These deliciously orange Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes are the perfect nostalgic treat. Made with a light, gluten free Genoise sponge, tangy citrus jelly and topped with dark chocolate, they are easier to make than you think. They’re dairy free too!
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Originally Published 14th September 2014… Updated 28th April 2023
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Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes – Updating an old recipe
Jaffa Cakes are so iconically British. I don’t think I know of anyone who loved them as a child and still doesn’t love them as an adult. So it’s only right that at Gluten Free Alchemist, we should have a temptingly delicious recipe for Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes.
Actually… I’ve had a recipe for Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes on the blog for years. The original recipe was for a ‘mixed berry’ version and was very different in texture to the one I share here today. So why have I changed it? Fundamentally to keep it simple… The recipe for the old cake base used a variety of ingredients that were less easy to source. But I also wanted to come back to a traditional orange flavour!
Either way… I’m really happy with the result of these. Without a doubt homemade (I know they look a bit messy)… But perfectly ‘orange’ and absolutely delicious. I hope you love them too.
What are Jaffa Cakes?
Jaffa Cakes first hit British tastebuds nearly a century ago in 1927. Introduced by the then ‘McVitie and Price’, they are a sweet treat that consists of three layers… A base of Genoise sponge; a layer of orange-flavoured jelly or jam; and a top-coat of chocolate.
The treats were named after Jaffa Oranges… But McVitie’s neglected to register the name “Jaffa Cakes’ as a trademark and consequently other manufacturers and retailers have been able to use the same name for similar products.
But that wasn’t the end of McVitie’s woes… Back in 1991, they faced a VAT tribunal over whether Jaffa Cakes should be registered as a cake or a biscuit. Good old ‘Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise’ fancied a slice of the cake and wanted this most popular of treats registered as a biscuit so that they could charge more tax. They failed. McVitie’s successfully argued that Jaffa Cakes are ‘cake’ and they have remained VAT free ever since.
Cake or Biscuit?
Nonetheless, the debate rages on… Is a Jaffa Cake actually a cake or a biscuit? They are sold in the biscuit aisle, come lined up in a box, are shaped like a cookie and to all intent and purpose are eaten in the same way as any other biscuit.
So what’s with the ‘cake’ definition? Well, the base argument is this… Although they might look like and be marketed as biscuits, Jaffa Cakes are actually baked with a Genoise Sponge… That’s a cake mix right? And the texture is that of a sponge cake, which (unlike a biscuit) goes harder as it stales.
No doubt many of you will argue with me, but I am with McVitie’s on this one. Jaffa Cakes (gluten free or not) are CAKE!
And so is this recipe. The GLUTEN FREE genoise sponge is airy and softer than you get from a commercial Jaffa. It’s amply topped with a layer of zesty citrus orange jelly and a generous slathering of dark chocolate. Without a doubt, cake… and without a doubt, delicious.
Why we need a great recipe for Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes
Now here’s the thing… It was reported back in 2018 that McVitie’s produce more than two billion Jaffa Cakes every year. That’s a staggering amount of sponge, jelly and chocolate! It also tells us just how incredibly popular these little morsels are. But it also raises the question ‘Why don’t McVitie’s make Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes?’. It seems to me they’re missing a trick. But who am I to judge?
Sure, you can buy alternative gluten free versions… The most notable is from Schär. They’re ok… But (like most Schär products) I personally find them to be gritty and dry. So it seems (if you want a decent Gluten Free Jaffa Cake) you’ll have to make them yourself!
What ingredients are needed to make this recipe?
Like I said at the start, I’ve revamped this recipe to make it as straightforward as possible and everything you’ll need is a basic ‘store cupboard’ ingredient…
For the orange jelly (jello):
- A pack of ‘ready to make’ orange jelly cubes
- Boiling water
- A little orange extract (optional, but it really enhances the citrus kick and ‘naturalises’ the flavour)
For the Genoise Sponge:
- Gluten free plain flour blend – I use my Gluten Free Alchemist home-mixed Blend A, which can be found at the bottom of my Gluten Free Flours and Flour Blending Page… But other well-balanced blends will also work well.
