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Gluten Free Chocolate Poke Cake

Gluten Free Chocolate Poke Cake

Gluten Free Chocolate Poke Cake

I try try try to make this food blog about you, and not about me and my family. I don’t fashion the recipes I develop for my cookbooks and for the blog according to what my family needs, except when it helps me develop recipes, of course. Otherwise, they spin in separate orbits. My family needs dinner every night, breakfast every morning. The children need lunches every.single.day (big ones). There are kid errands to run, sporting events to attend (and practices to arrive at precisely on time). But those errands and meals and practices simply will not dictate my work. I won’t let them no siree—except on birthdays! When someone in my family has a birthday, it seems, I start out on my high horse, all separation-of-work-and-family. And I end up making a birthday cake event into a blog event. I can’t help myself! So it was when we were invited over to my brother’s house for dinner to mark my husband’s birthday and I was asked to bring a cake that this gluten free chocolate poke cake was born. Life imitating art, or art imitating life? Beats me, but this is the chocolate birthday cake you make when you’re invited and asked to bring cake. Trust me.

Gluten Free Chocolate Poke Cake

The chocolate cake is adapted from my one-bowl gluten free chocolate cake, but scaled up in size. The chocolate flavor of the cake is a bit deeper, too, and the cake is less sweet on account of the poured over chocolate pudding mixture. This is a chocolate-lover’s cake, no doubt.

Gluten Free Chocolate Poke Cake—step by step

Have you ever made a poke cake? They’re really pretty literal, poke cakes. You make the cake, then poke holes in it while it’s still warm out of the oven. Then you pour a gorgeous liquid over the top and watch the cake soak up the goodness. It reminds me a bit of rum cake, on account of the poking holes and pouring over. Also because these sort of cakes are traditionally made with a cake mix and a pudding mix, as are most rum cakes (but not ours!). Being a chocolate poke cake, it’s not quite as easy to see the chocolate pudding mixture in those holes…

Gluten Free Chocolate Poke Cake

…except when you hit a bite just right.

This recipe for gluten free chocolate poke cake uses no pre-made mixes, since I’m simply not a big fan of the taste of (and ingredients in) cake mixes. My homemade pudding mixture is a low-starch chocolate pudding mix that is cooked before being poured over the top of the cake. The pudding mixture is not so thick that it won’t absorb fully into the cake, but since it’s cooked it stays thick when the cake is served at room temperature. If that makes less than total sense, just carry on. I tried this cake every which way, and this is the way that delivers!

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Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 8 generous servings


Chocolate Cake
1 3/4 cup (245 g) all purpose gluten free flour blend (I used Better Batter)

3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1 cup (80 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer Dutch-processed, but have also used natural with success)

3 tablespoons (27 g) cornstarch (you can also try arrowroot)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar

3/4 cup (168 g) sour cream, at room temperature

1/2 cup canola oil (or another neutral oil, like peanut oil)

3 eggs (180 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

1 cup (8 ounces) brewed fresh coffee (or milk, at room temperature)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons (30 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (I prefer Dutch-processed, but have also used natural with success)

2 teaspoons (6 g) cornstarch (or superfine sweet rice flour)

1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons (15 g) nonfat dry milk, ground into a finer powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups (16 fluid ounces) milk

2 cups (16 fluid ounces) heavy whipping cream, chilled

3 tablespoons (22 g) confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons chocolate shavings


  • First make the cake. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch x 13-inch (or a 9-inch square) baking pan and set it aside.

  • In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the sour cream, oil, eggs, coffee and vanilla, mixing to combine after each addition. The batter should be thick but soft. Scrape it into the prepared pan, smooth into an even layer and place in the center of the preheated oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out mostly clean or with a few moist crumbs attached (about 30 minutes). Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan before poking holes every 1/2-inch all over the surface of the warm cake with a chopstick or skewer, wiggling the stick around a bit to create holes that are about 1/4-inch in diameter.

  • Make the pudding mixture. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, place all of the pudding ingredients in a medium-size heavy-bottom saucepan and whisk to combine well. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, and continue to cook until the mixture just begins to thicken (about 5 minutes). Pour the hot pudding mixture over the top of the cake and gently spread it around so that it is absorbed into the cake through the holes. Allow the cake to sit until it has cooled completely, then cover and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

  • Make the topping right before serving. Place the heavy whipping cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a large bowl with a handheld mixer. Turn the mixer on medium speed and whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, raise the speed to high and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream over the top of the chilled cake and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate shavings. Slice into squares and serve.



P.S. Do you have your copy of Gluten Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread? Your support means so much to me!

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  • Lucy

    This would make a lovely valentine’s day cake; I may have two make two this year.
    One for me and hubby and a non-chocolate cake for my girls :)
    Thanks Nicole

  • Mare Masterson

    I am at my desk drooling!

    • A 1 liter jar works well for the sourdough starter, Mare. Good luck!

      • Mare Masterson

        Oh thanks. But can you tell me what flours to order please?

