Friday, April 2, 2010

Gluten Free Chocolate Birthday Cake


Everybody, and I mean everybody deserves velvety rich, gooey chocolate cake on their birthday. Contrary to popular belief, the hardest part about the gluten-free diet isn't saying goodbye to croissants and soft pillowy French bread. I can live without croissants and good bread. No, what is really truly hard about the gluten free diet is the sense of being left out all the time. Breaking bread together (even the expression contains gluten!) is an important part being in communion with friends and family. When we want to celebrate something, be it as formal and fabulous as a wedding banquet or as humble as a coffee date, eating and drinking together is what we do. And when you can't eat gluten, sometimes you get left out. That's what is really hard about the gluten-free diet.


Which is fine. We get by and try to be graceful about it. But on your OWN birthday, not being able to join in on your own celebration, or eat a slice of your own birthday cake? Now that is just downright unbearable. Which is why the internet needs a really fantastic gluten-free cake recipe. Because there isn't one (I looked!) So here it is! Because on your birthday, you deserve a rich, wonderful cake. Like this one! And you deserve a cake that tastes good enough to serve your friends and family. Like this one. Because everyone should get to celebrate with you and be included on your special day, gluten-free or not.

I made about 5 cakes in the run up to James' birthday, because I wanted to find a gluten-free chocolate cake recipe that I could really love. This one was hands down the winner; it was one of those gluten-free things that people can't believe is gluten-free. Because hello, it tastes so good!


Gluten Free Chocolate Birthday Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate Whiteout Cake recipe in Baking: From my home to yours (it's the one on the cover!)

This is an American style "butter" cake, which means it has a rich, dense crumb. It is very chocolaty, and totally delicious! Unlike a sponge cake or a chiffon cake, it doesn't get its volume from whipped eggs whites, so it's VERY important to follow these few tips:

- There are quite a LOT of gluten-free flours to choose from. This recipe calls for superfine sweet rice flour, and superfine white rice flour. I have found that these flours yield the best results for cake, and also have the most neutral, cake-friendly taste. If you want, you can swap out the white rice flour for quinoa flour or brown rice flour, but the sweet rice flour is essential, because it is so fine, and because it is so starchy and sticky - it will help the cake hold together and keep it from crumbling. Don't use an all purpose mix unless it is very fine, and definitely don't use any mix that contains baking powder, since this can mess up how the cake rises.

- Sift the flour into the measuring cup, and level off with the straight edge of a knife. This will make the flour fluffy and aerated, and will keep the cake from getting too heavy.

- Sometimes I think some directions (particularly ones about temperature) are silly, and I ignore them. Don't do this! If the butter is supposed to be room temperature, make sure it is at room temperature. If the recipe says to let cake cool completely, let it cool completely.

- This cake was fabulous paired with chocolate buttercream frosting, but I think it would also taste great with a cream cheese frosting, or with Dorie greenspan's Marshamallow frosting. But you can do whatever your heart desires!

1 cup SIFTED superfine sweet rice flour
1/2 cup SIFTED superfine white rice flour
1/2 cup SIFTED unsweetened cocoa powder (dutch processed)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum

1 and 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup superfine baking sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips), melted and cooled
3/4 cup buttermilk AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
3/4 cup boiling water
4 oz semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store bought chocolate chips

Getting Ready:
preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and center a rack. Butter two 8x6 inch round, and sprinkle with flour, Line the bottoms with parchment paper. Get out your butter, eggs, and buttermilk, and let them warm up to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

To Make the Cake:
Sift together the 1 cup sweet rice flour, 1/2 cup white rice flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon granulated salt, and 1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum.

In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, beat 1 + 1/4 sticks butter with 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar and 1/2 cup superfine white baking sugar. Beat on medium speed 3-4 minutes, until soft and creamy, and pale in color.

Add in 3 large eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between eggs. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and beat in 2 oz bittersweet melted chocolate. When it is fully incorporated, add the flour mixture, alternating the addition of the flour with 3/4 cup buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, and only mix until the the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be very thick, like frosting.

Still working at low speed, add in 3/4 cup boiling water. Scrape down the bowl, and mix in 4 oz chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans, and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, rotating the pans at midpoint for even cooking. It's ok with the cakes crack a little bit during cooking. When fully baked, cakes will be springy to the touch, and a fork inserted into the center will come out clean.

