Chocolate Pecan Cranberry Coffee Cake by Fran Costigan

Chocolate Pecan Cranberry Coffee Cake by Fran Costigan

Mmmm, chocolate. It has to be the most universally loved food, doesn’t it?  Whether you are a devotee who keeps a stash of  semi-sweet to mainline throughout the day, or an occasional chocolate eater who prefers Devil’s Food on birthdays, you know the charms of Cacao.

Well, vegans love chocolate, too. And now, thanks to Fran Costigan, they now have the ultimate resource for sating a chocolate craving in the most delicious way.

Fran Costigan is arguably the top vegan pastry chef working today. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but as the Queen of Vegan Desserts, she has earned some high praise. Yes, full disclosure, I know Fran, as a friend and colleague. I’ve been in her kitchen, watched her test recipes, and tasted her experiments as she went, so I have seen her in action. Fran Costigan is the real deal.

Luckily, I’m not the only one who’s impressed. Fran’s fans are a who’s who of vegan authors and celebrities, as well as respected conventional bakers.

Her second book, the culmination of years of developing great recipes for classes, articles, and private clients is on shelves now. Vegan Chocolate, Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts (Running Press) is the work of a true expert. Costigan isn’t satisfied with a homely chocolate cake that tastes pretty good. She tweaks and tests, and analyzes the chemistry to create spectacular cakes that taste amazing. Cupcakes, puddings, truffles, It’s all there, all chocolatey, all on a par with the best desserts you have ever had.

Vegan Chocolate, No Apologies

Vegan Chocolate, No Apologies

Costigan is a classically trained pastry chef, who originally worked in buttery, eggy, sugary pastry. Her plans hit a bump when she realized that she was dairy intolerant, and that the work she had trained for was making her sick.

Undeterred, she got a job at a vegan/macro restaurant, thenstudied at the Natural Gourmet Institute, and turned her focus to working dairy free and vegan. Costigan baked and cooked in the formative years of the vegan scene in New York City, and gained a reputation for knowing how to make plant-based desserts that really were indistinguishable from the regular kind. Costigan became the go-to baker for kosher, dairy free goodies, and catered to a growing group of food conscious people.

20 years ago, Costigan decided to focus on teaching vegan baking, and made a name for herself internationally. Teaching at the Natural Gourmet Institute, she offers vegan baking “bootcamps,”which attract students from all over the world. Students from China, Japan, India, Europe, Mexico, and just about everywhere have made the trek to learn from Fran Costigan.  Many of her students have gone on to open vegan bakeries and businesses, spreading vegan knowledge far and wide.

Along the way, she wrote her first book,  More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally, which  has been a mainstay of vegan baking since it came out in 2006. Shes also traveled to teach in the US and Europe, and became an important voice in the vegan community.

So it is fitting that Vegan Chocolate will take its place as The Book on vegan chocolate, and a standout among vegan dessert books. On one hand, the sumptuous photos and will tempt any chocolate lover, vegan or not. The desserts work, in part because Fran gives exacting instructions, and if you follow them, you will get results. Just about every form of chocolate worship is here, from truffles to cupcakes. Beyond that, she has done it without compromising on her ingredients. Whole sweeteners, ethically manufactured chocolate, organics and other pure foods are called for, no subs. The desserts have whole grain flours, but only in balance with unbleached so that the results never veer from cake to bran muffin in feel.

So, if you love chocolate, you don’t have to be vegan to love this book.

You can watch Fran in action here.



(Just Out of the Oven, Before the Glaze)


Chocolate Pecan Cranberry Coffee Cake by Fran Costigan, Courtesy of Running Press

Makes one 9-inch cake, 10-12 servings


1/2 cup dried cranberries

zest and juice of one medium organic orange

3/4 cup pecans, roasted, cooled, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup rolled oats, toasted

1/2 cup organic whole cane sugar (sucanat or rapadura) ground in a blender to a fine powder

2 tablespoons mild tasting xv olive oil

2 tablespoons vegan chocolate chips


1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup dutch process cocoa

1/3 cup organic granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon mild-tasting xv olive oil

3/4 cup Grade B maple syrup

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/8 teaspoon orange oil (optional)

1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips

GLAZE (optional)

1 1/3 cup organic confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons dutch-process cocoa

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons boiling water

1 teaspoon vanilla


1. Mix the cranberries and orange juice in a small bowl and let soak for 10 minutes.

2. Drain the cranberries, reserving 1 tablespoon of the juice. Return the cranberries to the bowl, add the pecans, oats, whole cane sugar, zest, and oil. If the crumb is dry, add reserved orange juice. Think damp sand. Stir the chips into the crumb and reserve while you make the cake.


1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Oil the sides and bottom of a 9-inch cake pan, and cut a parchment round to fit the bottom. Line the pan and don’t oil the paper.

2. Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the all-purpose flour, pastry flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt to the strainer and stir with the whisk to sift the ingredients into the bowl. If any bits stay in the strainer, add to the bowl, and whisk to aerate the mixture.

3. Whisk the oil, maple syrup, non-dairy milk, vanilla, vinegar and orange oil (if using) in a separate medium bowl until mixed, stir into the dry mix until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips.

4. Pour about half the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle about half of the crumb over, going light on the center. Pour the remaining batter over the crumb, use a spatula to spread the batter evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crumb over, going light on the center.

5. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out dry or with a few moist crumbs.

6. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then cover with a plate and invert. Remove the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Invert the cake again onto the rack to cool completely. If you are glazing, wait til it’s completely cool, or if you want to warm the cake for serving, glaze after it’s warm.


Sift the sugar and cocoa into a small heat proof bowl. Add the boiling water and whisk until sugar is dissolved and glaze is smooth. Add the vanilla and whisk.