Gluten Free Cake That Actually Tastes Awesome

We had a lovely couple over to dinner for the first time a few days ago and the lady of the pair kept to a gluten free diet (and has for like 17 years, so you know it’s not a passing thing).

I know what you’re saying: “Hey, I know someone who is gluten free!” or maybe, “Hey, I’m gluten free!”

That’s right, Gluten Free People are everywhere. Gluten Free foods are one of the fast-growing segments of the food industry, with total sales in the past year of somewhere between $4.2 billion and $12.4 billion depending on who you believe and how you define “gluten-free food segment.”

When it comes to gluten free cooking, generally everything is all fine and dandy through the salad (skip the croutons, natch) and entree course, but if you get to dessert you might be faced with the same dilemma I was: how to make a gluten-free cake.

Of course, you could buy a gluten-free cake. The world of commercial, gluten-free dessert options has exploded along with other gluten-free analogues, but….um, how shall I put this delicately?… of the dozens of gluten-free cookies, cakes, muffins and other baked goods I’ve sampled in my day, a depressing number tasted like someone mushed beans and chalk together and called that a recipe. Faced with cake that tasted like that, I’ll take ice cream and berries.

Gluten Free People deserve better! Gluten Free People deserve this cake! And you know what’s nice for everyone? No weird ingredients required. With the exception of the almond meal, you probably have all this stuff in your kitchen already, and almond meal is easy to DIY if you want.

Psst…Paleo people, if you can get past the sugar, this cake is cool for you too.

Gluten Free Almond Cake with Lemon Curd

Gluten Free Almond Cake with Citrus

adapted from How To Eat by Nigella Lawson

2 1/2 cup (8.5 oz) finely ground almond meal
2 cups (8 oz) powdered sugar
8 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
zest of one large orange

one 10 to 12-cup Bundt or ring cake pan (you might be able to make this cake in a standard rectangular or round cake pan, but I haven’t tried it. If you do, let us know how it turns out in the comments!

Preheat oven the 325 degrees and grease a 10 to 12 cup Bundt pan or ring mold cake pan.

Toast almond meal in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. It should warm, and be very fragrant, but the color of the almond meal should not noticeably change. Remove the almond meal from the oven and let it cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

While almond meal is cooling, beat together egg yolks, powdered sugar and orange zest in the bowl of a standmixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with handheld beaters, until the mix is pale yellow and creamy looking, about 3-5 minutes.

Add warm (but not hot) almond meal to the egg yolk mixture a little at a time while continuing to beat. When all the almond meal is incorporated, the mix will look and feel quite thick and sticky, like nougat. Set aside while you beat the eggs whites.

Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks in the bowl of a standmixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or with handheld beaters. If, like me, you need to clean your standmixer bowl or other equipment to do this, make absolutely sure there is no remaining fat from the egg yolk mix on anything that will be used to whip the egg white. While you’re at it, make sure to dry off any moisture, too.

Add about one-quarter of the egg whites to the yolk-almond mix and fold together as best you can without deflating the egg whites. The goal is to lighten up the heavy yolk mix so that you can gently combine it with the remaining whites. When the almond mixture is more pale and lighter in texture and the first portion of whites have been completely incorporated, add the rest of the egg whites and, using a big flexible spatula, gently – gently – fold everything together.

If the whole “egg white folding thing” feels confusing or intimidating, just watch this to see how it’s done.

When all the egg white has been incorporated and you have a lovely, non-streaky batter, pour the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Check cake. It should be golden brown and slightly pulled away from the sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted into the cake should come out clean.

Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely, and serve dusted with powdered sugar with a few canned cherries in syrup on the side or – if you really, really love your Gluten Free Person – with a big dollop of homemade lime or lemon curd.

Gluten Free Almond Cake with Lemon Curd

If you have any of this cake leftover, I may have reason to suspect that this cake, just possibly, is fantastic for breakfast. Not that I ate two pieces of it with coffee or anything. That would be glutinous. But, you know, trust me. Breakfast.


  1. says

    In general, I think that converting recipes from meat to vegetarian or gluten to gluten-free or whatever is only effective if the thing you’re removing is not vital to the recipe. So, meatless lasagne isn’t hard, but gluten-free muffins are something to be leery of. I like recipes like your cake, that are delicious & gluten-free incidentally.

