Chocolate Cake [Gluten-Free] and the Celebration Express

It is worse than “the holidays”, I tell ya. From mid April through the first of June, it is six straight weeks of parties, cakes, and special dinners, lined-up one behind the other around here. Only this year, it started in March and will turn out something like this—bridal shower, bridal shower, wedding, wedding, bridal shower, Easter, birthday (mine), birthday (hubby), Prom, birthday (daughter), Mother’s Day, wedding, graduation party, birthday (friend’s 50th), graduation party, Memorial Day weekend, birthday (Mom). Whew!

If life were a train ride, right now we are riding the Celebration Express.

This Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting [Gluten-Free] was for Kayla’s 21st birthday. I’m not exactly sure how that happened so fast … parenting is definitely the high-speed train, milestones pass by quickly. She is clever and witty, always making me laugh. She is bold, shy, adventurous, cautious, bright, and beautiful, always the artists, and true to herself. We are proud of her and the young woman she has become. She gave me permission to share a few photos: :)

Shaving her head was on her bucket list … she held off as long as she could, one bad perm is all it took to convince me. I should have known it would all be alright, she was beautiful without hair at 6 months, why not at 20?! What we didn’t know is that it would be the highlight of our July 4th barbecue. This was not the first time our kids used their own bodies as a canvas for their paint … she named this one “self portrait”.

Do you remember being 21 and wondering what might be just ahead?

Thanks for allowing me to indulge in a quick jaunt down memory lane. :’)

Now back to the cake!

Kayla has been on a gluten-free journey since last summer. I call it a journey because she hasn’t gone in for testing, but based on her symptoms, it is likely she is gluten intolerant and feels tons better when she avoids it. Even though she made no effort to go gluten-free for the rest of her birthday indulgences, I still made a GF cake so she could enjoy it over several days. All I had to do was find a good recipe, which is not as easy as you might think. Recipes can vary widely and I was trying to avoid exotic flour combinations. After comparing half a dozen “ultimate” “best” and “amazing” recipes, I decided to adapt one from King Arthur Flour. After the Limoncello Tiramisu I was a little nervous about trying a new recipe for a birthday dessert, but I’ve learned to have a back up plan—dessert at the restaurant.

Rich, fudgy, the texture somewhere between cake and a brownie, it reminded more of a torte. Ghirardelli Buttercream Frosting topped it off with creamy, buttery, chocolaty perfection. She loved it! Everyone loved it. You’d think it would be safe, you know, leave the GF goodies for those who need it. Not a chance! Chocolate cake this good is fair game once the birthday passes … it almost disappeared before I could get photos!

Oh, did you hear that whistle? Yep, that’s the Celebration Express sounding off for departure again, next stop Mother’s Day!

Adapted from King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting [GF]
Moist, rich chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting will make everyone happy--especially your gluten-free friends. Just be nice and make sure they get a piece!
Serves / Yields: 2 - 8 or 9 inch round cakes
For the Cake:
  • 1½ cups King Arthur Gluten-Free Multi-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa -- check brand for GF
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1½ cups sugar -- divided
  • ⅔ cup butter -- softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract -- gluten-free
For the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
  • 6 tablespoons butter -- softened
  • 2⅔ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon instant espresso
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. For the Cake:
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare two 8" or 9" round pans with cooking spray and lining the bottom of each pan with parchment.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the multi-purpose flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, xanthan gum, and ½ cup of the sugar.
  4. Place the butter and 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, buttermilk, water, and vanilla into your mixer bowl, and mix until well blended.
  5. Blend in the dry ingredients 1 cup at a time, beating for 1 minute and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl after each addition.
  6. Once all of the dry ingredients have been mixed in, beat at medium-high speed for 2 minutes, to make a smooth batter.
  7. Pour the batter equally into the prepared pans. Using a kitchen scale helps to get the batter evenly divided.
  8. Bake the cakes for 30 to 33 minutes, about 3 to 4 minutes past the point where a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.
  9. Remove the cakes from the oven, and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn pans over onto a rack and cool cakes completely.
  10. Once cooled, frost cakes, or serve with a dusting of powdered sugar or whipped cream.
For the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
  1. In bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix confectioner’s sugar with cocoa and espresso.
  2. Add vanilla to milk. Blend sugar mixture with butter and vanilla milk, alternating between the two, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Premeditated Leftovers Gallery of Favorites
Mom Trends Friday Food

