Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Recipe

I am planning to make a cake for my friend’s wedding this spring, and she can’t eat gluten. This is the catalyst behind my recent gluten free baking spree, and the inspiration for this gluten free chocolate cake recipe.

Gluten free baking is unique in a lot of ways, and really throws the rule book out when it comes to baking. It’s a totally different animal, which has taken a lot of trial and error for me to get comfortable with.

What’s In Gluten Free Flour??

There are a lot gluten free flour blends out there. Each brand uses a unique mixture of wheat flour alternatives, like rice flour, brown rice flour, and even almond flour!

It can be difficult to get the texture of gluten free flour just right for baking. A lot of these alternative flours have a finer texture than all-purpose flour.

Some type of starch is usually added to help give the mixture better structure, and a bit of binding power. Tapioca and potato starch are the most commonly used starches.

image of ingredients mise en place for a gluten free chocolate cake batter being made from scratch

One other ingredient in gluten free flour that might sound a little strange is xanthan gum. It’s a key ingredient in gluten free baking. Xanthan gum has a big impact on the texture of gluten free baked goods too.

Gluten adds an elasticity and stickiness to dough and batter. Xanthan gum emulates these characteristics in gluten free baking, and helps lock in moisture.

Does It Matter What Brand of Gluten Free Flour I Use?

I’ve tried this recipe with a few different brands of gluten free flour, and so far each of them has worked great:

My favorite brand of gluten free flour for this recipe was King Arthur. However, any brand of gluten free flour you can find at your grocery store should work.

image of a slice of gluten free chocolate cake with chocolate sprinkles all around it

My only word of caution is to be sure you use some sort of gluten free flour blend.

Using a single type of gluten free flour like almond flour or cassava flour in this recipe will not yield the same results!

Most grocery stores carry at least one blend of gluten free flour. Stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s also have lots of great options.

If all else fails, amazon is another easy way to get your hands on a gluten free flour blend. I order a majority of my baking supplies on amazon, including most of my specialty ingredients.

Why This Recipe Works With Gluten Free Flour

This gluten free chocolate cake recipe is based on my moist chocolate cake recipe.

image of gluten free chocolate cake layers stacked with dark chocolate buttercream

Gluten free baked goods have come a long way in the past few years, but a lot of people still think of them as gritty, dense, and even gummy.

Using a good gluten free flour blend can fix most of these issues.

However, I found that the gluten free batters have a hard time incorporating butter. Gluten free flour blends can’t absorb liquids as well as regular flour, and they also can’t absorb fat as well.

I tried using gluten free flour in my go-to chocolate layer cake, and the texture wasn’t quite right.

That’s when I decided to try making a gluten free version of my moist chocolate cake recipe. It uses oil as a fat instead of butter, which is easier for the gluten free flour to absorb.

It’s texture was spot on, with the help of the following gluten free baking tips.

Tip #1: Overmix Your Batter

While I strongly advise against over mixing batter in other recipes, and even design my recipes to have as little mixing as possible, gluten free batter is different.

The whole reason you don’t want to over mix your batter is that it develops thick strands of gluten, which can lead to dense, tough cake layers. But when you’re using gluten free flour, this isn’t a problem.

In fact, overmixing gluten free flour can actually give the cake layers better structure! This helps cake layers rise better as they bake, and gives the cake a more tender crumb.

The additional mixing can also make it easier to slice into a tall layer cake like this. The incremental structure helps prevent the cake layers from crumbling as they’re cut.

Tip #2 Let Your Batter Rest

Remember earlier when I said that gluten free flour blends can have a hard time absorbing moisture and fats?

If you let the batter sit for a bit before baking it, you give the flour more time to absorb all that goodness. This helps thicken the batter, and prevents your cake layers from having a gritty texture.

I unintentionally did this as I was photographing and filming this gluten free chocolate cake batter. You’d be surprised how long it takes to get a perfect shot of pouring cake batter into a pan!