    I had a bit of a dilemma when I got married. A couple of our guests eat gluten-free, a few more have deadly allergies (including peanuts), one had about five deadly allergies (including tree nuts). And my family’s tradition is to have a cookie cake. Typically with almond flour or extract…

    We managed to get the catering menu to contain only one item that had gluten (and we thought we had nothing until the day of the wedding, when we saw the chicken was breaded), and I managed to convert one old family cookie recipe to gluten free. Shockingly, it was amazing. Most of the gluten-eating friends I experimented on before the wedding couldn’t tell the difference between the gluten-containing cookies & the gluten-free.

    • Jessica says

      I saw something referencing gluten free muffins when I have some super yummy ones baking right now. I bake these ( about twice a week because they get eaten in our house very quickly. I just replace the sugar with 1/4 cup maple syrup and they are easily sweet enough. But I see also what you were saying about letting certain items go. My husband and I have been gluten-free for about 6 months now and have found that once we truly let gluten go and tried to find new things instead of just replacements, we really started finding lots of recipes that we preferred over the original gluten items. I can’t wait to try this cake!

      • says

        I’m glad it’s gotten easier for you. I know that I cannot stand the thought of going gluten-free, but if I had to, I’d try to get to that approach as fast as possible. There’s a lot of good food out there that’s gluten-free by it’s very nature, is my thinking.

        But I’d be glad I have an epic cookie recipe up my sleeve too. ;)

  2. says

    I am pinning this for my pesky GF friends. Also, FYI, the chocolate cake recipe on Gluten Free Girl is also delish. It’s Bob’s Red Mill’s GF chocolate cake mix, embellished with applesauce and maybe a couple eggs? Anyhoo, you’d never know it was GF. Some things that use chick pea flour, for instance, taste like feet.

  3. Nicole S. says

    Recently went Paleo after being gluten free for almost a year, and feeling better than ever. But I am allergic to eggs, and all paleo baked goods or pancakes need eggs. Wishing hard for an egg free and paleo pancake, cake, muffin recipe. Sigh.

    • says

      In most of the recipes the egg is used as a binder to replace the gluten that would be in normal flour. You could try substituting arrowroot powder, flaxseed, or unflavored gelatin at about 1/4 cup per egg. If the egg is to add moisture (often when coconut flour is used) you can substitute pureed fruit, milk, or water.

  4. Elizabeth says

    Well the reason this cake works so well is it is just a regular recipe. Almond flour can replace wheat flour. However most GF recipes I read have 15-20 ingredients…tsp of this…1/4 C that…2T of another all trying to mimic the wheat (and other ) flour ingredients. Almond based cakes are popular in Italy. Possibly other cultures too. I only know Italy from having spent 3 months there.

    I know only one GF family. We do not socialize with them (not because they are GF, for other reasons) . Apparently only one person in the family has a gluten problem (untested) so she has the entire family of 7 people on a GF diet including the dog. She constantly complains about the difficulty of getting GF foods everywhere for them. It does not sound like she bakes from scratch as she is always complaining about the price of the mixes, etc. Does this sound excessive to a GF reader out there? Does she really need to have the entire household GF for the benefit of 1 member? I work in a doctor’s office (since 1987). Our long time celiac patients do not do this, they seem to be able to co-exist quite peacefully with a non-celiac spouse.

    • Tanya says

      It depends on the person. I know a couple people who have nasty symptoms, even from really small amounts of cross-contamination. I used to react to pretty small amounts of trace gluten, but as time has passed, that’s gone away. The fear of food though, and not feeling safe in your own house, is pretty heavy stuff, very difficult to live with.

    • says

      “Well the reason this cake works so well is it is just a regular recipe.”
      Shhh….I’m trying to promote my theory that the most delicious way to eat gluten free is to just find things that are *normally* gluten free. ;) Like most Vietnamese food, and this fab cake, which is also excellent with chestnut flour (very Italian, that).

