Bittersweet Chocolate Sour Cream Skillet Cake

Bittersweet Chocolate Sour Cream Skillet Cake

Sometimes when I post recipe after recipe, which I guess I kind of do every week, I hear you telling me – hold up! stop the merry-go-round! it’s too many! Thursdays had been editorial-type posts here for quite a while. But this week, I couldn’t get past thinking that what’s in my head isn’t fit for your lovely eyes and ears. I’m frustrated with the so-called “gluten-free community” and all of its posing poseurs and their posturing. So as not to offend, I’m posting a recipe for bittersweet chocolate skillet cake, even though it’s a Thursday. And even though it’s a lot of recipes for one single solitary week, the weekend’s coming up like nobody’s business.

On to the cake.

This cake is made with sour cream, Dutched cocoa powder and 70% bittersweet chocolate, but not too much chocolate. Those things make this cake a personal favorite since its chocolate flavor is deep and smooth, but not too rich. I don’t really care for cake that you have to push away after just a few bites because no I couldn’t possibly have another bite it’s just too … too. I don’t want to get right up to that edge, you know. I want to eat slowly and savor, but I don’t want to get to the end of my rope so fast. Where’s the fun in that?

One of my favorite things about this cake is that you bake it in a cast iron skillet. It’s amazing how reasonably priced a basic 10-inch already-seasoned cast iron skillet is, and how versatile. It heats so evenly, retains its heat so well, and is the pan that is going to get you that beautiful crust on your cake while still keeping it moist inside. And it’s one of the few kitchen workhorse pans that really is designed to go from stovetop to oven without bursting and buckling.

Oh how disappointing it is when a piece of kitchenware claims to be stovetop-to-oven-and-back-again, yet it’s only heatsafe to 345°F. Pardon, but as much as I believe in the power of a good oven thermometer, that’s a little specific for me and a little on the low end of temps for my taste. And anyway who wants to worry about one’s kitchen- and bakewares. Not me, that’s who.

Did you catch how easy this cake is? It’s way easier than making peace. Or cleaning the bathroom. Or the kitchen for that matter. The slight crunch of the crust on the outside that gives way to the incredibly tender crumb inside makes it all just … fade away.

Sometimes just because you have something to say doesn’t mean you should say it. So instead, make cake. And stick a piece in your kid’s lunch. He’ll think he just won the lottery.

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 1 10-inch cake


8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter + 1 tablespoon (14 g) more

3 ounces 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cups (210 g) high-quality all-purpose gluten-free flour

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

1/2 cup (40 g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar

1 cup (218 g) packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup (56 g) sour cream, at room temperature

3 extra-large eggs at room temperature, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (4 fl. oz.) buttermilk, at room temperature

Confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder, for dusting


  • Preheat your oven to 325°F.

  • Place 8 tablespoons butter and the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute on 60% power, and stir to melt the chocolate. If all of the chocolate has not melted, microwave once more for 30 seconds on 60% power, and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set the mixture aside to cool a bit.

  • In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar and light brown sugar, and whisk to combine well, working out any lumps in the brown sugar. Add the cooled chocolate and butter mixture, then the sour cream, eggs, vanilla and buttermilk, mixing to combine after each addition. The batter will be thickly pourable.

  • Place the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and place it in a seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet, and place the skillet in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, or until the butter has melted. Remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the butter around to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour the cake batter into the pan, and shake the pan to evenly distribute the batter in an even layer. Place the skillet back in the oven and bake, rotating once during baking, until the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out mostly clean, about 35 minutes. It is better to underbake the cake than to overbake it.

  • Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely. Sift confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder on top of the cooled cake, to taste. Slice and serve at room temperature.


P.S. If you haven’t yet, please pick up a copy of My Cookbooks! I shall thank you for your support with more of mine and we’ll go round and round like that. :)

Comments are closed.

  • October 2, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    Suggestions on using coconut milk and coconut oil in place of sour cream and butter?

  • Pam P
    October 1, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    Delightful, delish, and and entirely to tempting to resist. Yummm!

