Being gluten-free, one of the things that can be challenging is to find a good cake, either for a celebration or for no reason at all. Now, many of our local bakeries provide fabulous gluten-free and wheat-free sweet treats. The drawback is that they can be expensive and they may not be the type, size, or flavour you were looking for. Baking your own gluten-free celebration cake may be the way to go and today we’re sharing our recipe for a scrumptious gluten-free chocolate mocha layer cake that will be perfect for any occasion.
Chocolate cakes are a moist choice for any gluten-free baking. Vanilla cakes are great too. I personally love both, but a chocolate gluten-free cake tends to be an easier cake recipe to attempt, for all of us, novice gluten-free bakers. This gluten-free chocolate mocha layer cake was one I made for my dad’s birthday, because he wanted a cake we could all enjoy, and it certainly received rave reviews. This cake was super moist, had a nostalgic chocolate cake taste, a fabulous tender crumb, and no one guessed it was gluten-free.
It is a two-layer chocolate mocha cake, with a chocolate soak, mocha buttercream frosting, and a mocha pastry cream filling. Don’t be afraid if you think this is rather advanced-it isn’t. The cake would be just as great with just the frosting, if you skipped the pastry cream (although it’s delicious, and you might want to give it a try). Neither the chocolate nor the coffee flavours are overwhelming. Truly, they marry well, as the coffee enhances the chocolate flavour. This cake is perfect for chocolate and/or coffee lovers.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Mocha Layer Cake
For The Chocolate Mocha Cake:
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 3/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill 1 for 1 gluten-free flour
- 5 tbs of corn starch
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa (lightly spoon into a cup)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened (not softened in microwave)
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup hot coffee, it can be instant or brewed
- Butter for greasing your pan
- 1 tablespoon gf flour for dusting
For the Pastry Cream
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 2 tablespoons brewed espresso or strong coffee
- 2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
For The Buttercream:
- 5 oz semi-sweet bakers chocolate
- 3 tbs espresso or strong coffee
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 1/2 cups butter softened
- Pinch of salt
- 6 cups icing sugar
- 2 tbs cocoa powder
For The Cake Soak
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
For The Chocolate Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Take out two 9-inch cake pans.
- Cut a piece of parchment paper so it is large enough to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Fold that piece of parchment paper in half and half again until you have a triangle or cone shape. Place the tip of the cone in the centre of the pan and using your finger apply pressure at the edge of the tin to make a fold or indent.
- Using scissors cut where you have indicated. This will give you a perfect circle that will fit the bottom of your pan.
- Set parchment paper circle aside.
- Lightly grease the pan using butter.
- Place parchment paper circle in the bottom of the pan and grease over the parchment paper.
- Place 1 tablespoon of flour in the pan then shake, tap, and shimmy, the pan; so that it is well dusted with a thin layer of the flour.
- Repeat these steps for the second cake pan.
- Place all of the gluten-free flour in a bowl and remove 5 tbs of the flour. Then add in the 5 tbs of corn starch. This makes for a lighter and more cake flour-like blend, which is much better for baking fluffy gluten-free cakes.
- To the flour add the remaining dry ingredients: sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk for 1 minute to blend and aerate. By using a whisk to combine these ingredients you’re able to skip the step of sifting all of the dry ingredients. Sifting would help remove any clumps or lumps that may end up in your cake and by whisking them thoroughly this will accomplish the same thing.
- Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, add your softened butter a few pieces at a time, into the dry ingredients. Continue doing this until the dry ingredients appear to have a coarse sand-like texture. As in any time you are baking, be sure to stop and scrape your bowl. Make sure to scrape the bottom so that no flour gets stuck in a bottom ridge or at the sides of the bowl. These little steps, make a major difference.
- In another bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla together until blended.
- With your stand or hand mixer on medium, pour in half of the wet ingredient mixture, into the dry ingredient mixture. This is called reverse creaming, and it is very important to follow this method to achieve a great crumb to your cake. Mix your combined batter for at least one minute or until it is well combined. Stop mixing and scrape down the sides, and bottom of your bowl. Pour in the other half of your liquid mixture and combine well.
- Lower the speed of your mixer, and pour in the cup of hot coffee and mix until well combined. Know that this is a very thin batter and will appear runny- that’s how it should be.
- As with any gluten-free batter, it needs to rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes, so that there is a chance for the liquids to be properly absorbed. You can cover your bowl with a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper and just set it aside on your counter for that time.
