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The Very Best Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Recipe

The Very Best Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Recipe

The impossibly light, moist and tender crumb of this cake makes it (yes, really) the very best gluten free vanilla cake you’ve ever had.

Really, I think it makes it the best vanilla cake recipe, period. But it does happen to be gluten free, after all.

This is the very best gluten free vanilla cake you will ever eat. A super moist, tender crumb, and it bakes perfectly every time!

 

Between September and February of any given year, there are birthdays upon birthdays in my family. Everybody gets to choose what sort of cake they’d like to celebrate with, but if you drag your feet—then I choose.

And I usually go old school, like this gluten free vanilla cake recipe or my one bowl gluten free chocolate cake. Every once in a while, I really get down to basics with my flourless chocolate cake.

But a chocolate cake as rich and fudgy as that flourless cake is only appropriate if the birthday boy or girl is a true chocolate lover.

This is the very best gluten free vanilla cake you will ever eat. A super moist, tender crumb, and it bakes perfectly every time!

Simple pantry ingredients

Like that gorgeous one bowl chocolate cake, the ingredients to the best gluten free vanilla cake are simple pantry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.

Unlike chocolate cake, to get the best vanilla cake you’re going to have sift the dry ingredients (yes, you really do have to if you want that super tender, non-grainy crumb), and beat the heck out of the butter and sugar before you even think about adding anything else.

A stand mixer is great, but a handheld mixer works just as well provided you’re willing to stand there, beating and beating for at least 3 minutes.

This is the very best gluten free vanilla cake you will ever eat. A super moist, tender crumb, and it bakes perfectly every time!

Ingredients and substitutions

I’ve tried this cake every which way, and this is truly the best. If you need to modify the ingredients, of course the cake will be different.

Dairy

For dairy-free, I recommend Spectrum nonhydrogenated butter-flavored vegetable shortening in place of butter. Try 1:1 by weight. You can also try vegan butter like Miyoko’s Kitchen or Melt brands.

You’ll need a buttermilk substitute. Try half unsweetened almond milk by volume and half nondairy plain yogurt in place of the buttermilk.

I really don’t like a simple milk + acid like lemon juice or vinegar as a buttermilk replacement. That only replaces the acid, but not the thickness of buttermilk. The half milk half yogurt swap is the best.

Maybe you’d like to make a white cake, instead of this yellow cake. My recipe for gluten free white cake is perfect for adding food coloring for a special occasion or for adding edible confetti for a homemade Funfetti cake. The video on this page is for that recipe, which is a variation of this recipe for gluten free yellow cake.

Eggs

I have not tried this cake with an egg substitute. But I’m afraid I just can’t see working out very well since this cake is very egg-dependent.

My typical egg replacement suggestion is a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel). But this cake calls for mostly egg whites, and a chia egg is not an egg white substitute.

If you’re feeling adventuresome, you can try replacing the whole egg with a chia egg and the egg whites with slightly whipped aquafaba. Aquafaba is simply the brine from a can of chickpeas.

I’m working on a true vegan gluten free vanilla cake recipe. But in the meantime here we are. 🙂

Corn

In place of cornstarch, try arrowroot or even potato starch. If you are using a higher starch all purpose gluten free flour blend like Cup4Cup (or my mock Cup4Cup), replace the cornstarch in this recipe with an additional 54 grams of your flour blend.

 

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 2 8-inch round cakes

Ingredients

2 cups (280 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (54 g) cornstarch*

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

10 tablespoons (140 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 egg whites (100 g) + 1 whole egg (50 g, weighed out of shell), at room temperature**

1 1/3 cups (10 2/3 fluid ounces) buttermilk, at room temperature

*A note about flours: If you are using a higher starch all purpose gluten free flour blend like Cup4Cup (or my mock Cup4Cup), replace the cornstarch in this recipe with an additional 54 grams of your flour blend.

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease 2 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper (trace the perimeter of the cake pan on the parchment, then cut out the circle). Set the pans aside.

  • Into a medium-size bowl, sift (yes, you have to sift!) the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, baking soda and baking powder. Add the salt, and whisk to combine well. Set the dry ingredients aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed for at least 3 minutes, stopping at least once to scrape the entire mixture off the sides and bottom of the bowl, or until very light and fluffy. Combine the egg whites, egg and buttermilk in a small bowl, and whisk to combine well. To the large bowl with the butter and sugar mixture, add the dry ingredients in 4 equal portions, alternating with the buttermilk and egg mixture in 3 parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing to combine in between additions. The batter will sometimes look a bit curdled. Once all of the ingredients have been added, beat for another minute on medium speed to ensure that everything is combined, then turn over the batter a few times by hand. It should be very thickly pourable and relatively smooth.

  • Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared baking pans and smooth each into an even layer with an offset spatula. Place the baking pans in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pans, and continue to bake until the cakes are lightly golden brown all over, have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan and do not jiggle in the center at all (about another 10 minutes). I find that these tests for doneness are more useful than the toothpick test.

  • Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack (and removing the parchment paper liners) to cool completely before frosting and serving. I frosted with 3 cups of a cream cheese buttercream frosting.

Love,
Nicole

Comments are closed.

  • Payal
    July 17, 2020 at 7:25 PM

    Any brand suggestions of flour for this cake in Australia. We don’t have a huge variety unfortunately.
    Thank you

    • Nicole Hunn
      July 17, 2020 at 7:41 PM

      I’m afraid all I can offer is what I have on the “all purpose gluten free flour blends” page linked in the recipe, Payal, for you to make your own blend. That’s there for readers who can’t access the blends that I recommend ready-made.

  • Jenna Anderson
    July 13, 2020 at 3:27 PM

    Can you use gluten free plain flour and corn flour instead as I cant find all purpose flour or cornstarch

    • Nicole Hunn
      July 13, 2020 at 3:31 PM

      Hi, Jenna, “plain flour” in the UK (and a few other countries, I believe) is what we in the U.S. refer to as all purpose flour. I have always heard that Dove’s plain gluten free flour is a perfect substitute for our Better Batter. And your “corn flour” is our cornstarch, I believe. It’s just the starch, no fiber at all. Hope that helps!

  • Lucy
    July 12, 2020 at 1:51 PM

    Hi, I want to use you basic gluten free flour blend (the one that is just white rice flour, potato starch and I think cornstarch), what else do I need to add, aside from the xanthan gum? Or it’s fine if I only add that flour blend and xanthan gum? Thanks!

    • Nicole Hunn
      July 12, 2020 at 5:35 PM

      I’m afraid that flour blend isn’t appropriate for this recipe, Lucy. It’s only appropriate for the specific recipes where I specify it. It’s not really an “all purpose gluten free flour” as written.

  • Irvin
    July 4, 2020 at 1:05 PM

    Is there an icing fir this cake that is gluten free?

    • Nicole Hunn
      July 4, 2020 at 1:52 PM

      Hi, Irvin, In the photos in this recipe, I used a cream cheese buttermilk frosting. But you can use the buttercream frosting from my recipe for gluten free Funfetti cupcakes (multiply by 3 for a double layer cake). Or try my gluten free ermine frosting recipe for something lighter and less sweet.

  • Dawn Horstead
    June 27, 2020 at 11:55 AM

    I added 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the dry mixture and got the Very Best Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake I’ve ever had! My sons didn’t believe it was gluten-free. It’s my go-to recipe now.

    Most recently, I tried adding banana to this recipe, but the cake fell. I may add ground flax seed next time, to compensate for the added moisture. What would you suggest?

    Thanks, so much, Nicole! Your recipes are amazing and always turn out perfectly! I really appreciate the effort you put into helping us eat well gluten-free.

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 27, 2020 at 1:47 PM

      I’m glad you had a good experience, Dawn. I’d really recommend for others’ benefit that they use my one bowl chocolate cake recipe instead of adding cocoa powder to this one. And I also have a banana cake recipe and I really suggest using that instead, as it is already very well-tested. Recipe development is a time-consuming process, and I’m afraid you can’t just tinker around the edges like that and expect success very often.

  • Caitlin
    June 25, 2020 at 1:26 PM

    I am TELLING YOU – this truly is the best gf cake I’ve ever made. Thank you for this recipe! My snobby chef friends who suffer through my Celiac baking have even requested it.

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 25, 2020 at 1:32 PM

      Hahaha, Caitlin, I loooooove this on so many levels. Love that you love the cake, of course, maybe love it even more that you’ve stopped the snobby chef friends in their tracks. 😉

  • Ashley Nicholson
    June 23, 2020 at 10:35 PM

    Hi! I plan on using Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 baking flour.
    (The ingredients are sweet white rice flour, whole grain brown rice flour, potato starch, whole grain sorghum flour, tapioca flour, xantham gum.) How will this affect the other ingredients? Thanks!

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 24, 2020 at 9:05 AM

      You cannot use Bob’s Red Mill flour blends in my recipes, Ashley. Please see the full discussion of gluten free flour blends.

  • Decah
    June 18, 2020 at 3:04 PM

    Thanks, Nicole. I will see about purchasing an oven thermometer and see if that solves
    the issue. I have tried your Cinnamon Roll Muffins and they are delicious and they came out
    pretty good. I love using your recipes because I know you have tested them and they work.
    Decah

  • Decah
    June 17, 2020 at 10:39 PM

    I made this cake for my granddaughter’s birthday and while the cake tasted really good it fell flat after coming out of the oven. It looked so pretty and fluffy when I took it out and as it cooled down it shrunk until it was only about an inch thick. Any ideas on the cause of this? I used your mock cup for cup flour blend and followed the recipe even sifting the flour! Thanks.