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30 Responses to Chocolate Cake [Gluten-Free] and the Celebration Express

  1. ChgoJohn May 10, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Happy belated birthday, Kayla!

    What a wonderful photo collection you assembled here. I bet it took a while to select the ones you shared. After all, there was 21 years of memories to sort through. :)

    This cake looks so rich and creamy, just like a chocolate cake should. Who needs gluten?

    • Judy May 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

      Thanks John, it did take a little while to choose the photos/memories, but it was a delightful time–glad she let me share them too!

  2. Barb Bamber May 10, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    I think this is one of my favorite posts of yours.. it was a delight to “watch” your daughter growing up into a confident and beautiful young woman! And what a cake!! xo Smidge

    • Judy May 10, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

      Thanks Smidge, it was fun to be able to share her with everyone. :)

  3. Hotly Spiced May 11, 2012 at 7:11 am #

    That is a great looking gluten-free chocolate cake and yes, it is so difficult to find a great gluten-free cake recipe. I agree also that children grow up so fast. Where do the years go! I have two young adults and a seven-year old. Having seen how quickly the older two have grown up I’m trying to salvage every moment with my young guy xx

    • Judy May 13, 2012 at 8:04 am #

      Isn’t that the way it goes, we tend to pause more with our youngest because we know it went so fast with the older ones … that is a familiar story for many. Your sweet walks with your son are a great way to savor moments with him–you’re a good mom.

  4. Geni May 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    Judy your daughter is STUNNING! …and so is that Cake of course. What a joyous time for your family to have so many happy things to celebrate. What a decadent and fantastic looking ridiculously chocolaty cake. WOW! Happy belated birthday to your “little girl”. :)

    • Judy May 13, 2012 at 8:05 am #

      Thank you, Geni, for your sweet comment! I could look at pictures of her all day long, of course, it would be great to have the cake while I do so. 😉

  5. Karen (Back Road Journal) May 13, 2012 at 6:54 am #

    Years just seem to fly by…Happy Mother’s Day.

    • Judy May 13, 2012 at 7:57 am #

      They do, Karen, they really do.

  6. Raymund May 14, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    Wow time flies fast, I just realized that I have an 11 year old now. Happy Mothers Day!

  7. Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking May 14, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    What a gorgeous girl Kayla is, and a lovely cake to celebrate her 21st! Thanks for sharing.

    • Judy May 15, 2012 at 6:33 am #

      Aw, thanks Georgia, I appreciate that and she would too. :)

  8. Bunkycooks May 15, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    Your cake looks stunning. I would be curious to try it since it looks so moist, even though we don’t have to eat gluten-free baked goods.

    • Judy May 15, 2012 at 9:21 am #

      Thank you for saying so! It is nice to have a good GF recipes that everyone can enjoy. :)

  9. April @ The 21st Century Housewife May 16, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    What lovely memories! The time really does go by so fast. My son turned 19 in January. It was lovely to see the photographs of your daughter too!

    What a rich and delicious cake – there is nothing like chocolate cake for a celebration as far as I am concerned! It looks so moist as well.

    I’m glad you’ve got lots to celebrate at the moment – it is wonderful when life is like that :-)

    • Judy May 17, 2012 at 6:16 am #

      Thanks April, yes, it is a wonderful season and we are enjoying it so very much. Parenting a young adult is so very different, sometimes harder, but rewarding to see them blossom into their own life. :)

  10. Alea May 16, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    I enjoyed seeing the photos of your beautiful daughter. I loved her “self portrait”! I shaved my head when I was 20 too. I am glad that I did because it really helped me keep my hair in perspective and I have held on to “it is just hair” mentality. I was ready to shave my head again last year when my dad had cancer, but the oncologists decided he didn’t need chemo.

