Vegan No-Bake Chocolate Cake with Caramel (Mars Cake)

5 from 5 votes
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This no-bake chocolate cake with caramel (aka Mars cake) is rich and decadent, combining a fudgy chocolate almond “nougat” layer, date caramel layer, and dark chocolate toppings in this delicious no-bake caramel chocolate cake. Best of all, all you need is 10 ingredients, a food processor/blender, and under 15 minutes of hands-on prep! The resulting raw cake is gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and 100% vegan!

A slice of Mars cake

I’ve previously shared several raw or no-bake vegan treats, including fudgy, nutty, no-bake brownies and decadent date caramel. This raw vegan caramel chocolate cake recipe now combines the two (with some changes) and tops it off with a melted dark chocolate topping for a healthier, no-bake “Mars bar” cake! This isn’t the first time I’ve recreated a candy favorite in a healthier way either. I have already shared recipes for vegan Twix bars, snickers, peanut butter cups, and bounty bars (Mound bars in America), and most recently (very recently!) Ferrero Rocher!

What is a mars bar? It’s a chocolate bar containing a soft nougat layer topped with a caramel layer encased in chocolate. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly healthy (or vegan) with main ingredients including sugar, glucose syrup, milk powder, milk fat, whey, palm fat (uh-oh), egg white powder, etc. Luckily, this vegan raw cake version omits all the above to replace with more wholesome ingredients.

Mars cake with raspberry decoration

This vegan Mars bar cake is a 3-layered treat that any chocolate lover will love. The base chocolate nougat layer combines cacao, almonds, and maple for a chewy, fudgy raw brownie texture. That is then topped with thick peanut butter, date “caramel“, and then coated with melted dark chocolate. The result is a no-bake dessert that will absolutely blow your socks off. It’s sweet, savory, fudgy, crunchy, chewy, and decadent while remaining wholesome and filling – no empty calories here!

In fact, since this vegan chocolate caramel cake is so rich and decant, this small cake yields a LOT more servings than you’d think! Plus, since it contains no dairy or eggs, this no-bake chocolate cake can be stored in the fridge for up to 10 days or in the freezer for three months! Additionally, I’ve even included several optional add-ins, including adapting this recipe to no-bake vegan turtle brownies.

Mars cake with a slice cut off

Looking for more decadent vegan dessert ideas? You might like this vegan chocolate cherry ‘black forest’ tart, Magnum-style stuffed ice-cream bars, ooey-gooey vegan chocolate chip cookies, and avocado chocolate mousse cups!

The Ingredients

The Chocolate “Nougat” Layer

  • Almonds: to create a bit of texture in the raw vegan chocolate cake, use raw almonds.
  • Almond butter: I used homemade almond butter. You can use store-bought, but make sure it’s natural with just almond (and possibly salt) as ingredients.
  • Cacao Powder: you can use cacao or cocoa powder, unsweetened.
  • Maple syrup: or another liquid sweetener such as agave syrup, brown rice syrup, date syrup, or even dandelion honey (vegan).
Ingredients for Mars cake base

The Raw Caramel Layer

  • Dates: I like to use Medjool dates, which are soft and easy to blend with a delicious caramel flavor. You can use other types of dates but may need to soak them in boiling water first for 10 minutes to soften, and their taste isn’t as caramel-y.
  • Coconut oil: I used homemade coconut oil, but store-bought is fine.
  • Peanut butter: I used homemade peanut butter. You can use other nut butters, though I’ve found peanut butter yields my preferred flavor.
  • Vanilla: I use homemade vanilla extract. Try to use a natural extract for the best flavor.
  • Salt: just a pinch helps to balance and enhance the flavor of the raw caramel.
Ingredients for Mars cake caramel layer

The Topping

  • Dark chocolate: you can use store-bought or homemade dairy-free dark chocolate. I like to use chocolate around 70%, but feel free to adjust how dark it is to your personal preference.
  • Coconut oil: this is needed for the chocolate to achieve the correct consistency for pouring.
  • (Optional) other toppings: I wanted to add a little something “extra” to the no-bake chocolate cake. So I also added a layer of freeze-dried raspberries to the top of the mars cake too.

