Amazing Paleo Chocolate Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

This paleo chocolate cake recipe is fluffy, light and airy. It’s also unbelievably decadent, rich and moist. It’s the perfect dessert or birthday cake and has quickly become a reader favorite.

Paleo chocolate cake on a white cake stand.

I’m not one to use superfluous words in my recipe titles unless something is truly extraordinary. Case in point: this amazing paleo chocolate cake. And yes, it really is amazing.

So much so, that I even debated leaving off the word “paleo.” Because I think you could offer up this chocolate cake recipe to someone who eats gluten and grains and they’d have no idea that it was gluten-free, grain-free and dairy-free. You guys, it’s incredibly delicious!

Unlike most paleo cake recipes, this version is light and airy while still moist and spongy. I mean, just look at those crumbs. There’s the perfect amount of air pockets in the cake yet it holds together like a real deal chocolate cake. But it’s a paleo chocolate cake.

Paleo Chocolate Cake Recipe Video

While this recipe is easy to make, I do recommend you watch my step-by-step tutorial video. Give it a watch below!

The Perfect Birthday Cake

This recipe is the perfect way to kick-off my birthday month – with a deliciously decadent chocolate birthday cake.

Now, it’s a birthday tradition of mine to always have a mint chocolate something on my actual birthday. Previously, I made these Mini Skillet Brownies with Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. But it’s quite involved. So I’m thinking something slightly easier this year. My birthday is the last day of the month, so I’ve still got a few weeks.

Until then, you’ve got this paleo chocolate cake to enjoy. And trust me, you will. I even whipped up a video (above), so make sure to watch that.

Making the chocolate cake batter and buttercream frosting.

Frosting the chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.

Ingredients, Questions, and Tips

It’s taken me several years to perfect my paleo baking and I think I’ve finally got it nailed. But I’m sure many of you will have questions regarding the ingredients, so let’s dive into those.

  • Are all three flours (almond, tapioca and coconut) necessary? Yes. For some reason, most paleo cake recipes only use almond flour or coconut flour. But I find those results less than stellar (i.e. dense and dry). If you think about it, gluten-free flour blends are always a combination of flours to achieve the right texture. Paleo baking should be no different. And this triumvirate of flours (my signature blend) is what I use on many of my recipes, including my reader favorite paleo pancakes.
  • Why is each flour important? Almond flour is the main nut flour providing most of the bulk. Tapioca flour provides the light, airy, fluffiness. And the coconut flour provides structure to the cake.
  • Is there an alternative for the almond flour? If you only have a problem with almonds, you could substitute the almond flour with hazelnut flour. But if you need a nut-free cake I’d recommend my flourless chocolate cake instead.
  • Can I make this without eggs? I personally haven’t tried it, but many commenters below have said they’ve used chia eggs, flax eggs, and store-bought egg replacers with good results.
  • Can I swap honey or maple for the coconut sugar? Unfortunately no. The coconut sugar crystals are what helps to provide all those mini air pockets that make this cake so delicious. Honey or maple syrup would create a much more dense cake.
  • Why do you add espresso powder? To make this cake unbelievably rich and decadent. The espresso powder doesn’t make the cake taste like coffee or even mocha. In fact, you don’t taste it at all. But what you do taste is a depth of chocolate flavor that makes you go, “wow!” To give you an analogy, vanilla extract is added to most baked goods to enhance the flavor. Well, that’s what espresso powder does here. It takes this paleo chocolate cake recipe to the next level.
  • Can I use almond milk instead of coconut milk? You can, but it likely won’t be as moist. Full-fat coconut milk is thick and adds necessary fat, on par with dairy milk or buttermilk.
  • Why do you add vinegar? Well, speaking of buttermilk (which is frequently used in traditional cake recipes), my version of buttermilk is coconut milk plus vinegar. Voila! The vinegar also creates a chemical reaction with the baking soda, a la baking powder-style, to create fluffiness in the cake.

Hopefully that answers some of your questions, but if you have more, please feel free to ask them below in the comments.

A single slice of paleo chocolate cake on a white plate.

A slice of paleo chocolate cake on a plate with fork.

The Creamy Buttercream Frosting

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the chocolate buttercream frosting is equally impressive. Like lick the bowl impressive. It’s also vegan, dairy-free and paleo, depending on how you make it.

