Fast, Easy, and Elegant Chocolate Cake, Gluten-Free

As you know, I do a lot of baking for other people.  Most people I bake for aren’t even gluten-free–they just like good baking.  Which makes me so very happy.  To have my gluten-free baking considered just plain ol’ good baking is one of my most cherished accomplishments.

One of the first recipes I adapted to gluten-free is Alice Medrich‘s Fastest Fudge Cake from her book Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate

.  I found the recipe in the magazine, Fine Cooking, when they had a spread on chocolate.  Mmmm, chocolate.  As you may know, Medrich is one of the foremost experts on chocolate in the United States.  Some people refer to her as The First Lady of Chocolate or Madam Chocolate.  Both descriptions apply.  She was the founder and owner of the renowned chain of chocolate shops, Cocolat, in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s and 80s (the stores were sold in the 1990s).  A quote in Gourmet magazine stated that: “Cocolat is to chocolate what Tiffany’s is to diamonds.”  I had the pleasure of eating at her Berkeley shop years ago, and I’ve always remembered the cake as one of the best chocolate cakes I ever had.  An article in the New York Times describes that chocolate truffles were virtually unknown in the United States before she started making and selling them in 1973.  Her truffles contained a soft chocolate ganache in the center that had a somewhat lumpy shape, and these lumpy-looking truffles became known as “California truffles.”  Whatever their shape, I want to thank Ms. Medrich to bringing truffles to us–they are one of my favorite things in the whole world!  She also is the author of other award-winning cookbooks including, Cocolat: Extraordinary Chocolate Desserts, and A Year in Chocolate: Four Seasons of Unforgettable Desserts.

Is it any wonder that I wanted to make her fudge cake recipe?  This is one of the easiest and most delicious chocolate cakes you will ever bake and eat. The cake isn’t really that fudgy, it’s just a terrific chocolate cake with a nice crumb and a simple ganache frosting that is out of this world!  One of the my very first “gluten-free baking for non-gluten free people” experiences occurred at the christening party for the daughter of two of our friends.  I was still in the beginning of my gluten-free baking career and I brought this cake.  It was so important to me that people liked it.  I was relieved and so proud when everyone not only liked the cake, they loved the cake, asked for more, and then asked for the recipe.  It was such a wonderful evening for me–and helped me feel empowered to continue on my gluten-free baking path.  That was over 6 years ago and I haven’t looked back.

Currently, I have a group of women that I’ve been getting together with for several years for regular lunch potlucks.  Every time one of them has a birthday, they request this cake.  Sometimes I try to get creative and I bring another cake.  Now, these other cakes are always delicious and well-received, but the birthday girl inevitably pulls me aside and makes sure I know to make the chocolate cake next time.  I’ve learned to not mess with tradition.  And why should I?  This is a winner!

On top of being delicious, this cake always looks so elegant.  It’s deceptively simple, which is terrific.  I really like presenting it on it’s own on a pretty plate.  You could get creative and add berries to the side.  One time I found some edible gold foil that I crumpled up and put on the top, in the very center, for decoration.  Wow, talk about elegant!  But, whatever you do, this cake is a knock-out and is sure to please anyone in your life who is a chocolate lover (I’ve even won over some non-chocolate lovers with it, too!).

Fast, Easy, and Elegant Chocolate Cake, Gluten-Free
-adapted from Alice Medrich’s Fastest Fudge Cake
-makes one 8″ or 9″ round single-layer cake


For the Cake
1 cup (140 g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (30 g) unsweetened cocoa, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 oz, 115 g) unsalted butter, melted and warm (but not hot)
1 1/4 cup (190 g) dark brown sugar (packed)–you may also use light brown sugar if you prefer
2 extra-large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) hot water

For the Ganache
1 1/4 cup (8 oz, 230g) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (235 ml) heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4.

The best way to prepare your pan for a cake layer such as this is by lining the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.  No other greasing or flouring is needed.  By doing this, you make sure the cake doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, but the rest of the cake has some traction to climb up the sides of the pan to allow it to achieve its fullest possible height.

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

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until they are pale in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the brown sugar, beat for 2 minutes more.  Carefully add the melted butter, beating on low while you add it to the egg mixture.  Beat about 1 more minute.  Add the vanilla extract.  Beat to combine.

With beater on low, beat in flour mixture.  Very carefully add the hot water to the mixture and beat on low until just combined.  Pour batter into your prepared pan–pour into the middle of the pan so you don’t shift the parchment paper.  Thump the pan on the counter once to release any trapped air bubbles.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes for a 9″ pan and 35-40 minutes for an 8″ pan (or until tester comes out clean).  Let cool in pan for five minutes and then turn out onto rack to cool completely.  Peel off parchment paper round.

