This easy gluten free chocolate cake is rich, moist, and perfectly chocolatey! A no fail recipe that bakes up beautifully every time. Make it dairy free with one simple swap. Perfect for all your holidays and special occasions!
A delicious and easy to make gluten free chocolate cake recipe that no one will ever know is gluten free. The inside tastes just like a bakery style cake with a moist crumb and no grainy texture what-so-ever.
Free from: wheat/gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, dairy (optional), casein (optional), soy, corn, sesame, lupin, sulfites, fish, shellfish, crustaceans, mollusks, mustard, flax, chia
I know you’ll love this cake recipe because no special ingredients are required for baking it. This recipe uses simple ingredients from the grocery store that you probably already have in your pantry! It is a no fail cake that I have made dozens and dozens of times.
This cake is tender, fluffy, and has a rich chocolate flavor.
What’s awesome about this recipe is the simple ingredients. Here is what you’ll need!
- Cocoa Powder
- Boiling water
- Vegetable Shortening
- Butter of choice
- White Sugar
- Room temperature eggs
- Vanilla extract
- Gluten free flour (see note below!)
- Salt + Leaveners
The secret to getting a bakery style cake is in the shortening. Traditionally, bakeries use shortening in place of butter in a cake. Not only is it more affordable, but it produces a softer cake for longer.
This is because shortening is pure 100% fat while dairy butter is usually around 82% fat. Dairy free butters have a wide range of fat to water ratios. This makes a huge difference in how a cake bakes.
What happens while baking is that the fat helps the ingredients combine better into a smooth batter. The final result is light, fluffy, tender, and stays that way because of the higher ratio of fat.
The shortening that I always reach for is Spectrum Vegetable Shortening.
Best gluten free flour
Different gluten free flours have different ingredients so not all will get you the same results you see in these photos. I have successfully made this cake with both King Arthur Measure for Measure as well as my own Homemade Gluten Free flour with great results!
Your favorite gluten free flour blend should work in this recipe. If it does not contain any xanthan gum, you will need to add a teaspoon of it to the final recipe to get the right bind.
If you try a different flour than the one I listed, you may need to change the amount of liquid added to this recipe. Just be aware and use your best judgment!
If you are avoiding dairy, replace the dairy butter with your favorite dairy-free butter.
To ensure they are corn and soy free, make sure your gluten free flour blend does not contain cory or soy. Also, check your baking powder and powdered sugar as they are hidden sources for corn allergies and soy allergies.
For the full instructions with measurements, see the recipe card below.
Prepare your cake pans. This batter makes enough for -
- 18 cupcakes
- One 8x10 sheet cake
- Two 8 inch rounds
No matter which cake pans you use, lightly grease and line with parchment paper. Set them aside.
Preheat the oven to 350F with the rack in the middle of the oven.
First, you need to melt the chocolate. Place the cocoa powder in a medium sized heat proof bowl. Pour the boiling water and mix well. This takes a few minutes to mix together, but the step is necessary. As the hot water mixes with the cocoa powder it is called blooming the chocolate and helps to make the chocolate flavor more developed and intense in the cake!
In the large bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, with the whisk attachment, cream together the shortening, room temperature butter, and sugar until it is light and fluffy. It should come together in about 5 minutes at medium-high speed.
Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, making sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding the next one. If you add the eggs too quickly, or if they are cold and not room temperature, this might cause the batter to curdle. It will be curdled if it looks grainy or lumpy.
This won’t affect the flavor of the cake, so you can keep going if you like. Things will sort themselves out when you add the dry ingredients. However, your cake will not be as fluffy as it could be. Something to know for next time!
In a medium sized bowl, sift together the gluten free flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add xanthan gum if using.
Now, switch to your paddle attachment and on low speed, add half of the sifted dry ingredients and half of the cocoa mixture to the whipped butter. Mix well and then add the remaining dry ingredients and wet ingredients. Make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to get everything mixed up. And hey, you don’t need to worry about over mixing because there is no gluten!
Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake pan(s) and bake for the required time. The cakes will be done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let it cool for 15 minutes in the cake pans before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Make sure it is totally cool before frosting.
There are so many things you can do to spice up this cake and make it unique for any occasion.
