For most of us, heading to the local grocery store to pick up a gluten free cake is just not a possibility. For starters, you have to find a gf cake, and that's just not happening for many of us. And should be so lucky as to actually find one, you may have to turn away once you catch sight of the price tag.
If you're tired of this being your reality, let me help. I've been baking and perfecting gluten free cakes for years now, and I'm excited to help you get a cake on the table for your next birthday celebration, dinner party, or regular Wednesday night dinner.
What makes these the best gluten free cakes
I have so many gluten free cake recipes on this site, and I'll be honest: It's hard to say which are my absolute favorites because I have so many. I'm not sure if that says more about me and my cake-eating habits or the recipes themselves…
Whether you're looking for gluten free cake ideas for an upcoming event or something sweet and simple that you can bake up as an after-dinner treat, you'll find plenty of options below for chocolate cakes, vanilla cakes, fruit-based cakes, celebration cakes, and warm spiced cakes:
Gluten free chocolate cakes
Gluten free vanilla cakes
Gluten free festive cakes
Gluten free fruit based cakes
Gluten free spiced cake
Tips for making gluten free cakes
Follow your gluten free cake recipe carefully
When it comes to gluten free baking, you have to throw out a lot of the rules that apply to traditional baking.
Probably the biggest is the idea that you can substitute ingredients at will. While there's certainly room to make some adjustments depending on the recipe, most gluten free recipes — and especially all of mine — have undergone hours of trial and error to produce the best results.
So if you notice that I harp on sometimes about following the recipe exactly, please believe it comes from a good place. When people have problems with a recipe not turning out right, it can almost always be traced back to ingredient substitutions or not following the recipe precisely as it was written.
But what if you have allergies or don't like certain ingredients for another reason? With very few exceptions, every recipe on this website has a large blog post section with a title like “Ingredients and substitutions,” where I suggest ways to avoid additional allergens in any particular recipe.
But if you want a sure thing and you have other allergies or dietary restrictions, I suggest seeking out recipes for gluten free cakes that already meet your dietary needs. Can't have dairy? Check out my gluten free, dairy free chocolate cake. Following a Paleo diet? My almond flour cake (or the Paleo chocolate cake above) is perfect for you!
Best gluten free flour blend for cakes
You're going to see me talk a lot about gluten free flour in this tips section. That's because it's so important to achieving the best gluten free cake.
You know that there are lots of gf flours available. There's almond flour, coconut flour, rice flour, oat flour, and more. Which is the right one to use?
I'll cover measuring and working with the flour later, but first, let's start with what I consider the best gluten free cake flour recipe blend around.
After hours of testing, I've found this is to be the perfect ratio:
- 82% all purpose gluten free flour blend (my favorite is Better Batter, and my “mock” recipe is linked to build your own
- 18% cornstarch
Measuring gluten free flour the right way
To put it a way that's easier to understand, in all of my recipes that call for an all purpose gluten free flour blend, 1 cup weighs 140 grams. The volume measurement (here, 1 cup) is provided for convenience purposes, but the weight is all that matters.
Sometimes, a reader will use a 1 cup dry measuring cup, scoop a gluten free flour blend, and then weigh the contents. They'll tell me there must be an error in my recipe because their “cup” weighed more or less than 140 grams.
There's no error, though. When you're baking by weight, you completely ignore the volume measurement, and just focus on weight. Since dry volume measurements are inherently unreliable and imprecise, it's useless to “test” your vessel against the weight of its contents.
So, for 1 cup of gluten free cake flour, you'll need:
- 115 grams all purpose gluten free flour blend
- 25 grams cornstarch
As far as all purpose gluten free flour blends, I recommend Better Batter. It's the brand I use most often in my recipes and what I find to produce the best end result.
If you're using a gluten free flour blend, like Cup4Cup, that's already quite high in starch, just use that flour blend for 100% of your gluten free flour blend needs. It doesn't need more starch to work as a cake flour!
Weigh all your gluten free cake ingredients
In gluten free baking, there little room for being imprecise with measurements. Volume measuring instruments like dry measuring cups are not standardized in size, so your cup might be larger than mine. Plus, human error is simply unavoidable, regardless of how careful you are trying to be.