    Your cake looks amazing! I have just pinned it so that I can make it when our party run begins in August.

    • Judy May 17, 2012 at 6:21 am #

      Aw, that is so sweet of you to want to do that for your dad. I’m sure he was relieved it wasn’t necessary. As much as I didn’t want her to, as soon as she did I knew it was a good thing. Isn’t that funny, why would we care how much hair someone has? It was one of those times I learned a lesson from my kids.

      Hope you like the cake!

  11. Sarah June 22, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    This cake is delish! I used Bobs Red Mill ap flour and baked as cupcakes for 20 min at 325 my son who is 8 Says yum yum Thank you for the wonderfully moist GF cake recipe.

    • Judy June 22, 2012 at 10:41 am #

      Hi Sarah, thank you so much for letting me know how it turned out for you as cupcakes and the type of flour you used. That is so helpful for others looking at the recipe too. I am so pleased your son liked them–everyone needs to be able to enjoy good chocolate cake! :)
      Judy recently posted..Hearth & Soul at Savoring TodayMy Profile

  12. Audrey September 30, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Great pictures and a great post. I’m currently making the cake (it’s in the oven as I write this) and I just finished making your buttercream frosting, but it doesn’t seem like enough. Did you double you buttercream recipe, or was a single batch enough for the cake?

    • Judy October 1, 2012 at 6:35 am #

      Hi Audrey, thanks for your compliment and taking time to ask. I do not remember doubling the frosting recipe on this cake, I’ve used this recipe a number of times and it was adequate. However, I sometimes do make extra so I can make graham cracker sandwiches with it for the kids. Please let me know how the single recipe turned out for you, if you had enough, so I can make adjustments to the recipe here if need be. I greatly appreciate your feedback. :)

      • Audrey October 28, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

        Hi Judy, I apologize for writing back so late. I was in a rush to make the cake, and out of worry that I wouldn’t have enough, I doubled the frosting. Looking back on it I think I woud’ve had enough. If I only did I single batch though, I think I would’ve been scraping the bowl (but over here we love our frosting, so we may use more than you). I did end up having a bit of frosting leftover, but that wasn’t a problem (;. Thanks for the recipe, the cake and frosting were amazing, and everyone was raving about it for days.

        P.S Quick question, if I wanted to turn your buttercream recipe you have posted into a vanilla buttercream, should I just omit the cocoa powder and increase the vanilla? Thanks!

        • Judy October 30, 2012 at 8:51 am #

          Hi Audrey, thanks so much for taking the time to let me know about the frosting–it is so helpful to hear from readers using the recipes. :) I am so pleased to hear everyone loved the cake and frosting! Dessert has to be amazing to be worth the calories, right?!
          About your question, based on this recipe, I would say, yes, omitting the cocoa powder is the ticket.
          Have a great week!
          Judy recently posted.. Hearth & Soul Hop at Savoring TodayMy Profile

  13. Natasha January 3, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    Hi, thank you for this amazing recipe. I just wanted to share with you the small tweaks I made. I exchanged the 1/3 cup of water for 1/3 cup of Kaluha (yummy!). I’m sure a dark roast coffee would work too. And I used a dark chocolate ganache icing.
    Icing – 3/4 cup of heavy cream; 300g extra dark chocolate; and, 1/4 cup of butter. Bring the cream to a boil, immediately remove from heat and add chocolate. Once chocolate melts completely set aside until cool. Beat butter in and ice the cake. It gets thicker as it cools so best to start when its still easy to spread.


  14. Pure Complex March 20, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    One bad perm is all it would take me as well lol. But a 21st birthday is always so special and this cake is definitely a great way to start a birthday. I just love chocolate
    Pure Complex recently posted..Check In / Maroma ResortMy Profile

  15. Pam May 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    I made this cake the other day and it got rave reviews!!

    Thank you for the recipe!!

    • Judy Purcell May 18, 2013 at 7:23 am #

      Hi Pam, thanks so much for taking time to let me know you made the cake and how it turned out — feedback is so helpful. Glad you got rave reviews too!

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