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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.
4.95 from 237 votes

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

Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Servings: 16 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
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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1,303 comments on “Amazing Paleo Chocolate Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)”

  1. I am having trouble finding Tapioca flour, could I use rice flour instead

  2. It’s beautiful. Actually it tastes like a full fat cake omg thank you

  3. I use the metric system and I was wondering if the translation from US to metric is correct? Just to make sure before baking my kids 4th birthday party cake 😉 thank you!

  4. Just wanted to say thanks for this recipe! My husband says it’s his favorite cake ever- not just paleo. And I agree! You’d really never know it’s paleo, the flavor and texture are spectacular- GREAT job! We’re eagerly anticipating a vanilla version. 👏🏻 👏🏻 👏🏻 

  5. I love this recipe.I’ve made it 3 times now.I switched it up a bit last time to make it into strawberry flavor.I didn’t add cocoa or espresso.I subbed the water for pureed strawberries.I used the buttercream recipe without the cocoa.( I added sliced strawberries between each layer)It was still delicious!

  6. Great recipe, can I substitute the coconut oil for butter? Thanks

  7. I love this cake!! Have baked it several times already.The favorite at my place! Judt, one queztipn…can I use vanilla extract instead of chocolate? Would that work? Need a vanilla cake for my daughters birtday.

    • So glad you’ve enjoyed this cake so much! As for a vanilla cake, the proportions might be a bit different. But I hope to create that recipe soon :)

  8. Hi there!

    Is it possible to substitute the coconut sugar with swerve granulated sugar? I have a friend who can’t have sugar or dairy and I’m trying to find a birthday cake recipe for her.

    Thank you!

  9. I was wondering on the nutritional information is that based off one piece of cake? And how many slices is a serving? 

  10. Okay, this is not just the best Paleo cake recipe, it’s the best cake recipe I have ever made…ever! This is a spectacularly moist and flavorful cake. Follow the recipe closely and you will earn your tiara! Yummmmmm!

  11. Can you taste the coconut in this cake?

  12. If you’ve come to the comment section because you’re a skeptic like me and thought: no way can this taste like the real deal — it does. I did a test batch (1/4 of the recipe as cupcakes) last night before baking a birthday cake for a friend who can’t do gluten or dairy and I am PUMPED! Simple, delicious and the texture is on point. No weird aftertaste or feeling in your mouth, no compromise on the rich cocoa taste you’re looking for in a chocolate cake, fluffy yet moist — 10/10 recommend!

    Oh, and btw, the metric measurements check out too. ;)

  13. SO GOOD! I made this cake for my husband’s birthday. The family LOVED it! We loved how dense it was-almost brownie-like. SO good and will be making again this weekend for my daughter’s graduation party!

  14. I made this cake as cupcakes for my daughter that is dairy intolerant. It was absolutely delicious! I baked the cupcakes at 350 for 20 minutes and then filled them with raspberry filling and topped with vegan chocolate buttercream frosting! I will make this recipe again! Delicious!! Thank you for sharing!! 

  15. Hello 👋 Can I use agave atrio as a Sweetener for this version of cake? 

    • Hi Silvia- For this recipe you’ll need some sort of ground sugar, otherwise it will create an imbalance between the wet and dry ingredients.

  16. Hands down this is THE BEST chocolate cake I have ever tasted! My whole family, relatives, and coworkers have tried and they all love it! It has become a tradition and a staple in our home. I follow this recipe to the T, and always have wonderful results. The only thing I usually change is the frosting, because I usually don’t have the necessary ingredients at had, so I make my own version. Thanks for sharing such a delicious recipe with us ❤️

  17. This cake is just beautiful! Actually one if the best cakes i have ever made from scratch (i.e. not from a packet mix 😆) I made it for my daughter’s birthday then again just because then the next time into muffins. Delicious each time. Oh, I halved the recipe each time too 😊 and used avocado mousse instead of the chocolate frosting. Was great and cant wait to make it again.

  18. Amazing! Thank you. Moist, chocolate +++ & keeps well.

  19. If I don’t want to spend the big bucks on raw cacao would cocoa powder work as well?

  20. Is almond flour the same as almond meal? 
    Looking to make it for a birthday! 

  21. Hi Lisa,

    I just discovered your websie recently and i’ve already done a lot of your delicious recipes and advices which are always very clever and interesting to know or practice (meal prep).
    I wonder if you’ll have a trick to substitute apple sauce in the zucchini bread, as in some ocasions it could be too sweety for a french palate … A I used to live in Boston for a while I really appreciate american style way of cooking, but in some cases, could be interesting to switch with …. ? what do you think ? Thank you for answering and for the whole jo you do, I’m very grateful :) XXX

    • Hi Kristin – I’m happy you love all my recipes! The apple sauce (or sometimes mashed banana) gives quickbreads moisture, but choosing the right variety of apples for applesauce can make a world of difference. Granny Smith apples have the lowest sugar content, while Honeycrisp and Fuji apples have some of the highest. So I’d give it a try with Granny Smith apples and see what you think. If you’re using store-bought applesauce, just make sure to buy unsweetened. Otherwise, you could always up the liquid ratios in the recipe (more milk, water, etc) to try and balance the removal of the applesauce.

  22. Hello, looks delicious .. would it be possible to use Lakanto Monkfruit for the sugars?  Thank you

  23. Hi Lisa,
    I’m a huge fan of your recipes and have been for years! My husband and I are going off gluten and dairy for a while and your website has been a wonderful resource since I know your recipes are always a delicious!