For this reason, you have to be very careful when measuring out your ingredients. Remember when I said you had to throw some rules out the window? When it comes to gluten free flour, throw out the measuring cups and pull out a digital kitchen scale. (Don't actually throw out your cups, though; just set them to the side!)
Measuring your flours and other ingredients by weight to match mine is the best way to replicate my gf cake recipes and end up with the same results.
Why a kitchen scale and not a measuring cup? When you “dip and scoop” flour, as you may be used to doing, you really don't have a good idea of how much you've scooped. Is your flour recently sifted and airy? Did you compress the flour through vigorous scooping?
You really can't know, and not knowing could mean using too much or too little flour. Too much flour in a cake will lead to a tough, dry cake; too little may lead to a wet cake that sinks as it cools.
Be sure your ingredients are at the right temperature before you begin
When baking a cake, the temperature of your eggs, fat, and liquids will all be specified, since those ingredients are typically stored in the refrigerator but won't combine properly when cold.
Be sure to read through a recipe completely before you begin, since you may have to set the butter and eggs out on the counter to let them come to room temperature before you bake. Butter should give way to your finger, but not feel greasy, when it's at “room temperature.”
How to bring ingredients to room temperature fast
If you don't have time to wait until your ingredients warm up naturally, here's how to speed things along without ruining your ingredients:
- To warm cold butter to room temperature, unwrap it, chop it into chunks. Pour hot water into a glass bowl or jar, the pour it out, and place the warm, empty bowl on top of the butter. It will help warm it slowly.
- If you're really in a rush, you can try placing your chopped butter on a microwave-safe plate an microwaving it at 20-second intervals at no more than 30% power until your finger leaves an identation in the butter.
- To warm eggs to room temperature quickly, place the cold eggs still in their shells in a shallow bowl in a single layer. Pour warm (not hot) water over them and allow the eggs to sit for 15 minutes, undisturbed.
For fluffy cakes, cream your butter and sugar
You'll notice that, in almost all of the vanilla and other lighter cakes above, the instructions direct you to beat your room temperature butter with sugar using a handheld or stand mixer first. That's one way we introduce air into baked goods that we want fluffy.
For cakes that are denser, like most chocolate cakes, we use a “reverse cream” method, which just means that we begin by whisking together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Then, the wet ingredients like eggs and butter and any liquid, get mixed in afterward.
Storing gluten free cakes
I don't typically recommend refrigerating any sort of baked goods that you are concerned about getting dried out. The refrigerator tends to be drying.
In addition, baking with xanthan gum helps gluten free baked goods fresh, so resist the temptation to use a gluten free flour blend that doesn't have it unless the recipe specifies using it.
I typically include storage instructions in my gluten free recipes, but here are some general tips for storing most of our gluten free cakes:
- If you intend to finish your cake within 1 or 2 days, you can leave it on the counter at room temperature so long as you keep it in an airtight container or wrap it tightly.
- If you won't finish your cake in a couple of days, freeze it for longer storage.
- If you have way too much cake or are making it in advance, you'll enjoy long-term storage if you stick it in the freezer. So long as you tightly wrap your cakes to prevent freezer burn, they'll typically stay good for up to 3 months when frozen. It's best to freeze a whole cake without frosting or filling, then defrost at room temperature, frost and serve as fresh.
Is cake gluten free?
If only life were so easy. I'm sorry to say that most cakes and cake recipes are not gluten free.
However, I've spent years developing gluten free cake recipes so that you and your family don't have to live a life without cake. No matter your tastes or the occasion, I've got an awesome gluten free cake recipe waiting for you to try.
What are gluten free cakes made of?
Since no single gluten free flour can perform in a gluten free cake recipe like conventional all purpose wheat flour, gluten free cakes are typically made using a blend of about 5 individual gluten free flours. With the right recipe, where the other ingredients are balanced properly, your cake should taste just like you'd expect from a conventional cake.
