Gluten-Free Chocolate Layer Cake

Gluten-Free Chocolate Layer Cake (dairy-free) from Gluten-Free Goddess
A rich, devil's food style chocolate layer cake for the holidays.

Angel Food, Devil's Style...

Sharing food in winter is one of life’s quiet joys. As poet Edith Sitwell noted, “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

I contemplate her words and feel an ache that is dangerously flirting with longing. As we invest more and more of our (fleeting, precious!) time into our virtual lives, connecting not by touch or even by voice, but via endless shallow streams of social media- texting, downloading, uploading, scrolling through visual tidbits of other people’s lives (often strangers), privy to their breakfast, their political opinions, and goofy pictures of Fido and Kitty- I yearn to throw a party. To embrace the old fashioned ritual of baking from scratch, lighting candles, and inviting some human beings over for an evening of conversation and real time companionship.

Laughter and chocolate cake are good medicine, feeding not only our sweet tooth, but our sun deprived spirit as well. The spirit of connectivity, friendship and inclusion.

Yet for those of us living gluten-free (and dairy-free), the deep mid-winter season- with its twinkling celebrations centered around sharing food- too often feels the opposite of convivial. It feels gated. Off limits.

Look. Don't touch. Or taste. Smile graciously.

When you need not be hyper-vigilant about each and every forkful, the food centric holidays are, as the saying goes, a piece of cake. But to those of us with celiac disease and dairy allergies, a table heaped with food (glorious food) is a big steaming reminder of how different we are, a symbol of separation. Of not belonging.

This is when a gluten-free dairy-free chocolate layer cake is more than just dessert. It is a marvelous, beautiful thing. Bordering on luxurious.

Because to indulge (and share food) without worry is a true gift.

So pick a date. Text family and friends an invite. Or pick up the phone and call. Fire up your oven. Gather plates and candles.

Conviviality, connection, and cake await.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Layer Cake (dairy-free) from Gluten-Free Goddess #glutenfree #cake
Add dark chocolate shavings to the top.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Layer Cake (dairy-free) from Gluten-Free Goddess #glutenfree
A chocolate lover's cake for the holidays.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Layer Cake Recipe

Recipe by Karina Allrich, posted December 2012.

This dense, rich chocolate layer cake with mocha frosting is party worthy. And here’s the best part. It’s so deliciously decadent, no one will believe it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, and nut-free. It is divine. It is fabulous. Dare I say, party worthy. Everyone will love it.

Ingredients for two 9-inch layers:

3 cups granulated cane sugar
2 cups sorghum flour
1 cup white rice flour
1 cup potato starch
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 free-range organic eggs, beaten
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted, or organic expeller pressed canola oil
2 tablespoon bourbon vanilla extract
2 cups non-dairy milk

For the Mocha Frosting

1 lb. powdered sugar (4 cups)
6 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons vegan butter
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon bourbon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cold strong coffee or espresso
1/4 cup non-dairy milk, as needed
1 square vegan dark chocolate, to grate for topping


Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line two deep 9-inch cake pans with a circle of greased parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, sorghum flour, white rice flour, potato starch, cocoa powder, baking powder, xanthan gum, baking soda and sea salt. Add in the eggs, coconut oil, vanilla extract and non-dairy milk. Beat on medium high for 2-3 minutes until a smooth and stretchy batter forms.

Scoop the batter evenly into the two prepared cake pans and using a wet spatula, smooth out the tops. Bake on the center rack for 35 minutes, rotating half way through baking. Test with a cake tester. The center should be firm to a light touch. Cool the pans on a wire rack.

Make the Mocha Frosting:

Combine the powdered sugar, coconut oil, vegan butter, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and coffee in a medium bowl and beat until combined. The frosting will be stiff. 

Add the non-dairy milk a tablespoonful at a time, beating continuously, until it you see a creamy, spreadable consistency. Beat until fluffy.

If the frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar and beat until it thickens.

When the cakes have cooled completely, loosen the edges with a thin knife, and carefully remove the layers from the pans. Peel off the parchment. Brush off any crumbs.

