Chocolate Layer Cake (Vegan + Gluten-Free)

Ali Segersten Feb 27, 2009 103 comments

Sound too good to be true? Here I present to you a fabulous-tasting chocolate layer cake. Moist and delicious. Tender and rich. Chocolate at its best. Allergen-free. No gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, or sugar!

Seriously, you just can't go wrong here.

I modified my Decadent Chocolate Bundt Cake on page 342 of my cookbook to be made into a layer cake. I took out the cup of beets and the one cup of water and replaced them with 1 cup of prunes in which you soak in 1 1/2 cups of boiling water and then puree into a smooth paste.

Don't get me wrong I still love this cake made with the beets. I am a lover of beets prepared any and all ways. Though the prunes in this version add moisture, sweetness, and a certain binding action that makes it work very well in a layered cake.

Still, if you don't want to fuss with layers then just pour the batter into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish and bake away. You can add the refined sugar-free frosting below if desired. I've never been the biggest fan of frosting, though this frosting recipe is not too sweet and helps keep the cake moist for days. Frosted or not, this cake is a winner!


About the Author

Ali Segersten

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University and a Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine from the University of Western States. She is a Functional Nutritionist, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Alissa is the founder and owner of Nourishing Meals®.

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Wow, 9 Years later - thanks for the question and the update, just what I was looking for!! :) haha

This cake is amazing! Thank you for the recipe.

I made my son's 1st birthday cake 2 years ago using this recipe. It turned out moist, dense but light at the same time (hard to describe) with just the right amount of sweetness. It didn't have the texture of I never baked a cake before that so I was quite pleasantly surprised at how well the cake turned out. Even experienced baker s approved it and asked for the recipe. I'm making another birthday cake for my son who now is turning 3 soon. Thank you for the recipe. It's my go-to cake recipe.

I was going to ask the same thing. Could Earth Balance vegan "butter" work?

Hi Ali!
Have you tried to make the icing with anything other than the palm shortening?

Cooked spinach makes a great green; cooked carrots a super yellow to orange, depending on the color and amount of carrots you use. DO NOT cook these vegetables with salt, salt strengthens their vegetable flavors. No salt very little vegetable flavor. Mint is great for the green, orange for the carrots.


I did the nutrition calculations on this entire cake and for clarification (using 10 servings)….without the frosting, each slice has 273 calories and 25 grams of sugar. With the frosting, each slice has 754 calories and 45 grams of sugar. I would be happy to email you the detailed breakdown if you would like (just email me). Cake is a treat, something we enjoy maybe a half dozen times a year. If you are healthy and balanced then my suggestion is to enjoy the cake and don't bother looking at calories and sugar! If you are not in balance or going through a time of healing, then skip the cake and stick with healing plant foods and animal foods.

The cake is refined sugar free like I mentioned above. If you are on a strict sugar-free diet then cake is out of the question no matter how healthy it is.

First off, we don't rely on nutrition information in order to make decisions about what to eat and what not to eat because that is a very limiting way to look at food and nutrition. The way a food interacts once in the body (and each body is different in how it responds mind you) can not be measured by calories and sugar content. 32 grams of sugar is going to behave very differently considering the level of activity that day (and previous days), the other foods consumed at the same time, and the other ingredients in the cake. Consider what would happen if you ate 32 grams of sugar in the form of white table sugar with nothing else in the stomach…while you sat and watched a scary movie. That would raise blood sugar super quick and with the stress of the movie and lack of activity, the sugar would quickly be stored as fat, probably around your midsection. Now imagine, you just ate a beautiful, nourishing meal after hiking all day with your family in the mountains. For dinner you ate salmon, a big salad topped with pumpkin seeds, and some roasted zucchini and fennel. You dined in peace, laughing with friends and family. Afterwards you enjoyed a slice this birthday cake. The sugar in this cake would react very differently in the body compared to the same amount of sugar in the different situation described first.

