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Gluten free dairy free chocolate cake (no xanthan gum)

If you’re a regular around here, you might know my recipe for easy gluten free chocolate. It uses a single flour no xanthan gum or nuts to create a rich and delicious cake that everyone will enjoy. It’s a hard act to follow, but I feel this recipe for gluten free dairy free chocolate cake is my best work yet.

Gluten free dairy free chocolate cake

This recipe differs a little bit from my original chocolate cake recipe. It is still xanthan gum free and nut free but I have tweaked the leavening and sugar as well as adding in a small amount of tapioca flour to the mix. It also uses dairy free milk and a dairy free chocolate buttercream.

Without gluten, most gluten free flours have no inherent elasticity. What this means for a cake is that it can sometimes lack the slight chew and bite we expect from a baked good. Tapioca flour, as a starch, adds some of that elasticity back in for a perfectly toothsome chocolate cake.

The cake is finished with a layer of dairy free chocolate buttercream in between the layers and on top. It is the perfect finish to the perfect cake that nobody will know is gluten free and dairy free.

A maco aerial image of swirly dairy free chocolate buttercream topped with maraschino cherries

Tips for this cake

My number one tip is to be aware that this batter is very liquid. Before adding the hot water you will likely look at the already smooth batter and think ‘surely this is a typo.’ It’s not, I promise!

Adding the hot water creates a gorgeously soft and spongy cake. More importantly, though, it blooms the cocoa in the mixture to create a deeply rich flavour and crumb. The hot water is arguably the most important ingredient in the whole cake, so I must insist you go against your baking instincts and add it to the pan.

Over time, I have found that hot rather than freshly boiling water is the way to go. As we know from making gluten free wraps or gluten free dumplings, scalded flour is very elastic. Too elastic for a cake.

Ensuring you whisk the dry ingredients thoroughly can help prevent an even or tunnelled crumb. For best results, sieve the baking soda into the mixture if you can.

Read the substitution notes and tips for the vegan buttercream.

An aerial image of a gluten free dairy free chocolate layer cake topped with chocolate buttercream and maraschino cherries on a white marble table. Two glasses of water sit to the top right of the image.

Ingredient, substitution and dietary notes for your gluten free dairy free chocolate cake

As always, be sure to choose a good quality fine white rice flour. The cheap box available in Australian supermarkets is not suitable and never will be! I don’t even know what they sell that for quite frankly. It is much too course for baking applications.

I like to get white rice flour from the bulk food store but health food stores also sell decent brands.

I haven’t tested anything that is not in the recipe card. This includes different sugars, different cocoa, no eggs, different flours, etc. This is the only version of the cake I have tested.

All that to say, I don’t have substitutions for this cake specifically, sorry! However, I do have a number of different recipes that will hopefully fit the bill.

First, a gluten free vegan chocolate cake. It makes a single cake (as opposed to two 20cm/8 inch cakes like this recipe) so you’ll need to double it for a layered version.

If you can’t have rice flour or starch, I have a gluten free vegan buckwheat cake in my first buckwheat e-book.

Then of course, if you have no dietary restrictions beyond gluten, my original gluten free chocolate cake recipe.

A side on image of a slice of gluten free dairy free chocolate layer cake topped with maraschino cherries. The slice sits atop a white plate on a white marble table. The whole cake sits behind the slice.

A note on cake tins

I am always surprised that I need to mention this but you cannot substitute in whatever size cake tin you like and expect the same result. I don’t make the rules, sorry!

A larger cake tin will mean the batter needs to spread out more and you will have a much thinner, flatter cake. Because the baking times specified in the recipe are designed for a 20cm cake tin, you will also likely end up with a burnt cake. Flat and burnt, not cute.

Similarly, if you use a smaller baking tin you will likely end up with a hardened outer cake and an uncooked centre. Also not cute.

If you don’t have 20cm cake tins, choose the closest size you can to 20cm. 21cm or 19cm would be best. If you’re looking at a 28cm cake tin, you’re looking at trouble.

20cm is 7.8 inches, 21cm is 8.2 inches and 19cm is 7.4 inches.

Google tells me that the most common cake tin sizes in America are 8 inch (20cm) or 9 inch (23cm).

If you use a 9 inch cake ban, be aware your cakes will be flatter and will take less time to cook. I highly recommend using an 8 inch cake tin.

One last note on cake tins: because this batter is very liquid, a springform pan will absolutely not work. The batter will leak out of the tin as you bake it and create an oven cleaning nightmare.

A side on image of a gluten free dairy free chocolate layer cake topped with dairy free chocolate buttercream and maraschino cherries. The cake sits atop a terracotta stone backdrop against a dark backdrop. A hand extends from the top of the image to add extra cherries onto the cake.

Dairy free chocolate buttercream notes

Most dairy free bakers will know that dairy free butter works differently to regular butter. It softens much more quickly and doesn’t need nearly as much beating.