Center the first layer top side down on a cake plate. Frost the top with roughly 3/4 cup of icing. Place the second layer on top of the frosted layer. Scoop about a cup of frosting onto the top of the cake and spread it evenly to the edges. Begin adding frosting to the sides of the cake, spreading it evenly over the sides.

Clean off the frosting spatula under warm water and dry it off. Smooth the sides by turning the plate as you hold the spatula firmly in place. Clean off the spatula with warm water again, dry it, and smooth out the top. Sprinkle the top with grated dark chocolate.

Allow the frosting to set by chilling the cake briefly before covering and storing the cake. This cake can be made be made a day ahead. I recommend chilling it. Leftover slices can be wrapped, bagged, and frozen.

Makes one 9-inch layer cake.

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Recipe Source: A version of this original cake recipe by 
Karina Allrich appeared in Allergic Living's Winter Issue 2012.

All images & content are copyright protected, all rights reserved. Please do not use our images or content without prior permission. Thank you. 

Yes, Darling, this is a rich, sweet treat. We enjoy our sugary treats in moderation- don't we? Gluten-Free Goddess advises consuming no more than 2 tablespoons of sugar a day. xox

For substitution help, please see my guide to baking with substitutions here.



  1. I am definitely going to try this cake this Christmas! My family has a history of thyroid disease and I have found Gluten is one of the sneaky little imps that destroys thyroid health, and since i'm a big advocate of repairing our health holistically I've been advocating a gluten-free kitchen in our house hold. This would be the first christmas where i would be attempting a season of GF foods so being able to have a source like your blog for recipes that are safe and most importantly delicious, really helps in helping my family through this change! Thank you Karina for your beautiful, eloquent and scrumptious posts!

    Christmas wishes,


  2. Anonymous09:25

    are THREE cups really necessary?!??! That's a lot!

    what would happen if i cut that down to 2? would the cake not turn out then?


  3. That looks absolutely stunning, and just looking at it is making me hungry!

  4. what a perfectly fudgy and gorgeous cake! and that frosting is making me swoon... it would be PERFECT for a holiday celebration!

  5. Could you recommend a good substitute for rice flour?

  6. LOVE!

    Question: any suggestion for frostings not based on powdered sugar? Something a bit more buttery or fluffy and not so dense?


  7. Anonymous15:02

    Good Goddess, that looks good! Wonder if I could substitute the eggs with Ener-G egg replacer and a mixture of applesauce and arrowroot powder... Has anyone out there tried this yet?

  8. MMM, I like this recipe, it is straight-forward and elegant. Classic is the word!

    It would go perfectly with that beautiful dark red dress I don't have, but nobody's perfect.

    Now I just need to find some xanthan gum and I am ready to spoil some good people!

  9. I'm not a big chocolate fan, but this looks great.

  10. Lynne L.17:24

    Thank you dear for the fabulous recipe. You are so right...look, don't touch or taste, smile. We're all in the same boat here. Which is why my niece & I are having a baking marathon Dec 23 so we can take food with us. Yum. I'll have to get more cane sugar. I would suspect I could use palm sugar for at least 1 cup for a lower glycemic thingy...see I'm not as eloquent as you!!!

    Lina...I googled frosting recipe without powdered sugar & this is what I got:

    * 2 tablespoons flour (I would use sorghum or coconut flour)
    * 3/4 cup milk
    * 3/4 cup butter
    * 3/4 cup sugar
    * 1/8 teaspoon salt
    * 1 teaspoon vanilla

    In a saucepan add a small amount of the milk to flour then stir to make a smooth paste. Add remaining milk. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens. Cool.

    Cream butter using medium speed of electric mixer.
    Gradually add sugar and salt; beat well. Add cooled milk mixture. Beat until light and fluffy; add vanilla. Frosts a two layer cake.

    I think I've actually used this recipe if I remember correctly. I would sub for the butter..1/2 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup vegan or regular butter; for the milk...take the amount & divide in half (half coffee & half whatever milk you use)and throw in some cocoa powder. You could google for others. Good luck!

    Thanks again Karina!

  11. some of us also have problems with sugar. Can coconut sugar be used?

