Gluten Free Vanilla Crazy Cake

Gluten Free Vanilla Crazy Cake

This gluten free vanilla crazy cake is made with no butter and no eggs, but it’s still moist and tender and rises beautifully. What a crazy cake!

A side view of vanilla crazy cake with vanilla frosting on a white plate

You need this vanilla cake recipe say, when you’re dairy free (minus the cream cheese glaze, of course) and even egg free, since there’s no butter and no eggs. You need it when you haven’t planned ahead with room temperature eggs and room temperature butter (it happens!).

My favorite way to make it, unlike our chocolate crazy cake, is with vegetable shortening. I use Spectrum brand healthy, sustainable nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening, but Crisco would work fine, too. It makes for a lighter cake than oil does.

But I have tested the recipe with oil, and provided you use less (as directed in the recipe below), it still makes for a lovely, moist cake.

Vanilla crazy cake with and without frosting on metal surface

I know that adding the seeds of a vanilla bean to the glaze sort of defeats the purpose of a super economical Depression-era cake. I know!

But you can of course just use vanilla extract. And in place of the cream cheese glaze, a simple white glaze made with confectioners’ sugar, a bit of vanilla extract and juuuust enough lukewarm water to make a very thickly pourable glaze.

A piece of vanilla crazy cake on a white plate

You can even make this cake with flavor variations. My favorites so far:

  • Carrot Cake: Add 2 cups of peeled and grated carrots, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon and about 4 ounces white chocolate chips to the batter. Perfect for Easter!
  • Chocolate Chip Cake: Or try adding 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips and making it a chocolate chip cake. Perfect for, well, any time.

Do you have any other ideas? Share them in the comments below!

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 1 bundt cake


For the cake
2 1/2 cups (350 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)*

1 1/4 teaspoons xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1 cup (144 g) cornstarch (or try arrowroot)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

14 tablespoons (168 g) nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening**

2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons white wine (or white balsamic) vinegar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups (16 fluid ounces) lukewarm water

For the glaze
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup (115 g) confectioners’ sugar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (or seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean)

1 tablespoon lukewarm water

*Cut It In Half: To make one 8-inch or 9-inch round cake, simply cut all of the ingredients in half and follow the same instructions. Baking time for an 8-inch cake should be at least 30 minutes; for a 9-inch cake at least 25 minutes.

**In place of 14 tablespoons of shortening, you can use 10 tablespoons (140 g) vegetable or canola oil. Pay close attention to the recipe instructions, as the method will be different as well.


  • Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Grease and lightly flour a standard 12-cup bundt pan, and set it aside. Into a medium-size bowl, sift (yes, sift!) the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, salt and baking soda, and whisk to combine well. Set the bowl aside.

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a large bowl with a handheld mixer, place the shortening, sugar, vinegar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the water, and beat on high speed until light and fluffy. (If you are using oil, place the oil, sugar, vinegar and vanilla in a blender and blend until very well-combined.)

  • To the beaten shortening and sugar mixture, add the dry ingredients and the remaining water in 3 to 4 batches, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and beating until just combined in between. (If you are using oil, add the oil and water mixture to the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.) The batter should be soft, and relatively fluffy. (If using oil, the batter will be heavier.)

  • Pour the cake batter into the prepared bundt pan and spread into an even layer. Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake until a toothpick inserted halfway between the center of the bundt pan and the edge comes out clean (about 40 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  • To make the cream cheese glaze, place the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, salt, vanilla and 1 tablespoon of water in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a handheld mixer). Beat on high speed until very smooth and thick. You can add more water by the 1/2-teaspoonful if it seems too thick to spread. Spread the glaze on top of the cooled cake, then allow it to set at room temperature until mostly firm (it won’t dry completely). Slice and serve.

  • Adapted from my Crazy Cake Gluten Free Chocolate Cake.


Comments are closed.

