Somtimes … you really surprise me. You were really excited about the idea of a gluten free earthquake cake when I pinned a version to my Must Make Gluten Free Pinterest Board, and I pinned it and everything so I guess I thought there was a chance. But I just didn’t see that level of enthusiasm coming. I guess that’s what keeps our relationship fresh and exciting. Oh, and of course you were so very right. Moist and tender, rich and deeply chocolatey sort of right. I never even realized that earthquake cake was a “thing,” but then I did some Internet sleuthing and see that it’s most definitely a thing. Where have I been?
If you have any experience with earthquake cake, or if you merely click through to the recipe from which I adapted this or do some Internet sleuthing of your own, you’ll notice quite a few differences between my version and others. The “traditional” version boasts a layer of butter and cream cheese beaten with quite a lot of confectioners’ sugar placed on top of the cake batter, then swirled in. I tried that, multiple times, and every time I just couldn’t get the cake to bake properly on top without burning on the bottom—and sometimes bubbling over into my poor oven. Was that ever unpleasant—but not altogether unexpected since butter has a fair amount of liquid in it and adding a whole bunch of it on top of an otherwise-already-complete chocolate cake doesn’t even sound like a Very Good Idea. So I left it out, and cut back on the confectioners’ sugar, too. Muuuuuuch better.
You can serve this cake while it’s still warm, but just expect to serve it like a “dump cake” or a pudding of sorts. If you’re looking for a clean slice like shown here, all you have to do is cool the cake completely and then chill it briefly before slicing. It’s so moist, and frankly the richness is a bit more mellow when the cake is at cool room temperature, which I like. And of course you can double the ingredients and make it in a 9-inch x 13-inch baking pan, but an 8-inch cake was plenty for me, rich temptress that it is.
Rich and Chocolatey Gluten Free Earthquake Cake
8 ounces gluten free chocolate cake mix (1/2 recipe)*
3 tablespoons (42 g) neutral oil (vegetable, canola, peanut, grapeseed oils, etc.)
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) + 1 egg yolk (25 g) at room temperature, beaten
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) water, at room temperature
1/3 cup (40 g) unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup (112 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup (56 g) chopped nuts (pecans, peanuts, walnuts all work well)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (173 g) confectioners’ sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
*A Note about Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix: Following the link will take you to my recipe for a D.I.Y. gluten free chocolate cake mix. Simply cut every ingredient in the list in half, and whisk to combine (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (79 g) all purpose gluten free flour + 7 tablespoons (35 g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt + 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (113 g) granulated sugar). If you’d prefer to use a store-bought gluten free chocolate cake mix, just measure out 8 ounces (224 g), and proceed with the recipe as written.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease or line an 8-inch square baking pan and set it aside.
In a large bowl, place the cake mix and whisk to combine and loosen the ingredients. Create a well in the center of the mix and add the oil, egg and egg yolk and water, and mix to combine. The mixture will be thick and glossy. Place the shredded coconut, chocolate chips and chopped nuts in the bottom of the prepared pan, and mix to combine. Alternatively, you can mix the coconut into the cake batter, and place only the chips and chopped nuts in the bottom of the pan as the shredded coconut has a tendency to burn at the bottom of the pan. Scrape the cake mix on top of the ingredients at the bottom of the pan, and spread into an even layer with a wet spatula.
In a separate, medium-sized bowl, place the cream cheese and beat with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy (1 to 2 minutes). Add the confectioners’ sugar and salt, and beat again until well-combined and smooth (another 2 minutes). Scrape the cream cheese mixture into the pan, on top of the cake batter, and spread into an even layer with a wet spatula. With a butter knife, swirl the cream mixture into the cake batter.
Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven and bake until the cake doesn’t jiggle when shaken from side to side and is mostly set (about 35 minutes). Since this is such a moist cake, the toothpick test won’t work. Remove from the oven, place on top of a wire rack and allow to cool completely in the pan before slicing and serving. For cleaner slices, place the pan in the refrigerator until the cake is firm before slicing.
This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9-inch x 13-inch baking pan. Increase the baking time by about 10 minutes, but watch the cake carefully so it doesn’t burn.
Adapted from The First Year Blog.