        • Mare you might do best to wait until you can compare the recipes to what you have in your pantry. If it helps, to make the whole grain blend you need sweet white sorghum flour and teff flour. I’m afraid I don’t have the time to review it all and list everything you’d need top to bottom!

  • Jennifer S.

    holy crapola, this looks awesome. Please have more birthdays in your household so we get more cake! :)

    • Donia Robinson

      I bet it’s the same as in my house. My kids say to me, “Aren’t you going to make yourself a birthday cake?” No, because it’s MY birthday, and it’s the one birthday of our five that I get to choose to NOT make a cake! ;) But thanks for thinking of me, guys.

    • So funny, Jennifer! Yeah, there is no cake for my birthday. It’s actually quite the relief when it’s just my birthday because I’m off the hook and I can be lazy and make nothing!

  • Cliw

    Is this stackable? Or just works in a rectangular pan? Ty.

    • Do you mean can you make it as a layer cake, Cliw? I haven’t tried that but feel free to give it a shot!

      • Cliw

        Yes. As a layer cake. I will try it and post results. Thanks.

  • anna

    I make something like this but with caramel sauce poured into the chocolate cake holes. It’s amaaazing… I normally use Betty Crocker GF cake mix because its easier and i like the texture of it once its soaked up the caramel, but i should definitely give it a try using your one-bowl recipe! Yum!

  • Lisa

    Is there a way to make the pudding dairy free?

    • I haven’t tested this recipe with dairy-free substitutions, Lisa, so you’ll have to experiment!

  • Robin Behrent

    Do you HAVE to use powdered milk?. I have to buy a big box of it only to use for THIS recipe.

    • Robin, yes you need all of the ingredients in the recipe.

  • aliciamyersleifheit

    You just flashed me back to childhood! I remember my Mum making these for my Birthday. They were always yellow Betty Crocker mixes with several boxes of Jello Pudding! I have no doubt this will be MUCH better! Can’t wait to make it for her!

    • Aw, Alicia, that’s so great! My husband talks about the poke cake his mom made with a yellow cake mix and Jello pudding. I have to make a from-scratch version of that too. Cheers to tradition!

  • Robin Black

    I am downright GIDDY at the prospect of making this one (just put a variation of your pumpkin crack cake in the oven, but using blueberry pie filling and a dash of almond extract instead of pumpkin and pie spices, so pokey will have to wait about a week). This is a favorite from my childhood, but even then I never had it with whipped cream frosting–which is one of my favorite things on the planet. Thank you for this one!!

    • That’s awesome, Robin! And your variation on the pumpkin cake sounds fab!

  • Anna

    Hi – can coconut oil be used in place of the canola oil? Thanks! Looks delicious!

    • I haven’t tried pure coconut oil, Anna, which is solid at room temperature—only liquid oils.

      • jen

        I made it today with melted coconut oil. Seems to be just fine.
        The cake isn’t sweet as much as it is rich.
        I wonder if I left something out?? Or….maybe my sweet tooth is getting too big…..

    • Anna

      I used coconut oil 1:1 and it turned out so delicious!! :) Thanks for a great recipe!

  • Lucy

    Nicole, I’m wondering about the flour blends.
    When I order the new book, I’m also putting in an order for the flour as well. Which flour blend did you use in “Classic Snacks”? I can’t get Better Batter in Canada, so I have to wait and order both the book and flour from the States.
    Can’t wait, this will be a birthday gift for me and I’ll be setting some other kitchen gadgets to complete the order as well :)

    • Lauren

      Sounds like an awesome birthday gift! :D

    • Great questions, Lucy!
      You don’t really need anything special for Classic Snacks. The regular flour blends that I recommend work great—I have my usual preference for my mock Better Batter (or Better Batter itself) or my Better Than Cup4Cup blend, and you’ll need my gum-free blend for a few recipes, and some extra starch to add to some recipes. I promise I’ll do a Getting Ready for Classic Snacks post soon (early February) when I announce giveaways!

      • Lucy

        OH that’s great! I’m getting the candy thermometer too, I forgot which one you recommended :(

  • Lauren

    Oooh. I think this is going to be the finishing touch on our belated Christmas lunch when my in-laws come over this weekend! Would you {or anyone else who has already made it} say that this cake is better made a day or two beforehand, or is it best enjoyed the day you make it?

    • Good question, Lauren! It’s actually great the day of, and for at least 2 days afterward. But I wouldn’t add the whipped cream topping until soon before you serve it.

      • Lauren

        Perfect! Thanks, Nicole. :)

  • Daniela Dany Frey

    This looks so delicious, but is there a way to substitute the milk powder in this recipe?

  • youngbaker2002

    hi nicole. maybe i’m not seeing it, but i don’t see where you say to put in the vanilla. probably in with the other wet ingredients right?

  • youngbaker2002

    OK. I just served this cake to my family with a scoop of butter pecan ice cream and they loved it. i think this is going to be my go to chocolate cake from now on. so moist. so rich in chocolate flavor. Ps. i used Hershey’s special dark cocoa.

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