An easy-to-make ‘go-to’ gluten free chocolate cake that has not failed me… ever! Moist, fudgy yet light gluten free sponge that can be eaten as a simple tea-time cake or decorated any which way for a celebration. Can also be made dairy free.
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My ‘Go-To’ Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Recipe
This gluten free chocolate cake recipe is my absolute ‘go-to’. I have been making it for as long as we have been Coeliac. Indeed, the first time I ever posted a cake which used the recipe was back in 2013. The Chocolate Kiss Cake that I made then, was the first of many birthday cakes using the recipe, to be posted here on Gluten Free Alchemist.
Since then, it has been the reliable base for many a birthday cake in our household and beyond. It is the recipe that I invariably use when friends ask me to make a chocolate celebration cake. Why? Because it is easy to make, light, moist and chocolatey and most importantly, has never failed me yet. Even when my oven broke, I pretty much managed to grill-bake this cake using a combination of grill and fan… No-one noticed!
The main cake used for this post and the recipe that you will find below was for my most recent birthday… Simply decorated, but nonetheless perfect for ringing in yet another year!
So… If you need a good gluten free chocolate cake recipe, look no further. This one is a keeper.
A Gluten Free Cake that Actually stays fresh…
While many gluten free cakes deteriorate and quickly become dry and crumbly, this one actually gets better in time. Because it contains ground almonds and some home-made buttermilk (don’t worry… it’s really easy), it seems to mature its moistness over the course of a couple of days.
That makes it perfect for ‘no-stress’ celebrations! Make the sponge a couple of days in advance and wrap and store ready for decoration (particularly if you are using ingredients that require refrigeration). Or if you are using ingredients such as buttercream and ganache that can remain at room temperature, you can decorate in advance as well. Just remember to store the finished cake in an air-tight container. If you don’t have one already, I thoroughly recommend investing in a large airtight cake carrier/container.
Can I make this Chocolate Cake dairy free?
Yes! Is the simple answer. The only dairy ingredients I use for this cake are butter and milk and both can be easily substituted for non-dairy alternatives. Make a straight swap for a good quality dairy free butter/spread in the sponge and for any butter-icing decoration. And use your favourite dairy free milk as a sub when making your easy non-dairy buttermilk.
Can I make it Vegan?
I have never made this cake vegan and my considered answer is therefore no. It may be possible for the vegan wizards amongst you and please let me know if you ever try it. But when I make a vegan cake recipe, I usually have to alter a number of other elements to take account of the lack of eggs. Because gluten free recipes lack gluten (which provides structure), they may rely on eggs for the protein they provide. That means that it is often harder to simply ‘replace’ the eggs with something else. Sadly, I think this recipe would change beyond recognition without them.
What Gluten Free Flour Should I use to Make this Chocolate Cake Recipe?
This cake should be fairly versatile when it comes to gluten free flour. At GFHQ it has always been made with home-mixed Gluten Free Alchemist Blend A found at the bottom of the Flours and Flour Blending Page. Blend A is a combination of a handful of white flours which give lightness to the bake, but no grittiness. It is the mix that I use for lots of sweet cakes and biscuits on the blog, not least because it is fairly neutral in flavour and colour.
With that in mind, the flour in the recipe should substitute well with basic commercial blends such as Freee plain white gluten free flour by Doves. I would not usually make this recipe with darker or wholegrain blends that contain a lot of protein-rich flours. It is not that they won’t work (although I have never tried with this recipe), but they can have a stronger flavour that may mask the chocolateyness of the sponge.
Inspiration… Cakes Made with this Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Recipe
Need some inspiration? Here’s a few of the cakes I have made using this gluten free chocolate cake recipe. Seriously… it is so versatile, it can be decorated pretty much any way you want.
The Chocolate Kiss Cake
The Chocolate Kiss Cake is a simple two-layered sponge cake, filled and topped with vanilla butter-icing and decorated with lots of Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses. Just make sure you choose the Kisses which are gluten free varieties.
I love Hershey’s kisses for their decorating simplicity. Being American however, they can be a little hard to find in the UK. I used to get them at Asda supermarket, but have not seen them there for a while. However, they are still available at Amazon… The Almond Kisses and Milk Chocolate Kisses are both gluten free according to the Hershey’s website.
