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It has been a while since I’ve developed a gluten-free chocolate cake recipe. My last one, this quinoa chocolate cake, was a solid few years ago. And while a good chocolate cake recipe never goes out of style, the times have changed somewhat since that recipe.
I wanted to develop a gluten-free chocolate cake recipe that could be whipped up from pantry basics. One that could be flexible in adapting to the ingredients on hand, or the ingredients available at the supermarket. As such, this super simple gluten-free chocolate cake recipe was born. Have I mentioned that it requires only ONE gluten free flour? No blends, no weird ingredients, just finely milled white rice flour.
Gluten-free chocolate cake recipe
This cake is gluten free, FODMAP friendly, nut free and easily made dairy free. It is free of xanthan gum, and uses only a single flour: white rice flour. There are plenty of substitution options, which we’ll dive into below.
Notes on the (finely milled white) rice flour
The recipe uses fine white rice flour alone as the backbone of the cake. Rice flour is a good sturdy gluten free flour, and one that is readily available both at supermarkets and health food stores. Because we’re only using one flour for this cake, however, there are a few caveats.
- Firstly and most importantly, choose a good quality, finely milled white rice flour. Because we’re using one simple flour, it’s quality is critical to the quality of your cake. I highly recommend buying your white rice flour at the health or bulk food store – they have a tangibly better taste than the supermarket variety. They’re also generally more finely milled. If you’re in Australia, please don’t buy the rice flour in a box. It’s gritty and it will make your cake taste gritty. My first choice is always my local bulk food store, but in pandemic times I have also used Lotus brand white rice flour for this cake.
- Secondly, I have no substitute recommendations for white rice flour at this time. I haven’t tried any other gluten free flours, brown rice flour included. If you’d like to do so, you’ll be experimenting 🙂
Which oil can I use in this gluten free chocolate cake?
The next ingredient in this sinfully easy gluten free chocolate cake is oil. Oil is such a helpful ingredient in cakes – they’re soft and they stay soft on the bench.
I have tested this cake with vegetable oil and olive oil. Personally I found the vegetable oil version to be slightly fluffier, but I don’t know whether that is data driven or I’m just delirious from all the sugar. Either way, both oils are suitable, depending on what you have.
You could also try canola or avocado oil – I haven’t tried them but I assume they would be worthy substitutes.
Notes for the brown butter chocolate icing
Continuing on with the theme of using simple pantry basics to make something delicious, the icing for this cake uses brown butter. Browning butter is the easiest possible way to create extra flavour with barely any additional work.
Brown butter has a beautiful nutty and complex taste that lends a whole other element to this chocolate buttercream. If you’d prefer not to brown the butter, you can just add a little less milk at the end. Browning butter drives off liquid content, so you’ll need less moisture as a result.
I’ve tested this recipe a few different ways, so here is my advice for an icing quantity that best suits your needs
- For a medium layer of icing (scant or naked cake style): use the amount specified in the recipe card
- For a well iced cake with sides and top generously covered: make double the icing recipe
As mentioned, you could substitute a dairy free spread in this recipe (just don’t try and brown it) or use your own favourite dairy free recipe.
Gluten free chocolate cake recipe notes
- Before mixing the boiling water into the batter, you’ll think ‘this looks like a good consistency!’ You’ll panic, debating whether to add the water. You definitely need to add the water. First and foremost, the boiling water creates a beautifully soft crumb, something that is often hard to achieve in gluten free baking. Secondly, it blooms the cocoa, creating a deeper flavour and colour in your cake. It won’t curdle the eggs and it won’t ruin your cake. Trust me!
- Coffee and salt enhance the flavour of chocolate. This is a scientific fact. I promise you won’t taste either – they will simply make the cake super chocolatey. You can use a strong brewed instant coffee, and even decaf. If, however, you’re dead set on avoiding it (please don’t!) just use extra hot water.
- In a similar fashion to the above, the light brown sugar adds a depth of flavour to the cake that white sugar can’t bring. I haven’t tested the recipe without it.
- Use as good a quality cocoa powder as you can find or afford. It honestly makes such a huge different to the taste of the cake. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t believe it, but as someone who used to buy generic brand cocoa powder, I can confirm the rumours are true.
- I haven’t tested this recipe without eggs. You can knock yourself out, but you’ll be experimenting!