Gluten free cake is simply cake that's made without gluten. That is, none of its ingredients are derived from barley, rye, wheat, or any other food product that may contain gluten or be cross-contaminated with it.
Are gluten free cakes healthy?
A lot of people seem to think that gluten free = healthy. While it's true that there are plenty of healthy gluten free recipes, there are just as many that you'll want to enjoy in moderation because they're full of fat, carbs, sugar, and other not-so-healthy ingredients.
When it comes to gluten free cake, I'll just say it again: Moderation is key! Though, if you are still dead-set on eating something cake-like that you can truly call healthy, I would point you toward my Superfood Muffins.
Do gluten free cakes taste different?
No—as long as you use the right recipe, with good ingredients, and measure carefully. What a gluten free cake tastes like really depends on the recipe.
If you're looking for gf cake recipes that are just “good, for gluten free,” and don't require much attention, this is not the right recipe blog for you. All of my recipes are reliably good, and can be proudly served to gluten-eaters and gluten-free eaters alike.
Keep in mind that “good, for gluten free” cakes are often the function of a gritty rice flour as part of your all purpose gluten free flour. If you build your own gluten free flour blend, you'll need to use superfinely ground rice flour. If you buy a blend, make sure it's a good one like Better Batter that uses only superfine rice flour.
Why didn't my gluten free cake rise?
Whenever a reader says that a recipe didn't turn out, my frist question is always: did you make any ingredient substitutions? If so, that's probably what happened. In the case of a cake that doesn't rise, I suggest the following:
- You used the wrong flour — Not all gluten free flours are created equal. Just because a particular flour doesn't contain gluten doesn't mean that it's appropriate for baking a cake or that it will play well with the other ingredients in the recipe.
- You substituted an ingredient — When you swap leaveners, such as eggs, baking powder, or baking soda, for other ingredients, you just might not get the result you're looking for.
- You didn't follow the recipe instructions carefully, and perhaps didn't cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy first for a yellow or white cake—or your butter wasn't at room temperature so it didn't incorporate properly with the other ingredients.
- Your chemical leaveners like baking powder and/or baking soda, were past their expiration date. Those ingredients have a long shelf life, but always check your labels to ensure they're fresh, and start with a new container whenever the date is close!
Why did is my gluten free cake gummy?
If your gluten free cake came out gummy, here's where you may have gone wrong:
- You used the wrong flour — Using a gritty rice flour blend can lead to a gummy consistency, as the rice flour won't blend properly with the other ingredients.
- There's too much moisture — There are many reasons why your gf cake might be too moist. You may have added too much liquid by overmeasuring some wet ingredients, or undermeasuring your flour, which raises the overall moisture.
- Your oven may have been too hot, which causes baked goods to rise quickly and bake fully on the outside before the center is baked fully and can hold. As they cool, they collapse, leaving a compressed, gummy result.
- You used an all purpose gluten free flour blend that already contains xanthan gum like Better Batter or Cup4Cup, and you still added more xanthan gum to the recipe even though the recipe said to leave that additional ingredient out if your flour blend already contains it.
Why is my gluten free cake so dry?
If your gluten free cake is dry coming out of the oven, you may have used too much flour or not enough liquid. Either way, the ingredients were not balanced—or your overbaked the cake.
If your gluten free cake is dry a few days after baking, you've not stored it correctly. Next time, be sure to tightly wrap your baked cakes and store in the freezer for extended periods.
Why is my gluten free cake gritty?
If your gf cake is gritty, you used a blend that doesn't use a superfine rice flour (Bob's Red Mill flour blends are particularly bad for this), or your made your own blend and used a subpar rice flour which wasn't finely ground enough. Unfortunately, some newer gf flour companies have started calling their rice flour “superfine,” even though they're not.
What's the secret to a moist gluten free cake?
I would say that there are two secrets to baking a homemade gluten free cake that's super moist: balance your ingredients and measure by weight.
Of course, you don't have to do the hard work of balancing your ingredients — I've already done that for you in every one of my gluten free cake recipes. So what I'm really saying here is, “Follow the recipe exactly as written!”