS. I’m glad I gave it a shot. Sorry for un-non-dairying up your recipe, but it was awesome. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for the glowing review! I’m happy to hear that dairy works, too. We are all about doing your own thing here. We’re just dairy free because we have to be!

  2. I noticed the frosting does not have any sugar listed as an ingredient. A frosting that is not sweetened? hmmmmm…..

  3. I made this yellow cake the other day. I had made small birthday cake and had leftover lemon frosting to use up. The cake turned out beautifully.I did use regular dairy milk instead of non dairy. Baked it in a square glass 8 by 8 pan. Had no problem removing it. Will definitely be making this again!

  4. THIS WAS MY BEST EXPERIENCE EVER.I HAVE ALREADY STARTED MY OWN CAKE BUSINESS AND THANK YOU FOR THE RECIPE

    1. Hi Raymund, do you know what went wrong? I’d love to know what the results were so I could help you troubleshoot it!

  5. I made this cake yesterday as a last minute decision for Valentines Day. It came out perfect. I used oat milk for my dairy substitute. The frosting was my absolute favorite.
    Thank you.

  6. Unfortunately, I did not get to make this frosting but I did try the cake recipe. My oven ran a little hot so I don’t know if I should bake this for 20 minutes instead or to decrease the heat to 325. At least the cake was tasty. I’ll definitely see if I can play around with this. recipe.

  7. This is an uncomplicated recipe and the frosting is to die for!! We are not dairy free so used butter and milk for a delicious frosting with a great consistency. Thank you for my Birthday Cake! Wooo! Go #66.