We cannot pull out and isolate nutrition facts and label them bad or good. It's just not possible because our bodies and our world are intimately connected in this complex, dynamic thing we call life.

If you feel like this cake is not right for your body at this particular time then don't bake it and don't eat it. We are all different, and constantly changing. Maybe it will be right for you at some point in your life, maybe not. Just remember that natural sugar is not evil. How it reacts in your body is what you need to figure out and act accordingly.

Dear Anonymous,

I have been very busy this past month, including taking a big trip with my 5 children for 2 weeks. I waited to publish it until I had time to thoughtfully respond.

The sugar you recommend using in this recipe is every bit as destructive to the body as white sugar. The only improvement is the use of fruits as a source of sugar. At least with that there is some sort of nutrition involved...

So you won't post my comment about how this recipe is very disappointing and misleading in my opinion? I guess you only appreciate and value the feedback of those that agree with you. That's sad.

This is NOT sugar free... Frankly, I'm disappointed.
In JUST the cake, there's 3800 calories, 320g sugar. So, if you cut the cake in 10 to make the math easy, that's 380 calories PER SLICE and 32g of sugar PER SLICE WITHOUT FROSTING!!!!!!!!,45066387,19165,9291,4047,64950638,&amounts=34846,45094670,34387,27690,25007,64977805,&qtys=2,0.5,.75,1,0.5,16,&servings=1&food=User%20Entered%20Recipe

Can I omit the cocoa powder?

Oh my goodness!!! Thank you so much! My daughter is 10 months old and has milk, soy, wheat, carrot, blueberry, cantaloupe, cherry and the list goes on allergies and I was having a horrible time trying to find a cake I can make her for her birthday and this will be perfect!!! I can't thank you enough...

Hi Ali

I also want to make this cake for my daughters first birthday.

I'm just wondering wat is ment by vanilla in the recipe, do I need to use fresh vanillaseeds, vanilla extract (sounds like a lot)?

And can I replace the coconut-oil by a neutral vegtable oil of vegetable butter?


I just finished making this cake 1 hour ago. I was practicing to make my son's 1st birthday cake for this weekend. It turned out really well and tastes so good not heavy or too sweet at all. I substituted carob powder for chocolate. I followed almost every step in the recipe except the adding water the second time because there is no ingredient for extra water in the recipe, only the boiling water. That was all that I added. Dinner is coming in 1 hour, I think the cake won't see the evening. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

Emily, I made this cake with a refined-sugar free coconut/pecan frosting. It was not bad. It was my first time making this cake and quite awhile since having a healthier version of desserts. My frosting was a bit strong tasting. I used coconut crystals for the frosting sweetener and Earth balance for the butter. I would like to try the cake again and use the frosting recipe provided. No one ate the cake but me, my husband tried one piece but then went back to his regular German Chocolate cake with homemade frosting that I also made. I really am not a cake girl so that may be part of it. I would probably make cupcakes next time, that way I can have one or two and freeze the others for later. I found it a very expensive cake to make and sadly threw out most of it since I just didn't want any more. The cake seemed to turn out exactly as it should but I guess I'm not a big dessert person. I love the sound of it, but it doesn't always agree with me.

I can't wait to make this amazing chocolate cake! I found an alternative healthy version of the coconut/pecan frosting that goes on German Chocolate cakes. Curious if you think your cake here would be a good fit as a german choco cake?

This was my first attempt at a GF cake and there was no chance to give it a trial run so I just went with it. I did not follow the recipe exactly so I have no idea how it would have turned out had I used the flours in the recipe. I used my GF homemade all purpose flour and then followed the recipe as written after that. This cake was to die for and that is without the icing also. Moist, fudge like chewy texture, not grainy at all and the flavor, yummy. Next time I will try it with half the MS since I loved it but found it too sweet for me and it contained more MS (sugar) than I usually use in a recipe for the kids.

