DessertApril/May 2009

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake

Everyone needs a good vanilla cake recipe in their baking repertoire - even those of us who are gluten-free!

[Updated February 23, 2017]

Vary the taste of this versatile recipe by replacing vanilla with a different gluten-free flavor extract, such as almond, orange or maple. See variations below. Frost with “Buttercream” Frosting.


Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake

Sweet! Our author's best gluten-free vanilla cake looks almost too good to eat. Almost.


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, margarine or Spectrum Organic Shortening
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3½ cups gluten-free All-Purpose Flour Blend+ extra for dusting
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups cow’s milk or rice milk, hot


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans and dust with gluten-free flour.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat margarine and sugar at high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and beat until fluffy again, scraping down bowl.

3. In a separate bowl or on a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour blend, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt.

4. Add half the dry mixture to the sugar mixture and beat at low speed until combined. Add half the milk and blend. Then add remaining dry ingredients and milk. Mix on medium-low speed until smooth, approximately 2 minutes.

5.Divide batter equally between the two prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 35 minutes or until done. Cool the cake for 20 minutes in pans. Then turn cake onto wire racks and cool completely before frosting.

Cake serves 16. Each serving contains 324 calories, 13g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 53mg cholesterol, 49g carbohydrate, 370mg sodium, 0g fiber, 3g protein.

TIP: This cake can be made egg-free. Replace 4 large eggs with 6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce mixed with 2 teaspoons baking powder + 4 tablespoons warm water mixed with 1 tablespoon gluten-free egg replacer.


Coconut Cake: Substitute 1 tablespoon pure coconut extract for the vanilla; substitute coconut milk for milk of choice; then add ¾ cup coconut flakes (optional) to the cake batter, stirring until combined.

Lemon Cake: Substitute 2 teaspoons pure lemon extract for vanilla; reduce milk by 1/3 cup and add 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice; add 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest to the batter when adding the eggs.

Lemon Filling


Delicious in layered lemon, coconut or vanilla cake. This recipe makes enough for a 3-layer cake with filling left over.

1/3 cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
1½ cups water
4 egg yolks, beaten with a fork
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest, optional

1. In a medium saucepan, stir cornstarch, salt and sugar. Add water and stir again. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens, approximately 5 minutes. When mixture begins to boil, lower heat and continue to stir for 1 minute. Remove pan from the heat.

2. In a small bowl, place egg yolks and about 1/3 cup hot cornstarch mixture and stir together.

3. Whisk this mixture back into contents of the saucepan and return pan to medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture is very thick, about 5 minutes.

4. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and lemon zest.

5. Pour filling into a bowl or container and let cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate for about an hour to firm. Remove from fridge and spread on cake layers.

Cake serves 16. Each serving contains 62 calories, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 52mg cholesterol, 13g carbohydrate, 39mg sodium, 0g fiber, 1g protein.

“Buttercream” Frosting


This frosting is not too sweet. To vary the flavor, replace vanilla with another gluten-free flavoring extract, such as lemon or coconut.

6 cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup boiling hot water
2½ cups Spectrum Organic Shortening
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter or margarine, slightly softened, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine powdered sugar and salt.

2. Using a whisk attachment, add boiling water and whip at low speed until smooth and cool, approximately 5 minutes.

3. Add shortening and margarine to the sugar mixture and whip at medium speed until smooth, approximately 3 minutes. Add vanilla. Increase speed to medium high and whip until light, fluffy and increased in volume, approximately 10 minutes. Frosting will fill most of a 5-quart mixing bowl.

Cake serves 16. Each serving contains 538 calories, 40g total fat, 16g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 18mg cholesterol, 45g carbohydrate, 163mg sodium, 0g fiber, 0g protein.

TIP: Leftover “Buttercream” Frosting is great on cupcakes or cookies. Refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks. Allow chilled frosting to return to room temperature before using. To fluff it up, whip for a couple minutes.

Comments (11)

Can the lemon filling be made egg free?

Posted by: Nomkitac | April 16, 2016 5:41 PM    Report this comment

I was disappointed that the picture, which shows a 3 layer cake with lemon filling between, is not the same as the recipe. I'll still try it because it does sound good, but would really like to have the recipe for the lemon filling.

Posted by: lynott | January 29, 2016 4:24 PM    Report this comment

Please explain what Spectrum organic shortening is. Can I use another type of shortening?

Posted by: Mardef | September 12, 2015 7:12 PM    Report this comment

Hi and thank you for this wonderful recipe. It turned out great and my hubby and kids still dont know its gluten free!
I would like to reduce the sugar in the recipe; how can I do that without compromising the recipe? Can I use raw honey or coconut sugar? If yes, how much?
Hope to hear back from you as Im definately keeping this recipe.
Thank you.

Posted by: amateurbaker | September 3, 2015 9:31 PM    Report this comment

Your 8 inch cake pans should be at least 2 inches high or you might want to use 9 inch pans. It's a wonderful recipe. - Moderator

Posted by: LW Moderator | April 12, 2015 9:05 AM    Report this comment

I followed this recipe exactly and poured the batter into two 8" round cake pans. As the pans cooked the batter poured over the sides and burnt the bottom of the oven & the smoke ruined the top edge of the door. Either the ingredient amounts should be reduced by a quarter or use 3 x 8" round pans.

Posted by: LisaJoyce | April 4, 2015 9:50 AM    Report this comment

I made this cake recipe and followed all instructions. I used the all purpose flour blend as directed. When It came out of the oven it looked fine and was thoroughly baked. As It cooled, It became dense and gummy almost like a bread pudding. Have any ideas what may have happened?

Posted by: eepal | April 14, 2014 10:38 AM    Report this comment

KEITH F: We contacted Diane Kittle, the chef who wrote tihs recipe. She responded:

"The real question is what size pan does he have, because when people refer to sheet cakes, it could be varying sizes. Also, is he making a two layer sheet cake or a single layer sheet cake?

I would not recommend a gluten free cake recipe for a pan larger than 9x13". If he's making a 9x13" single layer cake, then the recipe below will be sufficient. If he's making 2 layers (2 pans) , then he will need to double the recipe. If he is making an egg free version, do not double the recipe. Make 1 recipe twice. The cake will not come out the same if you double a cake recipe which requires more than 4 eggs replaced."

My guess is that you are using the 9 x 13, so you don't need to double. Enjoy and good luck! - Moderator

Posted by: LW Moderator | April 18, 2013 3:50 PM    Report this comment

I used this recipe for my oldest son's fourth birthday. It was great. Now it's time to make a cake for his brother's first birthday. I need it to be a sheet cake though. Any idea if I would need to double or triple the recipe to have enough for a sheet cake?

Posted by: Elizabeth F | April 18, 2013 1:55 PM    Report this comment

I am interested in making the cake pictured. Can you post the lemon filling recipe that is used in between the layers. I made this frosting for my son's birthday chocolate cupcakes and it was delicious!

Posted by: Loan N | March 12, 2013 4:36 PM    Report this comment

One batch of cake batter made 30 cupcakes. And a half-batch of the frosting was plenty to frost them. The frosting is amazingly light and fluffy!

Posted by: Patricia G | February 19, 2012 11:14 AM    Report this comment

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