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 350 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




1,776 Comments

  1. Can’t miss to mention – this has been our family’s favorite ever. I make this for my son’s birthday. This time, I wonder how to modify for vanilla instead of chocolate.

  2. I have tried this before. Came out beautiful then. However, do you have a recipe for vanilla birthday cake?

    1. I don’t yet! But I definitely would like to keep testing to make sure I get one on the website eventually :)

  3. This is the best gluten-free chocolate cake recipe on the internet! My family has been making it for years. My mom is completely gluten and dairy free and she requests this cake for her birthday every year! Super easy to make too.5 stars

  4. This is a fantastic recipe, I made it for my partners birthday and we were both amazed at how moist and delicious it was. Will definitely be making more in the future.5 stars

  5. I made this cake for my daughter who is gluten, dairy & soy intolerant. I used the vegan, dairy free paleo caramel for the filling between the layers, topped it with the vegan chocolate Buttercream frosting. Not only did my daughter love it, but my husband and 2 boys (who insist that desserts must have gluten, dairy and granulated sugar) all loved it. It had been a family favorite ever since. My husband tells anyone who will listen that it is the best cake he’s ever had.5 stars

  6. Best gluten-free dairy free cake EVER! 
    I need to make one that is also
    Vegan for a friend. What would be my best options to use in place of 4 eggs? 5 stars

  7. For the coconut milk- so you use the coconut milk from a can? Or carton? Do you stir the cream into the milk? And could you sub brown sugar for coconut sugar?  Thank you! 

    1. Hi Paula – I used canned coconut milk, but either can work. And any granulated sugar should work as well. Enjoy!

  8. I’ve made this cake many times and always used the metric because grams tend to be more accurate, especially important when baking gluten free! Then I read in another post that it’s just automatic converter so I’m thinking it pry is in this one too? I watched the video and realized your batter is runny, mine needs to be scooped into the pans.

    It’s still been yummy and delicious and my sugar eating relatives and friends have all loved it! I make the cake and the frosting with date sugar as coconut sugar triggers me too much. But I will check the coconut flour amount next time I make it, I’m thinking that one might be off in the metric, seemed like I put way more than 1/4 cup in there! Maybe there shouldn’t be metric units available if they’re not checked if they’re accurate, or add a note that it hasn’t been checked? 

    Just made it now again, for a Groom’s dinner tomorrow 😊 made 2 9” cakes and 12 muffins by adding 1/3 of the recipe (as for making a 4 layer 8” cake).

    The frosting too I make 1/2 or 1/3 of the recipe, it’s SO sweet even that amount makes it too sweet for me! Can’t imagine eating a cake with the full amount of frosting 😅 

    Thanks for this wonderful recipe! I’ll make sure my batter is runnier next time 😊

  9. I’ve commented on this recipe before, but it is so fantastic I wanted to comment and thank you again. I’ve made this for myself and friend’s birthdays so many times now. It’s beyond fabulous. I have a coconut allergy so I sub the coconut flour with casava flour, the coconut oil with organic palm shortening and the coconut milk with almond milk. Even though the almond milk isn’t as thick, it still comes out just perfect. Moist and fluffy.  Thank you!5 stars

  10. This Cake. This CAKE. Was the Cake that kept on giving. I guess I didn’t realize how MUCH this actually made. And it was just myself and a friend. So I had delicious, chocolaty goodness for days. I actually brought slices to my neighbors and they were over the moon. Another chocolate Cake day has begun. Thanks for the inspiration.5 stars

  11. Would it be possible to cut the recipe in half to make two 6 inch cakes? We LOVE this recipe, but my family of four has trouble finishing it in a timely manner. I thought maybe a smaller cake would do 😉

  12. Hi I want to make this as one cake that will serve 12-14 people. Would it work if just put all the ingredients in a 10 inch cake tin or bigger? Thanks

  13. Hi, i want to make this for my daughter’s birthday in a few days but Id like to reduce the sugar to one cup. We don’t like too sweet/sugary anything. Will this be ok/not mess it up? Also,
    Can monk fruit sugar or maple sugar be substituted for coconut sugar, or will it mess up the flavor?
    Do you have a buttercream frosting, vanilla cream recipe as well instead of the chocolate? I’d love to have the layers be of vanilla (and also use it for cupcake frosting)! I look forward to reading your response. Excited!5 stars

    1. I always use date sugar and sometimes part of it Lakanto monkfruit sweetener! It’s super yummy and everyone loves it. I’m sure maple sugar would be super good with the chocolate flavor but a friend did all monkfruit sweetener and it was not good. Tasted weird and people good dizzy from it 😅

      I’ve also used a bit less sugar especially if I use part xylitol as it’s sweeter than sugar. 

      I also can’t wait for a vanilla frosting!! 

  14. Good morning, I am going to be making your cake for a friend’s birthday and just wanted to check, have you made your cake substituting some liquid with some black coffee instead of powered coffee? Thanks for your reply in advance.

  15. Hi Lisa,

    This looks fantastic, but I have to ask, with CALORIES: 749.9kcal, FAT: 36.9g, SATURATED FAT: 16.5g, CHOLESTEROL: 46.5mg, SUGAR: 83.9g how can this possibly be healthy?? I know an occasional treat is ok, but one slice of this would be half of my calories for the day.

    1. Hi Belinda – By no means am I declaring this chocolate cake to be healthy, as this is a triple layered chocolate cake. If you want to experience the same type of flavor, but in a smaller version, you can make my paleo chocolate cupcakes which uses the same base and frosting :)

      1. Are those nutrition facts for one slice? How many servings do you get out of it? Just curious as that is a lot for one slice.

