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 298 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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1,571 comments on “Amazing Paleo Chocolate Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)”

  1. My husband bakes this for me every year on my birthday. I usually have to help but it’s worth it. This is just like the real deal. 5 stars

  2. Hi, I am planning to try your amazing paleo chocolate cake recipe but wish check if you used tapoica flour or tapoica starch in this recipe .  They different as tapoica flour is ground from the cassava root and not the same as tapoica starch.  However, many people refer to tapoica starch as tapoica flour so I am unsure which it the correct flour used for the recipe . Thanks in advance for your feedback! 

  3. Seriously the best gluten free chocolate cake recipe I have tried and I have tried a ton. It was a hit at my niece’s birthday party, non gluten free people even asked for the recipe! 5 stars

    • Thrilled to hear this cake was a hit at your niece’s party Shannon!

      • Thank you for your reply! Can’t wait to try this recipe ! I think I have just enough tapioca flour in my pantry  to bake this recipe ! So glad I clarified  with you because I think it might be a gummy disaster if I used the tapioca starch.  Have a great weekend ! 

  4. this was the most amazing gluten free cake I have ever made. Its everything u said if would be. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. This cake is amazing. And I bake desserts a lot. This is exceptional. Everyone who had a slice thought so too!5 stars

  6. Ok Wow, just wow. I just made this.  I’m trying a grain free diet for inflammation.  I went grain free for 2 weeks and the swelling in my knees disappeared.  I went off the diet and the swelling came back so I’m testing the diet again to be sure my results were in fact from a grain free diet. I’m also doing dairy free.
    I followed recipe with these substitutions.  I used 1/2 Natural Cocoa & half Dutch Process;  200 grams White sugar & 120  grams coconut sugar. I used blanched almond flour because I wasn’t sure which kind to use but I had regular almond flour on hand.  I made two 8” cakes & 12 cupcakes.  This cake is divine.  It is moist, light and very flavorful.  My husband is gluten free due to celiac disease and he said it tasted like a wheat flour cake, which he hasn’t had in 10 years.   This is a keeper for me and I’ll be making it often.  Thank you for doing all the testing for us bakers on this recipe.  You are talented.  5 stars

    • Excited to hear both you and your husband enjoyed this chocolate cake! Also, it seems like you might need to stick to a grain free diet if the inflammation keeps arising.

  7. I love this recipe! Is there a way to convert it to a white cake?5 stars

  8. Any tips to making these as cupcakes?
    I love your recipes!

  9. I made this cake for my friend’s birthday where her family were on different diets and this was a cake that would work. What I didn’t expect was how amazingly moist and delicious it was!!! Many people said it was the best chocolate cake they’d ever had, including her father who hates health food!!! This is my first recipe of yours that I’ve tried and now I’m a raving fan of yours!!! Thank you SO much!!!5 stars

  10. Quick question: Is the nutrition info. for the entire cake? For example, 749.9 calories per serving or 749.9 calories for the entire cake? And is this separate, too, from the frosting, I assume?

  11. I made this for a birthday to accommodate various needs. It was delicious! Everyone loved it! I didn’t have the espresso powder however it was great without it. Even those that don’t like sweets loved it!
    I will definitely pass along the recipe and make it again!
    Thank you!5 stars

  12. Am I able to substitute almond milk for the coconut milk? I just don’t want it to have a strong coconut flavor (does it taste like coconut?) thanks!

  13. I am truly blown away that this cake actually is as good as the author says, may be better. I was very doubtful while preparing it for my “allergic to almost everything” daughter’s birthday. The batter seemed gritty but it baked up perfect. It makes a lot of dense but rich cake and the icing, which I used vegan butter for was fabulous.5 stars

  14. Can i use decaf instant coffee instead of espresso powder? I can’t have too much caffeine but I want the cake to be chocolatey enough. Also I have dark chocolate cocoa powder so I was planning on using that, if that will work. Thank you!

  15. Can I substitute regular sugar for coconut sugar? Thanks!

  16. I know you said you haven’t tried making this nut-free, but is there any reason you think sunflower seed flour wouldn’t work in place of the almond flour? I’ve used it in other recipes with success, though I can’t tell if it changes the flavor since I can’t have the nut version.  I’m also considering tiger nut flour (not a nut),  have you used that at all or have an opinion? Thank you!

  17. I have to say This was my first “cheat”
    After my whole 30 (actually a whole 128 but who is counting) it was amazing!!!!! Image made it at least 10 times and the last few the cake has been. Super dense and just not the same. Does anyone have any thoughts?5 stars

  18. Can I replace almond flour with something nut free?

    • Unfortunately I haven’t tested this yet without almond flour yet. But I hope to test more nut-free versions in the future :)

  19. This really is the best gf chocolate cake!  I made it for my daughter’s birthday yesterday.  Since there was only going to be three of us, I cut the recipe in half and baked it in two 6” spring form pans.   I used 1/2 coconut sugar and 1/2 brown Swerve, 3/4 coconut cream and 1/4 almond milk, dutch processed cocoa, and Trader Joe’s instant coffee instead of espresso powder. I really don’t care for the taste of coffee so I was very reluctant to add it.  You were right though, I could not taste the coffee, only a deepened chocolate flavor.  I used whipped ganache as the frosting.  Thank you so much!5 stars

  20. Recipe and reviews look awesome! Am I able to sub brown sugar for the coconut sugar? TIA.

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