Remove from the oven, and let cool 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen cakes, unmold them, and peel off the parchment paper. Invert, and cool to room temperature right side up.

When cakes have cooled to room temperature, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or until cakes are firm. Slice each cake horizontally in half, frost, and fill. Enjoy!


  1. Just by looking at the smile on baby James face, you could tell this cake is a winner!Happy belated Birthday to your little angel! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  2. I was looking for a gluten free chocolate cake recipe back in March for my son's 12th b-day and I couldn't find a good one. This one sounds awesome and I will have to try it out soon. Do you plan to add the frosting recipe to the post? That would be awesome. It looks so yummy! I wouldn't have a clue how to make it.

    I have seen a few things on your blog that I would like to make. I will be back. PEACE!

  3. I made this for my daughter's 2nd birthday. It was perfect. Thanks

  4. please dont shoot the messenger.. but my grocery store just started to carry the betty crocker line of gluten free.. cake mixes and frostings.. they are really quite good... if you needed a quick fix dessert.. for a non special day... <3

    1. I made e A cake from the Betty Crocker mixes, and it was the absolute worst cake ever. Even my kids would. Not eat it. I made homemade frosting, so we indulged in that. Then for my husbands birthday, I. Decided to go homemade all the way and made this cake to the t. It was delicious. Another birthday is coming up and I am making this one again. It was that much of a hit.

  5. I am going to bookmark this site, its great!

    I love the recipes but also your sweet baby is too beautiful. What a prince!

    Lastly, you should be a photographer, the pics you post on here are insanely terrific.

  6. Wow, that's gorgeous! And I don't even like cake.

  7. I made this for my dtr's 5th birthday...YUM! Thank you for this recipe! DH has requested it for his birthday too, but with peanut butter frosting.

  8. You know, the betty crocker mix is pretty good, for a mix! I would totally use it in a pinch. I also really like the betty crocker pancake mix - it tastes like the "real" thing (candy pancakes like mom used to make, you know?)

    Peanut butter frosting sounds AMAZING!

  9. This cake looks awesome! I'm looking for that perfect GF chocolate cake recipe for my birthday next week... and I just want to clarify a couple of things from your recipe. So... are you using an 8-inch round pan that is 6 inches tall?? I have an 8-inch round pan that is 2 inches tall, can I make that work somehow? Also, did you just discard one of the layers after you cut them both in half horizontally? Your cake has 3 layers in the picture. Am I misunderstanding your directions? I really appreciate any feedback that you might have! Thanks!! -Lindsay

    1. Lindsay, did you try this recipe? I have the same questions as you and just wondered if you just trial and errored it and could save me the heartache.

    2. Sorry, I used 3 pans that were 8" pans, and I had 3 of them. Hope that helps! (PS - I'm pretty sure they don't make pans that are 6" tall!)

  10. Thank you very much for posting this delicious recipe - my cake turned out amazing and everyone was so impressed it was gluten and dairy (for the most part as I substituted goat for cow!) free. I also thought I'd post to let others know that as I couldn't find sweet rice flour, I used a cup of regular rice flour and a 1/2 cup of corn starch/flour. I then upped the xanthum to 1 teaspoon to help bind it a bit more in absence of the sweet rice flour. As I said, it turned out amazingly! Thank you again and to those of you who have yet to make this, do so and enjoy :-)

  11. I love you! Like, literally, LOVE you. My birthday is coming up and its the first one to pass since I made the transition to gluten free. Your recipe was the third chocolate cake recipe I baked, and the ONLY one that turned out even halfway decent. It is so amazing and might just be the best cake I've ever made, period. Thank you so much for making my 26th that much more special!

  12. Is the rice flour sold at the Asian food store fine enough or do I to buy some marked superfine? When I did an Amazon search for superfine the Asian brand came up.

  13. So anxious to try this! Just curious if there might be any way to substitute the refined sugar for coconut sugar or any other natural sugar? Has anyone tried this? We are trying to avoid refined sugar but not sure if it might ruin the whole thing. Anyone had any experience with this?

    1. I just made this cake with coconut sugar (only 3/4 cup) and it turned out beautifully! I am so impressed and looking forward to making it for my son's first birthday party next week. I'm going to try using rice syrup next time. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  14. Do something different next holiday and come through the door with a six-pack of our ice cream cupcakes. Each one is full of creamy ice cream and moist cake. We then place them in a rich Belgian chocolate cup. cakes in anaheim