  • Paula
    March 27, 2016 at 12:20 AM

    This was serendipitous – I came to your site hoping for a vegan vanilla birthday cake and boom! first recipe! Super easy, and I had everything on hand. Yay! The cake rose beautifully but I am wondering about one problem I had. You are so good at demystifying the chemistry behind gluten free baking, so please help me understand what I did. As I beat the batter, it was exactly as you described – soft and fluffy – but then as I added the last bit of dry mix and water i noticed a very subtle change and it looked more elastic and a tiny bit stringy. I only beat for a moment more to finish incorporating everything, but I think the damage was done. The cake was still very good, very moist, and released like a dream from the mold, but the cake was a bit firm and rubbery. Was because of the optional arrowroot flour I used or did I overbeat and activate the gum in the Better Batter mix? I have two of your cookbooks that I use often. Thank you so much for all your expertise – you’ve made me a much better gf baker and that is no easy feat!

    • Erin
      March 27, 2016 at 5:03 PM

      I used the cornstarch and mine was also dense. I used Bobs Red Mill Cup for Cup flour. I’m not sure what I did wrong.

      • March 27, 2016 at 6:19 PM

        Erin, you cannot use Bob’s Red Mill flours, especially not their blend, in my recipes. If you follow the link in the recipe for “all purpose gluten free flour,” you’ll find my recommended blends.

    • March 27, 2016 at 6:23 PM

      Hi, Paula,
      I would always say to be sure you’re measuring by weight, not volume. I haven’t tried it with arrowroot in place of cornstarch, which is why it’s a suggestion (“try arrowroot”) and not an option. Perhaps that affected the result. I would also be sure you didn’t undermeasure the water. Other than that, I’m not sure why it would be rubbery at all, but crazy cake does not make a cake that I would ever describe as light and fluffy. It’s a denser cake. If you’d like a light and fluffy vanilla cake, you’ll need to make my very best gluten free vanilla cake.

      • Paula
        March 27, 2016 at 7:30 PM

        Oh thank you, that all makes sense. Yes, I measured everything by weight, although I was stumped when trying to decide if I should use 128g of arrowroot to equal the volume of its measurement for a cup or 144g of arrowroot to replace the entire weight of the 1 c cornstarch. Overall, a very good, simple cake to make and is still quite moist and wonderful the second day.

  • Yvonne
    March 26, 2016 at 11:20 PM

    I made the crazy chocolate cake substituting carob for the cocoa and I used olive oil instead of coconut oil and it turned out beautiful and tasty.
    I presented the cake and told my Dad it had no wheat, eggs, milk, butter (Vegan ?) and no chocolate. He said, did you make it with rubber because it looks like a tire! So it it affectionately called our “spare tire cake”
    Thanks so very much ?

    We also really love the carrot cake recipe and look forward to trying this one too. ?

  • jill
    March 26, 2016 at 2:40 PM

    Would butter be okay or stick with the oil?

    • March 27, 2016 at 6:23 PM

      I don’t recommend butter in this recipe, no, Jill. You’ll need to use either oil or shortening as indicated in the recipe.

  • JES
    March 26, 2016 at 9:51 AM

    I am thinking on cinnamon swirl coffee cake with this! Also, do you think manioc flour would work instead of cornstarch? Thank you again! I am loving your blog and so glad I found it for my gf daughter!

    • March 27, 2016 at 6:26 PM

      I definitely do not recommend manioc flour, Jes. That’s the whole root, not an extracted starch. You need the starch here.

      • JES
        March 27, 2016 at 6:41 PM

        So kind of you to comment back! Thank you! I will not use it. I will go ahead with the cornstarch! I appreciate your response very much!

  • Kim Goldstein
    March 25, 2016 at 6:35 PM

    How about lemon poppy seed, or perhaps just adding poppy seeds to this cake with a lemon glaze.

    • March 25, 2016 at 7:00 PM

      Oooh that sounds good, Kim! I would add lemon zest to the dry ingredients to make sure it doesn’t clump, add poppy seeds at that stage as well, and replace some of the water with freshly-squeezed lemon juice.

  • Melanie
    March 25, 2016 at 6:25 PM

    Do you have to put the white chocolate chips in to make the carrot cake good? I don’t have any. Does it need a sweet alternative without he chips? Like….?