While the cake is cooling, make your ganache.

Carefully heat the cream in a heavy bottomed pan until it is hot–watch carefully, you don’t want it to burn.  Take it off the heat.  Add the chocolate chips to the pan and whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy.  Wait until the mixture has cooled and thickened up a bit before pouring onto cooled cake.

Once the cake is cooled, place it on your serving plate.  When the ganache is ready, slowly and carefully pour the ganache over the top of the cake.  You want to cover the top with ganache, and let it drip down the sides to cover the sides.  You will have little pools of ganache form on the plate at the bottom edges of the cake.  This is fine.  You and your guests will want to scoop up these ganache pools as the cake is being served because they are so good!


This is the cake as it looked at our last potluck–I bring it in a vintage cake carrier and serve it directly from there. I was in a hurry that day and you can see that the ganache hadn’t cooled much–but it’s delicious no matter what!

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  1. Robina Gaines says

    I am new to gf baking however, I am learning more by my mistakes than by my success. However thank-you so much for Baking Blog. I know your recipes are tried and true. The only problem I have I try to convert some of the recipes to dairy free. I know you are going to suggest a non-dairy spread and all have corn which I am also allergic to. question is to you can I substitute oil instead of butter in this recipe to get the same results?
    Thank you again for all the hard work and time you put in for us that are on the same path behind you.

  2. Jenny says

    I don’t even know if this web site is still active, but I am gluten-free as of last July, so I only found Jeanne around Christmas. I made this cake this week for my son’s birthday. He is vegetarian/egg-free, so I substituted flaxseed & water for the eggs. This was fantastic! I used a 9×13 pan, & adjusted the cooking time, then after it cooled, I cut it in half & made a layer cake. Luckily it was just for my family, because it didn’t look very pretty, but nobody cared. We used a GF cookies & cream frosting for inside & on top, & refrigerated it for a couple hours. The texture was fabulous, and the taste absolutely awesome! So fudgy & rich–we were all blown away. This is our go-to cake from now on! Thank you, Jeanne!!!

    • says

      Jenny: Yay! I’m so glad. And I love that you made your own tweaks to it–hooray! Also: it’s my go-to cake, too. It’s kind of the perfect cake. :)

      • Jenny says

        FYI – I went to the home page & saw the info for your latest cookbook release. When I said I wasn’t sure if your site was active, it was because other comments this recipe page were from a year ago, but I still wanted to leave my review. I am paying attention, I promise! :)

        • says

          Jenny: No worries :). There are so many recipes on the site–some have more active comment sections than others. Happy to have you here!

  3. Kate says

    Jeanne, I am brand new to gluten free baking. I made this recipe into cupcakes and topped them with chocolate buttercream frosting for a fundraising bake-off. Despite being the only gluten-free entrant, it won the contest for best taste! Thank you so much for helping all of us to be healthy while still eating well.

  4. says

    Hi Jeanne! Last night I made your incredibly scrumptious Elegant Fudge Cake. I used two – 6″ cake pans, as I wanted the layers to be higher. It worked beautifully! I then moistened the top and bottom of the two layers while still nice and warm with “Torani’s Chocolate Syrup. Oh my.
    I had some Lemon Swiss Meringue Butter Cream Frosting left over and I frosted it with that. I did use some self restraint/control (which I completely lost later in the evening!), and put the beautiful little cake on my pretty cake stand and popped it into the fridge.
    I did finally loose control about 8:30 pm and cut myself a lovely piece, and took pictures for you, too.
    I must say that the first bite nearly caused me to swoon, and in fact my eyes watered with genuine tears. I have been refusing to buy any premixed boxed GF product as I am a great baker and own my own catering company. So i’m limited on time to get to play and figure something new out in the GF arena.
    Thank you so much for playing with your food and sharing with all of us.
    I’m going to take this recipe and expand on it to make some of my life’s favorites. And I’ll share them, too!
    Thank you again, Jeanne!

  5. megan says

    I discovered your site while searching about gluten free baking powder (great article you put together btw), and I saw a link to this delicious looking cake. In any case, I’m curious. Do you know the difference between white rice flour, and sweet rice flour? I’ve done some GF baking these past few months, and I’m constantly amazed at how many flours there are. I can hardly keep track!

    Now I’m off to explore your recipes…..

    Thank you!

    • says

      Megan: Thanks. They are from two different types of rice. Sweet rice is also called “glutinous” rice. It’s more sticky. Read my Flour Mix post for more info.