What sort of cake tin is best for your gluten free chocolate cake?
I am normally a die hard spring form (or drop bottom) cake tin fan. This is what I grew up with, and anything else always feels weird to me. However! In this instance, the batter is too thin for a spring form tin. Unless your tins are stupendously high quality (sorry Coles brand) then they will leak batter. They will probably do it over the base of your oven.
I recommend using a cake pan for this recipe. I myself use these cake pans, which are the perfect size for this cake. I personally find that you get the best results from using 2 cake pans in this instance. The cake comes out fluffier and lighter.
I used to recommend the option of baking all the batter in one tin. I don’t recommend that any more. I think it contributes to a gummy layer in the middle of the cake, which we want to avoid. 20cm cake tins are easily purchased at the supermarket and you will get a lot of use out of them. You can also divide the ingredients in half to make a single 20cm cake.
Recipe substitution options
- You can use any oil you deem suitable for this recipe. I used vegetable oil, because it is light and inoffensive in a cake. Other appropriate oils include olive, canola or potentially even avocado, if that’s your thing.
- I have used fine white rice flour for this recipe. As mentioned, you can try another gluten free flour but you will be doing your own experimenting. There’s only so many chocolate cakes I can make!
- Needless to say, you can use whatever milk you see fit. I used both soy and lactose free full cream, but any plant milk will also work.
- If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, you could also use white vinegar or lemon juice.
- To make a dairy free buttercream, simply substitute the butter with a dairy free brand you like. I’ve heard great things about Miyokos.
- You can omit the vanilla bean paste, or add vanilla bean extract as a substitute.
- You can also omit the espresso if you absolutely must – just sub in the same amount of boiling water or milk.
More gluten free chocolate recipes
- Gluten free chocolate brownie cookies
- Best ever gluten free brownies
- Gluten free, nut free brownies
- Vegan, gluten free brownies (obviously I like brownies)
- Flourless chocolate cake
- Chocolate and peanut butter cheesecake
Easy gluten free chocolate cake
Dy ingredients for the cake (makes 2 x 20cm cakes)
- 1 cup (220g) caster sugar
- 1/2 cup (50g) light brown sugar
- 1 1/4 cup (210g) fine white rice flour
- 3/4 cup (75g) dutch processed cocoa powder
- 8g (2 teaspoons) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt (I used table)
Wet ingredients for the cake:
- 250ml (1 cup)* milk of choice (I tested full cream lactose free and soy)
- 1 tablespoon* apple cider vinegar (see substitution notes)
- 180ml (3/4 cup) (180ml) vegetable oil (see substitution notes)
- 60ml (3 tablespoons)* fresh espresso (see substitution notes)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (see substitution notes)
- 2 extra large eggs (45-55g each, weighed out of shell)
- 250ml (1 cup) boiling water
For the buttercream:
- 185 g butter
- 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar
- 3/4 cup of cocoa
- 125ml (1/2 cup) of milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (optional)
- Pinch of fine salt
To make the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 356 Fahrenheit. Grease and line two 20cm baking pans.
- In a large bowl, weigh out all your dry ingredients (do it!) and whisk together until they become a lovely chocolate brown.
- Mix the milk with the apple cider vinegar and allow to sit for a few minutes. This will form a buttermilk. It might not curdle dramatically but the buttermilk will assist in flavour development, leavening and general fluffiness.
- Add all the wet ingredients except the boiling water to the dry. Continue whisking until a smooth batter has formed. It will look moist enough to go into the oven and you might think you don’t need the water. You do! It blooms the cocoa, developing the chocolate flavour. It also creates a beautifully fluffy cake.
- Add the boiling water and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through.
To make the icing:
- Place the butter in a small saucepan and brown very well over a low-medium heat. If you haven’t browned butter before, see the notes section for some handy links.
- Once browned, pour the butter into a silicon cake tin and place in the fridge or freezer to set. It will take about 15-20 minutes in the freezer.
- Once the butter is completely cooled, break it up and place it in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat the butter with the whisk attachment until it is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as necessary. Don’t be fooled – this isn’t a quick process. It will take about 10-15 minutes of beating and scraping down. The mixture should be light and fluffy – not quite white but a very pale beige.
- While this is happening, sieve the icing sugar and the cocoa together. I hate sieving so I wouldn’t instruct you to do this unless it was totally necessary for a smooth icing, I promise.