    • Rachel Greenfield says

      Yes, for some people they DO have to completely remove it from the house. Maybe this lady is overreacting with her complaining, (learn to cook ya whiner!) but there is likely valid reasoning for her removing it from her whole household. I have Celiac disease plus a more recently developed allergy to wheat itself. We tried coexisting peacefully when I was first diagnosed, but I had anaphylactic reactions coming in contact with invisible amounts of wheat products and each time it got worse. We had to pretty much sterilize the kitchen and remove all gluten containing foods (and toss out our toaster). If I accidentally ingest gluten from another grain, via a crumb on the counter or an invisible residue on the oven rack, I become very ill with migraine, stomach pain, and vomiting plus uglier GI symptoms I won’t describe. If it’s wheat itself, add anaphylaxis to that. With my husband continuing to use wheat/rye/barley foods, this was happening with alarming regularity. If he forgot and merely kissed me after wheat eating without washing thoroughly, my face swelled up. The gluten-poisoning symptoms alone are enough to make me remove it from my house. Also, think on this. If one has Celiac, even a tiny amount of gluten can and will destroy the villi in the small intestine, whether one has symptoms at the time of glutening or not. The process of the disease is that the immune system misguidedly attacks your own body in the presence of ANY gluten. If there is cross contamination happening from a mixed household, but the Celiac person has no noticeable symptoms (some don’t), the damage may go undetected for years until it surfaces as something malevolent such as intestinal or rectal cancer, or further autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Lupus, or Rheumatoid Arthritis, among others. As far as I’m concerned, that is just not worth the risk even if I didn’t have such a strong immediate reaction.

      • Elizabeth says

        I often cook late, after everyone else has gone to bed. I find it relaxing and I am a night owl. I have no one young at home anymore and I don’t have to be to work until 9a and that takes 10 minutes to drive. I took a couple loaves of bread out of the oven tonight around 10:30 just in time for husband to cut one right open for his late night snack. Sometimes I just do all the prep work for something I might be making the next day, like a coffeecake or chopping vegetables for soup or precooking beans or actually premaking the next nights dinner.

  5. JLN says

    The cake sounds delicious. I love anything with almond flavoring. But kudos to you for being so gracious to your guest. I can’t imagine how much almond meal costs. It sounds like one expensive piece of cake.

    • says

      Not so bad, really – almond meal from Bob’s Red Mill is about $10 for a pound. This recipe would use about half of that, so you’re looking at $5 of almond meal and a total ingredient cost of maybe $10 for something that can serve 8 very generously. That’s comparable or less to what you’ll pay for most Gluten Free specialty mixes, I’d imagine, and less than what I spend on ingredients for a double batch of chocolate chip cookies.

  6. says

    You just made my effin’ day….GF baking sucks and cakes are the worst! I went to bed thinking about this cake……mmmmmmmm!

    • Susann Codish says

      Noelle – that was my first thought too! And Passover is so early this year I’m glad to have stumbled on this recipe now.

  7. Karen says

    I’ve made a few forays into gluten-free baking for friends and have never found it terribly complicated. Perhaps it’s because I buy Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, and I have a small bag of xanthan gum (or once used gelatin when I’d left the xanthan gum at my mom’s house). I’ve made awesome chocolate cakes, biscotti and apple cakes with no problem using my regular recipes. I’ve never been able to taste or see the difference between them. I wish people weren’t so freaked out about gluten-free baking. It’s not rocket science, and my gluten-free friends practically fall at my feet when I bake for them!

  8. Deon says

    Again with the almonds. I have avoided gluten for 13 years now (damn naturopath and their diagnoses). And am happy about the availability of items although we’ve been jumping on the Paleo bandwagon. But in addition to gluten, cow dairy, and a few other foods my highest sensitivity is to almonds. You know the least expensive tree nut you can buy. I try other nuts for flour, but their must be something to almonds that make them better for baking. Still going to plant hazelnut trees this year, at least they don’t get huge like other nut trees. If anyone has had success with other nut flours I’d love to hear about it. Or keeping squirrels off nut trees.

    • says

      Try chestnut flour. I made this same cake with half almond, half chestnut and it was fab. Chestnut flour is, sadly, about the same price as diamonds. But it sure is tasty.

  9. Helle says

    Baked this cake today without having a bundt thingy, I just used a normal round baking tin, baking time was a little shorter than what the recipe says and it came out great. After dinner, here in Europe, we’ll be having it as dessert.


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