California Pizza Kitchen-Style Gluten Free Butter Cake

California Pizza Kitchen-Style Gluten Free Butter Cake

A close up of the inside of a butter cake on a white plate I’ve never had the butter cake from California Pizza Kitchen. It’s true! You got me! But Camille (who answers my blog emails with such style and grace) suggested this recipe because she’s so smart. And also because a reader asked for it. I’m surrounded by such smart people! So I looked it up, and California Pizza Kitchen, of BBQ Chicken Pizza Fame, does seem to know what they’re doing in the cake department. Cheesecake on top, butter cake party on the bottom, and a light crust of caramelized sugar you get just from buttering and sugaring the pan, this California Pizza Kitchen-Style Gluten Free Butter Cake is pretty much a cake home run.

Butter cake on a white plate

I tried a bunch of different cake recipes and methods to make this butter cake. They allllll failed miserably except for this one of course. We’re talking about cake in the trash failures, which kills me dead. And then since I didn’t want you to have to buy a special wee little springform pan just to make this cake (and since I only have 2 of those plus could only locate one in my kitchen cabinets), I tried baking it in a bunch of different pans and ramekins. It worked in them all! And you could still unmold a gorgeous cake without a springform pan.

Overhead view of butter cake being made

And anyway with the right recipe (which of course I provide for you below because I’m no miser), this butter cake is actually really simple to put together. The cheesecake layer is going to crack a bit and so what big whoop. I tried baking the whole thing in a water bath and let’s just say that it took so long to bake that it ended up in the trash. :(

Butter cake on brown surface

My favorite part, speaking as someone who adores cheesecake? The crusty caramelized sugar part. No scary kitchen torch required. No contest. Oh, and you know at some point you just have to serve this with …

Gluten Free BBQ Chicken Pizza

the CPK-Style Gluten Free BBQ Chicken Pizza. It’s the law.

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 6 servings


For prepping the pans
2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup (50 g) sugar

For the cake layer
3/4 cup (105 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used my mock Better Batter)

2 tablespoons (18 g) cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup (200 g) sugar

6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 egg (60 g, out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons (3 fluid ounces) milk, at room temperature

For the cheesecake layer
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3 tablespoons (36 g) sugar

1 egg (60 g, out of shell), at room temperature

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • Preheat your oven to 375°F. Prep a combination of 3-inch and 4-inch ramekins and/or 4-inch springform pan(s) (I used 2 3-inch and 2 4-inch ramekins and pans) by greasing the bottom and sides of each generously with softened butter and sprinkling with an even layer of sugar. Tap the sugar around the pans to coat the entire buttered surface. Set the pans aside.

  • Make the cake layer. In a large bowl, place the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the butter, egg, vanilla and milk, mixing to combine after each addition. The batter should be thick but relatively fluffy. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared baking dishes, spread it into an even layer in each, and set them aside.

  • Make the cheesecake layer. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a hand mixer, place the cream cheese and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, egg, salt and vanilla, beating to combine well after each addition. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Divide the cheesecake layer among the ramekins, on top of the cake layer, and spread into an even layer.

  • Place the pans on a large rimmed baking sheet, spaced evenly apart from one another, and place in the center of the preheated oven. Bake until the cakes are mostly set on top, with just a little bit of jiggle in the center when shaken lightly from side to side (20 to 25 minutes, depending upon the size of the ramekin). If you have used pans of different sizes, remove the smaller pans first and allow the larger ones to finish baking. Remove from the oven, transfer the pans to a wire rack immediately and allow to cool completely in the pans. Unmold the cooled cakes by either removing the sides of the springform pans or lifting the cake out carefully with a small offset spatula.

  • Inspired by Homemade Cravings.



P.S. If you don’t have your copy of Gluten Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread yet, won’t you grab one today? Your support means the world to me!

Comments are closed.

  • […] Butter cake. […]

  • cai
    June 2, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    YAY! I’m the reader (or maybe one of many readers?) That requested this recipe. I am SO thrilled to have Butter Cake back in my life! Thank you for doing this!!!!

  • Kelly
    June 2, 2014 at 3:44 AM

    My little girl is allergic to dairy and gluten…which cuts out the cheesecake topping. However to make the pizza type base…… would i just not include the top layer? How thick will the batter layer need to be- to get a pizza that looks like this? Thank you!

    • June 2, 2014 at 7:43 AM

      Hi, Kelly, I’m afraid I’m not following your question. The base of this cake is yellow cake, not a pizza. You could try doubling the cake recipe and baking it that way, but I haven’t tried this recipe with any substitutions so you’ll have to experiment!

  • Carol
    May 31, 2014 at 1:43 AM

    This looked so good, I went right to the kitchen and made it. When baking, it puffed up double its size, then deflated back down to about the original thickness. Was that what it was supposed to do? It does taste good.

    • May 31, 2014 at 7:56 AM

      It sounds like your oven is/was too hot, Carol.

  • Ginger
    May 30, 2014 at 8:58 PM

    Sweet Cake Lady, I bow down to you. You amaze me.

    • May 31, 2014 at 7:56 AM

      Ginger, I shall now refer to myself forever more as Sweet Cake Lady. :)

  • Lorraine
    May 30, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    You make me laugh. But I’d cry to if I had to throw out all my effort and baking! Thanks for persevering. This looks doable and delicious! I’ve never had what it’s supposed to be and I should avoid dairy but you know…some things are worth suffering for.