    • March 25, 2016 at 6:57 PM

      Hi, Melanie, You definitely don’t need a sweet alternative. Traditionally, you’d add chopped macadamia nuts. But you don’t have to add anything in place of the chips!

  • Reinarenegada
    March 25, 2016 at 4:36 PM

    For future reference, Daiya makes a cream cheese that can be used with your dairy free margarine of choice ( I use earth balance) to make a milk free cream cheese frosting. You need lemon extracts and vanilla. Yum.

  • Michelle
    March 25, 2016 at 2:31 PM

    What about using coconut oil, since it is solid at room temp like shortening is? Maybe add coconut to the icing?

    • March 25, 2016 at 6:58 PM

      I’m not so convinced, Michelle, believe it or not. If you use virgin coconut oil, which is the solid kind that you’re referring to, I’d actually recommend melting and cooling 140 grams (10 tablespoons) and using it as you would oil. The reason is that virgin coconut oil, while solid at room temperature, is, well, less solid than shortening, and much more sticky, so it will resist becoming light and fluffy during beating. But if you’re in it for the flavor, melt and cool the 140 grams!

      • Kali Rae Perrone
        March 26, 2016 at 1:14 PM

        There is product known as coconut manna (although it has other names, like coconut butter) that is whole blended coconut- it’s not like coconut oil or milk, exactly. When melted it makes a TERRIFIC glaze, and you can add sweetener and flavors easily. It sets up solid, every dairy free taste tester loves it, and it’s the only dairy free glaze replacement that doesn’t leave me wishing for cream cheese frosting. And I LOVE cream cheese frosting.
        Thanks for another great recipe!

      • Michelle
        March 28, 2016 at 9:11 PM

        I love, love coconut, so it would be the flavor I would be looking for, not any other reason. I’m glad I didn’t try it before I saw your reply. I will try your suggestion and see how it turns out! Thanks!

  • Mare Masterson
    March 25, 2016 at 1:45 PM

    Why white chocolate chips in the carrot cake variation? This looks like the perfect way to use my leftover Better Batter flour!

    • March 25, 2016 at 1:48 PM

      It’s just a variation, Mare, like the text says!

  • Beth Noll
    March 25, 2016 at 1:16 PM

    What role does the white wine/white balsamic play in the recipe? I don’t have any of either on hand and am wondering if there’s a substitution or if i need to brave the holiday madness in the market and go shopping? Let me know because I am DYING to try this cake!!

    • March 25, 2016 at 1:37 PM

      Hi, Beth, I have to go to the grocery store, and I’m dreading it so I hear you! You need a neutral-tasting acid to activate the baking soda in the cake. If you have apple cider vinegar, you can use that but it will impart a subtle flavor. Ditto with freshly squeezed lemon juice, but it will impart a stronger flavor. Since there is no one very strong flavor in the cake, it’s best to make ingredients like the acid as subtle as possible. Hope that helps!

      • Beth Noll
        March 25, 2016 at 2:05 PM

        Would buttermilk work?

        • March 25, 2016 at 2:22 PM

          I tried the cake with milk, Beth, and I really didn’t care for it. The extra fat made the cake almost oily, I’m afraid.

        • Beth Noll
          March 25, 2016 at 3:52 PM

          ok, i’ll try it with rice wine vinegar – that has a very mild flavour so it shouldn’t throw off the cake. I’m going to try a half recipe soon as my casserole is out of the oven. :)

      • Kali Rae Perrone
        March 26, 2016 at 1:20 PM

        I have used apple cider vinegar and I no one notices :)
        So it’s VERY subtle, and for some may even be a slight improvement. (Something about the way the tongue senses flavors that I don’t fully comprehend, but is the facts according to a smart person in the food chemistry business). Course, everyone’s tastes are different.

  • Sharon Cottrell Schulze
    March 25, 2016 at 10:47 AM

    I know what I’m making for a GF Easter dessert :-) ! The traditional chocolate wacky cake is one of the first things I learned to bake (over 50 years ago–yikes!), but I never thought to make it vanilla. Very cool! Thanks, Nicole!

    • March 25, 2016 at 1:37 PM

      You bet, Sharon! Hope you love it like we do. :)

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