I will try agave next time also because I am not supposed to eat sugar as I am intolerant to it and that includes MS, although I am allowed it on occasion. I am curious about agave and if it is considered a sugar also because I have seen it used in several paleo recipes instead of other sugars.

Thank you for this recipe, it is amazing.

Oh - and besides trying cinnamon and cloves - I also tried blueberry muffins with this recipe! Took out the cocoa powder, and added frozen blueberries to the batter at the end. Sooo tasty!

This is free of REFINED granulated sugar, but it is not sugar free. The prunes will have some natural sugar, but the maple syrup / agave is the same as sugar. Agave is just liquid fructose, which will give you a fatty liver just like a can of soda.

This was so tasty!!
I had to make a few alterations, since I didn't have some of the ingredients. I used a tad bit more tapiocha powder and two heaping teaspoons of gelatin, instead of xantham gum. I also made it a second time with cinnamon, walnuts, and cloves, instead of cocoa powder...yummy!

Do I have to use prunes? is there somethign else I can use besides prunces or beets?

Hello! I was wondering if All Purpose GF flour would work here, in place of the flour you mentioned? Thanks!


I am curious as to how this is sugar-free? I was looking into making a gluten-free sugar-free cake, but this has agave nectar (worst glycemic load - horrid for diabetics) or maple syrup... am I not the only one who knows this is sugar??? Perhaps I am not looking at this correctly and there is a part for substitutions? Please help - this cake looks amazing and would love to be able to make it! Would xylitol/stevia work with this recipe?
Thank you so much - love the website!

Hi! Have you ever made this as cupcakes? Just wondering about baking time. Maybe 18-20 minutes?
I plan to make cupcakes and top them with date/coconut oil/maple syrup paste with coconut and pecans added - yes, German chocolate style!

Hi All! I wanted to share with everyone that I used regular, grocery-store unsweetened cocoa in the cake and it turned out fabulous- I also subbed a can of cooked black beans for the prunes. I rinsed the beans a few times to rid them of any saltiness, and the cake stuck together fine and tasted wonderfully chocolate-y! I have been off refined sugar for about a month and this was exactly what I needed...thanks!!

Is it ok to substitute raw cacao for the unsweetened cocoa powder in the chocolate cake recipe? I have it on hand, but did not want to shell out $11 for cocoa powder I almost never use...!

Made cupcakes and they turned out well but the frosting was grainy. Any suggestions to make smooth? Also if making cupcakes the recipe makes 2 dozen and you only need half the frosting.

Looks like this recipe has been going strong for years now! I made cupcakes and did mint icing instead of almond and colored it with spirulina! Very awesome! Everyone was impressed!!! -Christine

Ok, don't hate me. I unveganized it. I used one egg and omitted the xantham gum. I also used 2/3c dates & 1/3c raisins in place of the prunes. Oh, and I was afraid I might taste the vinegar (typically 2T is enough to ruin a good cake for me) so I decreased it to 1T, used rice vinegar instead of ACV & threw in a teaspoon of baking powder for good measure. And, guess what, it was fabulous anyway. This was my son's first cake and he loved it.

Do you think that this frosting could be mint flavored? If so what changes would you make? (It's my friend's birthday tomorrow and I'd love to bake her mint chocolate cupcakes!)

I wanted to mention that I used Pamela's gluten free baking flour and just added the wet ingredients. It had to be cooked for about 35 minutes, and also did not rise. The top was still somewhat gooey, but it was tasty.

O people, get over your ol' bitty sugar-free rants! If you dont like the sugar find a substitution or move on. The author has already explained why she chose the title in the comments. My diabetic family members can handle agave more than other sweetners. Maybe its the raw agave type we use. Of course, desserts are a special occasion & should be for those who have special food restrictions. Thank you for the recipe! I'm excited to try the frosting in particular :)

Love your blog...but it is misleading when you label this recipe sugar-free. The 1 cup of maple syrup alone has 212 grams of sugar...yikes! Agave, palm sugar, honey, maple syrup, yacon syrup, brown rice syrup and table sugar are to be labeled as sugar...sure you know this. Maybe you could label it as low glycemic sweetened.