- When the butter is ready, turn the speed to low and mix in the icing sugar mixture and the milk. It might form a cloud of icing if you go too quickly. Add the salt and vanilla bean paste (stop the machine to add vanilla or it gets tangled in the beaters) and mix until combined. Taste and adjust if necessary.
- Once the cake has completely cooled, it’s time for icing! You can either plonk it all on top or carefully slice the cake in half to ice between each layer. The recipe makes enough icing for a reasonably thin layer between each piece. As the notes suggest, halve it again or even double it if you’re a very thick icing kinda person.
- Use an offset spatula or a flat edged knife the spread the icing over the cake. I find it helps to dip your knife in boiling water and dry it off before icing the crummy sections of the cake. The heat makes the knife glide over the top and avoids picking up too many crumbs.
- While it’s tempting to keep fiddling with the icing all day, simple is best. Get in there, ice it with confidence and move on, you know?
- This cake keeps well in the fridge for a few days.
I made this today for a birthday And it is DIVINE! So good and bonus points for listing ingredients I had in the kitchen for a last minute bake. The batter was so thin before going into the oven that I triple-checked it thinking I’d made a mistake. Once cooked, the texture is beautiful. If people weren’t told it was gluten-free I imagine they would never know. Not at all gummy or tough like GF can be.
I wasn’t sure the extra work to brown the bitter was going to yield a result but it was SO worth it. It really adds that depth of flavour. Thank you so much for this brilliant recipe. I’ll be coming back to it again for sure.
I made this recipe into cup cakes. It yielded 30 cup cakes and they were perfect. Do happy to have come across the us recipe. Amazing texture and full if flavour.
Thanks for sharing! Measurements are perfect for a 6 inch 3 layer cake. I’d never tell it is gluten free!
This recipe is incredible. Best gluten free cake I’ve ever tried let alone made! I made it with duck eggs, oat milk and dairy free spread (brand: Pure olive oil spread). I also substituted 25g of cocoa for glutinous rice flour (it’s gluten free despite its name) as I find it adds a gluten type quality to all my bakes/breads. A cake this amazing that catered for a family with wheat intolerance, milk allergy, hey egg intolerance, nightshade allergy & FODMAPS intolerances – I’m blown away – Thank you!!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it Laura! What lovely feedback, thank you 🙂
Hi, I tried this recipe and fail miserable. I believe that on the liquid was my error. You put everything in grams as its really helps, but the liquid have no mention apart from cups. Eoyks you kind to let me know how many ml is your cup? I tried 1 cup =250ml. Thank you
Hi Natalie! Sorry to hear it didn’t work out for you. You’re right, I should absolutely add ml to cups – I have added them in and I will do that for all recipes moving forward. Our Australian cups are 250ml, so you were right to include that much liquid.
What was the end result of the cake like?
I can’t say for sure without knowing but a lot of baking issues can come down to old baking powder/soda in my experience. Let me know and we can workshop what happened!
You are amazing, thank you so much for taking your time to reply me back. I’ll definitely try it again. I divided in 3 X 6″ and was in my oven (150Fan) fir about 50 min and even that came out not cooked in the middle. My almond milk didn’t curd as well.
I’ll do it again, thank you for looking after us ?
Hi Natalie, is the temperature you used in Celsius or Fahrenheit? If Celsius, I would recommend 180C. If Fahrenheit, that is quite low (65C if my googling serves my correctly!) and it won’t be enough to cook your cakes. I would recommend 356F.
It could also be that your cakes are quite deep (given you’re using 6 inch/15cm tins as opposed to the 8 inch/20cm tins I use) so they will take longer to cook.
In terms of the almond milk, it ok if it doesn’t curdle. The acid should still react with the baking soda to give the cake extra lift 🙂
Let me know how you go! I hope it works out for you, I really love this cake x
Thank you, 150C is Celsius, as I normally bake like that. You pointed out about the pan, I’ll put it in 4 tins though and will increase my oven temperature. Thank you again and here I go again ?
I’m reading through this recipe very carefully and have a couple questions. Is the espresso already made? Also, how long do you cool the cake in the pan before tipping it out? Thanks in advance.
