Little Tiered Chocolate Cakes, Gluten-Free

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope everyone has fun plans, whatever your relationship status. We plan to have a home cooked meal finishing with a cute tiered chocolate cake for each of us.

I got the idea for these cakes from Jacques Torres, also known as Mr. Chocolate. If you don’t Torres, he is the owner of Jacques Torres Chocolates in New York City, the author of several books on dessert and chocolate, and the Dean of Pastry Arts at the French Culinary Institute in New York City.  Torres has a fun book, A Year In Chocolate, in which he has several dessert recipe for each month.   For one of these recipes he bakes chocolate cake in metal measuring cups and then stacks them up for little tiered cakes.  Quelle bonne idée!

They look hard but, actually, they couldn’t be easier.  I use my Fast, Easy, and Elegant Fudge Cake recipe and bake it in metal measuring cups.  You can experiment with what measures you want to use, but I found that the 1 C, 1/2 C, and 1/4 C cups made a sweet little cake.  The 1/3 C measure is  similar enough in size to the 1/4 C measure that adding it to the mix made the cakes look a little wonky. 

This recipe makes about 3 tiered cakes.  I have 2 sets of metal measuring cups.  So, I bake 2 sets of tiered cakes and use the additional batter for making 3 cupcakes.  Or I bake 2 sets and then bake the final 1 set afterwards.  Do what works for you.  Also, if you are one of those who prefer to measure by weight, this is an awesome way to use your cup measures!

Once the cakes are cooled, they are stacked and chocolate ganache is smoothed over the tiers.  The ganache will set and form something of a ganache shell around the cakes.  They are so pretty in addition to being delicious!  The ganache “shell” also steadies the tiers and helps them not topple over.

The fab thing about these cakes is that they provide a whole little cake for each person.  They make for a terrific table presentation.  This is how we will eat them tonight in our house.  You can also take the cake apart and let each person have a tier.  In our house this works out to be: the little tier for me (more ganache!), the middle tier for dAhub (who really gets the raw deal because he doesn’t get the ganache-rich top or the cake-rich bottom), and the bottom tier for Girlfriend (because it’s the biggest and, at her age, the biggest always equals the best).

Little Tiered Chocolate Cakes, Gluten-Free
-makes 3, 3-tiered cakes

Special Equipment Needed
-a stand mixer is really helpful, but a hand mixer will do
-metal measuring cups, 1/4 C, 1/2 C, and 1 C measures

Note:  This recipe uses my gluten-free flour mix:
Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (mix together and store in a dark, cool place):
1 1/4 C (170 g) brown rice flour
1 1/4 C (205 g) white rice flour
1 C (120 g) tapioca flour
1 C (165 g) sweet rice flour (also known as Mochiko)
2 scant tsp. xanthan gum
(you can also use the gluten-free flour mixture (not baking mix) of your choice–just be sure it contains xanthan gum. Or, you can add 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum per cup of gluten-free flour. If you use bean flour, it will add a bean taste to the cake)


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

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

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line the bottom of each measuring cup (I use the 1/4 C, 1/2 C, and the 1 C) with a round of parchment paper.  No need for other greasing or flouring of the cups.  This allows the batter to “climb” up the sides of the cups, but also allows for easy removal after baking.

In addition, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

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

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and brown sugar until light and fluffy–about 4 minutes.  Carefully add the melted and cooled butter, beat for 1 minute more.  Add vanilla extract, beat until just combined.  Add the flour mixture, beating until just combined.

Carefully add the hot water and carefully beat until just combined.

Using a spoon, fill each lined cup 1/2 full–any more and the cakes will grow too large out of the cups and you will have to cut them to make them work for the tiers.  This recipe makes enough for 3 sets of cups.  I have 2 sets of measuring cups and I’m often lazy, so I often make 2 sets and then 3 cupcakes with the batter.  But, do what you want.

Thwap (that’s the technical term) each cup on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles.  Place each cup on the lined cookie sheet and place in oven.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  At this point, the 1/4 C measures should be done (check with a cake tester).  Carefully remove them from the cookie sheet (remember, the handles are hot!).  Place the remainder of the cups in the oven (where your cupcakes still are if you’re doing cupcakes) and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Now the remainder of the cups and the cupcakes should be done (again, use a cake tester to check).  Remove from oven. 

Let each cake cool in the cup for 5 minutes.  Then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

When you’re ready to assemble and frost the cakes, make your ganache.  Heat the cream over medium heat until it just boils (watch it carefully–you don’t want it to burn).   Once it boils, remove from heat.  Add the chocolate chips and swirl a bit to make sure the chips are covered.  Leave it for 1 minute to melt the chocolate.  After 1 minute, whisk cream and chocolate together until smooth.

Let the ganache sit for a bit so firm up a little.  Once it’s thick and a bit slow-moving, you’re ready to frost the cakes. 

Stack your layers on a wire rack set over a plate or a cookie sheet.  The 1 C cake on bottom, 1/2 C cake in middle, 1/4 C on top.  Since these are so tiny, there is no need for any support in the middle like you would have for a normal-sized tiered cake.

Carefully and slowly drizzle the ganache over each cake.  Using a spatula or a butter knife, smooth the ganache over each ledge and into the nooks and crannies.  You want to cover ever part of the outside of each cake with ganache, to form something of a shell around the entire cake.  The extra ganache will drip through the rack onto your plate or cookie sheet.  After you’re done, let the ganache set before serving (if you can wait.  If not, go ahead and eat them!).

If you want to go completely over the top, serve cakes with a little dollop of unsweetened whipped cream on the side.


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  1. Jennifer says

    Maybe not what you were aiming for but these made me think of (and want) Ding Dongs! Does this ganache set into a firm icing or stay wetish? Gonna have to figure out GF Ding Dongs now… Thanks a lot! 😉

    • admin says

      Jennifer: It sets a little bit wettish. I think for a more firm icing, you would want a chocolate mixed with butter instead of cream. I was just thinking about Ding Dongs, myself. Also, I would bake them in muffin tins. :)

  2. Cheryl says

    Made these today as cupcakes and they were delicious!! We just topped them with whipped cream and sprinkled with some colored sugar (for a 3 yo birthday). So good!!! Thanks!

    • admin says

      I know–I’ve seen them somewhere. I should go get some and check them out. What I like about this idea is that I’m guessing more folks have measuring cups in their kitchens…:). Thanks!

  3. rwect says

    how funny i just used your crazy cake recipe for a valentine cake, i’m trying to do a cake with a heart inside (saw it on ‘i am baker’) so sweet.
    i love the tiered little cakes idea with measuring cups, i wanted a small cake today, so i took the handle off my little saucepan and used that, little cakes really do make for cute cakes :)


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