Gluten Free Vanilla Cake

This Gluten Free Vanilla Cake is so light and fluffy, with just the right amount of sweetness! It is super tender, yet still able to hold layers of thick buttercream and fresh fruit fillings. This truly is THE ONLY gluten free vanilla cake you will ever need!

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake with rainbow sprinkles

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake

When it comes to baking I truly believe that everyone should have a tried and true vanilla cake recipe at their disposal. This is because vanilla cake is a blank canvas that will gladly take on whichever flavour you want.

As a pastry chef this gluten free vanilla cake recipe is one of my go-to base cake recipes. For example, the base recipe for this vanilla cake won’t change, but I may add fresh lemon juice and zest to create a zingy cake that would be welcome at any summer BBQ. In Autumn, deep spices and chia tea are steeped into the milk creating a comforting cake that is best served after a day of apple picking. Then there’s the classic vanilla birthday cake. With its pearly white frosting that is covered in rainbow sprinkles and topped with candles. The ultimate celebration of another year around the sun! You can do almost anything with this base gluten free vanilla cake recipe.

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake with rainbow sprinkles

Is this a good recipe for beginner gluten free bakers?

Absolutely! When it comes to baking gluten free, I always recommend people start with cakes because it is the easiest to master. I say this for two reasons:

  1. The overall percentage of flour in a cake recipe is very low compared to the total ingredients in a recipe. For example most cake recipes include less than 30 percent flour in the total recipe. This means the recipe is less reliant on flour for taste and texture.
  2. Many recipes say to use cake flour, not regular all-purpose flour. This is because cake flour has less protein and will reduce the overall gluten development, resulting in a lighter more delicate cake crumb. These are the same results we achieve when baking with gluten free flour blends.
Gluten Free Vanilla Cake with rainbow sprinkles

Ingredients for Gluten Free Vanilla Cake

The super soft, spongy texture of this cake is so incredible that you will have people questioning if its really gluten free. To achieve the best texture and flavour when making this gluten free vanilla cake first you need to pick your ingredient with care. Because this is a vanilla cake, there is no hiding from the vanilla or the gluten free flours you choose to use.

Here’s what you need to make this easy gluten free vanilla cake what ingredients need some special attention:

  • Pure Vanilla Extract: We are making vanilla cake so choose your vanilla wisely.  This doesn’t mean you need the most expensive vanilla extract. Just make sure you are buying Pure Vanilla Extract and not Vanilla Essence (synthetic flavouring).
  • Butter: buy quality, cultured (European style) butter for this recipe. I say this because there is such a high proportion of butter in this recipe and it adds so much flavour and richness. you will taste the difference.
  • Gluten Free Flour Blend: when it comes to vanilla cakes, you want a gluten free flour blend that has a neutral taste. I recommend store-bought blends such as Cup4Cup, Bob’s Red Mill gluten free 1 to 1 or Better Batter.  Any blends that include garbanzo (chickpea), buckwheat, coconut or amaranth are not going to give you a neutral flavour. Save these flours for recipes that are heavy on the cocoa 😉
    • SIDE NOTE: If you are new to gluten free baking or are unfamiliar with the different variations of Gluten Free Flour Blends, check out this article I wrote for Food Bloggers of Canada, where I explain how to pick the right Gluten Free Flour.
  • Xanthan Gum: when it comes to cakes, xanthan gum helps build and hold the cakes structure while also keeping it fresher longer.  Gluten free flours absorb a lot of moisture, but they also dry out must faster when compared to wheat flours. Which is why adding just a pinch of xanthan gum can be a real game changer.  Not that this cake ever lasts more than a few hours in my house 😅!
  • Milk: whole milk is needed for this recipe due to the fat content.
  • Granulated Sugar: granulated sugar or caster sugar (berry sugar) both work well in this recipe as it provides just enough sweetness and melts into the sabayon (egg mixture) nicely.
  • Eggs: whole eggs and egg whites help create a light, fluffy sponge cake texture.
  • Baking Powder: Using reliable leavener like baking powder is needed to guarantee a consistent rise.
Gluten Free Vanilla Cake with rainbow sprinkles

How to Build a Gluten Free Layer Cake

Building and frosting a layer cake is a skill that all cake lovers should know how to execute. Now to achieve a perfect layer cake you don’t need to spend hours and hours meticulously cutting cake layers and smoothing frosting. With just a few key pastry chef techniques you can whip up a showstopping layer cake in no time!

  1. Preparing the Gluten Free Cake Layers

When it comes to cutting gluten free cakes in half (horizontally), I usually prefer not to do it. Because gluten free cakes tend to be more delicate so there’s a greater chance it will break. My recommendation to help maintain the texture and structure of a gluten free cake is to instead assemble the cake using whole cake layers. You can then simply trim off any domed tops, if need be, but otherwise they will layer just fine.   

