Fran Costigan’s “Chocolate Cake to Live For”

Fran Costigan gets more fan mail for her “Chocolate Cake To Live For” than any of the dozens of recipes she’s created. “I’ve gotten so many letters and thank yous for that cake over the years,” says Fran, a New York pastry chef. “People tell me: ‘This is the best cake I’ve ever had.’” She calls it “the cake with a fan club.”

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What makes this chocolate cake even more remarkable is the recipe involves zero dairy products, like milk or butter. Eggs aren’t used either. A vegan pastry chef, Costigan relies on nondairy milks, such as soymilk, almond milk, rice milk or coconut milk as well as oil — in this case extra virgin olive oil. She originally prepared the cake using organic canola oil, but has since adapted the recipe for use with EVOO. She recommends Arbequina. (Click here to see cake recipe.)

“Olive oil seems to add a richness I wasn’t getting with neutral oils. It’s great in chocolate-baked desserts,” says Fran, an instructor at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts and the Institute of Culinary Education, both in New York. A mild, fruity extra virgin olive oil is often her “fat of choice.”

Fran’s chocolate cake has some added personal significance. It was the first dairy-free cake she created in which she realized she had “cracked the code” for making vegan desserts that tasted delicious.

Vegan desserts were uncharted territory in the late 1980s. No cookbooks, role models, or formulas. “I did a lot of trial and error,” says, Fran, author of More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally (Book Publishing Co., 2006). “I was like a scientist because I knew recipes for successful vegan desserts had to be formulas, like their traditional counterparts.”

In addition to olive oil and nondairy milk, the cake uses maple syrup as a sweetener and apple cider vinegar which helps create a tender crumb. It also uses cocoa power, whole wheat pastry flour and unbleached all-purpose flour.

Fran recommends glazing the cake with a vegan chocolate ganahce icing made from nondairy bittersweet chocolate, nondairy milk, Arbequina EVOO, and an optional pinch of flaky fleur de sel.

Fran says this “deeply chocolate, fudgy” cake often elicits the comment: “No way there’s no dairy in this cake.”

You can also click on the following links to see Fran’s recipes for an orange almond olive oil cake, chocolate walnut fudge brownies, and an Italian chestnut flour cake.

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch


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