Other add-ins and variations

  • Espresso/Instant coffee: just a little coffee helps to enhance the flavor in any chocolate treat. You can use a little espresso or instant coffee (1-2 tsp) added to the blender with the base ingredients.
  • Dutch-processed cocoa: stepping away from a Mars bar, but equally as delicious. Using 40-50% Dutch-processed cocoa not only creates a super dark base layer but also provides a rich Oreo-like flavor to the raw vegan chocolate cake.
  • Flaky salt: a pinch of flaky salt sprinkled over the melted dark chocolate topping will add a little crunch, and salt creates a depth of flavor for chocolate and caramel treats.
  • Chocolate chips/chunks: for even more decadence, you could mix ¼ cup chocolate to the base layer, pulsing them into the mixture in the last few seconds, so they aren’t broken up too much.
  • Vegan turtle brownies: turtle candy usually combines chocolate, pecans, and caramel. To adapt this raw cake recipe to no-bake turtle brownies, you can use a square/rectangle sheet pan (for thinner brownie slices. Then I recommend using ½ almonds and ½ pecans in the base layer. You can also sprinkle crushed pecans over the melted chocolate layer before setting it in the fridge/freezer.

How to Make Raw Mars Cake

Step 1: Prepare the chocolate “nougat” layer

Add all the base ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor and process into a crumbly, slightly wet consistency. Don’t over blend; otherwise, you’ll lose the texture, and you’ll end up blending a smooth nut butter.

Steps for making Mars cake base layer

Then, transfer the blended mixture to a greased or parchment-lined 8-inch/20 cm round cake tin with tall sides. I used a springform tin for the best “release” of the raw caramel chocolate cake.

Use a spatula to spread the mixture evenly in the tin, smoothing down the top. You can flatten the top with the help of a glass with a flat bottom. Then set aside.

Steps for shaping Mars cake base

Step 2: Prepare the peanut caramel layer

First, remove the stones from the dates. Then wipe your blender/processor clean and place all the caramel layer ingredients into it. Blend/process until smooth. This can take quite some time, and you may need a little water or milk (1-2 Tbsp at a time) to help create a smoother caramel.

Steps for making Mars cake caramel layer

The raw caramel mixture should be like a thick, spreadable paste when ready (refer to the pictures).

Transfer the caramel mixture to the cake tin over the nougat layer and use a spatula to smooth. Then transfer the tin to your fridge to chill and thicken for between 20-30 minutes.

Steps for making a Mars cake

Step 3: Add the chocolate topping

After chilled, remove the cake from the tin. If the top layer is a little messy/uneven, you can use a clean spatula or finger dipped in a bit of water (to avoid sticking) to try and smooth it out slightly (I didn’t this time).

Mars cake before it is coated with chocolate

To prepare the topping, melt the chocolate and coconut oil over a double boiler, stirring until melted. Then pour this mixture over the vegan caramel chocolate cake. Use a spatula to spread it over the sides if needed.

Coating a Mars cake with chocolate

If you plan on adding any more toppings, then add them now, before the chocolate is set. Then transfer the mars bar cake back to the fridge. This will help them adhere better to the no-bake chocolate cake.

It may be easiest to do this on a cooling rack with a tray beneath (to catch extra dripping chocolate). Alternatively, you can simply add this layer to the top of the cake instead of covering the entire thing. To do so, only use half the chocolate and coconut oil and pour it over the cake while it’s still in the cake tin for a clean top layer.

Then, place the vegan caramel chocolate cake back in the fridge to chill until set. Then slice. Be warned, this cake is DECADENT so I recommend cutting it into 12-16 slices.

How to Store?

Store: store the no-bake chocolate cake (Mars bar cake) in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Freeze: I like to slice the no-bake chocolate cake into the servings first. Place parchment paper between each piece to stop them from freezing together and then freeze. Store for up to three months.

Allow the slice/s to thaw in the fridge or on the counter before enjoying. They won’t freeze “solid,” so you don’t need to wait too long for a slice to be enjoyable, though they’ll be chewier while still thawing (which I quite like).