Letting the batter sit for about 30 minutes drastically improves the texture of these cake layers, so be sure you don’t skip this step!!

image of a slice of a moist and delicious gluten free chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream

Tips for Making The Best Gluten Free Chocolate Cake:

  • Be sure to properly measure your gluten free flour (spoon into the cup measure then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients
  • Don’t be afraid to overmix your batter! Vigorously whisk your batter for a few minutes once it’s made, to help give it structure
  • Let your batter sit for about 30 minutes before baking to help the gluten free flour absorb more moisture from the batter
  • Chill your cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before assembling the cake, to make it easier to stack and frost.

Making This Cake In Advance & Storage Tips:

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them: It breaks the process up and make it more approachable.
  • Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
  • If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.
image of gluten free chocolate cake from overhead, decorated with a chocolate swirl and buttercream dollops

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this recipe for gluten free chocolate cake recipe, I’d love to hear what think of it! Please leave a rating, and let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Other Gluten Free Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 20

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Recipe

image of gluten free chocolate cake with slice cut out

This gluten free chocolate cake recipe comes together so quickly, and is incredibly moist and fluffy! It's just as delicious as it is easy to make.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes

Ingredients

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Recipe

  • 2 cups gluten free flour (244 grams)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (400 grams)
  • 3/4 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder (75 grams)
  • 2 tsp baking powder (8 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda (9 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
  • 1 tsp instant espresso of coffee (3 grams)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (240 grams)
  • 1 cup very hot water (237 grams)
  • 1 tsp vinegar (4 grams)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (120 grams)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature (112 grams)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (8 grams)

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (434 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (4 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 5 cups powdered sugar (625 grams)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (150 grams)
  • 2 cups of melted dark chocolate, cooled (300 grams, 16 oz.)

Instructions

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Layers

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line and grease three, eight-inch cake pans, or four, seven-inch pans.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (gluten free flour, granulated sugar, sifted cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and instant espresso) in a large bowl. Whisk together, and set aside.
  3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, add the water, buttermilk, vinegar, oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk the ingredients together to combine them.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Whisk the batter for several minutes, to help the batter thicken and give it some additional structure (don't be afraid of over mixing, there's no gluten!)
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the batter to sit for 30 minutes. This gives the gluten free flour time to better absorb the liquids in the batter.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, and bake for 25-27 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, and let the cakes sit for about 10 minutes. Gently run an offset spatula around the rim of the cake pans to loosen them. 
  8. Place the cake pans in the freezer to speed up the cooling process, and to trap in additional moisture.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  1. Beat the unsalted butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. 
  2. Add in the vanilla extract and salt, and mix on a low speed to combine.
  3. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with splashes of heavy cream.
  4. Mix in the cooled, melted chocolate.
  5. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.


Assembling This Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

  1. Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board, using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  2. Add an even layer of chocolate buttercream between each cake layer.
  3. Spread a thin coat of frosting around the the cake, to fully cover the cake layers.
  4. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  5. Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper. Then decorate as desired!
  6. I brushed some melted dark chocolate onto the base of the cake after chilling it for another 10 minutes in the freezer, and used an Ateco 869 to add some fun dollops of buttercream around the top of the cake.

Notes

These cake layers and buttercream can be made in advance!! I highly recommend making them ahead of time to make the decoration of the cake less stressful and more fun.

Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

These layers bake quite flat. However, if you want them to be perfectly level, I recommend trimming the tops with a serrated knife once they layers are completed cooled.

I like to chill my cake layers in the freezer for about 20 minutes before frosting and assembling my cakes, to make them easier to stack and frost.

Nutrition Information

Yield

20

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 466Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 33mgSodium 366mgCarbohydrates 74gFiber 3gSugar 59gProtein 4g

68 thoughts on “Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Recipe

  1. Thank you Chelsea for experimenting with gf recipes! I am in the same boat as you. I am making a friends wedding cake that is gf and I plan to use this recipe!!

  2. Thank you for these gluten free recipes!!
    I’ve seen your 2 vegan cake recipes and was wondering, could we incorporate any of the 2 recipes to have a gluten AND dairy free cake?
    Am I asking for too much!? ?

    1. Haha so funny you ask Tiana, I actually am working on that right now! I tested four variations today, and am going to be sharing the recipe in a couple weeks 🙂 stay tuned!!

  3. Hi, ur idea is too good and pls let me know a recipe which are both gluten-free and eggfree, as we don’t eat eggs, thanks a lot in advance.