Hi Theresa! The espresso is a fresh shot so yes, already made. I’m guessing you might be asking about powder? You can definitely make up a shot with powder if you don’t have easy access to fresh espresso. I’m lucky to have a machine but I realise other people might not have one so that is totally fine. You can also just add extra water if you prefer.
In terms of the cooling time, it is just to give the cake a chance to set up so no accidents happen when you take it out of the tin. Around 10-15 minutes is plenty 🙂
Im stretching my baking experiences to bake for people i know who have to dairy free, and gluten free.
I already have an amazing dairy free chocolate cake recipe I use, now a gluten free one is needed.
I bake a lot for my boyfriends workplace and one poor fellow is gluten free and been tortured not able to eat the baked goods sent along.
So my search for gluten free cake to try.
In the cake ingredients do we not use whole milk? You made this cake with plant based milk? But the frosting is regular milk or plant based milk also? I want to fully understand a recipe before I get into making it.
Also I looked up fine ground white rice flour saw a brand called Authentic Foods white rice flour superfine. Is this the kind of rice flour to use?
Thank you in advance for a reply.
Hi Michelle! That’s really nice of you to make him a cake!
You can use either plant based milk or regular milk in the cake and icing. It’s up to you. Some people like to use plant milk to keep the lactose content as low as possible, and for others regular milk (or lactose free regular milk) is fine.
I haven’t tried the Authentic Foods brand (I live in Australia) but it looks fine to me. Just make sure you buy regular white rice flour and not their sweet rice flour. Sweet rice flour is a gummy starch used for things like mochi so that won’t work in this cake.
If you want to make a single cake instead of a layer cake (this recipe makes two cakes) you can halve the recipe.
Let me know how you go! 🙂
Thank you so very much for replying! A lot of other bakers do not.
I appreciate your help. I think the brand of milled white rice is regular. I’ll see when it arrives.
The rice flour isn’t going to arrive in time for me to make his the cake for tomorrow so I’ll try it when I get back from vacation the end of the month and report back my results.
Ha ha oh I’m making the full cake! Go big or stay home I say.
Amazing recipe! Made it a few times now and always turns out great. I really want to try it as cupcakes! Do you know how many cupcakes the full recipe would make?? Thanks
Hi! This was one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever ever had. Thanks so much! I used coconut sugar and macadamia milk and it’s just mouth magic. Thank you for creating this
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for letting me know about the coconut sugar, great to know 🙂
🙁 So sad, I just tried this, and it failed. something in the science went wrong. It says to weigh the ingredients, but I only have an oz not gram scale, so I did just measure with a Cup. BUT the thing that I think possibly went wrong was the Tablespoon equals more than a US Tablespoon. So I did it the way it said- adding 3 more per TBSP and the cake rose really fast then fell. I couldnt get it to cook after that. Pretty tasty but totally gummy.
So bummed- I was really excited about this.
Hi Barb! Sorry to hear it didn’t work out.
Two important things: If you’re using US cups, those are smaller than Australian, as you’ve said. This will throw out the ratios to begin with, unfortunately.
Secondly, I’m not quite sure what you mean about the tablespoon measure but I think you might have misinterpreted. 1 Australian tablespoon equals 4 American teaspoons, so you only need to add one extra teaspoon per tablespoon of ingredient, not 3 extra tablespoons.
So for example if you need to add 1 Australian tablespoon of baking powder, that is equivalent to 4 American teaspoons (not tablespoons).
My guess is that because you used cup measurements (and American ones, which are different) that your cake contained too much leavening agent relative to dry ingredients.
Does your scale have the option to switch over to grams? Most scales I have had can flick between the two measures.
Unfortunately grams are by far the most accurate measure which is really important for gluten free baking!
Thank you so much this cake is amazing!
My son is allergic & reactic to many foods~ this is one he gets to enjoy with no worries.
We make it every couple of months.
This Wednesday is my last Chemo Day & my Birthday ( April 12) and we are baking this wonderful flavorful cake to celebrate those two major milestones.
I can’t wait to try more of your recipes.
Sisters get those mamograms my boobs tried to kill me but I’m still here fighting the fight of my life!
Maria Cancer Fighter from San Antonio Texas
Thank you so much for your beautiful review. A huge congratulations on your milestones (happy birthday!) and thank you for the important reminder.
All the best with your last chemo day and everything beyond it. You’ve got this!
I’m so glad you enjoy the chocolate cake and thank you again, this has made my day 🙂