    I’m wondering if the cake can be halved or if you would suggest changing any of the ratios?  

    Thanks for all the hard work you put in to making your food delicious and healthy. 

    • Hi Ann- So glad my recipes have been able to help to create gluten & dairy free recipes :) You can just halve the ingredients for one layer of the cake and frosting. Or, I also have my paleo chocolate cupcake recipe if you want bite sized versions of this cake!

  24. THANK YOU!!!! I followed thr recipe to the T and it’s by far the bestest cake we’ve made at home! My son has autism and is on a GFCF diet AND has sweet tooth.. so you can imagine what a dilemma we are in to keep him and his tummy happy. We thoroughly enjoyed the cake and I must add that it tastes absolutely divine even without the frosting. The sugar in the frosting scared me a little so didn’t venture there. Yes, the sugar in the cake definitely makes it lighter than the maples and the dates we’ve very been using so far. 2 questions for you:
    Can coconut sugar be replaced or say can we go 50/50 coconut sugar and jaggery?
    Can tapioca be replaced by buckwheat? Or any other cleaner flour?
    In the meanwhile, all the way from Mumbai, thanks so much for this! The whole family enjoyed it! Am gonna check out your other recipes too.. 

    • Wow, I’m so thrilled to hear you loved this paleo chocolate cake! As for the coconut sugar, I haven’t tried using jaggery but I think it could work. And as for the buckwheat flour, this wouldn’t be a good substitution for tapioca flour. But, you might be able to try using arrowroot flour.

  25. I made this and it didn’t turn out fluffy, it was a little on the outside but on the inside it looked like cheesecake texture. What did I do wrong.?

  26. Hi is there any other flour I can use to replace tapioca flour?

  27. Hi Lisa, are the nutrition facts per slice of cake if so how many slices per cake? I just think 83grams of sugar is a lot for just 1 serving… Would leaving out the buttercream completely reduce the sugar by a lot and also would the cake still be good say just smearing a bit of coconut butter instead? Thank you so much ! 

    • Hi Carolina- Yes, the nutritional facts will always be per serving. The combination of the cake and frosting is what makes up the sugar content. Also, keep in mind that there are two layers of cake in this!

  28. My
     daughter is allergic to coconut, what can I use to substituted the coconut flour with?

  29. Can I make this one day before I plan to serve it or is it best to make it the day I plan to serve it. My daughter can’t have vanilla extract so, what are your thoughts about using mint extract for the frosting? Thank you!
    This recipe looks incredible! I looked at a few different recipes.

  30. I LOVE this cake! And the cupcakes! 
    I am dairy free and gluten free and it’s wonderful to be able to have something like this! I did regular powdered sugar for the frosting though so not paleo. 
    Do you by chance have a vanilla version of this???

  31. Looks amazing, what can I use instead of almond flour?
    I’m allergic to nuts & almonds.
    Thank you

    • Unfortunately, the almond flour is needed in this recipe and there’s not a good substitute. I’d recommend checking out my nut-free flourless chocolate cake instead. :)

  32. I made this for my son’s birthday and it was AMAZING! My husband, who’s not big on gluten-free stuff had no clue that’s it’s made with almond flour! Such a good recipe! I’ll be making it again. 

  33. Hi Lisa! 
    Just wanted to tell you how amazing is this chocolate cake, it has become our absolute favorite for every birthday party.
    Would you please tell me if it’s possible to freeze the whole cake once it’s made? (with the buttercream and everything)
    Thanks a lot!

  34. Being GF for the last 2 years, it’s really difficult to find good baked good recipes but this is the BEST chocolate cake I’ve ever had hands down! It’s amazing! My family now prefers this chocolate cake recipe over all others GF or not. I use raspberry jam between layers and whipped marshmallow cream frosting (not paleo) on the outside and drizzle it with melted 100% dark baking chocolate for a bitter bite to the sweetness of all the other ingredients.

    Keep up the good work Lisa. It’s so nice to find these GF recipes that are so tasty. I would love a recipe for scones/muffins.

    -Rich

    • Hi Rich- So glad to hear this recipe was a success! And love the idea of using raspberry jam and whipped frosting in between. Sounds delicious!

  35. Hello! I’m not able to eat coconut, and was looking at substituting succanat for the Coconut sugar, vegetable (palm) shortening for the coconut oil and cassava flour for the coconut flour. Do you think this would be okay? I know it would not be paleo – due to the sugar – but also possibly could use brown Swerve? Thank you!

    • I think all of those would work, though I’m not 100% sure of the cassava flour. But given that it’s not the bulk of the flour, I say give it a try!

      • Thank you so much! It worked out fantastic. My husband, who is one of those ultimate foodie types, LOVES it. He said it is probably the best chocolate cake he’s ever had and can’t believe it’s gluten free. He’s not the one with the dietary restrictions, I am, so it was great to make something we both enjoyed.
        I ended up using the coconut palm sugar as you recommend. However I replaced coconut flour with cassava flour. I replaced coconut oil with vegetable shortening and I replaced the coconut milk with a thick nut-blend milk made by Silk (Unsweetened Vanilla Pea, Almond, Cashew Milk). It turned out moist and fluffy – as you said, just like a “normal” chocolate cake.
        Again, thank you!

      • Hi Kylea- Wow, that’s amazing! I’m so glad you both enjoyed this cake – and good to know about the cassava flour :)

  36. Skip the eggs and substitute ground flax seed instead.