This moist, delicious chocolate cake is the only dessert recipe you need to serve all your loved ones with food allergies – unless they’re allergic to awesomeness! It is not only free of the top allergens – wheat/gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, nuts – it is super cheap and easy to make. But most importantly, your guests won’t know what they’re missing. When my gluten-eating family members come to a birthday party, they eagerly ask, “Is this THE chocolate cake?” When I served this at a party with gluten-eating friends, one of the teenagers – a TEENAGER, people – said, “This is gluten free and dairy free? It tastes better than regular cake!” She is wise beyond her years.
The secret to the moist crumb is vinegar and baking soda for leavening instead of eggs. I know, it sounds weird, but I promise you won’t taste the vinegar. This cake is inexpensive, and doesn’t need refrigeration because it contains no milk or eggs. Like most GF chocolate baked goods, it tastes better the second day, so it’s a perfect make-ahead dessert. For a finer crumb to make cakes in molds, just omit the extra tablespoon of water and beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. To keep it from sticking to the pan, grease the pan and dust with cocoa. The cake won’t be as moist and dark, but it will hold its shape for fancy cakes like my son’s Lord of The Rings, ring-shaped cake (a.k.a. One Cake To Rule Them All), which I baked in a tube pan.
I substitute cornstarch for 2 T. of GF flour because that’s how you make cake flour. However, if you have a corn allergy, you can substitute potato starch. If you don’t have sorghum flour, or are using a flour blend that contains sorghum, just substitute 2 more tablespoons of your flour blend for the sorghum. I’ve made this with both my flour blend (below) and Pamela’s Artisan Flour Blend (in which case I don’t use sorghum or add xanthan gum since this blend contains both).
For frosting, I have yet to come up with a chocolate frosting that tastes better than Pillsbury’s Fudge Frosting. It is dairy free, but contains soy, so if you have a soy allergy you’ll need to make homemade frosting. However, the original recipe I modified calls for a dusting of cocoa on top, so you could also try that instead of frosting. If you want a white frosting that’s allergen-free for a birthday cake, I’ve made one using canned coconut milk that tastes really good (recipe below).
Allergy Friendly Chocolate Cake
Makes one 8″x8″ pan or 8″ round, or 12 cupcakes
1 c. sugar
3 T. cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s cocoa, found in the baking aisle)
1 1/4 c. GF flour blend*
2 T. sorghum flour (or use additional flour blend if yours contains sorghum)
2 T. cornstarch (or potato starch)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. xanthan gum (omit if it’s in your flour blend already)
1/2 tsp. salt
6 T. canola oil
1 T. GF vanilla extract (we get ours from Costco)
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 c. + 1T. warm water (or more, if needed to get a loose batter)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. It’s important that the oven is ready to go and the cake goes into the oven as soon as the vinegar and soda are mixed, otherwise the cake will be flat. For this same reason, be sure to grease your pan or muffin tin ahead of time. If you’re planning on making a molded cake or removing it from the pan to frost, dust the greased pan with cocoa powder, as well.
Use a whisk or the whisk attachment from your mixer to combine the cocoa and sugar in your mixing bowl. (I just hold the whisk attachment from the mixer to blend the dry ingredients, then attach it when I’m ready to mix in the wet ingredients.) Once the cocoa is thoroughly blended with the sugar, to keep it from clumping, add the remaining dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
Fill your 1 c. liquid measuring cup with hot water, then set it aside while you add the wet ingredients, starting with the oil. Add the water last and mix on medium low for about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl occasionally and adding the additional tablespoon of water to get a thin batter. Do not overmix. If you use a different flour blend that absorbs water more, you may need to add another tablespoon of water to thin it. The loose batter guarantees a moist crumb. (See notes above if you want to make a molded cake that requires a finer crumb.)
Fill greased pan or muffin cups and immediately place in oven. Bake square or round pan 25-30 min., or 20-22 minutes for cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Use the shorter time if using a dark, nonstick pan.) Cupcakes should rise to the top of the pan, but a square cake will not rise all the way up, so don’t worry that it didn’t turn out! What it lacks in height can be made up with frosting…
Cool completely and frost or dust with cocoa powder. Store tightly covered at room temperature. Serve with vanilla ice cream – for a dairy free option, we like So Delicious brand coconut milk ice cream – drizzled with Hershey’s chocolate syrup, which is also dairy free!
Allergy Friendly Frosting:
1/2 c. dairy free margarine (I imagine coconut oil would work, with a dash of salt)
4 c. powdered sugar (this contains cornstarch, so do not use this recipe for corn allergies)
1/3 c. full-fat canned coconut milk (in the Asian food aisle, NOT the kind in the carton)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a large mixer bowl, cream margarine and half the powdered sugar until light and creamy. Add coconut milk and vanilla. Gradually add remaining powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Add a little more coconut milk if frosting is too stiff, or a little more powdered sugar if too thin. This will have a mild coconut flavor that complements the cake well.
Chocolate Variation: I haven’t tried this, but according to my cookbook, you can replace 1/2 c. of the powdered sugar with 1/2 c. cocoa, sifted together with the remaining powdered sugar for a chocolate frosting. For a mocha frosting, blend 1 T. instant coffee powder into the margarine.
*Brenda’s GF Flour Blend – I triple this and store it in a gallon freezer bag in the fridge:
1 c. rice flour
1 c. brown rice flour
1/3 c. cornstarch
1/3 c. potato starch
1/3 c. tapioca starch/flour
1 T. potato flour
1 T. sweet rice flour (also called sticky rice flour)