      2. The nutritional information is for one slice. Keep in mind this is a triple layered cake, which is why each slice is a bit higher in calories.

  16. Hi Lisa! If i were to scale it up to the 32 servings size, will i need to adjust the cooking time? Not sure if I’ll use two or three pans yet. I plan to make it for my daughter’s birthday party in two weeks :) Can’t wait to eat this! Many thanks!

  17. This is the absolute best gluten free chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten. The flavor, texture/crumb, and structure are simply wonderful. I use it for everything from cupcakes to wedding cakes. I’ve had many, many compliments on it from people who don’t need a gluten free diet and are shocked to learn it is gluten free, because it is so good. THANK you for posting this!5 stars

  18. OMG!  This is the best recipe for chocolate cake I have ever had!  My friends loved it and my one friend was so excited because her husband would be able to have some too!   Simple amazing!

  19. As a fellow blogger I have to say, I can appreciate the work that goes into recipe testing. And this cake is absolutely the best cake I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t choose a regular cake even if I could eat it. My whole non-paleo family agrees – it is the best! 
    This has become a tradition for us for the last 4 or 5 years. It’s the thing I look forward to for my birthday, every year! Thank you Lisa for this most incredible cake and indirectly making my birthday delightful. I’m so glad my husband discovered your recipe years ago! 5 stars

  20. Hi!  Question more than a comment.  Are the 103g of carbohydrates for the whole cake?  I’m trying to gauge how many carbs/slice as my son is diabetic and has requested for his birthday.  I’ve made it before and we loved it.  Thanks in advance!

  21. Can I omit the cacao for more of a vanilla cake? I’m concerned it’ll mess too much with the texture… 

    1. I’m still in the process of testing a vanilla cake as it’s not as simple as removing the cacao from the recipe!

  22. SORCERY. This cake is so tender and fluffy I CANNOT believe it’s gluten free !! Will definitely up the sugar a bit next time but as someone whose family was recently diagnosed with gluten intolerance and gastritis this recipe is making a birthday a much happier event!  5 stars

    1. Happy to hear you’re loving this chocolate cake Jacquie! It really is the chocolate savior for GF people like us haha :)

  23. If I don’t have 8″ pans, should I just use 2 of my 9″ pans? Or will that wreck the consistency somehow?

  24. This is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. I’ve made a ton of different grain-free cakes and desserts – this is the lightest, fluffiest and most delicious cake I’ve made and can’t wait to make again! Better than any wheat cake as well!5 stars

  25. This cake was soooo delicious! I find gluten free recipes are hit or miss and this one did not disappoint.5 stars

    1. Thrilled to hear this cake turned out perfectly Jess! Be sure to give my other baked goods a try as well :)

  26. Hi, I made this in December for my daughter’s birthday and was a hit! I/m again for my son’s birthday this weekend and was wondering if I can instead use normal full cream milk instead? Thanks

    1. You can also use a thick creamer in replacement – it just needs to have a similar consistency for maximum moisture :)

  27. This looks so good. Question: do you use coconut milk from the fridge aisle boxed like a typical milk carton, or from a can?

  28. Oh my goodness!!! I’ve tried several gluten free dairy free chocolate cake recipes and this is hands down my favorite!! This cake is just as moist and delicious as described!! 5 stars

  29. I made this for a friends birthday and it was AMAZING. Ive been asked for the recipe multiple times. Do you have a recipe for a vanilla layer cake as well? I love the flour blend you used here but not sure proportionally how to make a vanilla version given the quantity of cocoa powder in this recipe. Would love suggestions!5 stars

  30. This was so delicious!! Thank you so much for this recipe.  I ran out of vanilla extract so I added 1 tsp of almond extract and it didn’t affect the taste.  Also I can’t have coffee so I found a coffee alternative called Cafix, it’s an instant coffee alternative so I used that. Omg so good!! I would give it more stars if I could!!5 stars

  31. Hi there,

    I have made this cake and it is just amazing! I plan on making this again for a cookout but, I want to make it a day ahead. If I make this the night before, can I leave it out or do I need to put this in the fridge? Just so we still taste the cake! 😊5 stars

    1. You can store the entire frosted cake at room temperature for 4 to 5 days. Just make sure it’s covered to protect it from any dust or other things happening in the kitchen!

  32. Hi Lisa,

    This is an amazing recipe & have baked in the past. I plan to bake again today. But can you please let me know how to scale the recipe for 3 6inch pans instead of 8inch pans?

    Thank you 🙏 

  33. Hi there! I just made your recipe for the first time in two 9 inch rounds. I baked them for 40 minutes and every time I insert a toothpick it comes out with a little chocolate on it…. It’s kinda sticky but not super tacky if that makes since.  I’m really hoping their done but I just don’t know. I guess I’ll find out after it’s assembled and we cut into it tomorrow.

  34. I’ve made this recipe twice now but have adapted it to be vegan by replacing the eggs with four tablespoons of tahini and a large mashed banana. I also replaced the coconut flour, tapioca flour and coconut sugar (which I didn’t have) with 1/4 cup desiccated coconut processed with 2 cups of dried dates. I just make it as one larger cake so it takes much longer to cook so I have the oven on a lower temperature and just check it occasionally. It sinks a little and is VERY moist. I ice it with a variation on the icing recipe and decorate it with berries. The icing recipe I use is 3/4 cup cocoa, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence. I enjoy adapting recipes based on what’s in the cupboard and the results are usually edible! Thank you for the inspiration.5 stars