Let’s start by making one thing clear: if I’m going to eat chocolate cake, it better be worth every bite. I want my dessert to be so mouthwatering and delicious that it gives me a shot of pleasure and leaves me feeling satisfied. This gluten-free cake recipe checks all the boxes, and the fact that it’s also grain-free and paleo (with a few modifications) means I can eat it without dealing with digestive distress over the next few days.
My gut-healing, grain-free journey has led me down a new path of discovering all the delicious baked goods that use almond flour, coconut flour, and cassava flour to create something every bit as delicious as desserts made with flour. Yes, swapping in these alt-flours requires some know-how (and I’ve had a few fails along the way), but this cake proves I’m not sacrificing a single ounce of deliciousness when eating grain-free.
My goal with this cake was to create a gluten-free and grain-free version of the classic chocolate birthday cake with chocolate frosting—one that the rest of my family would want to devour even though they don’t share my dietary restrictions. The recipe exceeded all expectations, and dare I say, it may be the only gluten-free cake recipe I make moving forward.
Read on to see how my favorite grain-free chocolate cake comes together. It’s one-bowl and incredibly simple, and I have a feeling it might become a go-to for you, too.
Ingredients and Dietary Modifications
Here’s what you’ll need to make this gluten-free cake recipe—and all my recommendations on making this recipe dairy-free and paleo so everyone can indulge.
Almond flour: One of my favorite alt-flours because of its nutty flavor and nutrient-rich properties. It pairs particularly well with any chocolate recipe.
Baking soda: Especially important in gluten-free baking to provide that rise.
Kosher salt: I like to use Diamond kosher salt in the recipe and then top the cake with flaky Maldon salt crystals.
Cocoa powder: I prefer Dutch-processed cocoa powder here, but you can use regular or even raw cacao powder.
Sugar: Depending on your dietary preferences, feel free to swap coconut sugar or additional maple syrup for natural substitutes.
Maple syrup: Maple syrup provides a complexity that I love paired with chocolate.
Greek yogurt: Yogurt gives a tangy creaminess to baked goods—you’ll almost always find it in my baking recipes! You can also swap a plant-based yogurt to keep this dairy-free, or sour cream if that’s what you have on hand.
Vanilla extract: My mom’s rule-of-thumb: always use a touch more vanilla than you think you’ll need.
Eggs: Feel free to swap in a flax egg to keep this vegan.
Melted butter: I love the richness that butter adds to this recipe, but you can swap in melted coconut oil to keep this dairy-free.
Let’s Talk Frosting
First off: this is the best chocolate frosting you’ll ever put in your mouth. Second, it’s not particularly dietary-friendly (though it is gluten and grain-free), so if you’re doing a dairy-free or a more paleo-friendly diet, you may just want to leave the frosting off and enjoy this delicious cake naked. That said, this frosting is what does it for me, so here are some notes on the ingredients:
Chocolate chips and heavy cream: You’re going to melt these together either on the stove or in the microwave. For expediency, I usually do the microwave on about 30% power, stopping and stirring every 20 seconds so the chocolate doesn’t burn.
Cream cheese: Yes, this frosting is a hybrid between a chocolate ganache and a rich, cream cheese frosting—truly the best of all worlds.
Powdered sugar: Beating in the powdered sugar at the end keeps this light, fluffy, and sweet like those classic chocolate birthday cakes we’re channeling.
Tips for Success
This gluten-free cake recipe is pretty foolproof—you basically whisk everything together in a bowl, put it in the pan, and you’re done. But there are a few rules of the road that always yield the best possible cakes.
1. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature
This is key, and a baking rule that I’ve learned the hard way. If you add cold ingredients into the mix, they do not combine in the same way that room-temperature ingredients meld together. Make sure to remove your eggs and yogurt from the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before making your cake, and let the butter cool down a bit after melting. This is especially important with your frosting ingredients—your cream cheese must be at room temperature to get light and fluffy!
2. Don’t overmix your dry ingredients
Many recipes call for the dry ingredients to be combined separately from the wet ingredients. Since I’m a lazy cook who prefers as few dirty dishes as possible, I make this all in one bowl. That said, when you add your dry ingredients, toss them together with a fork to make sure the baking soda is evenly distributed, then whisk into your wet ingredients just until combined.
3. When it comes to pans, you’ve got options
This recipe yields a perfect 8-inch one-layer cake. However, you could also divide this into two 6-inch cake pans. The layers will be a bit thinner, and you’ll need to decrease the baking time by 5-10 minutes, but you’ll have an adorable mini-layer cake on your hands. I also made this in a 9-inch cake pan (and decreased bake time by 5 minutes), and again—it was thinner but still delicious.
Y’all—this will be my next birthday cake. And I highly recommend it for yours, too—maybe topped with a little vanilla ice cream and a sprinkling of raspberries? Just sayin’. Ready to do this? Scroll on for the recipe and let me know if you give this a try! You’re going to LOVE.