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Gluten-Free Yellow Cake (Dairy-Free)

Nostalgia at its yummiest, this gluten-free yellow cake covered in whipped chocolate frosting is better than a box mix. Tender layers full of classic buttery flavor paired with rich fudgy chocolate frosting, it’s the perfect birthday cake! Bonus: the recipe can be made gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, or just plain “regular.”

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Gluten-free yellow cake with a rich brown chocolate frosting and rainbow colored sprinkles on top.

The Best Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Recipe

Made from scratch with the most tender and moist cake layers, this easy gluten-free yellow cake is simple to make and the perfect way to celebrate a special someone or enjoy a bite of childhood yum.

Here’s why you’re going to love it:

Easy Recipe: A handful of pantry staples and easy-to-follow steps.

Amazing Taste & Texture: Made with all butter for ultimate richness while maintaining a cake mix-like fluffy texture.

Versatile: Cupcakes, sheet cake, or stacked. This cake can be baked and enjoyed in all forms.

Dietary/Lifestyle Friendly: A recipe that can be tailored to suit different dietary/lifestyle needs.

What Makes Up A Gluten-Free Yellow Cake

Yellow Cake Layers – A moist but fluffy crumb made with 100% butter.

Chocolate Frosting – Rich and fudgy, it’s whipped to fluffy chocolate perfection. 

Gluten-free yellow cake with a rich brown chocolate frosting and rainbow colored sprinkles on top.

Yellow Cake Ingredients & Substitutions

As always this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free. That said, I test each recipe with “regular” ingredients and make notes of alternatives or swaps so that everyone can enjoy it.

Here are a few key ingredients for this cake but make sure you scroll to the bottom recipe card for the complete ingredient list.

Dry Ingredients

Flour: I made this cake with XO Baking gluten-free all-purpose flour blend. If you are not gluten-free, swap the flour with regular all-purpose flour. Note that gluten-free flour blends can vary in weight so I recommend measuring by the cup.

Baking Powder: Helps the cake to rise.

Cream of Tartar: Helps stabilize the whipped egg whites. If you do not have this on hand you can omit it, just be extra gentle when folding the whipped egg whites into the batter.

Cocoa Powder: Make sure to use unsweetened cocoa powder. Natural or Dutch-processed is best.

Wet Ingredients

Buttermilk: I make my dairy-free buttermilk by combining almond milk with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. If you are not dairy-free or vegan, use regular buttermilk.

Eggs: If you are vegan or egg-free, the egg yolks can be replaced with liquid egg replacer, vegan or regular sour cream, applesauce, or mashed banana. The whipped egg whites can be replaced with whipped aquafaba. Note: the cake will be more dense in texture.

Butter: Becel plant-based salted bricks are my personal favorite for baking but any brick-style dairy-free, vegan, lactose-free, or regular butter will work. 

Gluten-free yellow cake with a rich brown chocolate frosting and rainbow colored sprinkles on top.

Yellow Cake Step-By-Step Instructions

Here’s how to make this decadent celiac-friendly and dairy-free yellow cake recipe. You’ll need a large mixing bowl, a stand mixer or handheld electric one, two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans, a whisk, and a spatula.

1: In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl with a handheld mixer combine the butter and sugar and beat together until light and fluffy.

2: Add in the egg yolks and vanilla and mix until combined.

3: Measure in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and begin to mix on low. As the mixer is going on low, slowly pour in the buttermilk and mix. Set aside.

4: In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks are achieved.

5: VERY gently fold the egg whites into the batter and mix until just incorporated.

6: Divide the cake batter into two 8-inch cake pans and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes. Cakes are done baking when the edges pull away from the pan and spring back to the touch. Allow cakes to cool to room temperature.

7: Prepare the frosting by creaming the butter quickly until smooth and fluffy.

8: Add in the icing sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt and mix until combined. Turn up to high and allow to cream until fluffy and smooth.

9: Stack, frost, and decorate the gluten-free yellow cake as desired. Enjoy!

Gluten-free yellow cake with a rich brown chocolate frosting and rainbow colored sprinkles on top.

Yellow Cake Assembly Success Tips

Stacking a layer cake can feel a bit scary. But, as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Let’s set you up for dairy-free gluten-free yellow layer cake success with a few tips and tricks.

Fully Cooled Cake Layers: Even if a tiny bit warm, layers will slip. Ensure that each cake layer is fully cooled, if not chilled. I will even work with semi-frozen cake layers if I have to bake them a few days before stacking.

Leveled Cake Layers: Flat and level cake layers will sit and stack far easier than crooked ones. I use this super easy cake tool to ensure each cake layer is perfectly level.

Keep the Cake Chilled: If you begin to feel the cake slip or the frosting is too soft to work with, pop the cake and frosting back into the fridge to chill. Remember, don’t rush it. Take your time.

Gluten-free yellow cake with a rich brown chocolate frosting and rainbow colored sprinkles on top.

How To Decorate A Dairy-Free Yellow Cake

“As you desire” is often how I refer to cake decoration. It’s not that I don’t want you to make the same cake I did, it’s simply that I don’t want you to feel like you *have* to make the same cake.

We all have an inner cake artist and I want to encourage you to let it shine. That said, let’s break down this allergy-friendly yellow cake decor.

First: Crumb-coat the cake and allow it to chill for 10 minutes. See the above section for stacking tips and tricks.

Second: Put a final “beauty” coat of frosting on the cake and smooth the sides and top of the cake with a smoother or offset spatula. Allow the cake to chill for another 10 minutes.

Third: Pipe Wilton 1m swirls on top of the cake and sprinkle with fun nonpareil sprinkles.

Pro Tip: Allow the cake to come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Gluten-free yellow cake with a rich brown chocolate frosting and rainbow colored sprinkles on top.

