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

by Jeanne on May 29, 2010

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 (edited 5/31/10 10 add missing instructions)
-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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