Maple syrup and agave nectar are sugar!

OK. I found tapioca flour at the bulk barn. Made the cake Easter weekend.


It is rich and moist and tastes like fudge cake. It turned out perfectly, everyone loved it, especially my father, which was the most important part!!

Thanks so much. I am very impressed, and plan on making it again for my little guy's first bday next week (my f-i-l is also fighting cancer and will be happy to partake in the dessert for once!!)

I did my own version of the icing though with (roughly) 1 cup of virgin coconut oil, maybe 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, and a bit of vanilla, and some tapioca flour to thicken it up a bit. I mixed it as best I could but the 'chunks' of cocoa and oil that were not completely combined ended up looking like choc chips or chunks of fudge. This icing melts at room temp, so cake must stay in fridge. I even did some vanilla (Coc oil, almond flavouring and tap flour) and cut a hole in a small bag to squeeze little white flowers onto the cake. It was all amazing!

Thanks again,

Hi Ali

Thanks so much for providing these recipes. My father is fighting stage 4 bladder cancer and one of his methods is a change in eating habits which, of course, is hard to do. I have been using your site a lot, and appreciate having such a good resource when we are basically starting from scratch.

I plan on making this cake for Easter this weekend so my dad can actually partake in a dessert, and if it works (I am a terrible cook) then again for my son's first birthday in a few weeks. The problem is that I cannot find tapioca flour? Is there a substitute for it I can use?

Thanks again - my whole family appreciates your great work.


Any suggestion for a substitute for the almond in the frosting? (non-nut alternative) Also...have you ever used half rice and half sorghum flour? Or which turns out better? Finally...have you noticed a difference depending on whether you used agave or syrup?

I have arthritis and I can tell you from personal experience that agave nectar and maple syrup are still as sugar as white sugar or even corn syrup itself. If I eat those I get horrendous flareups and my skin breaks out just as if I had eaten any of the others.

Beautiful website!
Can't wait to try the cake... I'm going to make the cake for my mother-in-law's birthday. The recipe isn't sugar free though - agave and maple syrup definitely raise blood sugars! Married to a type 1 diabetic for over 20yrs!

Looks wonderful!
Has anybody tried making it with an oil substitute?

This was amazing! I made it for my father-in-laws birthday and everyone raved over it. In fact, most everyone agreed they liked your frosting better than conventional butter cream varieties. Thank you for this great recipe!


This looks delicious... but I do feel the need to point out that 1 cup of maple syrup has 192 g of sugar, which is pretty similar to 1 cup of granulated sugar (200 g). I think letting people believe it is 'sugar-free' is a bit misleading, though I hope everyone does their own research when cooking!

Made this the other day when my cravings for cake defeated my will power... Didn't have prunes so I used half raisins and half medjool dates. Worked great! Plus I added a little spice: cinnamon, cayenne, and finely ground black pepper for a little kick. :) Thanks so much!

Quick question, is there anything i can use in place of the almond oil? my son has a gluten, egg AND severe nut allergy...plz plz plz!! thank you so much, i just want him to be able to actually have a bday cake this year!

thanks again,

Will the Cake work out if dates were used in place of prunes? I'm gluten-free and sugar-free for the month but want to use dates as they're more readily available. Thanks!

Love the look of this recipe and plan to try it for my daughter's upcoming 3rd bday (she has multiple food sensitivities). I am wondering about substitutions to the coconut oil--she can't have coconut. Can I just use canola? Or maybe apple sauce? Thanks in advance, I can't wait to try this!

Hi Ali,
Do you have the nutritional info for this recipe? (Calories, etc)

To Awkward Mom-

You could always try plain rice vinegar instead of ACV. That's what I use because I think it has milder flavor and blends in better.

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