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Low Carbon Recipe for Chocolate Cake

27 July 2021


Low-carbon recipes are mindful of the energy and resources that go into producing, packaging, and transporting food.

Choosing local and in-season produce wherever possible is a good way to reduce the distance your food had to travel to get to you. Where your food comes from is one factor to consider, especially when looking at the bigger picture (ethical, sustainable, responsible farming practices and labour), but the most effective way to reduce the carbon footprint of your food is to focus on what you are eating.

As a general rule of thumb, plant-based dishes require less energy.

This week’s low-carbon recipe is for a delicious chocolate cake.


¾ cup vegetable oil (like canola), plus more for the pan

  • Look for Canadian canola oil and choose glass or bring-your-own container when possible. Check out NuGrocery in Ottawa!
  • Dairy products as raw ingredients tend to have higher carbon footprints. Using vegetable oil instead of butter helps to reduce the carbon footprint of this recipe.

1⅓ cups all-purpose flour

1¼ cups granulated sugar

1¾ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

1½ tsp. kosher salt, divided

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • Look for organic, fair-trade, and rainforest alliance certifications to support more sustainable and ethically produced cocoa

2 large eggs

1 cup non-dairy milk (you can use any non-dairy milk like oat or almond)

1¾ tsp. pure vanilla extract, divided

  • Avoid plastic packaging by looking for glass jars that can be recycled.

4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate bars

  • Look for organic and fair-trade certifications to support more sustainable and ethically produced cocoa
  • Choose dark chocolate with higher cacao percentages (up to 65%), which uses less milk and sugar than milk-chocolate.

¼ cup non dairy milk

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

  • Cheese is not a low-carbon food. Some tips for choosing a cream cheese that is a more environmentally friendly option are:
    • Try using vegan cream cheese
    • Choose local and organic brands with limited packaging. Reuse and recycle the packaging it does come in whenever possible.

¼ cup powdered sugar

Sprinkles or decorations

Instructions For Cake

  • Step 1.

Preheat your oven to 325°. Using a little vegetable oil and your fingers, grease a 9” cake pan.

  • Step 2.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/3 cups flour, 1 ¼ cups sugar, 1 ¾ tsp. baking powder, ¼ tsp. baking soda, and 1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt. Sift in ¼ cup cocoa powder and whisk to mix it all together.

  • Step 3.

Whisk 2 eggs, ¾ cup vegetable oil, and 1 tsp. vanilla in a medium bowl until creamy.

  • Step 4.

Add the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until fully combined.

  • Step 5.

Warm 1 cup non-dairy milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to steam, do not boil. Add warmed milk to batter and whisk until it is combined and there are no obvious lumps.

  • Step 6.

Pour batter into greased pan, tap a few times to get rid of air bubbles.

  • Step 7.

Bake cake for 40 – 50 minutes, until a think knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.

  • Step 8.

Allow the cake to cool!

For Frosting

  • Step 1.

Bring 1” of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Place a medium heatproof bowl over the sauce pan and add the chocolate and ¼ cup milk. Melt together until smooth. Set aside to cool.

  • Step 2.

Get a workout and reduce your energy use! Vigorously whisk together room temperature cream cheese, ¼ cup powdered sugar, ¾ tsp. vanilla, and ¼ tsp. salt until very smooth with no lumps. Then beat in the melted (and mostly cooled!) chocolate mixture. Keep beating until it is smooth and thickened and has lightened in colour slightly.


  • Step 1.

Run a butter knife around your cake and flip the pan over, tapping gently until it releases. Put the cake on a plate with the bottom up (so that the top is flat).

  • Step 2.

Top your cake with frosting, smoothing gently until you achieve your desired look. Add sprinkles or any other edible decorations you have.



This recipe was brought to you by EnviroCentre’s own Brodie Kinnear, inspired by this recipe by Bon Apetit.