With melt-in-the-mouth gluten free sponges that taste like hot chocolate in cake form and a fluffy rich chocolate buttercream frosting, this gluten free chocolate cake is the very definition of comfort food. Plus, it’s easy and quick to make!
There are few desserts more memorable or more impressive than a truly good chocolate cake. Sure, there is a lot to be said about a “triple chocolate salted caramel s’mores cake” or the like… but sometimes, you just need a chocolate cake. No fuss, no bells and whistles.
This gluten free chocolate cake is pretty much exactly that. Quick and easy to make, with an overabundance of cocoa powder and chocolate, without being overly sweet. It walks that line between the bitterness of dark chocolate and the creamy sweetness of milk chocolate – and it does it well. Very well.
The gluten free chocolate sponges are melt-in-the-mouth soft, and each bite feels like taking a sip of luxuriously rich hot chocolate. Just, you know… in cake form.
The chocolate buttercream frosting is fluffy and rich, its chocolate factor coming from both a generous helping of cocoa powder and a whole lotta melted dark chocolate.
And when you combine the two… well, it’s basically every chocoholic’s dream come true.
When it comes to decorating the cake, I went with the rustic minimalism of buttercream swirls you can easily create with an offset spatula or even the back of a spoon. (Unless, of course, you’re a control freak like me – in which case, those “spontaneous” swirls will take you… oh, say an hour or two to achieve.)
To make your life easier, and to make sure you give this AMAZING recipe a go, check out the step-by-step pictures for making this delicious gluten free chocolate cake below. But before we get to the baking, an important question:
DOES GLUTEN FREE CAKE TASTE DIFFERENT?
It’s a frequent question I get asked, and the short answer is: no.
The long answer: if a gluten free cake is made correctly, following a reliable recipe and using a gluten free flour blend you know and trust – then you (or your gluten-eating friends and family) won’t be able to tell the difference.
And it doesn’t really matter if it’s a gluten free chocolate cake, a gluten free vanilla cake or a gluten free carrot cake. The only instance where you might taste the difference is if you use a gluten free flour with a strong taste, such as chestnut or chickpea flour.
But for this recipe (and most recipes on The Loopy Whisk), gluten free cake shouldn’t taste any different from its wheat-based counterpart.
Before we get to the bits and bobs of making this wonderful cake – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
HOW DO I MAKE A GLUTEN FREE CHOCOLATE CAKE?
Making the gluten free chocolate cake is the same old story of sifting together the dry ingredients, adding the wet ingredients, mixing it all up, and baking the sponges until risen and fluffy and wonderful.
But let’s start at the beginning.
Sift together gluten free flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder.
Add in the sugar and salt. Whisk it up.
Pour in the vegetable oil, milk and crack in the eggs.
Whisk it all together until you get the most luscious chocolate cake batter. At this point, you might think that this is it – it looks like it has the perfect consistency and you might be tempted to bake it as is.
But nope, there’s one more thing, and it’s… boiling hot water. I know it sounds kind of out there, but it really truly works. This will ensure that the gluten free chocolate sponges stay moist and delicate. No, it won’t scramble the eggs. And no, it won’t make the cake “puddingy”. Don’t worry, mmkay?
The final cake batter will be runny, and it will look like a super luxurious hot chocolate. It will be oh-so tempting to have a taste (or two), but al least try to resist.
Pour the cake batter into lined round cake pans, and bake. That’s all there is to it.
WHICH GLUTEN FREE FLOUR IS BEST FOR CAKES?
I personally use a Lidl UK brand, Just Free, which gives consistently excellent results. It’s a simple plain gluten free flour blend containing only rice, potato and maize flour with no added xanthan gum.
In general, I prefer simple blends with few ingredients and without xanthan gum already added – for several reasons. Such blends can get discontinued, and a simple blend is much easier to replicate than one consisting of 5+ ingredients.
As for the xanthan gum: as with baking powder and baking soda (I alway use plain rather than self-raising flour), I prefer to control the quantity myself, as the amount of xanthan gum can vary greatly baked on what you’re baking.
In general, people have successfully made my recipes with Bob’s Red Mill and other gluten free flour blends, as well as their personal blends. If in doubt, feel free to ask in the comments below.
DOES BAKING POWDER HAVE GLUTEN?
Another one of the frequently asked questions. Baking powder is a mixture of three ingredients: baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), an acid (usually cream of tartar) and a starch to absorb the moisture and keep it from clumping together.