But if you have a gluten free cake recipe that is denser and sturdier that can handle being sliced horizontally, then this is how you do it.  The method for cutting and dividing a cake into layers is called ‘Torting’:

  1. Place the cake on a turntable (preferred, but not necessary) or a large cutting board.
  2. Use a serrated knife (bread knife) to gently trace around the halfway point of the cake.
  3. Slowly begin to saw and cut into the gluten free cake, turning the wheel (or cutting board) inch by inch until you have made it all the way around.  Keeping your knife centered as you go until you have cut all the way through.
  • Frosting the Gluten Free Cake Layers

Place a cake board on a cake turntable (if you have one), or whatever chosen serving plate or cake stand you are planning to use.

  • Note, if frosting the cake directly on the serving plate or cake stand you can place several rectangle sheets of parchment paper along the bottom of the cake to keep the plate clean. Once you are done frosting the cake, you can simply remove the parchment sheets.

Begin by adding a tablespoon of buttercream to the centre of the cake board and place the first cake layer on top. Note that you want the flattest part of the cake to be against the cake board so it sits flush. If layering whole cakes, the bottom layer will be right side up. For layers that have been cut, the bottom layer will be cut-side up. 

Add buttercream or frosting to the centre of the cake layer and spread it across to the edges. Try to create an even layer that’s roughly ¼ to ½ inch thick. 

Tip: When smoothing the layers you want to keep your spatula level and slowly turn the cake wheel with the other hand. 

Continue by stacking the next gluten free cake layer on top of the frosted layer and centre it. Apply a gentle pressure to make sure there aren’t any air pockets between the layers. 

Add more buttercream or frosting and repeat until all the cake layers are stacked. 

Note: For the last cake layer, place it cut side down, or so the bottom of the cake is facing up. This will ensure you have a nice, flat cake top.

  • Crumb Coat the Gluten Free Cake

By applying a ‘crumb coat’ to the cake, you are locking in all the loose cake crumbs so they don’t end up in the final layer of frosting. This step is SUPER EASY and makes a cake instantly look bakery worthy!

To apply a crumb coat simply use a few tablespoons of buttercream and, using an offset spatula, smooth a thin layer of buttercream around the whole cake. Take special care to fill in any holes or gaps between the cake layers. Then place the cake in the fridge to set for 15-20 minutes or until the buttercream layer is firm. 

  • Final Gluten Free Cake Frosting

Now for the fun part! This step really is all up to you and dependant on the style of cake you are making. For a quick, basic (but beautiful!) cake, add a generous dollop of buttercream or frosting to the top of the cake. Then use an offset spatula or even a teaspoon will work, spread the buttercream to the edges. Begin spreading the buttercream in a figure-eight motion to create swirls. Do the same to the sides of the cake but only add a few tablespoons of buttercream at a time as gravity will take over and it will likely slide down onto the serving plate.

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake with rainbow sprinkles

Pastry Chef Tips for Making Gluten Free Vanilla Cake

Converting traditional cake recipes to be gluten free may seem intimidating but it’s actually much easier than you might think! This is because cakes rely very little on gluten for texture and structure so adapting a cake recipe to be gluten free is an ideal starting point for anyone new to gluten free baking. 

Food Science Fact: If you look at most traditional cake recipes that use wheat flour, they often call for cake flour instead of all-purpose flour or a combination of the two. This is because cake flour has the lowest amount of protein (approx. 5-8%), compared to all-purpose wheat flour (approx. 10-13%). The lower level of protein reduces gluten development which helps to create a much lighter more delicate cake crumb.  

Find more tips and information about how to make the best gluten free cakes here.

With just a few tips you will be making this bakery-worthy Gluten Free Vanilla Cake at home.

  1. Use a Kitchen Scale: The importance of accurately measuring your baking ingredients can make or break your recipe. This is especially true for a recipe like this recipe because if too much flour is added then the cake will turn out dry and crumbly. If you really want to ensure your success when baking gluten free, I highly recommend a digital kitchen scale.
  2. Use Room Temperature Ingredients: Room temperature ingredients reduce the chance of your cake batter separating (becoming curdled). Smooth batters produce cakes with a much better texture and even bake. 
  3. Bake in Metal Cake Pans: Metal is a much better thermal conductor when compared to glass or ceramic materials. Using a metal cake pan will result in an evenly baked cake. For more info on choosing the right baking pans click here.
  4. Bake your cake AS SOON AS THE BATTER IS READY: Letting cake batter hang around after it’s been mixed will lead to a flat, sunken cake.
  5. Avoid Overbaking: There are three ways you can confidently check that your cake is fully baked and ready to come out of the oven.
    • Insert a cake tester or a wooden skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean with just a few bits of cake attached.
    • When the cake is browned around the edges and has begun to pull away from the sides of the cake pan.
    • The cake is ‘Springy”. If you gently press your finger against the centre top of the cake it should spring back without leaving an indent.
  6. Cool the Cake Before Slicing: When gluten free cakes come out of the oven, although fully baked, will still be slightly gummy in the centre. As the cake cools, it will release steam. As the moisture continues to evaporate as it cools, the cake will become dryer. Resulting in a lighter crumb structure.
  7. Add Buttercream to Cooled Cake: If you are adding buttercream or frosting to this cake then wait until it is fully cooled. If added too soon and the cake is still warm, then the buttercream will melt and seep into the cake.
Gluten Free Vanilla Cake with rainbow sprinkles