    1. I can't have cane sugar so I plan to use coconut sugar :-)

  12. Anonymous19:05

    Hi Karina,
    This looks delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
    I have a question regarding the coconut oil. I was baking a quick bread and I noticed that the coconut oil I had melted started to once again to solidify by the time I finished gathering all my ingredients in the bowl. Should I pour it in last? Any recommendations? Thanks for any help.


  13. I'm dying to use almond flour in something. Is there any ingredient that I can substitute for almond flour? Thx.

  14. You words always strike a chord with me. I know too well that feeling of "Look. Don't touch. Or taste. Smile graciously." Christmas is certainly the time for home, and if your home has this cake sitting on the table everyone will want to be there. It looks very decadent.

  15. Stunning. Both the cake and your little holiday anecdote :)

    I can't wait to make this cake for family over the holidays, but even more than that, I can't wait to be in the presence of my extended family, serving them cake. Laugh with them, dine with them, and feel their warmth and love in person.

    Happy Holidays, Karina!

  16. Anonymous20:55

    Really so much sugar??? It's not a mistake? Two and a half pounds of powdered sugar for the frosting? That's really a lot...

    I enjoy your recipes. Thanks :)
    Happy Holidays!

  17. Thank you Lynne! Will give it a try :)

    (making glutten-free cranberry bread recipe courtesy of Miss Goddess, yum!)

  18. I love what you write here about needing to connect in person. And we do so around food, too. Which is perhaps why I blog about food AND life together. I can't disentangle them.

  19. Anonymous23:34

    Karina do you really mean 2 1/2 pounds of powdered sugar for the icing? you don't usually do reicpes by weight so I wondered.
    Hope you are happy there in Conn. : )

  20. too bad it is made with all that sugar..this sure is not for someone who can't eat sugar...why don't you ever use palm sugar

  21. I agree on the sugar issue. I personnally almost never eat sugar, and feel tempted to experiment with using fruit instead of the entire amount of sugar (ripe bananas) some agave maybe, and a nut cream based, vegan frosting.

    On the other hand, for those of us who very rarely indulge in sugar, eating a sweet chocolate cake for once, won't kill us.

  22. Karina offers so many yummy recipes with minimum sugar. I'm sure this is meant to be a once in not very often indulgence.

    Karina, keep your fire crackling and think about investing in a SAD lamp since you've been in such sunny locations the last several years. Hope beautiful birds are flocking to your feeders!

    Christmas love, Lois

    1. Thanks, Lois! Love back atcha!

  23. This looks amazing. We just had a Christmas party and it was so nice to be around physical bodies as appose to virtual. All goodies were gluten free & vegan so all could enjoy!

  24. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe with us! I plan on making it this weekend!

  25. My boyfriend, Alex, made this yesterday. He even used a sweetened hot chocolate powder because we forgot we were out of baking cocoa on top of the sugar and trust me, it's worth it! The density and richness of it is amazing. Just enjoy a smaller piece.

    Alex's twist: He made a frosting with leftover coffee and a little nutella!

    xoxo Lorelai

  26. This looks amazing!! I'm going to a gluten-free desert party this weekend, and I think I'm going to bring it.

  27. Anonymous08:40

    Thanks so much for your wonderful recipes - as someone recently diagnosed, who always loved to bake and whose extended family is so centered around delicious food, I tearfully & completely understand your words about, "look" but don't graciously. Maybe someday it will get easier...count your blessings, right?!

  28. How could I not know this website? I love it and you will be a great inspiration for me, thank you!

  29. Anonymous14:25

    Instead of 3 Cups of Cane many cups of "granulated sugar" should I use? Thanks

  30. so I admit that I didn't follow the recipe perfectly. I do not have any cake pans. I thought to make it in a cupcake tin. I only filled it slightly less than 1/2 full. They all overfilled and made a complete mess in my oven. I understand that this is kind of souffle like with all the eggs, but I wasn't expecting that kind of blow up. Thoughts? The most horrible part is, it was for my daughters bday tonight. They so don't look pretty and are impossible to ice or even take out of the pan whole :(

  31. question!

    it says cocoa powder. what kind of cocoa powder is this? unsweetened? sweetened? dutch process? alkali?

    it looks like there's baking powder involved so i'm assuming unsweetened cocoa powder? i had a cocoa powder disaster with another recipe so i just want to be sure so as not to waste other ingredients.