The starch is where the gluten question comes in. However in my experience, the starch is usually rice flour or cornstarch, which don’t contain gluten.
So it’s safe to say that baking powder in general doesn’t contain gluten, but it might be produced in a facility where gluten in processed or be a special brand that uses a gluten-containing starch. Therefore always make sure to carefully read the label and check the ingredients list.
HOW DO I MAKE CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING?
This delicious chocolate buttercream frosting is just softened unsalted butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder and melted chocolate, all whipped together into fluffy submission. Oh, and a generous pinch of salt – trust me on that one.
Salt calms down the sweetness of the powdered sugar, and lifts up the chocolate to shine in all of its glory. It’s the kind of baking magic that makes you all warm and tingly inside, like you’re a part of a secret society of people who understand that salt has a place of honour in a chocolate frosting.
This chocolate buttercream frosting is smooth, fluffy, rich and decadent – and it just looks so darn good all swirled up on the cake.
ASSEMBLING THE GLUTEN FREE CHOCOLATE CAKE
We have the sponges – if they’re a bit domed, level them out by cutting off the domed tops with a serrated knife. Aaaand… you’ve just got yourself some snacks. Ain’t it great?
Then, it’s the same old game of sponge-frosting-sponge-frosting. Spread a generous layer of frosting in between the chocolate sponges, but leave enough for frosting the outside of the cake.
Crumb coating the cake isn’t all that important here. Just spread the remainder of the chocolate buttercream frosting all around the top and sides of the cake, and get creative with your swirling.
There’s no right or wrong way of doing this. Have fun. And… don’t overthink it.
And… ta-daaaaaaa! You’ve just made the world’s best gluten free chocolate cake.
Oh, don’t look so sceptical. How do you know it’s not the best? Have you tried all the gluten free chocolate cakes out there? No? See, this could very well be the very pinnacle of gluten free chocolate cake excellence. I mean, it sure tastes like it.
But regardless of whether or not this is the best gluten free chocolate cake out there (though I still maintain it is)… the fact is that it’s delicious and easy to make and almost nostalgic in its beautiful simplicity. What more could we ask for?
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The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
For gluten free chocolate sponges:
- 2 cups + 3 tbsp (265 g) plain gluten free flour blend (I've used a simple store-bought blend containing only rice, potato and maize flours, with no added xanthan gum)
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 3/8 cup + 1/2 tbsp (50 g) cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup + 2 tsp (250 mL) milk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup + 1 tsp (125 mL) vegetable or sunflower oil
- 1 cup + 2 tsp (250 mL) boiling hot water
For chocolate buttercream frosting:
- 3 sticks (340 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups (250 g) powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp (75 g) cocoa powder
- pinch of salt
- 5 1/3 oz (150 g) dark chocolate, melted and cooled
For gluten free chocolate sponges:
- Pre-heat the oven to 355 ºF (180 ºC) and line two 7 inch round cake pans with greaseproof/baking paper.
- In a large bowl, sift together the gluten free flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder.
- Add the granulated sugar and salt, and whisk well.
- Add the eggs, milk and vegetable/sunflower oil. Whisk well, until you get a smooth cake batter.
- Add the boiling hot water, and whisk until you get a runny cake batter with no lumps.
- Evenly distribute the cake batter between the two lined cake pans, and bake in the pre-heated oven at 355 ºF (180 ºC) for about 40 minutes or until spongy to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow to cool.
For chocolate buttercream frosting:
- In a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer with the double beater attachments, beat the butter for 2 - 3 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
- Add the powdered sugar, and beat for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the cocoa powder and salt, and beat until evenly distributed in the buttercream.
- Add in the melted (and cooled) dark chocolate, and beat until you get a rich, fluffy chocolate frosting with an even chocolate brown colour.
Assembling the cake:
- If the sponges are domed, level them out by cutting off the domed tops with a serrated knife.
- Place the bottom sponge layer on a cake stand, and spread a generous layer of frosting on top, but leave enough for frosting the outside of the cake. Then, place the other sponge on top of the frosting.
- Use the remaining chocolate buttercream to frost the outside of the cake. Decorate the cake by creating swirls of buttercream with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.
- The gluten free chocolate cake keeps well in the fridge, in a closed container or wrapped in cling film, for 3 - 4 days.