I’ve separated that recipe into its own post, so that you can easily search for it and use on other cake or cupcake recipes in the future. But together, I’m not kidding when I say that this is by far the best paleo chocolate cake recipe out there. It may even be the best chocolate cake recipe. Period.

Serving and Storing

Serve it up with a cold glass of my homemade cashew milk, almond milk or oat milk, and you’ll be in heaven. Or serve leftovers up for breakfast (umm, I did) along with a glass of Chemex Coffee or Cold Brew Coffee.

To Store Unfrosted: You can make the unfrosted cake layers several days in advance. Once they’ve completely cooled, tightly wrap them in plastic wrap (I double wrap them) and store on your counter at room temperature (if it’s not hot) or in the fridge for 2-3 days. If you’d like to store them longer than that, you can also freeze them for 3-4 months. Then, when you’re ready to serve the cake, just defrost the layers and add your buttercream frosting.

To Store Frosted: You can also store the entire frosted cake. It will last for 4-5 days at room temperature. I do recommend covering the cake to protect it from dust and any kitchen splashes. Yes, you can freeze it frosted too! If the cake is whole, just place it in the freezer uncovered to allow the frosting to harden. Then, tightly wrap it in plastic wrap as mentioned before. If you’d like to freeze leftovers in individual slices, just place them in glass storage containers – no need to wrap! Again, they’ll last for several months. Then, just bring the cake to room temperature to enjoy!

Paleo chocolate cake on a cake stand with slice removed to a plate.

More Gluten-Free and Paleo Chocolate Recipes

Want this recipe in cupcake form? Check out my Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes.

And if you’re looking for a non-chocolate cake recipe, I highly recommend my Gluten-Free Carrot Cake (that’s also paleo-ish). Enjoy!

Paleo chocolate cake on a white cake stand.

Amazing Paleo Chocolate Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

4.96 from 270 votes
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Servings: 16 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan
This paleo chocolate cake recipe is fluffy, light and airy. It's also unbelievably decadent, rich and moist. Once you make it, you'll see why it quickly became a reader favorite. Watch the video above!

Ingredients

cake dry ingredients

  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 cups coconut sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups raw cacao powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 tsp salt

cake wet ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

chocolate frosting

Instructions 

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  • Grease three 8-inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper. I prefer to grease my pans with ghee or organic palm shortening as coconut oil can leave a slight coconut taste. Set these aside.
  • Add all of the dry ingredients to a very large mixing bowl and whisk together.
  • Add all of the wet ingredients to a separate medium mixing bowl and whisk together. Then, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk together for 1-2 minutes to create your cake batter.
  • Evenly divide the batter between the three baking pans and cook for 28-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Once the cake has completely cooled, assemble the cake by adding the chocolate buttercream frosting between each layer and frosting the outside.

Lisa's Tips

  • My baking time of 28-30 minutes is based on a standard oven. I'd recommend checking the cakes earlier, at 23-24 minutes if your oven tends to cook fast or if you're using a convection oven.
  • You can also use two 9-inch cake pans for a two-layer cake (the layers will be thicker). Bake them for approximately 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Remember to make sure your cake is 100% cool before frosting. Even the slightest amount of internal heat in the layers will cause the frosting to melt.
  • This is the brand of espresso powder that I use.
  • For substitutions and storing, make sure to read the tips in the post above.

Nutrition

Calories: 749.9kcal, Carbohydrates: 103g, Protein: 8.8g, Fat: 36.9g, Saturated Fat: 16.5g, Cholesterol: 46.5mg, Sodium: 335.2mg, Fiber: 5.2g, Sugar: 83.9g
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Gluten Free Chocolate Cake, Paleo Cake, Paleo Chocolate Cake
©Downshiftology. Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Leave a comment below and share a photo on Instagram. Tag @downshiftology and hashtag it #downshiftology.

Recipe originally posted August 2017, but updated to include new information and tips. 

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1,468 comments on “Amazing Paleo Chocolate Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)”

  1. I want to make a cake for my son in law who is gluten and dairy free. I think your recipe sounds like it will be special for him as well as the rest of our family who doesn’t have the same dietary restrictions. However, many of the ingredients are not in my pantry.   And I may not use again as my daughter and son in law do not live near me. Could you estimate the cost to purchase the ingredients for this cake? Thanks, Karen 

  2. Have you made this with out expresso? Could I possibly leave it out or substitute it for something else? I honestly would prefer not to spend $6 on something that I wouldn’t use again. Thanks for your help, the recipe looks amazing.

