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Gluten Free Spice Cake

After sharing my delicious spice cake recipe, I was inspired by an email from a fellow baker (thank you Dawn!) to share this gluten free version of it. She did all the hard work recipe testing this gluten free spice cake for me.

This cake is made with ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg so it’s full of those delicious Fall flavors we know and love.

To top it all off this cake is frosted with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting. What more could you want in a gluten free spice cake?

image of a layered spice cake frosted with a spiced cream cheese buttercream frosting and decorated with fall-inspired colors

A Little Bit of Everything

This gluten free spice cake recipe is based on my go-to vanilla layer cake recipe. However, I’ve made a few adjustments to get this spice cake recipe just right.

Besides the obvious addition of ground spices, I also swapped out half of the butter for oil. I find that using both oil and butter gives the cake a lighter texture without taking away all of the wonderful butter flavor.

Most spice cakes use oil and have a lighter texture, and that’s what I was after with this recipe.

image of a slices of a spice layer cake on plates showing how moist and tender the cake is

Two other notable swaps are the use of sour cream instead of buttermilk, and the addition of apple sauce.

I prefer using sour cream in this recipe instead of buttermilk because sour cream has a more neutral flavor. It lets the spices in this recipe really shine.

The apple sauce adds moisture and flavor and also helps lighten up the texture.

All of these tweaks mean this recipes uses quite a few ingredients, but don’t let that intimidate you! Below is an extensive list of swaps and substitutions that can be made if needed!

My Favorite Gluten Free Flour Blend

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.

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.

Substitutions and Swaps – Gluten Free Spice Cake Layers

Below are some swaps and substitutions that you can make in this recipe.

  • Gluten Free Flour – This recipe turns out best with a great gluten free flour blend like King Arthur’s Cup for Cup.
  • Brown Sugar – You can use light or dark brown sugar in this recipe, but I prefer using light brown sugar. If needed you can use all brown sugar and omit the granulated sugar. However using both types of sugar gives this cake a great texture and flavor.
  • Granulated Sugar – If needed you can use all granulated sugar and skip the brown sugar, but I recommend using both types of sugar if possible.
  • Ground Spices – The ground spices are the star of the show. You can adjust the amounts a bit based on your preferences, but I don’t recommend leaving any of them out.
  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Whole Eggs – If you have an egg allergy you can use 4 flaxseed eggs or 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce + 1 extra Tbsp baking powder.
  • Sour cream – You can also use full fat yogurt, buttermilk, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat) if you’re dairy free.
  • Unsweetened Apple Sauce – I prefer using unsweetened applesauce, but you can use sweetened applesauce if that’s what you have on hand. You can also use additional sour cream in place of the apple sauce if needed.
  • Vegetable Oil – Any flavorless oil will work in this recipe! You can use vegetable, canola, or even sunflower oil. I don’t recommend using olive oil though, as it has a strong flavor that can clash with the spices in this cake.
image of a spice cake layer that has been leveled to make it easy to stack and make a layered spice cake

Substitutions and Swaps – Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Cream Cheese – If you don’t like cream cheese frosting, use additional butter in place of the cream cheese.
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) will work fine in this frosting recipe too.
  • Gel Food Coloring – I colored a bit of the leftover frosting different shades of orange and red to decorate the cake, but this is totally optional. You can also use natural food coloring if you prefer.
image of spiced cream cheese buttercream frosting

Why This Spice Cake Recipe Works With Gluten Free Flour

There are also a couple tricks I use to make sure my gluten free baked goods end up with that tender, fluffy texture we know and love.

Tip #1: Overmix Your Batter

While I strongly advise against over mixing batter in other recipes, 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. But when you’re using gluten free flour, this isn’t a problem.

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

The incremental structure helps prevent the cake layers from crumbling as they’re bitten into.

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 from having a gritty texture.

I unintentionally did this as I was photographing and filming this gluten free spice 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. Be sure you don’t skip this step!!

Tips for Making the Best Gluten Free Spice Cake

  • Properly measure your flour. Either spoon it into the cup measure, then level with a knife or use a kitchen scale.
  • Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature to help them mix together better.
  • Don’t level your cake layers until they are completely cooled.
  • Make this spice cake vegan or dairy free! Use your favorite type of dairy free milk to replace the sour cream and heavy cream, vegan butter sticks in place of the butter, and additional applesauce in place of the eggs (see the note above in the substitutions section).
  • Make sure your buttercream is the right consistency before frosting your cake! It will help give your cake proper structure and make it easier to decorate.
  • If your cake layers turn out less than perfect, I recommend reading my cake troubleshooting guide!
image of a beautiful fall spice cake

Making This Gluten Free Spice Cake In Different Sizes

This recipe can also be used to make different sized cakes. You can also half or double the ingredients to make a half or double batch!

