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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 254 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
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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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1,388 comments on “Amazing Paleo Chocolate Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)”

  1. If you fed me this cake and told me it was gluten free I would tell you you’re lying!!! Any GFDF cake I’ve had from gourmet bakeries to grocery store cakes to box mixes they were all dry and taste like sugary cardboard. This was an exceptional recipe. I made sure to check my cake early and I think that helped a lot to make sure it wasn’t dry. Thanks for that tip!! I checked at 20 min and left it in the overn for 3 more minutes with oven off. I also made sure to not overmix as that can make any cake tough as well. My only problem with the recipe is the not the cake but the frosting. I added half the sugar and it was still too sweet for me and my family who have varying sweet tooths. With that said the cake was excellent and will be making this again ans will experiment with different oils and nut milks to see how it varies the flavor as I did this cake recipe to the T. Yummy!!!! Thank you for helping me to believe in GFDF being actually good!! 

  2. Can you make this cake with Bob’s Gluten Free Flour instead of the flours in the recipe?

    • Hi Loree- You can replace the tapioca flour with a gluten-free flour blend. But other than that, you will need the other 2 flours to make this recipe.

  3. Hello! I would like to know if I can substitute coconut oil for avocado oil

    Thank you!

  4. Hi! I made this cake for my birthday last year and was blown away by how good it was! I’m hoping to make it again for my son’s birthday but I’d like to make it as a mini version this time with 6” pans. How would you recommend converting the recipe for that (how long should I bake it, at what temp, and how full should my pans be?) Thanks so much for helping me figure this out!

  5. Hi! I wanted to make this in two 9 x 13 inch rectangular pans, by how much would I have to increase the recipe? Thanks!

  6. Hi Lisa,
    Can you substitute the coconut sugar for Lakanto granulated monk fruit/erythritol blend?

  7. I have made this cake twice and it is so delicious! Thank you! I was wondering if i can omit the cacao powder and make it a vanilla cake? I’m wondering if the lack of powder will affect the consistency.

  8. Does this turn out the same if you use full fat dairy milk instead of coconut milk? When using coconut milk, do you use the kind that comes in a can, where you have to scrape the solids out of the can, or do you use the kind that comes in a carton that you can easily pour out? 

    • It’s best to use the canned coconut milk for extra creaminess. Yes, it’s the ones where you have to scrape out the solids!

  9. I am excited to give this recipe a try for New Years day. I need a tasty cake recipe to show my daughter our world of eating enjoyable food isn’t over with our new GF/dairy restrictions. I am hoping you can send me the link for the how-to video. It does t seem to be popping up for ne to view. Thank you.

    • Hi Melissa – I apologize for the delayed response! But, you can see the video on my Youtube channel as well. Hope you were able to enjoy this cake!

  10. unfreakingbelievably amazing cake, better then regular cake, so rich you only need a small piece

  11. Amazing! So moist and rich, will definitely be my go-to paleo chocolate cake. I would love to do cake pops out of this too. So easy to make. I didn’t have 3 cake tins, just two so I split the batter between them and it worked just fine.

  12. Delicious! All my guests raved about this cake, and even those who are used to full butter and cream said they couldn’t tell this was gluten and dairy free!  It was easier to make than I thought it would be—thanks.

  13. May I ask if this cake can be served without any frosting?

  14. Hi Lisa! May I know if I could replace 1 cup of tapioca flour with 1 cup of arrowroot flour? Will it yield the same results?

  15. Hi Lisa,
    I would really like to try this cake. I’m already a fan of your banana bread.
    But, I don’t have a cake pan. Do you have a recipe for this cake for a loaf pan? Or would you know how much to divide by? I guess by 2?
    Thank you!

  16. Looks like a great recipe, i can’t wait to try it. Does it really require 1 and 1/2 cups of cocoa?

  17. 1 and 1/2 cups of cocoa… that seems like a lot of cocoa.

  18. I am allergic to coconut. while I can sub ghee for coconut oil and rich nut milk for the coconut milk, I will have to try to sub for the coconut flour, even though you noted that it was necessary for the structure of the cake. Would using more almond flour or more tapioca flour be the better option. Since coconut flour is more absorbent would i need to add ore of either of these flours or perhaps reduce the amount of milk.

  19. Hi there! I’m excited to try this recipe. I was wondering if I can sub the cacao powder for unsweetened cocoa powder? 
    Thank you! 

  20. Best gluten free paleo cake ever. Look no further. Super delicious. Thank you so much 

  21. Why can’t this cake recipe be mae as cupcakes?

  22. Hi Lisa, can I use erythritol instead of coconut sugar and if so, how much?

  23. Hi
    I’m allergic to coffee. Can you suggest a replacement? Thanks.

  24. The Amazing Chocolate Paleo Cake was just that, absolutely amazing! Thank you for making gluten free baking more affordable and enjoyable! It really is no fun trying something that turns out to be a disaster! 
    I also tried the recommended chocolate buttercream , but in a much smaller quantity! 
    That was awesome too! 

  25. Hands down one of the easiest and most delicious chocolate cakes I have made, and the great thing is that it’s healthier than the traditional chocolate cake. Even my 9 yo requested this for her birthday cake this year! Thanks Lisa! 

  26. I made this cake for my birthday and it was AMAZING! My friends always poke fun at me for trying to “healthify” my desserts, but none of them realized that until after they ate it and raved about it! One of them even told me it’s better than Costco’s chocolate cake. It’s perfectly moist and rich and not difficult to make at all. 

  27. Do you have a vanilla cake recipe?! I tried making it w/o the cocoa powder, & it didn’t seem to work as well. It’s a perfect chocolate cake, I prefer vanilla/white, my Mom likes chocolate!

  28. Could I use powdered monk fruit for the frosting?