This gluten-free yellow cake recipe is the perfect cake for a birthday party or special occasion! Layers of fluffy vanilla cake and plush chocolate frosting make this gluten-free birthday cake a classic.
I have nothing at all against a great yellow cake mix, but sometimes, you just want to make an easy gluten-free birthday cake from scratch!
If you’ve been intimidated by gluten-free cakes, this easy recipe is a great place to start.
There are a TON of different methods out there for making yellow cake–separating egg yolks and whites to whip the egg whites, heating some of the ingredients, etc. But my goal was a simple, delicious, CLASSIC gluten-free yellow cake with chocolate frosting.
After several tries, we got it just right! A simple layer cake with luscious chocolate frosting. It’s the perfect birthday cake or sweet way to celebrate special occasions.
Here’s what you need for this easy gluten-free birthday cake recipe…
Simple Ingredients For This Gluten-Free Cake Recipe
- Gluten-Free Flour. A simple 1:1 gluten-free flour blend makes this such an easy gluten-free birthday cake recipe! I highly recommend this one from King Arthur. Weigh or use the scoop & level method to measure correctly! (If you use another brand (like Bob’s Red Mill or Cup4Cup), be sure your flour blend contains xanthan gum!)
- Cornstarch. Cutting the flour with a little cornstarch is a great way to mimic the effect of cake flour. The lightness of the starch keeps this gluten-free yellow cake fluffy and light.
- Baking Powder for plenty of lift!
- Salt to balance the flavors.
- Softened Butter. Oil does GREAT things for gluten-free carrot cake and Chocolate Zucchini Cake, but this vanilla cake uses butter. Creaming the butter and sugar gives this cake the best flavor and texture.
- Sugar. Simple granulated sugar (white sugar) keeps this cake light in color & adds just the right sweetness.
- Eggs. Instead of worrying about whipping the egg whites, this cake is formulated to use whole eggs for simplicity. Don’t worry–you won’t miss out on texture!
- Vanilla Extract. We pack in an entire tablespoon of vanilla for flavor in the vanilla cake! (You can also swap vanilla bean paste if you want little vanilla bean specks instead.)
- Sour Cream does double duty, adding acidity which helps the cake rise, and keeping this cake super moist. It’s kind of the secret ingredient!
- Whole Milk rounds out the wet ingredients! I recommend whole milk for the best texture. If you use a lower fat percentage (like 2% milk, fat-free milk or almond milk), your cake will be more dry.
- Our Easy Chocolate Frosting. A simple chocolate buttercream frosting is the perfect finish for this delicious yellow cake! (It’s the same frosting recipe as this chocolate cake!)
How To Make Gluten-Free Yellow Cake, Step By Step
Start By Making The Cake Layers
- Set Out Ingredients In Advance. You MUST set out the cold ingredients (eggs, butter, milk, and sour cream) about 1-1.5 hours in advance to let them come up to room temperature. Otherwise, they will not cream properly and the batter will be chunky instead of smooth.
- Preheat The Oven & Prep Your Pans. Start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper.
- Combine Dry Ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine gluten-free flour blend, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine, then set aside.
- Cream Butter & Sugar. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
- Add Eggs & Vanilla. Scrape down the edges/bottom of the bowl and gradually add eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, mixing to incorporate well.
- Mix In Sour Cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, and mix in the sour cream on LOW speed.
- Alternate Dry Ingredients & Milk. Add half of the dry ingredients mixture and mix on LOW speed, streaming in half of the milk as you go. Scrape down the edges of the bowl and add the second half of the dry ingredients, streaming in the second half of the milk until just combined. Try not to over-mix here. Feel free to finish combining by hand with a spatula, if needed!)
- Pour Batter Into Pans. Carefully divide the cake batter between the two prepared pans. Use an offset spatula to even out the surface of the batter.
- Bake Cake Layers. Bake both layers on the same shelf in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when gently pressed, and a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs. (The finished cake’s internal temperature should be 205 degrees.)
