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.

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I went ahead and made this with prunes to get an idea of what the original recipe would render. I thought the cake tasted faintly like prunes and ACV. I thought maybe it was just me (I have very discerning taste buds) but my daughter didn't finish her cupcake because she thought it tasted funny.

The texture was amazing though! I might try it again with dates and see if it comes out okay with half the amount of ACV.

Really hoping it works the second time around because the texture was fantastic!

Thanks everyone for the feedback on this recipe! I should of labeled this recipe "refined sugar-free" because, yes, of course it still does have sugar in it, just in a different form that is not destructive to the body like white sugar is.

Awkward Mom - I have not tried this recipe using dates but you could try. It might be a bit sweeter using the dates. And yes just pack them into the measuring cup. Please let me know how the cake turns out with dates. :)

Could I use dates instead of prunes? Do you just fill the measuring cup with as many pieces of the whole fruit that fit?

Cannot wait to try this recipe!

2 cups of agave nectar contain 480g of pure sugar.

That means just an eighth of the cake contains 60g of sugar. Please don't label this sugar free.

I've had my eye on this cake for a while and finally tried it today - it was wonderful!! By far the best gluten free, cane-sugar free baked good we've ever tried! It was a little fruity and not to sweet. I used the chia seeds and extra coconut oil, the texture was so lovely - almost chewy-brownie like!! What a treat! Thank you for the wonderful recipe!!

I am so excited to find this recipe. I'm trying to keep meat and dairy out of his diet,and limit sugar to a very small amount. I am going to make your cake for his first Birthday! I can't wait. It's in one month.

So, I just made the icing with Coconut Oil instead of the Palm Shortening and it worked great! Love the icing!! I can't keep my fingers out of it. :) I get to embark on the cake making tomorrow and then enjoy a huge piece of it for my birthday dessert. Thank you for sharing this awesome recipe!

My birthday is coming up this week and I've just recently gone gluten, dairy and sugar free. The Whole Life Nutrition website is my new favorite site and I happened across your chocolate cake recipe that looks so delicious. I'm curious if virgin coconut oil can be used instead of the organic palm shortening for your sugar-free vegan frosting?

I made this for my daughters 3rd birthday! What a treat!! Baked beautifully! Thanks!!

Your cake looks delicious, but I notice that you call the cake and icing "sugar-free" when they contain prunes, agave, and maple syrup. Those things contain or are sugar. The standard definition of "sugar-free" is food containing less than .5 gram of sugar per serving. While what you have here looks amazing, it would be great to see language that more accurately represents your recipes, as this kind of wording may be confusing for people who aren't as informed and don't realize they are actually consuming a good amount of sugar when they eat this. Thank you.

Wow, I can't believe a vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free cake recipe exists! I'm looking forward to making this but would like to make a couple substitutions, just to avoid buying more ingredients. For the frosting, could I use coconut oil in place of the shortening? Likewise, I'm guessing the guar/xanthan gum in the cake is there as a binding agent instead of eggs, is that right? So do you think it would be an okay idea to try out flax seeds instead? I've never used either of these "gums" so I'm not totally sure how to replace them. Anyways, once I've done my experiment I'll post back to let you know whether I pulled it off or not.

This looks delicious! I was wondering, would this batter work well as a cupcake too?

Hi Ali,

I am gonna try this making this cake (as cupcakes) this weekend and had a couple of questions about the frosting:

- Can Earth Balance be used instead of the shortening?

- What can I use instead of arrowroot powder? I am making it for people who are not very "dietary restrictive" ;).

This cake turned out great! We cooked it for my dad's 80th birthday (he's vegan and gluten free) and all the guests enjoyed it. We made it a long single layer cake. Make sure you spread it out evenly because it does not rise our move a whole lot from its original position. Thanks for the recipe!

I made this recipe and it tastes good but was flat. It didn't rise at all and I had to really spread it to make it cover a 9 x 13 pan. I used honey instead of agave/maple, and forgot the apple cider vinegar (even though it was right on the counter! That's what happens when a 2 and 4 year old keep on needing ya!).

Is that why it didn't rise? It was thick too, not like a runny batter.

Thanks! No complaints here, just wondering how to make it more cake like and less brownie like. We are gluten, egg, dairy and soy free over here.

Hi! I'm looking to make this recipe for my friends birthday tomorrow and was wondering if dates could be replaced for the prunes? I forgot to gets some.

Thank you!

Just served this cake today for my daughter's 6th birthday. I think the cake and frosting complement each other very well. The cake is "cakey" (a bit dry) and the frosting is silky so they do well together. I have discovered though that this frosting is impossible to make if you do not have an electric mixer. We used a stick blender on it (regular blade too but mostly the whisk attachment) and a manual two-blade mixer, trying each for over 10 minutes at a time. Did not come together. Finally got a neighbor's loaner of an electric mixer (with only one blade) and that worked, though it also took some time. Thanks!