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 18, 2020 at 8:15 AM

      Whenever a cake rises and then falls as it cools, it isn’t cooked all the way through. It sounds like a too-hot oven, which cooks the outside well long before the inside can support its structure. Your oven most likely runs hot (most do), so you need a simple, inexpensive oven thermometer to use instead of your oven’s temperature gauge, which is likely off. If you made any substitutions, or measured by volume instead of weight, that would also contribute to the issues you had.

  • Jake
    June 1, 2020 at 9:22 AM

    So I tried this recipe and the Funfetti cake this weekend but they didn’t turn out. I didn’t make any of the substitutions since Celiac is all I have. I used Domata Recipe Ready GF flour since I’ve had really good results from it on multiple other recipes. Both cakes had a very good rise in the oven and at 35 minutes a toothpick came out clean but felt slightly sticky. Once removed from the oven the cake fell completely and had no air or fluffiness, it looked like an overcooked cheesecake on the inside. Any ideas what happened? (I keep my flour closed up and in the freezer)

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 1, 2020 at 11:18 AM

      You cannot use Domata gluten free flour in my recipes, Jake. It’s not a properly balanced blend, and does not behave like a proper all purpose gluten free flour. It’s one of the flours that I actually call out by name on the gluten free flour blends page that I link to every time a recipe calls for an all purpose gluten free flour.

  • Marlena Feuz Amalfitano
    January 29, 2016 at 1:22 PM

    This is an excellent recipe – good crumb, nice and light, tasty, all good things. Tastes like the “other” cake

  • Mary B.
    January 25, 2016 at 12:54 PM

    I have bought two of Nicole’s books and tried lots of her recipes…just used a few this past Christmas as well. The results of her recipes are incredible. Not only are her recipes delicious and successful, but they don’t taste gluten free. I encourage anyone who is curious and hasn’t tried her books to support her efforts!

    • January 26, 2016 at 2:50 PM

      Thank you so much, Mary!!

  • Jennifer S.
    January 25, 2016 at 12:25 PM

    another home run – -for those who like white cake (not me, though I eat it -teehee). I’m totally sticking with your chocolate devil’s food cake because Nicole – that cake is the bomb! But if someone ever asks for white cake – this will be my go to! :)

  • Kristen
    January 25, 2016 at 10:38 AM

    Looks great!!! I’ve purchased and would love to use up the Trader Joe’s GF AP flour and then buy what you recommend. Do you have any idea if it would work here? No worries if not. I’m new to all of this and have yet to try baking. Thanks!!!

    • January 25, 2016 at 11:12 AM

      Hi, Kristen,
      I actually reviewed the Trader Joe’s GF AP flour when it first came out (find it here), and I found it to be remarkably similar to King Arthur’s Multi-Purpose GF Flour. I’m afraid it’s not a very flattering comparison. I highly recommend against using it in this recipe as it’s quite an unbalanced blend (very starchy, more so than Cup4Cup even), and most importantly for a recipe like this, its rice flour is very gritty. You really need a superfine rice flour for a tender crumb. In fact, I think this recipe wouldn’t bake up the same at all using that flour. So sorry!

      • Kristeb
        January 25, 2016 at 11:35 AM

        Thank you so much! You saved me from ruining good butter :) I appreciate you replying. I’ll go read the reviews… Now… What to do with these 3 bags?!

        • January 25, 2016 at 11:57 AM

          That’s kind of a tough one, I’m afraid. You could try using it in my DIY Bisquick Mix, and just make the batter and let it sit so the rice grains can soften. I was so hopeful when I saw that TJs flour. :(

      • elky
        January 26, 2016 at 12:15 AM

        On a similar topic, I’ve been trying to make mock better batter with vitacost brand flours/starches and while they’re not gritty, everything is turning out dry. I’ve checked that I’m not under-measuring fluids, and then added an extra ounce of water to the no-rise yeast rolls and they were improved, not perfect. The batter for the cookie dough cupcakes was still way too thick even with extra fluid. Either it’s the vitacost flours being extra hygroscopic or my xanthum gum is superduper strength. So I’m trying to get my hands on some actual Better Batter instead of trying to build my own but stocks are low everywhere right now. I’ll have to bite the bullet and get a whole 5lb for trial.

        • Michelle Parker Howard
          January 26, 2016 at 12:03 PM

          No worries! You will love it. I just ordered 25 lbs ! (YIKES!)

  • Michelle Parker Howard
    January 25, 2016 at 10:37 AM

    Have you tried these as cupcakes by chance? Any difference in the method or cooking time?

    • January 25, 2016 at 11:10 AM

      Hi, Michelle,
      Actually, believe it or not I haven’t! I think they would probably work just fine, but I can’t be 100% sure. I would say keep the method precisely the same, fill the muffin wells 2/3 of the way full and start checking them at 18 minutes. Just an educated guess, though!

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