Storing Gluten Free Vanilla Cake

You can store this Gluten Free Vanilla Cake wrapped in plastic wrap and in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. If the cake has buttercream or frosting then I suggest storing it in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 5 days.

Refrigerating

If you need to store Gluten Free Vanilla Cake (without buttercream) longer than 3 days its best to keep it in the fridge, wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Frosted cakes can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Pull the cake from the fridge a few hours before serving. Cake is aways best served at room temp as it improves the flavour and looses that ‘fridgy’ flavour.

Freezing

Frozen Gluten Free Vanilla Cake (without buttercream) will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month. Allow the cake to cool completely before wrapping it in plastic wrap. Then wrap it in aluminum foil and place it in a resealable freezer bag. When you are ready to thew the cake, remove it from the freezer and allow it to defrost in the fridge overnight or on the counter for 6-7 hours.

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Gluten Free Vanilla Cake with rainbow sprinkles

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake


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  • Author: Kira McMullan
  • Yield: Two -8″ Round Cakes (16 slices)
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

This Gluten Free Vanilla Cake is so light and fluffy, with just the right amount of sweetness! It is super tender, yet still able to hold layers of thick buttercream and fresh fruit fillings. This truly is THE ONLY gluten free vanilla cake you will ever need!


Ingredients

Scale

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake

230g or 1 cup Unsalted Butter, Soft

350g or 1 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar

1 tbsp Vanilla Extract

320g or 2 1/2 cups Gluten Free Flour Blend (ie; Cup4Cup or Bob’s 1 to 1)

20g or 2 tbsp Cornstarch

2 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt (sub ‘Pinch’ if using table salt)

1 1/3 cups Buttermilk, Room Temperature

2 Eggs, Room Temperature

2 Egg Whites, Room Temperature

Vanilla Buttercream

460g or 2 cups Unsalted Butter, soft

460g or 5 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted

1 tbsp Vanilla Extract

1 tbsp Clear Corn Syrup

60ml or 1/4 cup Heavy Cream

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt (sub ‘Pinch’ if using table salt)


Instructions

GLUTEN FREE VANILLA CAKE

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F degrees.

Line the bottoms of two 8″ round pans with parchment and grease with butter or baking spray. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together gluten-free flour, cornstarch, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl or measuring jug, whisk buttermilk and eggs until smooth. Set aside.

Step 2

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.

Step 3

Turn the mixer down to low and add the dry ingredients. Mix just until the texture begins to look like breadcrumbs.

Step 4

With the stand mixer on medium speed, begin streaming in the buttermilk mixture. Keep mixing until fully incorporated and homogeneous

Step 5

Pour the batter into prepared pans and smooth the top with an offset spatula.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pans.

Vanilla Buttercream

Step 1

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter for 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the buttercream looks smooth. 

Step 2

Add the corn syrup, milk, and salt. Turn the mixer to medium high and beat for 4-5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Remember to scrap down the sides of the bowl.

Step 3

To frost the cake place the first cake layer on a plate or cake board. Add the buttercream to the centre of the cake layer and spread it across to the edges. Try to create an even layer that’s roughly ¼ to ½ inch thick.

Continue by stacking the next cake layer on top of the frosted layer and centre it. Apply a gentle pressure to make sure there aren’t any air pockets between the layers.

Add a generous dollop of buttercream to the top of the cake. Then use an offset spatula or even a teaspoon will work, spread the buttercream to the edges. Begin spreading the buttercream in a figure-eight motion to create swirls. Do the same to the sides of the cake but only add a few tablespoons of frosting at a time as gravity will take over and it will likely slide down onto the serving plate.

Allow the frosted cake to set up in the fridge for 1-2 hours before serving.

Recipe questions? I’d love to help!

Connect with me @kirabakesglutenfree or info@kirabakesglutenfree.com

Gluten Free Pastry Chef Kira McMullan, eating slice of cake

Ready to try another Gluten Free Recipe? Why not bake my Gluten Free Butterscotch Pecan Tarts or The Best Gluten Free Flaky Pie Crust.



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