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

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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 366 votes
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings: 16 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan

Description

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!

Video

Ingredients 
 

cake dry ingredients

cake wet ingredients

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
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

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

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating




1,801 Comments

  1. This cake is so amazing that I had to comment. I’ve used the recipe to make the cake for a birthday as well as cupcakes. It was such a hit for the cake my fiancé wanted cupcakes. I did make some substitutions such as instead of tapioca flour I used cornstarch at half the amount. I also used a little over a cup of honey instead of coconut sugar. Because I used honey I also minimized the temperature by 25 degrees. The cake was perfect and was 2 layers. The cupcakes were also amazing although they didn’t rise as much but we’re still amazing.
    Can not say enough of how delicious this is. Thank you !

    1. Thanks so much for leaving a review! I’m glad you were able to make this cake work with the substitutions you had.

  2. Wow! This cake was amazing! I had been craving chocolate cake for a month, but can’t have soy or dairy. I found this recipe and was so excited to try it for a birthday party. It was a hit! Got lots of compliments and asked for the recipe (some even thought it was a family heirloom recipe!)—all that from a crowd that didn’t have any dietary restrictions!
    If you’re looking for a chocolate cake recipe to knock your socks off, look no further! Make this recipe!
    (Pro tip: use any leftover cake scraps and frosting to make cake pops).5 stars

  3. Best. Cake. Ever. A few of my gluten-loving family said it was the best chocolate cake they’d ever had, BEFORE I revealed it was gluten-free and had no refined sugars. I even made it vegan a few times too. This is the holy grail if palette pleasers, only if you live chocolate. Brownie-esque in texture and richness. Freezes exceptionally well. Thank you a million times over for this recipe!!5 stars

  4. Lisa in your Amazing paleo chocolate cake recipe, do I melt the coconut oil first or use it solid?
    Thanks! Looking forward to making this!

  5. Made this today as we are a paleo family and where sick of the paleo cookies/muffins. My husband said, “I’m craving chocolate cake” so off I searched and here I am. I don’t like cake but oh my gosh this is good!!! Always nervous trying new recipes on paleo as sometimes it is a flop. This one however? Nope!! Everything from the cake to the frosting is very delicious. The frosting taste reminds me of a light, whipped pudding. The benefits of cocao powdet are great so thats always a plus. Eating something delishes with added health benefits. Also, my 3 and 4 year old kept asking for more so you know its good coming from the little humans! 11/10 recommend, thank you!!5 stars

  6. Hi I’m planning to make this soon and wondered if this has ever been tested without coconut sugar. I’m looking to use monk fruit sweetener instead, or honey/maple syrup.

    1. Hi Izzy – Unfortunately, the coconut sugar crystals help to provide all those mini air pockets that make this cake so delicious. Honey or maple syrup would create a much more dense cake.

      1. I actually used a little over a cup of honey and even though it was dense, it was actually amazing and tasted like a fudge brownie cake and everyone loved it. :)5 stars

  7. There is no reason to ever buy a box of cake mix again. I made this for my son’s 5th birthday in January (along with the cupcakes). 1000% will be making again. Rich, moist, and delicious- it checks all the boxes!5 stars

  8. I make this for all the birthdays in my house, unless someone requests a non chocolate cake. And yes, one cup of strong brewed coffee can easily substitute for the expresso powder and one cup of water. The resulting cake is rich, super moist, and disappears quickly. We love it!5 stars

  9. This cake was better than most gluten dairy chocolate cakes I have had. It was def more ingredients that usual but totally worth it!! My 7 year old loved it too!! Thanks for a delicious recipe!5 stars

  10. Hi! I have made this exactly as your recipe calls for BUT this time I have a nut allergy with the birthday guests, soooo I have cassava flour, tapioca, coconut flour, and brown rice options to choose from…what would you suggest instead of the almond flour? thanks in advance!

  11. Lisa, thank you so much for this incredibly delicious recipe! I replaced the coconut milk & vanilla essence with Nutpods Unsweetened French Vanilla Creamer & also the cup of water with a cup of freshly brewed espresso & just left out the espresso powder. It’s rich, moist yet fluffy & light. The Best Paleo Chocolate Cake recipe ever!5 stars

  12. Hi Lisa, I am making this recipe for the second time. The first time was several years ago and I remember the batter being of the regular wet consistency of cake batter. This time, the batter was so dry….it wouldn’t even come together. The only thing I can’t remember is if I used Coconut milk from the dairy aisle or canned coconut milk. I used canned this time. I’ve added 2 full cups a water and the batter is still a thick clump…ugh…suggestions. Thanks.

