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Gluten Free Vanilla Cake

While I’m not gluten free myself, I get a lot of requests for gluten free recipes on social media. That’s why I’m sharing this gluten free vanilla cake recipe!!

I used to think that gluten free baking was super intimidating, but there are so many wonderful gluten free flour blends out there nowadays!! They make gluten free baking so much more approachable.

image of gluten free vanilla cake slice on plate

If you didn’t tell me that this cake was gluten free, I’d have no clue. The texture and taste are just like a regular vanilla cake!!

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.

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 elasticity and stickiness to doughs and batters. Xanthan gum emulates these characteristics in gluten free baking, and helps lock in moisture.

Luckily for us, xanthan gum is included in almost all gluten free flour blends (including the below brands).

image of simple ingredients in bowl to make an easy gluten free vanilla cake from scratch

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.

The Background Behind This Gluten Free Cake Recipe

This gluten free vanilla cake recipe is actually based on my gluten free cupcake recipe. It had an amazing texture and flavor, and I kept getting asked if it could be used to make a cake.

So one day I finally decided to test it! I doubled the amount of ingredients, followed all my gluten free baking tips listed below, and baked 3, 6″ inch cake layers.

image of gluten free cake layers that have been leveled to make a 6 inch layer cake

I had to play around with the bake time a bit since gluten free baked goods take a bit longer to bake than regular baked goods. But after testing a couple batches I got it just right!

I was so happy that these cake layers were just as delicious and fluffy as my gluten free cupcake recipe!!

Why This 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: Over-mix 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. 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.

image of gluten free cake batter being overstirred to help give it the structure it needs

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 vanilla 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!!

While the batter rests, you can figure out how you want to decorate your gluten free cake! I decided to keep things simple by piping some frosting squiggles up the side of the cake with a Wilton 1M frosting tip.

Why I Prefer Vanilla Bean Paste Over Vanilla Extract In This Recipe

It’s important to use good quality vanilla when it’s the only flavor in a baked good like this. I used vanilla bean paste in this recipe, and I think it makes a huge difference in taste!

I prefer vanilla bean paste to vanilla extract in this recipe for a couple reasons. The first reason is that I love the little flecks of vanilla bean in the buttercream frosting and cake layers.

They’re beautiful!! It’s like you can see that warm, delicious flavor swirled throughout the cake.

I also think that the vanilla bean paste adds a stronger, better flavor than vanilla extract. If you haven’t tried it before, I highly recommend giving it a try. It’s not too expensive, and it really elevates the flavor of this cake!

If you don’t want to buy another ingredient or you prefer using vanilla extract, that’s ok too! Just be sure to use real vanilla extract. Imitation vanilla just doesn’t do it for me flavor-wise.

image of easy gluten free cake decorated with gluten free frosting squiggles

Tips for Making The Best Gluten Free Vanilla Cake

  • Don’t be afraid to over-mix 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
  • Properly measure your gluten free flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients
  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better, so be sure you set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Bang your cake pans on the counter before putting it in the oven, to bring any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface
  • Use vanilla bean paste to give your cake an amazing flavor!

Making These Cake Layers In Advance & Storage Tips

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and makes 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 layer cake  frosted with a wilton 1M frosting tip

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this gluten free vanilla cake recipe, I’d love to hear what you 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: 16

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake

image of gluten free vanilla layer cake slice

This gluten free vanilla cake recipe is insanely simple & equally delicious! It comes together in one bowl and is incredibly moist and fluffy.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 36 minutes
Additional Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 41 minutes

Ingredients

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

Instructions

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake

  1. Begin by preheating oven to 350°F, and grease and line three 6" inch cake pans.
  2. Add the gluten free flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to a large bowl, and gently combine with a whisk.
  3. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients, and add the water, vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract, sour cream, eggs and vegetable oil.
  4. Gently whisk the wet ingredients together until they start to combine. Then slowly begin to mix them together with the dry ingredients.
  5. Mix together for a couple minutes, to help give the batter structure. You don't have to worry about over-mixing, because there's no gluten in this batter!
  6. Cover and let the batter sit for about 30 minutes, to give the gluten free flour time to absorb more of the liquid in the batter.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans, and bake for 35-38 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. I like to rotate my pans halfway through to help them bake more evenly.
  8. Let the cake layers cool in their pans for 10 minutes before flipping them onto wire racks to finish cooling.

Gluten Free Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, prepare the frosting.
  2. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a whisk or paddle attachment, until smooth.
  3. Mix in the vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract and salt on a low speed.
  4. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream.
  5. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. 
  6. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tablespoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  7. Stack and frost the cake layers, then decorate as desired.

Notes

Making This Gluten Free Vanilla 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 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.

Nutrition Information

Yield

16

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 632Total Fat 34gSaturated Fat 17gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 96mgSodium 401mgCarbohydrates 83gFiber 0gSugar 81gProtein 1g

Kendra

Tuesday 12th of July 2022

Made this for my son’s birthday. I have a daughter who eats GF and has dairy intolerance, so I substituted a container of Silk vanilla soy milk yogurt substitute for the sour cream. I had to add some oat milk (1/4 cup) to make up the difference, and the kids said the cake was delicious! I also added a couple tablespoons of cocoa powder to 1/3 of the batter for a chocolate layer. (The rest of the family, who don’t need GF, nearly finished the cake off, so it must have been good!) It had a wonderfully light texture! Thanks for the recipe!

Chelsweets

Sunday 17th of July 2022

I'm so happy to hear that Kendra! Those sound like excellent substitutions, and I love that your family enjoyed it :) Thank you for sharing!

Margaret

Wednesday 6th of July 2022

I made this cake for my son's engagement party...it was a hit! I followed the recipe to a T but I used a 12 inch pan and made 3 batches for 3 layers. I did adjust the baking temp to 325* and baked for a full 60 min to accommodate for the larger pan. I baked the cake on Tuesday and then iced it right before the party on Saturday. It performed beautifully. I think it's very important to follow the tips for beating the batter really well and then letting it rest before baking. I recommend this recipe 100% and can't wait to bake it again!

Chelsweets

Tuesday 12th of July 2022

So happy to hear that Margaret!! And such a good idea to lower the baking temp for big cake layers like that :) Thank you for sharing!!

Alissa

Friday 13th of May 2022

Best gluten free cake I have ever made! My MIL said she wouldn’t have thought it was GF if I had not told her. Everyone loved it. I followed the recipe exactly and split it between two 9in pans.

Chelsweets

Monday 30th of May 2022

aw i am so happy to hear that!!! thanks for sharing Alissa!!! :)

Denise

Thursday 12th of May 2022

I am making this in a 12×12×3 in cake. How much time for baking?

Gaby

Monday 9th of May 2022

Hi there! So excited to make this for my fiancé’s birthday. Is there any substitute for the vegetable oil? Would coconut oil work instead?

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