- Pour half the batter into each of the prepared cake pans.
- Know that when you are pouring a gluten-free batter into any cake pan you do need to use a spatula to even them out, because they don’t level off themselves, the way a traditional batter would.
- Also, tap your pan a few times on the counter or table to help release any air bubbles that might be in the batter.
- Bake the cakes for 35- 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Allow the cakes to cool in the cake pans for 15 min.
- Remove the cakes from the cake pans, so they can cool completely.
For the Pastry Cream:
- Brew your espresso or strong coffee.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks, and 1/4 cup sugar.
- Stir the cornstarch into the milk- making sure to get any lumps out. A fork helps break down any lumps.
- Bring the cornstarch, the milk mixture and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla, to a boil in a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, whisking constantly.
- Remove from heat, and gradually whisk one-third of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture.
- Whisk the entire egg mixture back into the saucepan. Raise heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook, continuing to whisk until mixture is thick enough to hold its shape when lifted with a spoon, about 3 minutes.
- Remove the pan from heat, once more. Whisk in butter, 1 piece at a time. Next, whisk in the espresso and chopped chocolate until smooth.
- Place a fine-mesh strainer over a clean bowl, and pour your pastry cream into the fine mesh strainer, using a spatula, push the mixture through the strainer. You do have to scrape the underside of the fine mesh strainer. as you help to push the pastry cream into the bowl below, because the pastry cream is quite thick. Straining is very important as it helps ensure that there will not be any lumps or clumps in your pastry cream. No one wants to get an accidental piece of scrambled egg or tiny clump of cornstarch in their bite of cake.
- Once you have your smooth pastry cream in a clean bowl, cut a piece of plastic wrap to cover the bowl. Place the plastic wrap so it lays directly on top of the pastry cream, in the bowl-press it down gently so there is no separation. This stops a skin from forming on the top of your pastry cream.
- Optional: You can place the bowl of pastry cream into a bowl of ice and let it sit in there for 20 minutes and then place it in the fridge.
- Allow your pastry cream to cool or come to room temperature. Then place in your refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
For The Buttercream:
- Chop chocolate into pieces.
- Placed chopped chocolate into a microwave-safe measuring cup or small bowl.
- Melt your chocolate in the microwave by heating it for 20 seconds removing it from the microwave and stirring it well. If it has not completely melted, put it back in the microwave for 20 seconds, remove it, and stir it well. Know that chocolate melts quickly and that if you see a couple of clumps, just keep stirring to see if the heat of the already melted chocolate, will melt the larger pieces of chocolate. If not, place the container back in the microwave for another 10 seconds, or as needed. You want to work in short intervals with the microwave, because you do not want to scorch and ruin your chocolate. You could do this over a double boiler, however for this small amount of chocolate I don’t feel a double boiler is worth the effort.
- Mix your coffee into the chocolate and stir well.
- Place your butter in a large bowl.
- Using a hand mixer or stand mixer lightly cream the butter.
- Add the chocolate mixture to the butter and mix well.
- To the butter and chocolate, add in the vanilla bean paste, pinch of salt, and cocoa powder,
- then mix well.
- With your mixer on low, slowly add one cup of icing sugar, at a time, When you’re about halfway through, stop and scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl, very well.
- Continue adding the icing sugar. The consistency should be smooth, slightly stiff, yet spreadable.
- Taste icing, and adjust to your taste. Example, if you want more of a deep chocolate flavour, add in a little more cocoa powder. If it isn’t sweet enough for your liking, add in more icing sugar. If it seems too dry or stiff, add in a tablespoon of milk or a knob of butter.
For The Cake Soak:
- Combine sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan.
- Place over medium-high heat, and stir until most of the sugar has dissolved.
- Add in the cocoa powder and stir well.
- Bring to the boil, and allow to boil for 2-3 minutes, until all of the sugar has dissolved.
- Let the syrup cool before using.
Assembling The Cake:
- Remove your pastry cream from the fridge. Keep covered with plastic wrap, until you are ready to use it.
- Level off the top of your cakes. This just means gently cutting off the top of the cake, if it is domed. You are not cutting the cake into layers, you’re just cutting the least amount of cake that you can, to make the cake as even/balanced as possible.
Tip: This cake can be mixed with any buttercream leftover to make cake pops.