- Cool Completely Before Frosting. Let the cake layers cool 15 minutes in the pans before carefully turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Note that the cake must be COMPLETELY cool before frosting or the frosting will melt.
Then, Make The Chocolate Frosting
- Beat The Butter. Add the softened butter to a large bowl. Beat with a hand mixer on low speed for about 2 minutes, until it’s light and fluffy.
- Mix. Then, add powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla extract. Add the cream, then mix for 30 seconds on low speed, then about 1 minute on medium speed, or until well combined.
- Adjust. At this point, you’ll want to adjust for texture. If the frosting is too dry or thick, add a little bit of additional cream at a time until it thins out. If the frosting is too thin or too wet, you can add more powdered sugar or cocoa powder a teaspoon at a time, until you reach the right consistency. The frosting should be easy to spread but should still hold its shape. (If you want the frosting to look extra glossy, you can add 1-2 Tablespoons of corn syrup at this point.)
Assemble The Cake:
- Stack The. Layers. When you’re ready to assemble the cake, place the base cake layer so the bottom of the cake (what was in the bottom of the cake pan) is now on the top. This will give you the most level, neat surface to work with. Add about 2/3-1 cup frosting and use an offset spatula to smooth the frosting into an even layer, all the way to the edges. It’s ok if it spills over the sides. (We’ll smooth this down later.) Add the second layer of cake (again putting side side that was in the bottom of the cake pan face up.) Add another 1 cup or so of frosting to the top of the cake.
- Frost. Smooth the frosting out with an offset spatula, then smooth or swoop the rest of the frosting along the sides of the cake, until the whole cake is covered. This recipe for frosting will be enough to just cover the outside and inside of the cake. If you’d like to decorate or add additional details, you can 1.5x the frosting.
- Decorate. If desired, you add sprinkles or pipe a border or decorations with any remaining or additional frosting. (I like to use a Wilton 2D or Ateco 849 closed star piping tip to pipe a spiral or shell border or to make little poofs of frosting around the top of the cake)
- Serve & Store. Enjoy the cake right away, or cover the cake tightly and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. (Cake will slice more neatly if chilled.) Store leftover cake covered in the refrigerator 2-3 days, or freezer leftovers up to 2 months.
TIPS & TRICKS
Cake Baking tips to help you:
FAQ + Tips And Tricks For The BEst Gluten-Free Birthday Cake
Plan Ahead! Unlike many cookie and brownie recipes, you can’t really rush making a gluten-free cake! You need to allow about 1 hour to set out the cake ingredients to come to room temperature. Then, the cake needs to cool COMPLETELY before you add the frosting. Make sure to allow enough time to follow the steps, and you’ll be good to go!
A Note On Frosting. This amount of frosting will be enough to cover the sides and top of a double layer cake, without much leftover for decorating. If you’d like to pipe a design or decoration on this cake, I recommend making a 1 1/2 batch (1 full batch + 1/2 batch) of the frosting recipe.
Decorating Tips: Then, try topping it off with some sprinkles (get 10% off with my link!) or cute birthday candles! I love to use a Wilton 2D or Ateco 849 closed star piping tip for a little border, but you can make simple swirls with an offset spatula, use a frosting comb for a cool decoration on the sides, or pipe little swirls around the top border of the cake!
Choose The Right Pan. For all my cake recipes, I recommend light-colored aluminum metal pans. They conduct heat more evenly and will give you a gentler, more golden bake. Dark-colored pans tend to brown the sides and bottom of the cake more quickly and can lead to dry cake. These 8-inch pans are the ones I used today.
Can I Make This Cake Recipe In Other Sizes?
- 9-inch cake layers. Bake the cake in two 9-inch round cake pans and reduce the bake time to about 30-35 minutes, (Note: the layers will be thinner!)
- 9×13 cake. Bake the cake in a greased 9×13 metal pan for 30-35 minutes. (Note: glass cake pans cook differently, so you may need to add a few minutes to the bake time.)
- Cupcakes. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full (no more than 3/4 full!) and bake 18-22 minutes or so (depending on how full you fill the cupcake liners)
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