- Xanthan gum (the tiniest amount which is optional, but offers extra reassurance of structure)
- Baking powder (Again, the tiniest amount to give a little boost to the sponge)
- Eggs (I use UK large eggs – Check out my International Egg Size and Weight Guide to see how yours compare)
- Caster Sugar (superfine sugar)
Note: You can also substitute the flour + xanthan + baking powder with a commercial self-raising flour that contains all three elements (eg Doves Freee).
For the topping:
- Good quality dark chocolate
Is this recipe Coeliac-safe?
Absolutely yes! Providing you use gluten free flour and baking powder, everything else on the list is naturally gluten free and wheat free. And that makes this the perfect recipe for anyone with Coeliac Disease (Celiac) or another gluten-related health condition. Just remember to check any ingredient labels for ‘may contain’ warnings or hidden gluten.
Can I make these Jaffa Cakes Dairy Free too?
Yes again! My Gluten Free Jaffa Cake recipe doesn’t actually contain any dairy at all. The only ‘risk’ ingredient is the chocolate on the top. And providing you choose a dark chocolate that is safely dairy free, it’s all good!
How to make Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes… Tips for success
Jaffa Cakes are much easier to make than you’d think. The jelly (adding boiling water to jelly/jello cubes) is child’s play…Making the sponge is an easy whisk-and-bake job… And all the chocolate needs is to be carefully melted and spread on the top. Okay… the chocolate can be a bit messy, but who cares what they look like?
Neat or not… here are my top tips for Gluten Free Jaffa Cake Success…
- Prepare the jelly/jello FIRST! It needs time to cool and set before making the sponge. So give it a good couple of hours at least.
- Carefully line the jelly tin with baking paper as instructed on the recipe card… It’s easier to tip out that way.
- Remember to lightly grease the muffin pan, so that the sponge cakes release easily after baking. You can use a light smear of butter (or dairy free alternative) or oil for this.
- When it comes to the Genoise sponge whisking is key! Don’t cut corners here… It’s essential that you whisk the eggs and sugar until the batter forms a lasting trail of mixture across the surface (that remains visible for a few seconds) when the whisk is lifted.
- Fold the flour into the mix gently, but lightly and high to retain as much air as possible. And be careful not to over-mix.
- Keep an eye on the baking sponge… Because the sponges (which are baked in a muffin tin) are shallow in depth, they bake quite quickly. When the top is golden and they spring back to the touch, they are done!
- Choose the right size cookie cutter for the jelly… Cut one round and check the size before cutting them all. The circle should be slightly smaller than the sponge.
- Upturn the cakes (so that the top-baked side is underneath) before coating them with jelly and chocolate. This gives a sturdier bottom to your Jaffa Cakes.
- Melt your chocolate SLOWLY and on a LOW HEAT to avoid it ‘seizing’ or burning.And follow the instructions in the recipe card for a shinier top.
- Don’t worry about what they look like! I’ve yet to manage a ‘professional’ finish, but it’s never affected the taste.
Flavour variations… Make Jaffa Cakes your way!
While orange is the traditional Jaffa flavour, you don’t have to follow the rules! You can make YOUR gluten free Jaffa Cakes any way you choose. Why not:
- Vary the jelly flavour… Try making Jaffa Cakes flavoured blackcurrant, strawberry or lemon and lime.
- Make your own jelly using gelatine and any liquid you choose… You can even make a boozy version by adding a tot of liqueur to the mix.
- Use vegetarian jelly from veggie jelly cubes or vegegel.
- Make chocolate genoise sponge… By subbing a tablespoon of the gluten free flour for cocoa.
- Switch the dark chocolate for white or milk chocolate.
How to store Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes
Because these gluten free Jaffa Cakes are homemade and definitively ‘cake’, don’t expect them to last as long as shop-bought versions (which are baked to be much drier, use a stickier jelly and are packed with preservatives).
Nonetheless, these Jaffa Cakes should still be good for about 3 to 4 days if stored at room temperature. If layering in a tin/tub, make sure to place a piece of baking paper between the layers to prevent the cakes from sticking together.
While they can probably be frozen, it’s not something I’ve tried… yet!
Ready to make Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes?
And that’s all you need to know! The recipe for my deliciously orange Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes is below (scroll an inch or two further). Enjoy!