- Gluten free birthday cake - add a ¼ cup of jimmy sprinkles to the batter before baking for a fun confetti cake
- Double Chocolate - add ½ cup of chocolate chips to the cake batter before baking
- Mocha cake - replace the ¾ cup of boiling water with ¾ cup of a strong hot coffee
- Hot chocolate cake - replace cocoa powder with a hot cocoa mix. If dairy free, make sure the hot cocoa does not contain dry milk.
- Peppermint cake - add ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract when adding the vanilla extract.
My Favorite Frosting for A Sheet Cake
Speaking of frosting, a good cake needs a good frosting. Here are some of my personal favorite frostings to top this cake with!
Chocolate Buttercream - A classic combo of chocolate and chocolate, this buttercream is super delicious thanks to the two kinds of chocolate.
Very Vanilla - A simple vanilla frosting that is anything but basic.
Vegan Marshmallow Frosting - A bit of a wild card for a cake frosting, but this is one of those recipes that you can’t stop sneaking tastes of out of the bowl. It’s that good.
Rosewater Buttercream - A total wildcard but you will fall in love with the sweet floral frosting.
Expert Tips for Gluten free cakes
Baking gluten free can be easy but it does have some challenges. Here are my expert tips for both beginners and advanced gluten free cake bakers!
Removing sugar will dry out the cake. Yes, you can reduce the sugar in this cake, but sugar is what helps to keep a cake moist, as well as sweet. Since gluten free cakes dry out faster than wheat cakes, I don’t recommend removing any sugar from this cake.
Use cake strips to help the baking. A simple addition that helps the cake to rise evenly.
The best way to measure gluten free flour is to scoop it. Place your measuring cup on the countertop and spoon the flour into the measuring cup. Don’t pat it down. Use the spoon or back of a knife to level off the flour and add it to your cake.
Can I make Cupcakes with this recipe?
Yes! This sheet cake will easily turn into some of the most delicious cupcakes you've ever had. Line 24 cupcakes with baking cups and fill cupcakes about ⅔ of the way full. Bake at the same temperature for 22-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool before frosting!
How to Store
Gluten free cakes do not stay as fresh for as long as wheat based cakes. If you don’t plan on serving the cake within the next 24 hours after baking, I recommend freezing the cake until it’s the day of your occasion.
Freezing Unfrosted Cake Layers - Wrap each cooled cake layer in plastic wrap. Place this inside of a freezer safe container (like a plastic bag) and freeze up to 3 months. When ready to use, remove from the freezer bag and let thaw in the fridge overnight or on the countertop for 1 hour.
Freezing Frosted Cake - Assemble the cake with any fillings and frostings. Transfer the entire cake to the freezer so the cake can freeze in place. After frozen (about 2 hours), wrap the cake with plastic wrap. Cover again with foil or store in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Allow the cake to thaw in the fridge overnight before serving from frozen.
Countertop - If the cake is unfrosted, this gluten-free cake can be stored on the countertop for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Fridge - Store fully baked and frosted cake in the fridge for up to 5 days. However, after 3 days I find this cake drys out as is the nature of most gluten-free cakes.
More delicious recipes to love
If you try these out, please leave a comment below! This provides helpful feedback to both me and other readers. And if you want more delicious, dietary friendly recipes you can subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!
- mixing bowls
- mixing spoons
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- hand mixer or stand mixer
- 8x10" baking pan
- ⅓ cup cocoa powder
- ¾ cup boiling water
- ½ cup vegetable shortening
- ¼ cup butter of choice
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoon white sugar
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 egg yolks room temperature
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ c + 2 tablespoon gluten free flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle of the oven. Grease and line with parchment an 8x10 baking dish. Set aside.
- Place the cocoa powder in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour in boiling water and mix well to combine. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the shortening, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- Add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, making sure to fulling incorporate each egg before adding the next one. Add the vanilla and mix.
- In a medium sized bowl, sift together the gluten free flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add half the flour mixture and half the liquid cocoa. Mix well and add the final batch of flour and cocoa. Mix until the batter is smooth.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and use a spoon or spatula to distribute it evenly in the pan. Bake the cake for about 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.