    1. Thanks Anuradha!

      For recipes which use eggs primarily as a leavening agent you can try a commercial egg replacement product (like this: https://amzn.to/2Pja6g6) or the following mixture: 1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil mixed with 1-1/2 tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon baking powder per egg. Note: this mixture calls for baking powder, not baking soda. Or you can try 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce in place of each egg a recipe calls for.

      Hope that helps, happy baking!

  4. I love your recipes! I’ve got a question! Why is it less amount of powdered sugar for the buttercream than your usual recipe but the same amount of butter?

    1. Hi Jaqui,

      The chocolate that’s added the the buttercream really thickens it up, so I find you need less powdered sugar to get the consistency right. My chocolate buttercream recipes do use less powdered sugar than my vanilla buttercream for that reason. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  5. So good, thank you! My daughter has so many things she cant have especially gluten so we made this yesterday! Didn’t have the stuff to make the buttercream so used hersheys but the cake was perfect!

  6. Hi, I’m looking at making the gluten free choc cake and was wondering what vinegar you use? Apple cider, white wine??
    Also it says in your notes to use gluten free flour blend but can’t see it in the recipe. Is this extra?? Sorry for the questions but never baked gluten free before x
    Thanks Jo x

    1. Hi Joanne,

      No worries at all, I’m always here to help!

      I like to use white vinegar, but apple cider would work too. The gluten free flour blend just means whatever gluten free flour you buy at the store (most are a blend of different types of flour). I like to use this king arthur gluten free flour blend: https://amzn.to/38a3kzL

      So sorry for any confusion, I hope that helps! Happy baking!!

    1. Hi Sam,

      I haven’t tested that out, but I think it should work! If you try it, please let me know how it goes 🙂 I’d love to know!!

  7. Any idea how this would translate to a 9×13 cake? How many cups of batter does this recipe make? Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Tovah,

      This cake recipe makes two sheet cakes that are 9×13 inches. However, they’ll be slightly less than 1 inch tall once you level them. So it depends on how tall you want the layers to be! You can also make one thick 9 x 13 inch cake layer.

      When I bake layer cakes, I place two flower nails spaced evenly apart in the center of each pan (and spray them), to help the layers bake more evenly and quickly. With flower nails, the cake layers bake in 37-40 minutes in my oven (when I split the batter between two pans). I hope that helps, happy baking!!

  8. made this for my friends birthday yesterday with a salted caramel buttercream and a chocolate ganache drip and she loved it! thanks for this recipe!

  9. Hi Chel! I wanted to make a vanilla gluten free cake, small batch 4 inch or six inch for my nieces smash cake. Could I follow the same recipe as chocolate and make some adjustments to achieve ?? Also Could I fill each pan with the appropriate cups of batter for the inches I need or would I have to do conversions.

    1. Hi Lauren,

      I am still working on my vanilla gluten free cake recipe, and sadly I haven’t been able to get it just right yet! I promise to share it as soon as I do though. So sorry I don’t have an answer just yet :/

  10. Hello,
    The recipe looks amazing. Does this have 2 eggs or 4 eggs like you mentioned in The first comment?
    I am making it now and really need to know the accurate amount.
    Many thanks. Xx

    1. Hi Nahal,

      Ahh that comment was meant to be on a different post, please disregard it!! It’s two large eggs 🙂 So sorry for any confusion!!

  11. Hi! I’m using this recipe for a bachelorette cake! ? the molding is 10.8*6.5*2.9 inches. How do you recommend cutting this recipe so it doesn’t have excess batter?

    1. Hi Aliza,

      That’s so fun! I think this cake recipe should actually make just the right amount of cake batter for those dimensions. It makes about 154 cubic inches of batter, and that mold is about 204 cubic inches. But with the rise of the cake, it should be good (you’ll fill the mold up about 3/4 of that way. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  12. No problem… I made the cake with 2 eggs and used doves farm Gluten free flour with a 1/4 xantham gum per cup, and let me tell you the cake was so delicious.. I cant even describe in words. Beyond moist so flavourful, honestly i made a Gluten free Black Forest Gateau Cake for a customer and she couldnt stop praising.
    Thank you so much for sharing this incredible recipe with all of us. ??