Desiree - You would have to completely revise this recipe to make it without the cocoa powder and without any gums. I suggest making the Carrot Raisin Buckwheat Muffins (you could omit the carrots and add berries to it along with sprinkling the tops with coconut sugar)....and/or drizzle the muffin you serve to your son with Blueberry Syrup. 1yr old's don't know the difference between cake and muffins or whatever other special dessert you choose to serve. I didn't bake anything when both of my girls turned one. :)

here are the links to both recipes:

This cake looks perfect for my son's first birthday! I would like to leave out the cocoa, however. Do I need to adjust any amounts of liquids for this omission? Is it also possible to replace the guar gum with milled flax seed (1:1 ratio)?

Just ordered the cookbook...can't wait for it to come in!!!

I made this for Valentines day for my boyfriend's birthday cake. It turned out very well! However I added something I saw on the March Stewart site and baked the cake on a cookie sheet and after the cake cooled cut them into hearts with a cookie cutter! This turned out wonderful with the pink beet frosting. I've been wondering how to make frosting without powdered sugar. Anyways, at that point you can stack the hearts in twos or to do a layer or just serve one. I did both. But this receipe worked out extra good for the cookie cutters as the prunes make the cake hold up really well and not crumble.

This looks absolutely delish! I can't wait to try it out! I can't believe there's no sugar!!

Hmm Bummer, I am cooking this right now but not the right way. H I second guessed the accuracy of my understanding to the tweak the recipe in order to make it a layered cake. I didn't believe that one batch would do it for two 9 in pans. So I put it all in one. After 25 min. it was still gooey inside so I cooked it for 5 more min at 350 when that still didn't do it I turned the oven down to 335 and cooked it for 10 more min. so I wouldn't burn the top still hoping this will turn out. Verdict is that is that a knife comes out clean. Now it sits and waits until someone can taste test it. Truthfully I am prepared to venture out in the wee hours of the morning to obtain a few more of the ingredients needed to make another. It's my BABY'S BIRTHDAY and she is 3! I have great faith this cake will taste excellent (when done right). It is that easy that I'm not sweating making another early in the morning. I will post again to let you all know whether it was redeemable.

Is guar gum better or worse than xanthan gum? I am new to GF baking and I saw both at the store. Guar gum is WAY cheaper but I'm wondering which is healthier and which works better. ???

Final Report! It's done, and only adding the water once was the right choice! The frosting is blow-your-mind amazing, very light and not overwhelmingly sweet. I can't wait to present this beautiful cake to my grandma tomorrow for her 79th! Thanks for the recipe!

My cake is in the oven! I hope it turns out, the batter is delish! I had hardly any of the ingredients, so this cake is coming in at about $75 for me, which is not to mention the $20 blender I had to purchase! Anything for my grandma (who's vegan and diabetic)!

The only thing I was confused about was the water. In the instructions, it says, "Place the prunes and water into a blender and add the coconut oil, maple syrup, water, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla." Technically, it says to add the water twice. I only added it the first time, the boiling water I'd used on the prunes. I hope this is right, but the batter was really thick, almost more like a dough than a batter.

Will let you know how it comes out in another 25 minutes!

I only made the frosting from this recipe to use with some cupcakes, and it is fantastic!!!!! I can't believe how much arrowroot tastes like confectioner's sugar. I mixed it by hand, and, even then, it was so fluffy and creamy and delicious. Thank you for a wonderful recipe!

I'm looking forward to following your blog more consistently now.

Hmm... I got an order for two gluten-free sugar-free cakes and tried out this recipe. The cake turned out way gummy and rather bitter. I used all the ingredients listed, but it's just came out an unappetizing rubbery disc. Where might I have gone wrong?

My favorite cake! I subbed the coconut oil for canola. Arrowroot powder for tapioca starch. And beet juice for fresh strawberries. Everything else was the same, and it was amazing!

Just made this (w/o the frosting) and loved it! The texture was light and not gummy (like a lot of gluten free recipes turn out), it was not too sweet and it was super easy to make. I have to admit, I didn't use the prunes (I didn't have any) - I used unsweetened apple sauce and a little bit of yogurt (combined to make the same quantity as the prunes). I kept everything else identical. Will definitely make again!

Hi, I just reviewed this cake and frosting on my blog. My son just made cupcakes out of it for Mothers Day. Thanks for an excellent recipe! It was a success.

I made this cake last night and it was delicious. Thank you!! However, I seem to have some aversion to coconut oil. Do you think grapeseed oil would work equally as well?


I can't wait to make this cake for my 1 yr old's first bday! I was wondering about the vinegar, since I'm on the elimination diet and haven't reintroduced it yet, but you answered that. I guess that will be my day to reintroduce vinegar!

I was also wondering if for Brow rice flour, I could just grind brown rice really fine. I have broken the bank last month on this diet and I keep having to go back to Whole Foods to get all the specialty ingredients, so I am trying to find ways to budget...

This cake looks so beautiful and perfectly allergen-friendly! I am always amazed at your talents!

What a gorgeous cake, Ali! Perfect for Valentine's Day. :D

WOW!!!! That is amazing =) The frosting is soooo good- I may use it on some regular cakes!!!
Also the frosting was just enough to frost the entire cake and decorate it!

I love your blog so much <3. And I'm making this cake right now for my mom's birthday. I hope it turns out, is it not supposed to rise?

this looks like a wonderful birthday cake!

Kristi - The vinegar is actually a necessary component. It reacts with the baking soda to leaven the cake. I am not sure what you could replace it with. Another acid, such as lemon juice maybe? Good luck!


Thank you for this cake! I'm getting ready to make it for my boyfriend for his birthday 12/27.

I can't have vinegar, so I was just wondering if you think it will be terrible if I leave it out?

Thanks so much!! Happy New Year!


This cake looks great but I wish I could have a piece right now! I'll definitely make this in the future. The recipe is perfect, no eggs!

Ali - we made the cake last week for Lucy's birthday and it turned out beautifully. It was oh so tasty and lovely to look at. The texture was pleasing, no weird after-tastes at all and the perfect amount of sweetness. We didn't color the frosting so it was sort of off-white and then we threw chocolate chips all over it.
Thank you! April and the gang

That looks amazing! You forgot to mention soy-free. Vegan desserts are so often full of weird soy ingredients. Definitely going to give this one a try!

Okay, I made this cake last night and it has not even lasted 24 hours. :) Delicious! I first made the frosting last week (your vanilla-almond-flavored recipe) to get the hang of it - had it with my previous desert hanging around the house (which was a tough lemon cake) - the frosting did wonders on that. :) Then I experimented a bit by altering the recipe to use cocoa powder to make it chocolate frosting! So I had a chocolate-on-chocolate affect for this layer cake - it was amazing! We (my family, coworkers and I) all LOVE how eating this cake is like eating REAL FOOD, instead of the stuff that makes you feel sickly afterward from all the sugar (not to mention the other stuff that some of us are allergic to). THANK YOU!

Steph - Wow, edible flowers sound like a great idea. I think we did that one time with a no-frosting cake that I made for my daughter's b-day party. Next time please email me, that would be fun to see your creation!

Josh - Oh wonderful, I am glad you love the blog, it is always nice to hear feedback from readers!

Damm, That looks good right about now. Best blog I have seen. Any type of blog. I think I would have eat the whole thing though.

Ali, I wanted to let you know that we made your cake for dessert tonight and it was fabulous! The consistency was right on. I loved the frosting too. I decorated it with edible flowers. I should have taken a picture and emailed it to you! Thanks again! I recommend your cookbook and blog to everyone!

David - Oh glad you enjoy the bundt cake so much, I know a lot of people really enjoy it. Yes, this frosting is super easy to make.

thewholegang - Not sure if dates would work, probably, but the cake itself will end up being very sweet. I would love to know how it turns out if you end up making it this way, let me know!

Shirley - I don't think the small amount of prunes in each slice should be an issue, unless that is, you eat the whole cake in one sitting!

Sara - Yes it is nice sometimes to have a good frosting. I think I never liked frosting because it was always so sweet and made with too much powdered sugar - just one of those memories from childhood that still lingers. Some have issues with vegetables, mine is frosting, lol! But really, a little of this frosting is quite tasty.

Jenna - Yes this cake is an easier version of the beet cake, and I am all about simple these days with 14 month old twins! Glad to hear you made it. I use the non-alcoholic extract in this frosting because I use quite a bit to flavor it, if I were to use the alcohol-based then there would be a strong alcohol flavor since the frosting is not heated and thus the alcohol doesn't evaporate. I use Frontier brand extracts which are GF.

Alison - I love using natural plant extracts to color food. I use turmeric to color my lemon frosting, about 1/2 tsp per 2 cups of shortening makes a beautiful sunny yellow color. Spirulina powder makes a grassy green color, though its color is more grainy and not uniform when beaten. It still works though. That is all I have tried thus far. Do you have any other ideas for coloring foods?

Thanks! -Ali :)

I love that you use beet juice to color the frosting -- that is a beautiful pink! Any other natural food color tips?

Hi Ali! Yum-I made this cake and it is fabulous-and even easier than the decadent-which I still make when I have beets around. I noticed you are using alcohol free vanilla. Do you use the one made with glycerin? I have been making my own vanilla extract with organic vodka for about a year now-and I was wondering how to make it alcohol free :0 Thx for sharing this! Jenna :]

Thank you so much for this! I can't wait to try it. I have made your chocolate cake recipe with grated beets and it was excellent, so I'm eager to see what it is like with prunes! And frosting - hooray frosting! Thank you so much for that recipe (despite your general dislike of the stuff) :). There are just some occasions where frosting is difficult to substitute, so I'm very grateful for this. And using beet juice as food coloring is excellent!

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