Cutting a Mars cake

FAQs

Can I use a square pan?

Yes, you can use an 8-inch or 9-inch square tin (20 cm or 23 cm). If you use a larger one, then the layers will just be a little thinner. Make sure to line the pan, though, with a slight parchment overhang. That way, you can easily remove it from the pan.

Can I make this nut-free?

There may be a way you could use seed butter and seeds in place of the nuts. However, I can’t guarantee how the flavor and texture will change.

Can I adjust these to vegan mars bars?

There are two ways you can adjust this recipe into individual vegan mars bars. First, depending on how thick you want the bars to be, you can use a 10-inch/25 cm square pan (taller) or a 9×13-inch/23x33cm pan (thinner). Second, allow it to chill, slice into bars, dip each bar in melted chocolate, and chill until set.
Alternatively, you can use a silicone candy bar mold (like this one) to make the chocolate caramel bars. However, you’ll likely need to do this in batches as one mold usually contains 8-12 cavities, and this recipe will yield a higher number than that.

Mars cake with a slice cut off

Recipe Notes and FAQs

  • For a date-free caramel: I really like the flavor and texture of the date caramel. However, if you struggle to source high-quality Medjool dates where you live, you could create a date-free caramel (which combines nut/seed butter with maple, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt).
  • For easier slicing: if you try to slice the no-bake chocolate caramel cake straight from the freezer, the topping might crack. For that reason, I recommend either allowing it to sit on the counter for five minutes and/or using a sharp knife dipped in boiling water. Then, make a slice, wipe the blade, dip it back in the water, wipe, slice, and repeat!
  • Make snack bites: for small vegan Mars chocolate caramel bars, use an 8 or 9-inch square pan. You can slice 16 larger pieces (2-inch square pieces). To do so, slice the no-bake chocolate cake into four even squares, then slice each of those into four pieces. For bite-sized snack pieces, cut each of the squares in half again for 32 portions or 2×1-inch pieces (for a small after-dinner snack, etc.).

More Delicious Vegan Desserts

If you try this vegan no-bake chocolate cake with caramel (Mars cake) recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d really appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Vegan No-Bake Chocolate Cake with Caramel (Mars Cake)

5 from 5 votes
By: Samira
This no-bake chocolate cake with caramel (aka Mars cake) is rich and decadent, combining a fudgy chocolate almond "nougat" layer, date caramel layer, and dark chocolate toppings in this delicious no-bake caramel chocolate cake. Best of all, all you need is 10 ingredients, a food processor/blender, and under 15 minutes of hands-on prep! The resulting raw cake is gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and 100% vegan.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 16 slices

Ingredients 
 

Nougat layer:

  • 10 oz almonds 2 cups
  • 1 oz cacao powder 1/4 cup; or cocoa butter
  • 5 oz maple syrup 1/2 cup; or other sweetener like brown rice syrup, date syrup, etc.
  • 11.6 oz almond butter 1.5 cups

Caramel layer:

  • 12 oz dates about 15 dates
  • 4 oz peanut butter 1/2 cup or other nut/seed butter
  • 2 oz coconut oil 1/4 cup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk or water more or less if needed to make the texture smoother

Coating:

Instructions 

Step 1: Prepare the chocolate "nougat" layer

  • Add all the base ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor and process into a crumbly, slightly wet consistency. Don't over blend; otherwise, you'll lose the texture, and you'll end up blending a smooth nut butter.
  • Transfer the blended mixture to a greased or parchment-lined 8-inch/20 cm round cake tin with tall sides. I used a springform tin for the best "release" of the raw caramel chocolate cake.
  • Use a spatula to spread the mixture evenly in the tin, smoothing down the top. You can flatten the top with the help of a glass with a flat bottom. Then set aside.

Step 2: Prepare the peanut caramel layer

  • Remove the stones from the dates.
  • Place all the caramel layer ingredients into the blender (cleaned from the base layer). Blend/process until smooth. This can take quite some time, and you may need a little water or milk (1-2 Tbsp at a time) to help create a smoother caramel.
    The raw caramel mixture should be like a thick, spreadable paste when ready (refer to the pictures on the blog).
  • Transfer the caramel mixture to the cake tin over the nougat layer and use a spatula to smooth. Then transfer the tin to your fridge to chill and thicken for between 20-30 minutes.