In Australia, we don’t have a particularly generous offering of good quality plant based butter varieties. I use Nuttelex Buttery because it’s easily accessible at Australian supermarkets. If you have a preferred brand, use it! I’m not in love with Nuttelex but it is a good price point for a decent product.

Of course, if you have access to Earth Balance sticks, Miyokos or Country Crock they seem to be popular and good quality.

If you’re baking in a hot kitchen or hot climate, keep in mind that the buttercream will weep and melt quickly and easily. If in doubt, place your butter in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before you start.

A general tip for buttercream having made a bunch of split bunches recently – work quickly and use as little liquid as you can to form a smooth buttercream. I have found that whenever I spend too much time thinking about it and add that extra tablespoon of milk, that’s when the buttercream splits.

I have settled on a ratio of 1:2 butter to icing sugar. This seems to be accepted and makes for a buttercream that isn’t ludicrously sweet. I have never been able to figure out why ‘why’ of ratios for other buttercream recipes so I settled on this number for ease.

Finally, a note on the cocoa powder: you need to use Dutch processed cocoa powder in the cake, but any variety works here.

An aerial image of a gluten free dairy free chocolate layer cake topped with chocolate buttercream and maraschino cherries. The cake sits atop a stone backdrop and is surrounded by glasses of water, an extra plate and more maraschino cherries

More gluten free dairy free dessert recipes

A side on image of a gluten free dairy free chocolate layer cake topped with dairy free chocolate buttercream and maraschino cherries. The cake sits atop a dark grey stone backdrop against a dark backdrop. A hand extends from the side of the image to take a slice of the cake.

Gluten free dairy free chocolate cake

Xanthan gum free, nut free, dairy free
*Recipe uses Australian cups and measures. Use gram and ml for international accuracy.
Be the first to rate this recipe
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Dessert, Sweet
Cuisine Food Intolerance Friendly
Servings 1 layer cake


  • 2 X 20cm (8 inch) cake tins


Dry ingredients for the cake:

  • 200 g caster/superfine sugar
  • 100 g light brown sugar
  • 160 g (1 cup)* white rice flour
  • 60 g (1/2 cup)* tapioca flour
  • 5 g (1 teaspoon)* baking soda
  • 75 g Dutch processed cocoa powder, sieved
  • 4 g (1/2 teaspoon)* fine salt

Wet ingredients for the cake:

  • 250 ml (1 cup)* soy milk or dairy free milk of choice
  • 10ml (2 teaspoons)* white vinegar see substitution notes
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup)* vegetable oil
  • 2 extra large eggs (45-55g each, weighed out of shell)
  • 250 ml (1 cup)* hot water

Ingredients for the chocolate buttercream:

  • 150 g plant based butter chilled
  • 300 g (1 cup)* icing sugar, sieved (not pure)
  • 30-50 g cocoa (Dutch processed or regular are both fine here)
  • 20-40ml (1-2 tablespoons)* plant based milk of choice to reach your desired icing consistency
  • Pinch of salt
  • Vanilla bean paste to your tastes (optional, can help disguise the faux butter flavour)


To make the cake:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/356F. Grease and line two 20cm/8 inch cake tins.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients until they completely combined.
  • Add all the wet ingredients except the hot 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 hot water and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture evenly into the two prepared cake tins and bake for 15 minutes. After this time, swap the cakes in the oven and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cakes are cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before very gently removing from the baking tins to place onto a cooling rack. You can also cool them completely in the tins.

To make the chocolate buttercream:

  • Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa together and set aside.
  • Use a stand mixer or hand beater to briefly begin creaming the plant based butter. See notes in the body of the post in regards to butter temperature and hot weather. Plant based butter doesn't take long to become looser and a bit fluffy.
  • Once the butter is a little fluffy, begin adding the sieved mixture. You can add a tablespoon of milk if you’re struggling to cream the two together. Continue until you have used all the icing sugar and the mixture is a lovely buttercream consistency. Try to use as little milk as possible to make it happen or you risk splitting the buttercream.
  • Add the pinch of salt and vanilla, if you’re using them, then beat one last time to combine.

To finish:

  • Once the cakes are completely cooled, place the first cake (baking paper removed) on your serving plate. Gently top it with half the buttercream and use an offset spatula or spoon to spread it evenly over the cake.
  • Place the next cake on top and top it with the remainder of the buttercream. You can use a scant amount to ice the sides of the cake for a naked cake style finish (as in the pictures) or leave the sides plain. You can top the cake with whatever you like (I used maraschino cherries).
  • Leftovers keep well for a number of days in an airtight container in the fridge.


  • See the body of the post for tips, tricks and substitution options. 
Keyword gluten free chocolate cake, gluten free dairy free chocolate cake, gluten free dairy free dessert
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