    1. Hi Kori – that sounds really strange. It sounds more like you used too much coconut flour (as it’s highly absorbent). The milk shouldn’t have made a difference. So I’d double check your flours. :)

      1. Yes…lol. I just went back and looked at my canisters. I grabbed the coconut flour as almond flour 🙄.

  13. This is by far the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had! You seriously cannot even tell that it is gluten free! SO good. Everyone in my family wants me to make it for their birthday. Definitely a new family favorite!5 stars

  14. Hi , I want to make this cake. Can I use regular buttermilk instead of the water ,coconut milk + apple cider vinegar?

      1. Hello
        Have you heard of a substitute for the palm oil? I don’t think I can get it in Australia. Thanks

  15. This has become a family favourite for birthdays as we’ve got dairy and gluten free family members.

    I have used cassava flour in place of tapioca and worked lovely! Also instead of eggs I have used “chia” egg with great success, ground and not ground (end up with little crunchy seeds throughout it but didn’t bother anyone).5 stars

  16. Hello – I’d like to try making this and wonder if you can suggest an alternative to the tapioca flour? (not potato based. ) And not cassava. I have a potato intolerance and those two are related and also on the list.
    Would arrowroot work, for example? Thank you.

    1. I haven’t tried this with arrowroot flour yet, but I think it could work! Definitely let us know how it turns out, Elizabeth.

  17. I made this recipe for a friend’s birthday who has a bunch of allergies (gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free) and it turned out UNBELIEVABLY! Everyone loved it. Highly recommend this recipe5 stars

  18. This recipe is unbelievably delicious! The cake does not taste gluten free at all and is so clean. Something that you actually feel good both while eating and after eating. The second time I adapted it to be vegan (for my spouse who has to watch cholesterol) and vanilla not chocolate (for my child who prefers vanilla). I just used 4 flax eggs (1 tbs flax, 3 tbs water per egg, let sit 10min) instead of regular eggs and omitted the chocolate powder and espresso. I was a little concerned the lack of powders would throw off the moisture balance and make the cake runny. It turned out great!!! Yes, the color is dark from the coconut sugar so it doesn’t look “vanilla/white” but it tastes perfect. I love this recipe so much, thank you for creating and sharing it Lisa!5 stars

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Jenny! I may have to try that variation on my own and see how it turns out!

  19. I absolutely love this chocolate cake! However because of kidney stones I have to avoid foods that are high in oxalates. Chocolate and almonds are among the offenders. I made this cake substituting the almond flour for pumpkin seed flour and it came out great. But I would like to make a vanilla version of this cake. Recommendations please?

    1. Good to know this cake turned out great with pumpkin seed flour, Karen! As for a vanilla version, I still need to do more testing as I haven’t been able to successfully make it yet. Stay tuned!

      1. Yes Please. I would love a vanilla version so that I could also morph into a lemon layer cake.😋

      2. Yes to a vanilla/yellow cake version of this! I have tried a zillion paleo cakes and this one puts them all to shame!!! Would love more flavor variations 😜

  20. What an amazing recipe! My friend made this cake (gluten and dairy free) for my wedding and everyone loved it!! She used an egg replacer from the brand Orgran. My husband who has a gluten and dairy allergy said it is the best cake he ever had!!

