Old Fashioned Chocolate Birthday Cake – Gluten and Dairy Free

IMG_20160711_181722547I have a deep love of old fashioned birthday cakes. By old fashioned, I mean cakes that invoke memories of boxed mixes and the old Dominoes’ butter cream frosting recipe that had salt in it. I used to make chocolate infused versions full of dairy and wheat. Now I can’t eat gluten, and some of my kids can’t eat dairy. For years, I didn’t have a birthday cake. Now I do. The omnivores in the family say it’s awfully close to the “real thing”. After all these years, I don’t remember what the “real thing” tasted like, but my kids are painfully honest about food, so I believe them.

This recipe uses the gluten-free flour described here. My husband, who created this recipe, measures by weight, not volume. He uses 280 grams, which is about 2 cups plus 1/4 cup . This recipe makes two a standard 9-inch round two-layer cake or 24 cupcakes. The recipe for the icing is at the bottom.



  • 1 and 2/3 cups of sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups of flour (280 grams)
  • 2/3 cups of cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons of xanthan gum
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2/3 cup of dairy-free margarine
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 and 1/3 cup of water

Set the margarine on a counter until it reaches room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prep your cake pans or cupcake pans as you prefer. (We use parchment paper for the cake pans and liners for the cupcake pans.)

Whisk the dry ingredients (sugar, flour, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking soda, salt) in a bowl until they are evenly mixed.

Mix the wet ingredients EXCEPT the water (margarine, eggs, vanilla) in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer for three minutes. You can’t really cream it (as you can with butter), but get it thoroughly mixed. If you don’t have a mixer, use a fork and really go at it for a couple of minutes.

Add the dry ingredients alternating with the water into the wet ingredients a bit at a time. Use the mixer on low or use a large spoon. Once they are all combined, you will end up with a lovely cake batter.

For 2-layer cake:

  • The batter doesn’t flow as easily as regular batter, so once it is in the pan, you might need to shake it to get it to lay down.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Sometimes this recipe will take more than 35 minutes. Test the cakes with a toothpick until it comes out clean.
  • Let the cakes cool in the pan before you remove them.

For 24 cupcakes:

  • Use a large spoon and measure out equal dollops.
  • Bake for 23 to 25 minutes. Test with a toothpick until it comes out clean.



  • 1/4 pound dairy-free margarine
  • 4 cups of confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • up to 1/4 cup of water

Set the margarine out on the counter to let it soften. Heat or microwave the unsweetened chocolate until just melted. Use a beater to mix the margarine, confectioners sugar, salt, and vanilla extract in a large bowl. Add the melted chocolate, then add the sugar a little bit at a time. Beat the mixture till smooth.  If you need a smoother consistency, add water until it is reached. Spread on the cake or cupcakes immediately.


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