- Place what will be your bottom layer of the cake on your cake board or plate.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the sides and top of the cake well, with cake soak.
- Brush the top and sides of the upper layer with your cake soak, let that absorb.
- Place a thin layer of icing on top of the bottom layer of the cake. This will help seal the top of that cake and it won’t allow your pastry cream to soak into the bottom cake.
- Using a pastry bag with a large tip (if you don’t have a pastry bag you can use a Ziploc bag) pipe a thick ring of frosting around the outer edge of the bottom layer of the cake. This creates a dam so that your filling doesn’t leak out of the cake.
- Pour about half of your pastry cream into the centre of the bottom layer, and smooth. Add more, if necessary about 3/4 in total. If you have leftover pastry cream you can always serve it on the side, as you don’t want to overfill the cake.
- Gently, place the other layer of cake with the cut/soaks side down onto the bottom cake.
- Frost the cake with a very thin layer of frosting. This is called a crumb coat because crumbs will get into the frosting and they will not give you the smooth look that you want.
- Place the cake in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes to allow that layer to harden.
- Now frost your cake and decorate however you like. I chose a smooth frosting and then I put a decorative border on the top and bottom of the cake. However, you can decorate it however you like.
- Place in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Know that you can make this cake the day before, and it will stay well in the fridge. Also, any leftovers last quite well in the fridge.
Don’t be daunted by the number of components in this recipe. It all breaks down to simple steps. So my advice would be to first, read through the entire recipe. Then take out all of the ingredients that you require. This is called Mise en place, which is a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place” and it simplifies baking, in general.
This is a fantastic cake to make for any special occasion, or any get-together. There is nothing like presenting a homemade sweet treat to impress family and friends. And this gluten-free chocolate mocha layer cake will do just that.
Enjoy this foray into baking, as it’s so gratifying, and can even become a very worthwhile hobby. Cake decorating is another area, where practice makes perfect, so start simply, then hone your skills. Then when your guests ask to grab a pic of your cake for Instagram, you’ll know that it was all worth it. Besides, it will also taste fantastic!
Happy Gluten-free Baking
PS Send us those Instagram pics, as we’d love to see your cake creations!
For The Chocolate Mocha Cake: 2 cups granulated sugar 2 3/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill 1 for 1 gluten-free flour 5 tbs of corn starch 1 cup unsweetened cocoa (lightly spoon into a cup) 2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened (not softened in microwave) 4 large eggs at room temperature 1 cup milk 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup hot coffee, it can be instant or brewed Butter for greasing your pan 1 tablespoon gf flour for dusting For the Pastry Cream 1 tsp vanilla bean paste 2 tablespoons brewed espresso or strong coffee 2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch 1/2 cup cream 1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, cut into small pieces 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped For The Buttercream: 5 oz semi-sweet bakers chocolate 3 tbs espresso or strong coffee 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste 1 1/2 cups butter softened Pinch of salt 6 cups icing sugar 2 tbs cocoa powder For The Cake Soak 3/4 cup water 1/2 cup sugar 1 tsp cocoa powder For The Chocolate Cake: For the Pastry Cream: For The Buttercream: For The Cake Soak: Assembling The Cake: Extra cake can be mixed with any buttercream leftover to make cake pops.
For The Chocolate Mocha Cake: 2 cups granulated sugar 2 3/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill 1 for 1 gluten-free flour 5 tbs of corn starch 1 cup unsweetened cocoa (lightly spoon into a cup) 2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened (not softened in microwave) 4 large eggs at room temperature 1 cup milk 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup hot coffee, it can be instant or brewed Butter for greasing your pan 1 tablespoon gf flour for dusting For the Pastry Cream 1 tsp vanilla bean paste 2 tablespoons brewed espresso or strong coffee 2 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch 1/2 cup cream 1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, cut into small pieces 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped For The Buttercream: 5 oz semi-sweet bakers chocolate 3 tbs espresso or strong coffee 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste 1 1/2 cups butter softened Pinch of salt 6 cups icing sugar 2 tbs cocoa powder For The Cake Soak 3/4 cup water 1/2 cup sugar 1 tsp cocoa powder
For The Chocolate Cake:
For the Pastry Cream:
For The Buttercream:
For The Cake Soak:
Assembling The Cake:
Extra cake can be mixed with any buttercream leftover to make cake pops.