Storing and Freezing Instructions

This cake can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months. 

Remember that, due to the nature of gluten-free cake, it will dry out a bit each day while stored. It is best enjoyed within the first day or two.

Make Ahead Tip: If you want to bake the cake layers a few days in advance, you most certainly can. Allow the layers to cool for 20-30 minutes, cover them tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze until you are ready to stack and decorate the cake. Remove the cake layers from the freezer approximately 1 hour before you plan to stack and decorate and allow them to thaw slightly at room temperature.

Bet yet, this cake can be frozen fully made, and decorated. Special occasions are often busy and I will sometimes freeze an entire finished cake a few days in advance to save time and stress the day of.

The night before you plan to serve the cake, remove it from the freezer and place it in the fridge to slowly thaw overnight. Do not take it straight from the freezer to room temperature. Doing so will cause condensation and you risk the cake toppling.

Gluten-free yellow cake with a rich brown chocolate frosting and rainbow colored sprinkles on top.

Gluten-Free Yellow Cake FAQs

What makes gluten-free yellow cake different?

Yellow cake, affectionately called that due to the golden yellow hue, uses all butter and both egg whites and egg yolks. It has a soft but moist texture and a rich buttery flavor.

What’s a good frosting for yellow cake?

Traditionally, yellow cake is paired with a rich chocolate frosting. If you are not a chocolate fan, a simple vanilla frosting would be delicious as would a lemon buttercream.

Can this be made into cupcakes?

Yes, it absolutely can. The full recipe will make approximately 24 cupcakes or you could half it for 12 cupcakes.

What other pans can I use?

This can be baked in a 9×13 cake pan (it won’t need as much frosting though), three 6-inch rounds, or two 9-inch pans. Note that the baking time will change.

Always look for light golden edges that are pulling away from the pan, the top should bounce bake to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

Is It Possible To Make Everything In Advance?

Each element can be made in advance. What a lifesaver! Store the chocolate frosting in an air-tight container in the fridge. The cake layers should be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored overnight in the fridge or frozen in the freezer if baked more than 1 day in advance. 

Gluten-free yellow cake with a rich brown chocolate frosting and rainbow colored sprinkles on top.

The Best Yellow Cake Gluten-Free Recipe

Moist tender layers of classic yellow cake paired with rich fudgy chocolate frosting and finished with a fun splash of colorful sprinkles. Made from scratch, this easy dairy-free and gluten-free recipe will knock your socks off with all the traditional yellow cake yum in every single bite.

An adaptable ingredient list allows you to tailor this recipe to suit all dietary or lifestyle needs. Everybody deserves cake and now they can have it!

Make sure you tag me on social media @cakedbykatie and leave me a star rating and review below if you make it. I cannot wait to see!

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Gluten-free yellow cake with a rich brown chocolate frosting and rainbow colored sprinkles on top.

Gluten-Free Yellow Cake (Dairy-Free)


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  • Author: Katie Stymiest
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
  • Yield: 16 Servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Nostalgia at its yummiest, this gluten-free yellow cake covered in whipped chocolate frosting is better than a box mix. Tender and fluffy layers full of classic buttery flavor paired with fudgy chocolate frosting, it’s the perfect birthday cake! Bonus: the recipe can be made gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, or just plain “regular.”


Ingredients

Units Scale

Yellow Cake

  • 1 cup (227g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, separated & at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (240g) gluten-free flour 1:1 baking blend
  • 2 tablespoons (16g) cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup (240ml) dairy-free milk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) apple cider vinegar *see note if using regular buttermilk

Chocolate Frosting

  • 2 cups (454g) vegan salted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups (480g) powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (80g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • optional: sprinkles for decor

Instructions

Yellow Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare two 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray and parchment paper.
  2. In a small mixing bowl or glass, whisk together the milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside to allow it to “curdle.” Skip the step if using regular buttermilk.
  3. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl with a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This should take approximately 5 minutes.
  4. Add in the egg yolks and vanilla and mix until fully combined.
  5. Measure in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and start to mix on low.
  6. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the buttermilk. Turn the mixer up to medium and mix until combined and a smooth batter forms. Set aside.
  7. In a stand mixer or mixing bowl with a hand-held mixer, add the egg whites and cream of tartar (if using) and whip on high speed until stiff peaks are achieved. They should hold a thick peak when held upright.
  8. With a spatula, VERY gently fold the whipped egg whites into the cake batter until just combined. Be careful to not overmix. This will cause the cake layers to sink.
  9. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  10. Remove from the oven and allow the cake layers to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to fully cool. Note that the cake layers are very tender. Handle with care.

Chocolate Frosting 

  1. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl with a handheld mixer, cream the butter on high speed until light and fluffy. This should take approximately 5-10 minutes. 
  2. Add in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt and mix on low until combined. Turn the mixer up to high and allow to cream for 5 minutes.

Cake Assembly

  1. Level each fully cooled yellow cake layer with a cake leveler or knife if needed. *The layers should bake flat though.

  2. Place one leveled layer of cake on a cake board, plate, and/or cake turntable and top with approximately 2 cups of chocolate buttercream.

  3. Top with the remaining cake layer and very gently apply a thin coat of buttercream to the entire cake. Chill the cake for 10-20 minutes. *If the cake feels unstable or the buttercream becomes too soft at any point while stacking, stop and chill the cake and frosting for 15 minutes.
  4. Cover the cake with a final layer of buttercream and smooth the sides with a cake smoother and/or offset spatula.

  5. Decorate the cake as you please. I piped Wilton 1m swirls around the top border of the cake. Sprinkle on fun nonpareil sprinkles if desired. Enjoy!
  6. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Notes

*Omit apple cider vinegar if using regular buttermilk

  • Prep Time: 60 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 Minutes
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

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