If you love my traditional Jaffa Cakes, you might also like my:
- Perfect Gluten Free Swiss Roll
- Jaffa Cake Cake (Posh Jaffa Cakes for Grown Ups)
- Flourless Orange Cake
- Orange Bundt Cake
For everything else, check out the Gluten Free Recipe Index… It’s your FREE On-Line Recipe Book for everything gluten free… whether for special occasions, a gluten free Christmas, Easter or anything in between.
With my love
Gluten Free Jaffa Cakes
- baking tray/flat-bottomed dish – approx 7 inch x 10 inch/18 cm x 25 cm
- 12 hole muffin tin
- small round cookie cutter
- sharp knife
- small heat-proof glass (Pyrex) bowl
- microwave or hob and saucepan
- 135 g orange jelly cubes (1 standard pack) – the type that you make at home.
- 130 g boiling water
- 1 tsp orange extract
Jaffa Cake Sponge
- 30 g plain gluten free flour blend I use GFA Blend A (see NOTES), but an alternative flour blend should work fine.
- ⅛ tsp xanthan gum
- ⅛ tsp baking powder (gluten free)
- 1 large egg At room temperature – UK large size (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’
- 30 g caster sugar
- butter/oil for greasing
Dark Chocolate Topping
- 180 g good quality dark chocolate dairy free as required
Orange Jelly – prepare ahead of time!
- Prepare a small baking tray or flat-bottomed dish (approx 7 inch x 10 inch/18 cm x 25 cm) by completely lining with baking paper (base and sides) making sure there are no gaps for the jelly to leak through the paper. This makes the jelly easier to remove intact.
- Break the jelly into pieces and place in a small bowl or measuring jug.
- Pour the boiling water onto the jelly and stir until the jelly has completely dissolved.
- Add the orange extract and stir through. Allow to cool slightly.
- When tepid, pour the jelly into the tray and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour or until set. The process can be sped up by placing in the freezer (but don't allow to freeze)…
Jaffa Cake Sponge
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F.
- Prepare a standard 12-hole muffin tin by lightly greasing (with butter/dairy free alternative) the inside of each hole.
- In a small bowl, weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum and baking powder. Set aside.
- In a larger bowl, whisk the sugar with the eggs until thick and pale and so that the mixture leaves a lasting trail across the top when drizzled. This requires an electric whisk and may take 7 minutes + to reach a good trail point.
- Lightly and quickly sift the flour mix onto the whipped batter.
- Gently fold the flour into the mixture using a large metal or silicone spoon-spatula, keeping the folds high and light to retain air. Do not over-mix.
- Divide the batter equally between the 12 holes in the muffin tin, using a teaspoon to gently level the tops.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden and the tops spring back to the touch.
- Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, before gently loosening any stuck cakes and tipping them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare the orange jelly discs
- When ready to add the jelly to the cake and coat with chocolate, line up the cake bases firmer side facing down.
- Take the jelly from the fridge and tip out onto a clean sheet of baking paper (peel off the backing paper).
- Cut the jelly into discs using a 4 to 5 cm round cutter (1½ to 2 inch), so that the circles fit inside the diameter of the cakes.
- Place a jelly disc centrally on top of each sponge cake.
Melting the chocolate
- Chop the chocolate finely for best melting.
- Place 120g of the dark chocolate in a heat proof glass bowl ready for melting.
- Gently heat the chocolate either in the microwave (set at low to medium – 10 to 30 second bursts (max)), or over a steaming/gently simmering pan of water (Bain Marie).
- When melted, remove from the heat and immediately add the rest of the chocolate (60g), gently stirring through until smooth. If there are lumps that won’t melt, pop the bowl back over the steam/in the microwave at a LOW temperature for 5 seconds only and re-stir. Repeat only if necessary. (See NOTE). The chocolate must not heat up, but may need a little warmth to encourage the last melts! Use immediately to coat the Jaffa Cakes.
Top-Coating the Jaffa Cakes with Chocolate
- Using a spoon and/or small knife/spatula, spread the chocolate over the jelly discs, ensuring that the chocolate meets the cake base to seal. It honestly doesn't matter how messy they look! They'll still taste great. (If the chocolate starts to become too thick to work, very gently reheat slightly).
- As you decorate each cake, use a fork to press into or drag lines across the top of the chocolate to create a pattern.
- Leave to set completely.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist