Decadent Chocolate Cake, Gluten-Free and a Tribute to Sheila Lukins

As you probably already know, Sheila Lukins died of brain cancer in August at the young age of 66. I was so sad when I heard the news. She was in my pantheon of cooking goddesses. She was co-owner of The Silver Palate gourmet food shop in New York City, and co-author of The Silver Palate Cookbook, as well as three other cookbooks. She was also the food editor at Parade magazine for 23 years–taking over when Julia Child left that position.

I really liked her spirit–much as I liked Julia Child’s. I read a quote once that said something to the effect that “Julia Child brought French cooking to America, while Sheila Lukins brought American cooking to Americans.” Both women were interested in opening up cooking to a larger audience. Lukins was quoted as saying, “The whole idea is to make people feel very comfortable preparing a meal,”and, “The best compliment I ever get is that cooking from these recipes is just like having a friend helping you in the kitchen.” What lovely sentiments.

The recipe for Decadent Chocolate Cake is one of my favorites from The Silver Palate Cookbook. It’s everything you want a chocolate cake to be: moist but not gummy, easy to make, with a killer frosting. Yup, it’s perfect.

I was just down in my hometown of Monterey, CA for my sister, Laura’s birthday, and I made this cake for her celebration. Everyone loved it. Even her daughter, who has publicly stated that she hates cake and won’t eat any. She had the whole piece and asked for more. High praise indeed. I don’t need to tell you that it was gluten-free and no one noticed or cared.

One thing I like about this recipe is that it is made in a tube pan–which gives it a nice presentation. Also, the frosting is a cross between a ganache glaze and a frosting–scrumptious. I always have some frosting left when I make it, which serves as a “take-a-spoonful-every-so-often” snack in our household.

The original recipe calls for adding the egg yolks separately from the whites, beating the whites, and folding them in at the end. I’ve made it both ways and haven’t found much of a difference in the texture of the cake between the two methods. Therefore, I’ve eliminated that extra step from my adaptation.

Decadent Chocolate Cake, Gluten-Free
-adapted from the original in The Silver Palate Cookbook

For Cake
2 cups (280 g)  Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 oz (85 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (115 g; 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
1 cup boiling water
2 extra-large eggs
2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (155 g) sour cream
extra butter and tapioca flour for pan

For Chocolate Frosting
2 tablespoons (1 oz; 28 g) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (4.5 oz; 130 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup (80 ml)heavy cream
1 1/4 cups (140 g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted (I start with 1 cup and add more if I want it to be sweeter)
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

To make the cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4. Grease and flour a large tube pan with the extra butter and tapioca flour.

In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and baking powder.

Place unsweetened chocolate and butter in medium bowl. Pour boiling water over. Let sit for 1 minute to melt the chocolate chips and butter, then whisk until smooth.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs on medium high until light and fluffy–about 1 minute. Add sugar and continue to beat another minute. Add vanilla, beat to combine.

Add butter-chocolate mixture, beat on high until fully incorporated and smooth.

Add the sour cream, beat until combined.

Add flour mixture, beat until just combined–do not overmix

Scrape into prepared pan, smooth top, and bake for about 50 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Remove from oven, let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then carefully unmold onto wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting
Place all ingredients in heavy saucepan over very low heat and whisk until smooth. Watch carefully so that it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth.

Let cool until frosting is thickened. You want it to be in a state where it’s not so warm that it will run off of the cake, but not so cool that it is too stiff to frost with. I let it sit on the counter for awhile whisk it every so often.

Frost the completely cool cake. Don’t forget the little inner ring. It will further cool into a shiny glaze. It will be beautiful!

I usually have some frosting left over–store in fridge for spoonfuls of decadent midnight snacks.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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  1. Christine says

    Question: is there a way to use a 70% chocolate instead of the bakers chocolate here? Maybe use less water and more chocolate? I bought a really great chocolate bar (Scharffen Berger) at a store farther away from my grocery store that only carry the regular bakers chocolate that I was hoping to use. I have been using your blog for all of my baking and it has been the best! Really just love every recipe I try.

    • says

      Christine: Do you mean in the cake? Since it calls for unsweetened chocolate and the 70% contains some sugar, the cake will turn out a little bit (not a lot) sweeter than if you used the unsweetened chocolate. Which is not necessarily a bad thing :). I would experiment. Try it with the 70% chocolate and see how you like it. If it is a tad sweeter than you’d like, experiment with using a bit less sugar. Thank you for the kind words! And happy baking!

      • Christine says

        Ahh good point, I forgot about the sugar haha. That makes a lot of sense to me, so I found some better 100% chocolate bars at a store near me. I thought I would use the 70% for the frosting, but then my husband asked for cream cheese icing (I think its his favorite) so I didn’t end up using it for this cake. I think I will just have to use it for chocolate covered strawberries or something 😀 . Oh also I used 1 cup of brewed coffee instead of the boiling water, which they say coffee enhances chocolate taste right? I thought it didn’t over power the chocolate.

        • says

          Christine: Sounds good! Also, using coffee instead of boiling water is awesome. You’re right–coffee is an excellent foil for chocolate.

  2. Terri says

    I made this for my son for his birthday today, while it was moist and the chocolate taste wasn’t too strong, the consistency is spongy and really isn’t anything like regular cake.

  3. Amber says

    I don’t own a tubed cake pan…only 9″ round pans. Would it work to use those for a two layer cake or is the tube pan necessary for this cake to bake properly?

  4. Deb says

    I made this recipe two weekends ago and it was AWESOME!!! I made it as cupcakes and used a different icing recipe that I could pipe on. No gritty aftertaste like other recipes and GF flour mixes I’d been using – this was my first recipe using YOUR mix. They stayed fresh for days and everyone loved them. It’s definitely gone into my keeper cookbook and I can’t wait to try out more of your recipes. Thanks for all your hard work and sharing it with us.

  5. Joan says

    Hi! I just made this subbing in Earth’s Best Vegan Buttery Sticks and So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt instead of sour cream, So Delicious Coconut Creamer instead of heavy cream to make it a dairy free version and it worked nicely! The ganache turned out great.

  6. Connie says

    A world of “thank yous” to you for posting this recipe!!!! I made this cake for my wonderful boyfriend’s 50th birthday. He greatly appreciated my efforts to make a gluten free cake and everyone that attended the party LOVED the cake. I’m not much of a cook let alone a baker…this was super easy to put together. A world of “thank yous”!!!!!

  7. Belem says

    Hi- I am new to gluten free baking and am so glad I found your blog, it’s been super helpful! I have a few questions if you are willing to answer them: can you tell me how this cake recipe compares to your Chocolate Bundt Cake recipe? Do you prefer one over the other? Also, are there any modifications I would need to make to adjust for high altitude?

    • admin says

      Belem: The Chocolate Bundt Cake is more dense than the Decadent Chocolate Cake, which has a lighter crumb. I like both for different reasons. I prefer the Decadent Chocolate Cake as a birthday cake, while I like the Chocolate Bundt Cake as a snack cake. Also, from what my readers tell me, gluten-free does very well at high altitude. It rises better and more quickly. Thus, you might need to bake things for a shorter time than those of us at sea level. Watch your baking and see how it does. Let me know if you get a chance!


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