    1. Hi Stacey,

      Xantham gum is included in almost all cup for cup gluten free flour blends <3

      It’s not absolutely essential, but if you’re using a good GF flour it should have it. Hope that helps, happy baking!

    1. Hi Rachel,

      When I say blend, I just mean the flour is made with different types of flour (most have at least two types). The AP GF flour you have is probably a blend too, and can be used in the recipe as is 🙂 hope that helps, happy baking!

  13. I have 2 9×1.5 inch cake pans and was gonna buy another 9 inch but in the recipe it says 3 8inch ones or 4 7 inch ones. I worry that my 9 inch pans are too shallow. I am planning to make the cake April 6 for my moms birthday on the 7th because I have celiac and wanna be able to eat her cake lol. But should I just bite the bullet and buy 3 8 inch pans?

    1. Hi Harper,

      So sorry for the delayed response! I’ve never baked in pans that were less than 2 inches, so I’m not sure if they’d overflow or not :/ This recipe doesn’t rise a ton so I want to say it might be ok, but there’s also nothing worse than overflowing cake pans!!

      It might work, but you probably you want to get some slightly taller pans for future baking <3 Sorry I can’t be of more help!!

  14. 1000% recommend! Made this for my mother in law’s birthday today and everyone loved it. I only had 2 9 inch cake pans and it worked out fine. Thank you for this amazing recipe!

  15. Hey! The cake looks delicious, I was about to try out this recipe but I usually don’t like it when the cake is too sweet, do you think it’d be possible to use less sugar in the batter?

    1. Hi Rim,

      You can reduce the amount of sugar a bit, but it will affect the texture of the cake layers. I’d recommend just using a less sweet frosting, like my swiss meringue buttercream to cut the sweetness of the cake. Hope that helps, happy baking!

  16. This chocolate cake is soooooo good. I couldn’t even tell it was gluten free. I have a friend who’s daughter is gluten and dairy free. Do you think I could substitute the buttermilk with 1 cup of coconut milk plus 1 tablespoon of lemon juice? Thanks

  17. Hi I only have 2 8 inch cake pans. Should I cut the recipe in half? Or would it work out?? Thanks this recipe looks amazing!!

    1. Hi Kelsey!

      You can either make two thick 8-inch layers and bake them a bit longer, or bake two layers and let the leftover batter sit, then bake the third layer once you transfer your cake layers out of the pans. Those are my best suggestions 🙂

      Hope that helps, happy baking!

  18. Hello! Would you recommend using this recipe in a Bundt pan or the cupcake recipe? How does this recipe differ than the cupcake recipe? I have smaller baking pans so I am wondering if I can use the leftover batter to make a half dozen cupcakes. Thank you!

    1. Hi Sarah,

      This recipe is based on my moist chocolate cake recipe, so it’s a bit different but similar in texture to my gluten free choco cupcake recipe! I think it would make great cupcakes. You can also make mini bundt cakes with leftover batter (I’ve done that and it does work), but I prefer the cupcakes!

  19. Hi,
    I’m planning to make this cake next week for my granddaughter’s birthday.
    Do you have any additions or substitutions to this recipe for high altitude baking?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Kim,

      It depends on how high up you, but here are my general recommendations for 5,000 feet:

      Reduce baking powder:for each teaspoon, decrease 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon.
      Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 2 tablespoons.
      Increase liquid: for each cup, add 2 to 4 tablespoons.
      Increase oven temperature by 25 degrees F.

      Hope that helps, happy baking!!

  20. made it and it was so moist and delicious! could i make it into a lemon cake by adding lemon zest and taking out the cocoa powder? ( replacing it with more flour)

    1. So happy to hear that!! You can do that, I think that would be delicious 🙂 Let me know how it goes if you try a lemon version!!

  21. Most of my family has a gluten allergy and we are usually bummed when we can’t have desired sweets. I have made this cake three times in the past few weeks and we all LOVE it! I baked 4 cakes in 6 inch pans and it worked well. Thank you for the great recipe!