You can see the Kiss Cake if you click here!
The 60th Birthday Cake
Made with just a couple of days notice, the 60th Birthday Cake was one made in a hurry. Needless to say my gluten free chocolate cake recipe was the easy and reliable option…
Layered with buttercream and topped with some shiny ganache and a few sprinkles, it also has a side-covering of crushed chocolate, stuck onto a thin coating of buttercream.
The Beautiful Rose-Covered one
For a really special occasion, you could cover your gluten free chocolate cake with beautiful piped buttercream roses. Using pink and white buttercream, a piping bag and a Wilton 2D Piping Tip, I made a Rose Cake for the birthday of a friend. Perfectly feminine, roses would also make for a perfect Mother’s Day or even wedding cake. But if you think they are difficult, think again. this cake was honestly one of the first times I ever tried it. I just followed the instructions I found in this YouTube video.
A 70th Birthday Cake for a Very Dear Friend
Possibly one of my favourites! This 70th Birthday Cake was made for a very dear friend of mine. Three layers of chocolate fudginess, layered and crumb-coated with rich vanilla butter-icing and drip-coated with dark chocolate ganache. I even managed to make some special chocolate decorations using a favourite kitchen gadget… my Lékué Decomat Kit.
Oh… and remember I mentioned the cake that was grill-baked? This was it!
The Very Decadent Rich & Chocolatey Golden Egg Cake – Easter Edition!
The Golden Egg Cake is for the serious chocoholics amongst you. It is an absolute show-stopper of a cake, but really not that difficult to make. Layered with vanilla butter icing, it is topped with decadent chocolate ganache and Galaxy Golden Eggs (which this year seem to have morphed into rose-gold Enchanted Eggs) and surrounded by a ‘fence’ of chocolate cigarillos. But beware… it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Just make sure you get good-quality Cigarillos. I bought mine from the Chocolate Trading Company. I don’t say this lightly. When buying a cheaper version to cut corners, I ended up with boxes of crushed and broken chocolate, which left me fishing for anything resembling a stick! I am still using the shards as random decorations months later… See the crushed chocolate on the ’60th’ cake shown above? that’s them! And the broken sticks on the ’70th’ cake… that’s them too. You’ll even find them on my Decadent Roasted Banana & Chocolate Celebration Cake.
The Simple Blue One with ‘Rosy Swirls’ for Miss GF’s 8th Birthday
This gluten free chocolate cake was slathered in blue butter-icing and layered with pink… all decorated with simple swirls at the request of the then 8 year old Miss GF. What became known as the ‘Rosy-Swirl’ Cake was (I admit) not my finest hour of cake decorating, but the bunch of 8 year olds who ate it didn’t care. And frankly, neither did I!
Chocolate Cupcakes for Easter… or any other Time.
This gluten free chocolate cake recipe also makes amazing cupcakes! Check out my gorgeous Gluten Free Easter Cupcakes topped with Italian Buttercream and mini-eggs. They are simply beautiful as well as being utterly delicious.
Left-Over Chocolate Sponge… ?
Oh…. And if you ever have any left-over chocolate sponge, this particular chocolate cake makes for a perfect trifle. In fact… it’s so good, I often make extra and freeze a layer ready for an impromptu dessert. At GFHQ, it has been used as the cake-base in many a trifle. including our legendary Nutella Trifle and Black Forest Trifle.
Key Equipment I Use for Making Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
- Invest in some good-quality cake tins. I use Masterclass tins which are non-stick and have a loose bottom to make removal as straight forward as possible. It wouldn’t matter whether I was making a gluten free cake or not… a good-quality tin is essential for any cake maker.
- Good quality kitchen scales are equally important. Many bakes can easily be ruined by alterations to quantities of ingredients and not all scales perform well. I love my Heston Blumenthal dual-measure scales which have a separate platform for micro-measurements. Okay… you don’t need the micro-measure for this cake, but I use it regularly for light-weight ingredients such as yeast.