Step 3: Add the chocolate topping

  • After chilled, remove the cake from the tin. If the top layer is a little messy/uneven, you can use a clean spatula or finger dipped in a bit of water (to avoid sticking) to try and smooth it out slightly (if wanted, I don't always do it).
  • To prepare the topping, melt the chocolate and coconut oil over a double boiler, stirring until melted. Then pour this mixture over the vegan caramel chocolate cake. Use a spatula to spread it over the sides if needed.
    If you plan on adding any more toppings, then add them now, before the chocolate is set. Then transfer the mars bar cake back to the fridge. This will help them adhere better to the no-bake chocolate cake.
  • It may be easiest to do this on a cooling rack with a tray beneath (to catch extra dripping chocolate). Alternatively, you can simply add this layer to the top of the cake instead of covering the entire thing. To do so, only use half the chocolate and coconut oil and pour it over the cake while it's still in the cake tin for a clean top layer.
    Then, place the vegan caramel chocolate cake back in the fridge to chill until set. Then slice. Be warned, this cake is DECADENT so I recommend cutting it into 12-16 slices.

How to Store?

  • Store: store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.
    Freeze: I like to slice the cake into the servings first. Place parchment paper between each piece to stop them from freezing together and then freeze. Store for up to three months.
    Allow the slice/s to thaw in the fridge or on the counter before enjoying. They won't freeze "solid," so you don't need to wait too long for a slice to be enjoyable, though they'll be chewier while still thawing (which I quite like).

Notes

  • For a date-free caramel: I really like the flavor and texture of the date caramel. However, if you struggle to source high-quality Medjool dates where you live, you could create a date-free caramel (which combined nut/seed butter with maple, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt).
  • For easier slicing: if you try to slice the no-bake chocolate caramel cake straight from the freezer, the topping might crack. For that reason, I recommend either allowing it to sit on the counter for five minutes and/or using a sharp knife dipped in boiling water. Then, make a slice, wipe the blade, dip it back in the water, wipe, slice, and repeat!
  • Make snack bites: for small vegan Mars chocolate caramel bars, use an 8 or 9-inch square pan. You can slice 16 larger pieces (2-inch square pieces). To do so, slice the no-bake chocolate cake into four even squares, then slice each of those into four pieces. For bite-sized snack pieces, cut each of the squares in half again for 32 portions or 2×1-inch pieces (for a small after-dinner snack, etc.).
 
 
Other add-ins and variations:
  • Espresso/Instant coffee: just a little coffee helps to enhance the flavor in any chocolate treat. You can use a little espresso or instant coffee (1-2tsp) added to the blender with the base ingredients.
  • Dutch-processed cocoa: stepping away from a Mars bar, but equally as delicious. Using 40-50% Dutch-processed cocoa not only creates a super dark base layer but also provides a rich Oreo-like flavor to the raw vegan chocolate cake.
  • Flaky salt: a pinch of flaky salt sprinkled over the melted dark chocolate topping will add a little crunch, and salt creates a depth of flavor for chocolate and caramel treats.
  • Chocolate chips/chunks: for even more decadence, you could mix ¼ cup chocolate to the base layer, pulsing them into the mixture in the last few seconds, so they aren’t broken up too much.
  • Vegan turtle brownies: turtle candy usually combines chocolate, pecans, and caramel. To adapt this raw cake recipe to no-bake turtle brownies, you can use a square/rectangle sheet pan (for thinner brownie slices. Then I recommend using ½ almonds and ½ pecans in the base layer. You can also sprinkle crushed pecans over the melted chocolate layer before setting it in the fridge/freezer.
 
Check the blog post for more tips and answers to top FAQs.
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Freezer friendly: 3 Months
Shelf life: 10 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 443kcal, Carbohydrates: 37g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 32g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g, Monounsaturated Fat: 16g, Trans Fat: 1g, Sodium: 78mg, Potassium: 544mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 25g, Vitamin A: 3IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 165mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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