  32. The frosting cannot possibly be 2 1/2 lbs. I tried it and what a disaster! Karina, please confirm with all of us how much sugar. Is it supposed to be 2 1/2 cups?

  33. The frosting is actually one box of powdered sugar (roughly 4 cups). Recipe has been changed to correct measure (messed up in transcription). My frosting recipes use more sugar less fat than many classic recipes - instead of sticks of butter or cups of Crisco for body, I use powdered sugar. Frosting recipes may need tweaking with more or less liquid to get the right consistency. Start with less liquid and add it in slowly, beating well after each bit added.

  34. Karina,

    I used a different frosting because of preference. But the cake actually tastes delicious. Although it rose a lot in the oven, it was a little gummy when it came time to slice and eat (next day). Should I add a little more baking powder to take care of that?

  35. Quick answers, on mobile... Cane sugar is granulated sugar. Cocoa is unsweetened cocoa. Gummy means a tad too much liquid or not baked long enough. GF cakes can rise yet need a tad longer to bake; test with a cake tester. A slightly cooler oven can require a bit more time to bake through the center. Also cold ingredients can slow down baking. Hope that helps!

  36. First - Karina, your description of being GF/DF (along with multiple other allergies)at holiday gatheries struck a chord like never before. It feels good to be understood!

    I made this for a NYE party in a 9x13 pan (b/c I only own 1 round pan). It was perfect that night! The next day the leftover cake turned to goo. :-( The edge pieces were still cakey, but the majority looked like hot fudge. What did I do wrong? I did leave it in the pan for easy transport and storage. Maybe it needed to be removed and cool longer before frosting? The fact that it was perfect that night is what is throwing me off. I'm still fairly new to all of this.

  37. Hi Karina, having just discovered your blog this week, I picked this for my sons birthday cake. I followed the directions but after 35 mins it was still a bit soft in the centre, I had to run out to pick the kids up so just turned the oven off and left them in there. They were perfect. And they still are 3 days later (actually might go have some now for afternoon tea with a cuppa). Thanks for the great recipes, lovely pics and entertaining reading. I know I'm going to become a regular. Cheers,

  38. Karina,

    First, this sounds, and looks, absolutely lovely! I'm relatively new to the world of gluten-free living, so please bear with me... I do not have a problem with dairy, so I'm wondering if real milk is used in the recipe, would it come out the same? Would I use the same measurements? And "cane sugar" that just regular granulated sugar? Thanks!

    1. Dairy will work beautifully (I am dairy-allergic, so avoid it). Yes- one to one. And cane sugar is granulated white sugar (some folks avoid beet sugar).

  39. Wow, this is an amazing cake.
    I used my standby King Arthur GF flour mix and cow's milk and it rose up high and fairly moist.
    The 9" pan is no lie- this is a nice big cake.

    I cut the entire recipe in half to make a myself a one-layer cake with 8 (or 10) substantial slices.
    If I were to make the whole recipe I would add a batch of ganache, cut the layers in half, and finish this as a 4-layer cake (cake, ganache, cake, frosting, cake, ganache, cake, frosting top and sides).

    I would make this for company, 'cause it's that good

    1. Awesome. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Love the idea of a four-layer cake!

  40. Thanks, Everyone, for your comments- I appreciate your thoughtfulness. This special occasion cake is a genuine treat- a big, generous chocolate layer cake with frosting. So yes, sugar is involved. Serve very thin slices if you are concerned about eating too much sugar.

    I don't have any experience with palm/coconut sugar.

    Ironically, most of the so-called "healthier" sugars give me IBS due to their high fructose content. I do best following a low FODMAPs diet.


  41. This tastes delicious...however..I couldn't get my cakes to bake in the middle. They are complete mush and I let them stay in the over 15 min extra. Any advice?

  42. This cake tastes delicious...however, I couldn't get mine to bake in the middle. I even left it in the over for 15 extra minutes but it is still complete mush. Any suggestion?


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Karina - Gluten-Free Goddess xox