    I just baked it now myself for the first time, I swapped some ingredients so I just made a third of the amount as a try out (in case it would fail ;)). I used brown sugar instead of coconut sugar, all purpose gluten free flour instead of tapioca flour and instead of 1,3 egg (because I used a third of all amount) I used 1 tbs of flaxseed mixed with 3 tbs hot water, 0,5 tsp baking powder mixed with 0,5 tsp apple cider vinegar and 1 tbs of applesauce. I haven’t tasted the cake yet, it’s still cooling down, but it looks super fluffy and spongy! Thank you for this delicious recipe :)5 stars

  21. Thanks for sharing this! Wondered if you had tried Monkfruit instead of Coconut sugar? I see not to use other sweeteners, but don’t use coconut sugar and wanted to try Monkfruit. Thoughts?5 stars

  22. This cake was incredible! It was so moist and full of flavor! I served it at a baby shower, and no one knew it was paleo – the couldn’t believe it! The details in the blog along with the step by step video were both very helpful! The vegan buttercream frosting was to die for! Thank you for providing a healthier version of a classic cake!5 stars

  23. Absolutely delicious! Made exactly as listed for my daughter’s 22nd birthday yesterday and it turned out perfect! She and I both have Celiac & Hashi’s, and my son has Celiac, so your recipes are always my go-to! Thank you!5 stars

  24. I’ve made this recipe as is and it’s seriously so amazing! Now I was wondering if this could be made with a monkfruit sub for the coconut sugar? And powdered monkfruit for the frosting? I want to bake this for my diabetic father in law. Thank you!5 stars

    1. Hi Karla – happy you loved the recipe! I haven’t tried it with that sub, but I believe others have. Scroll through the comments to see if you can find those.

  25. Hi Lisa. I’m making this cake for my daughters 1st birthday party 🥳 I can’t wait, it sounds delicious.

    Just a couple of questions. I’m trying to work out when it’s best to bake. In your option should I make the night before and frost in the morning? I’m thinking it’ll be super fresh and cool enough to frost. If I’m cooling it overnight, should I leave it in the cake tins on the counter? Also my tins are 8 1/2 inches. Should I make two layers with this size?

    1. Hi Anna – yes, you can make this cake the night before and leave them in the tins. Once they’re fully cooled, just place a tea towel over them. And yes, you can make two layers if you’d like. Just note that you may need to increase cooking time a little bit. Hope you have a wonderful birthday party for your daughter!

  26. Seriously better than regular chocolate cake!! I have made this for my son’s birthday parties for the past 3 years and everyone continues to ask for it the next year!!5 stars

    1. You could try adding a bit more of other flours. Just keep in mind that coconut flour is highly absorbent. I’d recommend watching the video and trying to match that texture.

  27. This cake truly is amazing! I made it for my daughter’s birthday. Added a raspberry coulis filling between the layers and a traditional buttercream icing. It was amazing!5 stars

    1. A raspberry filling in between sounds amazing! Hope everyone enjoyed this cake at your daughter’s birthday.

  28. This cake is absolutely delicious! I decrease the sugar to about 2/3 the amount and used mostly coconut sugar but add some regular as well as I didn’t want the taste of the coconut to be overwhelming (not sure it would have). I would love to try even less sugar next time as I don’t like things too sweet. The cake was airy and moist. Didn’t taste gluten free at all and I love that it is almond flour based! Thanks for the great recipe.5 stars

    1. Glad you’re loving this chocolate cake, Maria! Let us know how it is the second time you make it with a little less sugar.

  29. Lisa, I am looking for a chocolate cake to make for my birthday. Can you tell me a substitute for the tapioca flour? I am allergic to tapioca, cassava and corn. Thank you

  30. Made this substituting with chia eggs to be dairy free. . I also used 1/2 avocado and 1/2 banana, and agave for frosting. Also added gf chocolate chips for extra sweetness.   Cake was very heavy and denser than brownies.  I would not suggest to use chia eggs.  Unless maybe adding extra levening ingredients; baking powder.   Flavor overall was good.  Serve at room temp or slightly cooled. 

  31. We absolutely love this recipe and will all the potlucks and BBQs coming up I’d like to try making cupcakes with this recipe. Do you have a suggestion as to how long to bake?5 stars

  32. I’m excited to make this cake! I recently bought your book and happy to see it has recommendations for best way to freeze/store. I’m hoping i can make this cake and freeze some for a later time. While i realize once frozen and thawed you cant expect it to be the same, but do you have any suggestions for freezing or do you recommend not trying to freeze at all?5 stars

    1. Yes, you can freeze this cake as is. But I suggest slicing it into pieces before freezing.

      1. Looking to make this cake for my sons birthday( his friend is gluten and dairy free and I’d like to accommodate him!) Could I substitute normal white sugar in place of the coconut? Would quantity still be the same?
        Thanks!