  • Samantha
    September 28, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    Hi! So I was really excited about this recipe…but I’m having the same problem I always do with GF cake batters—way too thick, like fudgy pudding that you can dollop rather than “thickly pourable”…so I added more buttermilk, knowing that my GF flour sucks up moisture…the cake tastes good, but it doesn’t have a good crumb, the inside is cooked through but gooey…it doesn’t look like your pictures…any advice would be greatly appreciated…

    • gfshoestring
      September 28, 2012 at 2:39 PM

      It sounds like your flour is the issue, Samantha, either in the blend you are using and/or in measuring your ingredients. If you aren’t measuring by weight, you’ll want to do that. And if you’re using any substitutions, that can also affect your batter quite a lot.

      • Samantha
        September 29, 2012 at 6:26 PM

        thanks! I’ll give that a try!  I appreciate the help!

  • Lisa W
    September 28, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    I’ll give this a try in my USA mini cake pan (makes 6 cakes). Yes, I will fuss about the baking time. Love my USA mini cake pan. Got it before I knew you liked them. I normally can’t bake my way out of a bag (life long issue, even before having to go GF) but I have been successful with your recipes. Oh, and your Enchilada sauce is yum. 

  • Lisa b
    September 27, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    Can you use a cake pan if you don’t have a cast iron skillet? And if so, what kind of pan?

  • NJtomato
    September 27, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    Well, I just used my old trusty iron fry pan to make a gf pizza. I definitely want to try the cake as soon as I assemble all the ingredients. I really trust your recipes and cannot say the same for other gf  recipes – and I am an experienced cook and baker.  I am very curious about the soy Greek yogurt you mentioned.  With some effort on my part I have been able to buy good plain flavored soy yogurt from one supermarket. Could you mention the brand? I am now officially a supermarket junkie searching high and low for products.

  • TeressaJ
    September 27, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    THANK YOU for your postings!!!!! :-)

  • Pamela G
    September 27, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    Nicole…my darling…the rebel that you are….I will be the little devil on your other shoulder that tells you to run with scissors & post the recipe!!! It’s more fashionable to do what everyone’s NOT doing….
    But, I’m makin’ this cake…so bahhhh bahhhh…………. :)

  • Kendramit
    September 27, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Oh, I soooooooo deserve this cake today. I really do.  I think I will just have to make one!

  • Ruth Henshaw
    September 27, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    I love your humor and wit and just your down to earth comments on this whole gluten free business as well as the way you deal with the sometimes rude and crude things that are said to you.   At my age( 3/4 century and counting) I have learned to be rather blunt with people and most of the time it feels good.  None the less please know that I love and appreciate all you have been doing to help all of the gluten intolerant  people like me who don’t know squat about how to deal with the problem.  It doesn’t scare me or depress me anymore but I do get frustrated when I mess up which I seem to have a knack at doing.  Keep the recipes and advice coming in whatever order.  I love, love, love reading it all and cooking  gluten free is getting easier all the time for me.

  • Amanda Martinez
    September 27, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    I haven’t had a reason to use my cast iron skillet since going gluten free.  I was so excited when I saw this recipe that I squealed and woke up five plump dogs and a wonderful husband that wakes up at 5am everyday to walk them.  I think he deserves this cake too.

    • gfshoestring
      September 27, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      Well, if he didn’t quite deserve the cake before, he certainly does now, Amanda! Before you put away that skillet, try this gluten-free brown butter skillet cornbread. It’s a keeper, too. ;)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Dfal182
    September 27, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    Thanks for another great looking recipe! Wondering if I should use convection setting (making it 300 degrees?) Dee

    • gfshoestring
      September 27, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      I don’t see why not, Dee. The worst thing that happens is that you have to tweak the time/temp as it bakes.
      xoxo Nicole

  • JoAnn C.
    September 27, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Honestly and with all due respect, (I’m probably in the minority when I say), I get  tired of people calling out other people.  Remember the Rosiland Russell movie Auntie Mame?  I’ve adopted her moto lately, life is a banquet and there are some poor suckers starving to death.  I say let the poseurs starve, leave them alone and let’s stop renting space to them in our lives. And instead let’s feast on chocolate for pete’s sake!