  3. is there a sub for almond flour?

  4. I do not have tapioca flour is arrowroot an ok replacement in this recipe?

  5. Made this chocolate cake many times…it’s always a hit!

    I want to make a vanilla cake, can I just omit the cacao powder or do I need to add something in its place?5 stars

    • Hi Mario – unfortunately there’s much more to it than removing the cacao powder to make the into a vanilla cake. But I hope to create a vanilla version soon!

  6. I’m interested in making this but I live at elevation. I wonder if you need to adjust for baking paleo, and if so, HOW? 

  7. Hi is this 749 calories per slice?? If the cake was cut to 16 slices?

  8. What an awesome recipe! I made a 24 count tray of mini cupcakes (baked 350 for approximately 1( min) in addition to 6 round layers from a 4 inch pan (baked approximately 40 min because they are thick). I’m making a two layer smash cake for my daughter and freezing the rest. I still have to make frosting but feel so relieved the cake is done! 5 stars

  9. I made the amazing chocolate cake but my cakes didn’t rise as much as I would have thought they should. I followed the instructions but I am wondering even though I used large eggs they didn’t appear as large as the eggs in your video. Could that have made my cake denser? 

    • Hi Carol – I doubt the eggs made much of a difference. It’s probably more likely just a difference in your oven, as all oven bake slightly differently. But this is a more dense cake than traditional cakes.

  10. Hello! If I wanted to make this in 4 inch pans what would cook temp and cook time be? I am making it for my daughters first birthday as a “smash” cake. Open to any suggestions because I am not a baker! 

  11. Absolute Best cake ever ! Parabéns !5 stars

  12. Hi, I want to make this for my sons birthday (4YO) , do you think the espresso will make any difference to kids? It’s a small amount or can I just leave it out? Thoughts? 
    Thank you 

  13. Hi! :) Can I swap coconut sugar to usual brown sugar?

  14. Can I make this as one big cake?

  15. HELP!

    I have made this cake in the past, (so good!!) But this time I have made it too watery. It taste the same as usual but the consistency is too liquid. Is there any thing I can do to fix it??

  16. I am not a professional baker, but this cake makes me look like one when I share it with friends! It is soo tasty! The best chocolate cake I have ever had hands down, and that’s a compliment from multiple people who have had it. The cake is incredibly moist, follow recipe exactly for best results! I struggled with the icing at first…it would come out super gummy and thick.  I had to add an extra stick of butter, I think it was my vegan butter I was using. I like a buttery taste to the frosting so I also used less powdered sugar. 5 stars

    • Glad you and everyone else enjoyed this chocolate cake recipe Christa! As for the frosting, it may be due to the vegan butter + less sugar.

  17. Hi! I’m trying to lessen the sugar content for my dad who’s diabetic. Usually, Paleo recipes are pretty low on the sugar content, but this one doesn’t seem to be the case. If I just use one cake round, light on the icing (I even cut the icing recipe in half and am going light), and make the slices just a little less than an inch thick, would that dramatically lessen the overall sugar? Otherwise, everything looks great and I know he’s going to love it! I just am so glad I saw the nutritional info before I made the triple tier!5 stars

    • Hi Ashley – if you just did one layer instead of three and went a bit lighter on frosting, the sugar content might be 75% less than what you see in the nutrition info… as just a guess.

  18. Just made this cake (a friend made it last year and I fell in love!!). I made the recipe to a T but used 2x 8″ baking pans and cooked on convection. Checked it at 25m and kept it in the oven until about 32m. I noticed when taking it out the outer edge is cracked and the middle has sunken. Can you recommend what I should do different? Thanks!!5 stars

    • Hi Justine – if you only used 2 pans versus 3, your batter likely was thicker. Sometimes that requires a slightly lower cook temp but for longer time to cook more evenly. Give that a try next time.

  19. Are the calories for 100g or for the entire cake ??

  20. This was so good! I made it vegan by using egg-replacer. It worked really well! Nobody could tell it was gluten free and vegan! Thank you!5 stars

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