  22. Just a question. I noticed how think your batter was. I noticed mine was completely mixed and sat for 30 minutes, mine was still very thin. Any ideas?

  23. Looks wonderful! What percent fat buttermilk do you use and does it matter? If its full fat, will adding vinegar to whole milk work as well?

  24. Hello! I have been baking for over 25 years, but new to gluten free. Could I use hershey’s special dark cocoa in place of the regular cocoa or will that affect the texture of the cake? My gluten free neighbor enjoys dark chocolate very much, but I wanted to check to see if that cocoa would work in this recipe.

    Thank you so much!
    Kelley

  25. Sorry for my ignorance but is the flour self raising or plain? My country use different wording and just want to double check 🙂

  26. Absolutely love this recipe! The cake is moist, not crumbly just full-on delicious. I left the batter for about 2 hours & it was perfect! I hope my clients enjoy it as much as I did, nibbling on the off cuts ?. Thank you .

  27. My family loved this cake. It was gluten free chocolate cake recipe trial #5. I made it for my sister’s 50th birthday. Frosted it with chocolate “not too sweet” frosting, did some drop flowers and added some rainbow jimmies for color.

  28. Made this for my brother-in-law’s small wedding this weekend and it was a huge hit! Frosted with you American buttercream. Delicious!! They asked me to bake their wedding cake after making your GF vanilla cake for my daughters birthday which was also delicious. Thank you, Chelsweets!

  29. I would like to try this recipe but have a question. When you mix all the wet ingredients which also includes hot water, don’t the eggs get cooked when you add them to hot water ?

  30. This has been a lifesaver! My partner and members of his family are GF for medical reasons and I really worried I was going to lose my beloved baking (and decorating!) until I found this. It’s my new go too chocolate cake, and I make it for people without evening knowing it’s GF. PLEEEASE make more classic favourites into GF recipes. X

  31. Hi! Looking to make this cake for a friend next week and just working if it’s plain (all purpose) gluten free flour or self raising? It looks amazing! Thanks ?

  32. This cake is amazing! Made it for my husband who has celiac disease and it was the best gluten free cake we’ve had. Couldn’t even tell it was gluten free. Also was sturdy enough for a 4 layer cake, stacked and filled. It held up perfectly. This will be my go to from now on! Thanks so much for making and posting this recipe.

  33. So I made 1/2 of a recipe today and followed the directions to a tee. It didn’t seem to make a whole lot of batter. I put all of the batter into one 8 inch round pan and also made one cupcake. The cake didn’t rise very much, maybe a quarter inch. And its so dense and heavy. Is it supposed to do this? Your picture of the cake looks fluffy and your layers look like they rose a lot. Did I put too much batter in the pan? I tried the cupcake and it tasted kinda gummy/fudgy. I used Bobs Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free flour. I was so hoping to find a really good gluten free chocolate cake for my at home cake business. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  34. I made this recipe, using King Arthur Measure-for-measure flour, subbing 2% lactose free milk for the buttermilk, and adding about 1/2 additional tsp of vinegar. I mixed the batter in my stand mixer for about 5 minutes, and then let it stand for 30-45 minutes. The batter was far thinner than in your pictures–however the cupcakes (made exactly 24) are AMAZING. They rose like regular cupcakes, and the taste is *chef’s kiss*. None of the grainy/chalky mouth feel that I have found in other gluten free products. Thank you SO MUCH. My husband was thrilled with the treat!

  35. Hi Macy, I am planning on making a 6″ cake also. I was wondering if you halved the recipe, threw any out, how thick the layers were and how many layers there were? Haha i’m just trying to get a sense of what to do. Thanks in advance!

  36. Hi! I have 2 orders for gluten free cakes, one a 4″ and one a 6″. I have a general idea of what i need to do to make the 4″ cake, however I am lost when it comes to the 6″. I was thinking 3 layers would be good, although im not sure if halving the recipe would make it too small. Any tips/ideas? Thanks in advance!

  37. My boyfriend requested gluten free Black Forest Cake for his birthday, which is what brought me to this page! It’s encouraging to hear this recipe worked for yours. Did you adjust anything to suit it to the cherry flavors? I was wondering if the espresso would clash.

Let me know what you think!