Perfect Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Chocolate Birthday Cake


If you ever need a “perfect” gluten-free recipe, then look no further than Nicole Hunn of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring. This lovely woman is a testing and precision machine, and it shows in not only the recipes on her blog, but also in her cookbooks. To give you a sample of her style, this Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Birthday Cake recipe is from her latest cookbook, the second edition of Gluten-Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap.

Perfect Dairy-Free Gluten-Free Chocolate Birthday Cake Recipe Photo by Jean Schwarzwalder

I must disclaim upfront that Nicole does use dairy in many of her recipes. But I still believe her formulas are priceless for anyone who cooks and bakes gluten-free. Why? Because they work! I’ve tried several of her recipes over the years (adapting for dairy-free), with delicious results every time. Experienced dairy-free home chefs should have no problem in making substitutions, when needed, for most of her recipes.

And Gluten-Free on a Shoestring does have several dairy-free surprises within:

  • Gluten-Free on a Shoestring (2nd edition) by Nicole HunnFrom-scratch staples like Savory Olive Oil Crust, Pizza Dough, Wonton Wrappers, and Flour Tortillas
  • Homemade Asian sauces to replace store-bought versions, which typically contain gluten
  • Fun breakfast delights like Tortilla Espanola and Easy Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
  • Plant-based favorites for Sweet and Sour Beets, Glazed Carrots, and Lentil Sloppy Joes
  • Comforting soups including Tomato, Matzoh Ball, and Tortilla
  • Asian-inspired meals such as Szechuan Meatballs, Beef Potstickers, Sweet and Sour Chicken and Lemon Chicken Chinese Style
  • Specialty desserts like Ladyfingers, Chocolate Chip Biscotti, Pumpkin Bread, and the Perfect Gluten-Free Chocolate Birthday Cake (sample recipe below!)

Dairy-Free Chocolate Frosting

And what would the perfect birthday cake be without frosting? In the photo, Nicole uses a simple, drizzly chocolate ganache, like the one in this recipe. For other dairy-free options, you can use my Amazing Mylk Chocolate Frosting Recipe (a crowd favorite!), enjoy some contrast with Dairy-Free Cream Cheesy Frosting, or mix things up with Coconut Pecan Fudge Frosting.

Perfect Chocolate Birthday Cake

Special Diet Notes: Perfect Gluten-Free Chocolate Birthday Cake

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, optionally soy-free, and vegetarian.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Perfect Gluten-Free Chocolate Birthday Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This cake is a real crowd-pleaser. Everyone seems to be able to agree upon it. Typically, to make a rich chocolate cake, you need to replace some of the butter with melted chocolate. In this cake, though, there’s nearly a full cup of cocoa powder. Combined with a neutral oil, the cocoa powder makes for a very deep chocolate cake.
Serves: Makes one 9-inch round cake or 18 cupcakes
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (157 g) all-purpose gluten-free flour (see below)
  • ½ teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if using the flour blend below or if your flour blend already contains it)
  • ⅞ cup (70 g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt
  • 1⅛ cups (225 g) granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (84 g) vegetable oil or other neutral oil
  • 3 eggs (150 g, weighed out of shell), at room temperature, beaten
  • ¾ cup (6 fluid ounces) lukewarm water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease or line a standard 12-cup muffin tin or 9-inch cake pan and set it aside.
  2. In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum (if using), cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center, and add the oil, eggs, and water, mixing to combine well after each addition.
  3. Fill the prepared wells of the cupcake tin ⅔ of the way full or transfer the cake batter to the prepared round pan and smooth the top with a wet spatula. Place in the center of the preheated oven, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean or with a few moist crumbs attached (about 19 minutes for cupcakes; about 28 minutes for the cake).
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to sit in the pan for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. For the cupcakes, repeat with the remaining batter.
This dairy-free All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend from Nicole's book makes 2 cups (280 g): Whisk together 84 grams (about ½ cup) superfine white rice flour (30%), 84 grams (about ½ cup) superfine brown rice flour (30%), 42 grams (about ¼ cup + 2 teaspoons) tapioca starch/flour (15%), 42 grams (about ¼ cup + 2 teaspoons) potato starch (15%), 14 grams (about 3½ teaspoons) potato flour (5%), 8 grams (about 4 teaspoons) xanthan gum (3%), and 6 grams (about 1 tablespoon) pure powdered fruit pectin (2%).

This recipe is reprinted with permissions from Gluten-Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap (2nd edition) by Nicole Hunn. Copyright © 2017. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Gluten-Free Cookbooks by Nicole Hunn

About Author

This recipe was shared with Go Dairy Free by another recipe creator. We have not tested this recipe in our kitchens unless otherwise noted.


    • Yolks won’t provide the structure needed. You could try aquafaba – it might work, but I can’t make guarantees on modifications. Especially since this isn’t my recipe!

  1. I am SO having chocolate cake cravings now… (I am planning on making a *different* flavor of cake this weekend, but I really want chocolate now… saving this one for the next cake! 😉

  2. This is a beautiful cake. The cookbook looks interesting. It would be perfect for those new to a gluten-free lifestyle as well as those who have been gluten free for a long time.

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