  6. Kristin says

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU! We eliminated wheat from our diet nearly completely last January and I lost 20lbs in the process. I thought I had given up the opportunity to bake with my children though. I made this cake (although 3 layers, ganache between 1st 2 layers and frosting on top) for my birthday today and it was fantastic. I have also made your pancake recipe and my kids gobbled it up. Can’t wait to try your other recipes and enjoy baking with my children again.

    • says

      Kristin: Yay! I’m so glad! I felt the same way when I was diagnosed–I was worried that I wouldn’t ever be able to bake with my daughter. Luckily, that turned out to no be true! Yay!

  7. says

    Hi Jeanne,
    I am so excited to try this as cupcakes for my friend’s birthday! I love how easy this looks and your comments are so user friendly. I don’t consider myself a baker but your recipes and website do not intimidate and I love that. Thank you! Anne (@littleredhens)

    • admin says

      Anne: Yay!! So happy to know this site is helpful for you! And yes–this recipe is so awesomely easy. Also, the ganache can be used as frosting: just let it cool to a spreadable consistency.

  8. Sonia says

    I tried making this cake the other day (used your suggested flour mix), I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly the Queen of baking but for some reason the cake just didn’t get the height that it shows in your photos :(
    I really tried to follow each of your instructions exactly but was disappointed with my result! Any ideas what I did wrong? I used a 9′ cake tin but the cake only ended up about 1′ in height! I really want to use this recipe for my daughters first birthday cake so any advice would be great!

    • admin says

      Sonia: The photo is of a cake baked in an 8 inch pan–so it will be a bit higher than one baked in a 9 inch pan. If you want more loft, I would recommend trying it in an 8 inch pan. :)

  9. Christine says

    I love your recipes. I use coconut sugar and dates in place of processed sugars, I love the results both in taste and on my waistline. We have adopted a GF and Low GL lifestyle and I can’t tell you the difference it has made in our family. Thank you for the recipes!

  10. AnnA says

    Greetings Jeanne!
    Just found your website a few days ago and I’m baking my way through your recipes. Such fun!
    I’ve made some substitutions to the mix and the recipes b/c of dietary issues. (can’t have that much white rice)
    Instead of 1 1/4 c. white rice flour in the mix – I sub’d 1 c. sweet white sorghum flour and I increased the sweet rice flour to 1 1/4 c.
    All else was the same.
    Made the Fast/Easy/Elegant Choc Cake first and was it a hit!
    My hubby who hates all store-bought gluten-free mixes and products didn’t even know it was gf.
    I used 3/4 c dark brn sugar and 1/2 c xylitol. (Next time I’ll use all xylitol – see * below.)
    The cake was perfect – great mouth feel – tasted and felt exactly like choc cake is supposed to feel in your mouth. (NOT LIKE THE GRITTY ALL RICE FLOUR MIXES FROM THE STORE!)
    Today I made the pancakes with my adjusted mix.
    Used xylitol for the sugar, sub’d soy milk. Could not tell they were gf !!!
    Did not fall apart in the pan – fluffy – perfect texture.
    I did add 1 tsp each of lemon extract and vanilla extract for some added flavor. It was gf heaven!
    As I work my way through your recipes, I will be using xylitol for the sugars where possible.
    Going forward, I’ll be using my homemade brn sugar * which I make in the food processor with xylitol and molasses.
    Sometimes with choc cake recipes, I’ve noticed that “cool” feeling in your mouth from the sugar alcohol when ALL xylitol is used. It doesn’t affect the taste – just the mouth feel.
    I’ve learned to add just a little regular sugar to offset that – but I’m really supposed to use just xylitol as my sweetner.
    I’ll report back from time to time, if you wish.
    Thank you for all your time, effort, and for the thousands of batches you made through the years to perfect these amazing recipes.
    Blessings on you and your new cook book.

    • admin says

      Ann, wow! Thank you so much for all of this information. And xylitol mixed with molasses? What a fab idea! Ppl ask me for alternative brown sugar options–I’ll mention that one. I”m so glad my recipes are helpful for you. It sounds like your are doing terrific things with them! Yay!

  11. Lynne says

    Hi Jeanne!
    I used this recipe to make cupcakes that I’ll be taking to a dinner party tonight. These are amazing–there’s NO way you would suspect they are gluten free! Not as quick as a wheat flour recipe, but worth the effort. The recipe made 12 cupcakes (I used the baking cup liners) and took about 18 min. in a 350 oven. Now I’m off to ice them with a buttercream icing.

    • admin says

      Lynne: So awesome! This is recipe is one of my (and my friends’) favorites. It’s the one every requests! So glad it turned out well for you!


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