    • gfshoestring
      September 27, 2012 at 10:49 AM

      I know the quote well, JoAnn, and although I do generally agree with the sentiment in my personal life (oh do I ever), I consider it a personal and professional responsibility to, when possible, shine a light on exploitation that goes on in the gluten-free market and community. It is large, and growing at an exponential rate, and part of my goal in everything I do is to try to force it to grow responsibly. I would never cast aspersions just for the sake of feeling better personally.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Brittany Wilson
    September 27, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    As enamored as I am of that cake, I would definitely like to hear what you have to say on poseurs in the community. Often, calling out the poseurs helps people who don’t know they’re dealing with swindlers and scheisters. It’s also your blog and anyone offended will be replaced by people who actually give a crap. ;) 

    • gfshoestring
      September 27, 2012 at 10:52 AM

      Oh, Brittany. I couldn’t possibly agree more! I have learned over the years of writing in any sort of public way that I am absolutely not for everyone, nor do I strive to be, and if only those who give a crap were to come back again and again, I would be so happy! I do feel obligated to call out the poseurs, and that’s the truth. I’m struggling with how best to do it, so that it does the most good. And if you ever meet me in person, I’m much more willing to be candid in person than I am in print! Thank you for your comment. I believe I snorted. ;)
      xoxo Nicole

  • September 27, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    I should really take your advice about having something to say doesn’t mean you need to say it :) But I’m always up for a good rant, too, and of course cake (especially if it’s chocolate!). So keep it coming Nicole, all of it.

    • gfshoestring
      September 27, 2012 at 10:54 AM

      I really hear you, Dana! I just couldn’t editorialize with a cool head today, so I went with the cake. I will rant, but only when I can do it calmly and carefully. That way, when I get yelled at, I can take that calmly, too!
      xoxo Nicole

  • Em
    September 27, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    You make it sound SO good… I have to try it!  Since I discovered I can make lactose free butter milk with a little soy milk & vinegar I got all excited – then I noticed sour cream in the ingredients list, dammit. Going to try coconut cream and hope for the best!  Don’t you hate it when people try your beautiful recipes with substitutes? Cross your fingers with me, I want cake ;)

    • gfshoestring
      September 27, 2012 at 10:56 AM

      I shall cross my fingers, Em. I won’t lie – substitution questions can be the bane of my existence as a recipe writer – but substitution hopes are easy as cake. I learned recently from a reader, however, that there is a soy version of Greek yogurt that makes a wonderful substitute for sour cream in baking. Maybe try that if you can find it? You want something thick and sour.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Anneke
    September 27, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    Hi Nicole!  Well, I wouldn’t be offended by your frustrations with the posing poseurs . . . and I’m not offended by your chocolate cake, either!  Plus, I already have a cast iron frying pan.  Happy Thursday to me!

    • gfshoestring
      September 27, 2012 at 10:57 AM

      Oh, Anneke, my soul sister, none of this surprises me. Right down to the cast iron skillet.
      xoxo Nicole

      • Dljessen
        September 27, 2012 at 12:59 PM

         Hi Nicole!  I’m going to make the cake it sounds so yummy – and I so need a chocolate fix.  I can see why you get frustrated.  You are trying to fight for the health of your family and of course us!  I have recently been diagnosed with Celiac along with my daughter.  We have been gluten free for about 6 months now – and every time – and I mean every time I need a recipe you have it!  So no I just come here first.  But like you I am very tired of hearing or people making comments about us being gluten free.  They just don’t get that this is not a diet for us but a way of life.  I no longer have daily chronic migraines!  Praise God!  I still get them about once or twice a week but I will take that over every day.  My daughter went from being in a 00 jeans to size 4!  She now looks healthy even her hair has bounce!  So my support and hat goes out to you for helping me make my gluten free life a little easier.  And as far as the posing poseurs……let them have it with both barrels when you can tactfully do it!

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