    • May 30, 2014 at 7:52 PM

      Occupational hazard, Lorraine! Usually I can salvage a failed recipe for eating purposes, at least in part, but when it’s failed cake … it usually isn’t salvageable. Think of it this way—I do it a lot, so hopefully my readers don’t have to do it at all! :)

  • Suzette
    May 30, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    Everything you make looks fantastic. I love your books, blog, Facebook, etc.
    However, my one disappointment is that most things you create aren’t healthy for us. Since many folks are now aiming for a healthier plant-based diet, it would be truly wonderful if you could begin creating foods made with coconut oil in place of butter and an alternative to sugar such as pure maple syrup, raw honey straight from the bee keeper, Truvia, etc. We eat a whole food plant-based diet, sugar, dairy, gluten free, Kosher. Our health has dramatically improved and at 70 we feel young and full of life. Diet is key.

    • May 30, 2014 at 7:49 PM

      Suzette, I’m glad you found something that works for your family. I don’t consider it my responsibility or my place to map out anyone else’s diet. The recipes I post on my blog (and for the most part those in my cookbooks) are meant to replace foods many miss now that they’re gluten free, which usually means baked goods. I don’t publish health food, or naturally gluten free, recipes.

      • Anneke
        May 30, 2014 at 9:36 PM

        Keep up the good work, Nicole! Healthy eating means different things for different people, and one family’s healthy may be something that makes another family ill. For example, my Type 1 Diabetic daughter can’t eat pure maple syrup under any circumstances, and honey isn’t great either. I personally follow your blog specifically because the GF piece of our diet is, hands down, the hardest thing to manage. I so appreciate all your efforts, even when the recipe is something that doesn’t work for my other dietary issues.

        • May 31, 2014 at 7:59 AM

          Thanks, Anneke! I think it should be pretty obvious that I’m creating recipes for what we’re missing. Not creating a family meal plan for others! My family certainly doesn’t eat butter cake every day, or as a meal. :)

  • ellen
    May 30, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    I know you haven’t tried substitutions, but do you think potato starch would work in place of the cornstarch?

    • May 30, 2014 at 7:50 PM

      I honestly don’t know, ellen! Give it a shot!

  • lm
    May 30, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    This looks delicious. Thank you very much for all your hard work in adapting the recipes and for sharing them with all of us. I hate writing in to ask a question about a change in the recipe especially after you worked so hard to perfect it but here I go! Is the cake part very sweet? Can you lessen the surgar by 1/4 cup in the cake? one cup of sugar per 3/4 c flour seens very sweet. Will that make a difference in the outcome?

    • May 30, 2014 at 7:51 PM

      The cake is not overly sweet at all, Im, but I can’t know if cutting back on the sugar will change the recipe appreciably. Sugar is not just a sweetener. It is also a tenderizer. That is why sugar-free baked goods are usually tough. Feel free to experiment!

  • Lgagne47
    May 30, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Looks marvelous – my hubby is a cheesecake lover and would just adore this I’m sure. Thank you for posting it. Putting on my timeline.

    • May 30, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      Oh this is right up his alley, then, Lgagne!

  • stacy
    May 30, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    Looks amazing! Could you use light cream cheese for the cheesecake portion?

    • May 30, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      Unless I indicate otherwise, I haven’t tested my recipes with any substitutions. Feel free to experiment, Stacy!

  • Lucy
    May 30, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    Nicole, the “whey powder isolate”, is it still considered as a dairy product?
    The local librarian was very excited about the BAKES BREAD book but concerned about the whey powder isolate. I couldn’t answer her but thought I would ask.
    I’m lucky my family hasn’t dairy diet issues and I feel bad when I promote your book to another, then find out they can’t have dairy or eggs…
    Many people in the community have been asking me for recipes and I send them to you here in hopes they will find answers.
    Have a great day! and thank you for all you do! :)

    • Mare Masterson
      May 30, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      Nicole addresses dairy free substitutions for the whey protein isolate in the Bakes Bread book, and tells how to adjust the recipe accordingly, I believe its pages 10-11.

      • Lucy
        May 30, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        Thank you! I’ll tell Debra, she thanks you too!

  • Lucy
    May 30, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    Looks so dreamy! I have never heard of pizza butter cake before today…looks very yummy! Will it go with ice cream? Hubby came home late last night with more heavy whipping cream :) I guess that was a hint?
    Thanks again sweetie! HUGS!

    • May 30, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      A not-so-subtle hint, Lucy!

  • Jennifer S.
    May 30, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    Holy moly Friday goodness! yum-o!

  • Rose
    May 30, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    This looks lovely! If I was going to make this in just one springform pan, what size would you suggest for the appropriate amount of batter?

    • Mare Masterson
      May 30, 2014 at 12:24 PM

      Nicole, I would like to know about making in 1 springform pan also, please. Thank you! :)

      • May 30, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        Hi, ladies, I honestly don’t know as I haven’t made it in one springform pan. I would try 35 minutes and then check from there!

        • Cindy Merrill
          June 1, 2014 at 6:54 AM

          If I were to try a regular springform pan do you think the recipe would need to be doubled or tripled?

    • Mae McPherson
      May 30, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      I would love to know the answer to this also. My first thought was to make it in my springform pan that I usually make cheesecake in…rather than several smaller ones!

  • Brandy
    May 30, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    Hey Nicole, do you think it would turn out ok if I made dairy free substitutions? I use earth balance butter, rice milk, and tofutti cream cheese.

    • Jennifer S.
      May 30, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      you should give it a whirl and let us know how it turns out.

      • Brandy
        June 2, 2014 at 8:36 AM

        I’m gonna- I’ll let you know!

    • May 30, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      Unless I indicate otherwise, I haven’t tested my recipes with any substitutions. Feel free to experiment, Brandy!

      • Brandy
        June 2, 2014 at 7:35 PM

        Ok I did it just like I said… Substituted rice milk, tofutti cream cheese, and earth balance butter.
        My batter seemed a little thinner than yours so I was gonna suggest lessening the rice milk a smidge but I baked them up anyway and kept them in for 25 min. And they are to die for!!

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