You can make four 6″ cake layers with one batch of batter. Bake the cake layers at 350F for 34-36 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

image of spice cake batter being poured into a greased cake pan

One batch of batter can be also be used to make one 9×13 inch gluten free spice sheet cake. Bake it at 325F for 40-50 minutes and use flower nails or heating cores to help the cake bake evenly.

You can also use this recipe to make a gluten free spice bundt cake! Bake time can vary based on the size and type of pan you use and can take anywhere from 45-75 minutes. I recommend using a toothpick to test for doneness and checking on it every 5-10 minutes once it’s been in the oven for 45 minutes.

The final variation of this recipe is gluten free spice cupcakes!! This recipe makes about 36 regular sized cupcakes. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Making This GF Spice Cake in Advance and 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 the fridge for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for a month. 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 a week or in the freezer for a month. The frosting 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. This keeps the cake nice and moist. It can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.
image of a layered spice cake that's been cut into to show the fluffy and tender texture of the cake layers

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this gluten free spice cake recipe, tag me @chelsweet or use the #chelsweets so I can see your beautiful work!

Also leave a comment below and/or a rating to let me know your thoughts.

image of spice cake on a plate that's been decorated with pumpkin spice buttercream frosting

Other Recipes You Might Like

Yield: 24

Gluten Free Spice Cake

image of a layered spice cake that's been cut to show how moist and delicious the cake is

This gluten free spice cake is frosted with a delicious cinnamon cream cheese frosting!! It's made from scratch and is insanely moist!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 32 minutes
Additional Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 47 minutes

Ingredients

Gluten Free Spice Cake

  • 3 cups gluten free flour blend (390 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (300 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (300 grams)
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder (10 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt (6 grams)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon (6 grams)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (3 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (2 grams)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (113 grams) - 1 stick
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature (224 grams)
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature (255 grams)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce (90 grams)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (105 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (226 grams) - 2 sticks
  • 1 cup full-fat cream cheese, room temperature (226 grams or 8 oz.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (3 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (875 grams)
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (30 grams)

Instructions

Gluten Free Spice Cake Layers:

  1. Line four 7" or three 8" pans with parchment rounds and grease with non-stick baking spray.
  2. Mix together 3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger and 1/2 tsp nutmeg in a large bowl until fully combined.
  3. Mix 1/2 cup of unsalted butter slowly into the dry ingredients on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain.
  4. Mix in 4 large eggs on low until just incorporated, 2 at a time.
  5. Add 1 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce, 1/2 cup vegetable oil and 1 tsp of vanilla extract. Mix on a low speed until just incorporated.
  6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then mix on a medium high speed for a few more minutes to help give these cake layers structure.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and let the batter sit for about 30 minutes before baking. This helps the flour absorb moisture and prevents your cake from having a grainy texture.
  8. As the batter sits, preheat oven to 350°F.
  9. Bake for 32-34 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Allow the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then run a small offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan.
  10. Flip the cake layers onto a wire rack to cool.
  11. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers once they're fully cooled.
  12. If you make these cake layers in advance and freeze them, let them thaw for about 20 minutes before making your cake. The cake layers should still be slightly cold to the touch, which will make it easier to assemble your cake.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the cinnamon cream cheese buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat 1 cup of butter (2 sticks) and 1 cup of cream cheese on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment until smooth.
  3. Mix in 1 tsp of vanilla extract, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of salt.
  4. Slowly add in 7 cups of powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Half way through add 2 Tbsp of heavy cream to make the frosting easier to mix.
  5. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 TBSP at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

Assembling This Gluten Free Spice Cake:

  1. Stack and frost the spiced gluten free cake layers on a greaseproof cake board using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  2. Spread an even layer of buttercream between each cake layer.
  3. Cover the cake in a thin coat of frosting. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (20 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  4. Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper then decorate as desired! I colored my leftover buttercream with some gel food coloring and spread streaks of it up the sides of the cake to create a Fall-inspired look.

Notes

This recipe can be made with a stand mixer or hand hand mixer. I like to use the paddle attachment when making the batter and frosting, but you can also use a whisk attachment or a large bowl and hand mixer.

I recommend making 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 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to a month. 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.

Nutrition Information

Yield

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 463Total Fat 23gSaturated Fat 13gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 86mgSodium 231mgCarbohydrates 61gFiber 1gSugar 48gProtein 4g

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