- If you don’t have a set of measuring spoons, you absolutely need some. I don’t think there are many recipes these days that don’t call for a tablespoon of this or a ¼ teaspoon of that. Try and get some which include a ½ tablespoon measure, like these Tala ones. It’s amazing how often you need it!
- A good electric hand whisk. Interestingly, I rarely use my stand mixer for gluten free baking. If you over-work batters that include xanthan gum in particular, the resulting bake can be tough and dry. I adore my Kenwood K-Mix Hand Mixer however, which comes with both a standard whisk and a dough hook (which I use all the time for gluten free bread batter).
- A good set of mixing bowls. I got gifted a set of Joseph Joseph bowls a few years back, and they are still my favourites.
- And last, but by no means least… When making cakes, I always use my Zing silicone spoon. It’s a cross between a mixing spoon and a spatula, which makes it perfect not only for mixing, but also for getting every last smear of batter from the bowl. Sorry kids… No bowls to lick in my house!
Will You Make my Gluten Free Chocolate Cake?
So there you have it… My recipe for Gluten Free Chocolate Cake and lots of inspiration on how it can be turned into anything from a show-stopping celebration cake to a simple tea-time treat. If you make it, make my day by letting me know… Comment, Contact or tag me on social media with your photos… And if you would like more gluten free inspiration, don’t forget to Subscribe in the box at the bottom of the page, or the box on the Home Page for the latest recipes. Or follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
- 2 x 8 inch/20 cm round loose-bottomed non-stick baking tins
- baking paper
- Kitchen scales
- measuring spoons
- Mixing bowls
- measuring jug
- small sieve
- electric whisk
- silicone/wooden spoon or spatula
- wire rack
- palette knife
- 185 g plain white gluten free flour blend eg. Gluten Free Alchemist Mix A – See NOTES
- 1 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1½ tsp GF baking powder (level)
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 240 ml/g milk dairy free if necessary
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 40 g cocoa powder
- 80 ml/g boiling water
- 105 g butter (or good quality dairy free alternative) softened
- 280 g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs UK large
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 105 g ground almonds (almond meal)
Vanilla Butter Icing
- 220 g butter (or dairy free alternative) softened
- 440 g icing sugar (confectioners sugar) sifted
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp milk (approx) as needed to loosen
Sprinkles & Decorations – as you choose
- Base-line two 8 inch/20 cm round loose-bottomed non-stick baking tins with baking paper.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, and salt. TIP : weigh into an airtight container and shake well to blend. Set aside.
- Weigh or measure the milk into a jug and add the white wine vinegar. Stir thoroughly and leave to stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes, until it has a slightly curdled appearance. This will make 'buttermilk'
- Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl. Add the boiling water a little at a time, gently stirring through until you have a smooth paste. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar using an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.
- Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat with a fork to blend, before gradually adding a little at a time to the butter mixture, beating thoroughly between each addition.
- Add the vanilla extract and cocoa paste and beat again, until smooth and well-blended.
- Gently fold in the ground almonds using a large spoon or spatula.
- Finally add and fold through the dry ingredients and milk mixture, alternating a little dry followed by a little 'buttermilk' (about a third of each at a time). Fold gently to ensure as much air remains as possible and stop when the ingredients are JUST amalgamated to avoid over-mixing.
- Split the mixture between the two prepared cake tins evenly and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes until the tops spring back and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and leave in the tins for about 5 minutes, before carefully turning out on a wire rack to cool (if necessary due to any sticking, run a sharp knife around the edge of each cake before turning out). Leave to cool completely.
- Beat the butter with an electric whisk or wooden/silicone spoon until pale and light.
- Gradually add the sifted icing sugar a spoon at a time and the vanilla extract, beating thoroughly to blend.
- Dependent on the consistency of the butter icing, you may need to add a little milk to loosen. Judge by feel and sight. You want the consistency to be soft and spreadable, but firm enough to hold the weight of the second layer cake.
Filling and Decoration
- This is entirely up to you… But when the sponge cakes are completely cold, spread and/or pipe a good layer of butter icing on the base layer. Top with the second sponge cake and spread a further layer of butter icing on the top of the cake. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles, sweets, edible glitter or anything else you choose.