Preparing a dairy-free chocolate cake is very similar to baking a regular chocolate cake, although a few adjustments are necessary. In order to be considered truly dairy-free, the cake cannot contain milk sugars or milk proteins. This means that products containing lactose, casein, and whey must be avoided when making a dairy-free chocolate cake. Some brands of chocolate do not contain dairy products, and ingredients such as milk or butter can be replaced with non-dairy alternatives. Soy versions of sour cream and cream cheese are also available and can be used in some recipes.
Butter is often used as the oil of choice when baking cakes, but butter is made from milk and is not safe for those who must consume a dairy-free diet. Margarine is made primarily of vegetable oil, but some brands also include milk so that the product will taste a little more like real butter. Several brands of margarine do not contain milk products and can be safely used to make a dairy-free chocolate cake.
Milk is an essential ingredient in many cake recipes, and there are a variety of dairy-free alternatives available. Rice milk, soy milk, and hemp milk are available at many health food stores or supermarkets. When baking foods such as a dairy-free chocolate cake, coconut milk and almond milk are popular choices. Caution should be used when using milk substitutes due to possible allergies or intolerances. Many people with dairy allergies are also sensitive to soy products, and those with nut allergies should avoid the use of almond milk.
Cream cheese and sour cream alternatives are available, although they may be a bit difficult to find in some locations. These products are almost always made from soy products, which may pose a problem for some people. Studies have shown that about half of the people who have milk allergies or sensitivities also react to products containing soy.
Finding the appropriate type of chocolate for a dairy-free chocolate cake can be a bit tricky. Milk chocolate is not a viable option, so many people use cocoa powder or bittersweet chocolate when baking. It is important to carefully read food labels when buying chocolate to make sure there are no dairy products listed. If time or convenience are issues, some commercial chocolate cake mixes are dairy-free. Dairy-free frosting can also be found, although it may not necessarily be the same brand as the cake mix.