Gluten Free Vanilla Cake and Gluten Free Baking Tips

Gluten free Vanilla Cake is by far the most challenging of all gluten free cakes to formulate. It is quite naked in that it is the most revealing of cakes when it comes to flour exposure.  There are no secondary flavors to hide behind such as fruit or chocolate. This purist among pastries must stand alone and operate in perfect unity with its supporting ingredients to create a cake  that both tastes delicious and feels correct on the tongue.


I have been baking gluten free desserts now for several years and they can still be a challenge for me. In fact, last weekend while working on this cake I tossed four other trials in the trash. Gluten free ingredients can be finicky and even minor adjustments to a recipe can cause major problems.  Luckily I found success with this recipe. The result is a cake with a fine, buttery, moist crumb and a light delicate texture.


To help you avoid some of the pitfalls I have been through I thought I would share some general insights I have picked up along the way when working on gluten free baking.

Gluten Free Baking Tips

  1. Work with the finest milled flours you can get your hands on. This will make a big difference in the final texture of your cake. This is particularly important with rice flours which can maintain a gritty texture in baked goods if the grain size is too large.  I generally bake with rice powders found in Asian markets which are used to make mochi. I buy both regular and sweet rice powder and have had success with Wang and Choripdong brands.  Authentic Foods has lovely fine-milled flours but they are a bit pricey and more difficult to locate.
  2. Use starches to both help bind and offer a fine texture to your cake. I am particularly fond of potato starch which adds a nice moist crumb to cakes and other baked goods. Corn starch comes in a close second to potato starch and will work as a reasonably good substitute. I really don’t cake for the flavor of tapioca starch so I avoid it in baked goods. It tastes like paper to me.
  3. Add extra eggs in a recipe to help with volume and binding. Eggs help to replace some of the protein strength provided by gluten in wheat-containing recipes and will improve the volume and overall texture of the final cake.
  4. Cut back on your liquids in similar volume to the increase provided by the extra eggs.  For example, if you add two eggs to a recipe, cut your liquids by 1/2 cup. Too much liquid will weaken the already fragile cake structure.
  5. Add some xanthan gum to help with binding but not too much. I generally add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum per standard recipe, but you may need to adjust depending on ingredient specifics. Too much xanthan gum and overmixing of a batter with xanthan gum in it will result in an overly spongy cake.


In this cake, I used a combination of rice powder, sweet rice powder and cornstarch (I would have used potato but I ran out after throwing away all of those previous batches!). The rice powder helps to create a cake crumb similar to that of wheat flour. The sweet rice powder, which is derived from sticky rice, helps with binding in the cake and adds a smooth texture. The cornstarch or potato starch also helps with binding and yields as a soft, moist crumb. The starches also have a neutral flavor which keeps the cake from tasting overly ricey.


This Gluten Free Vanilla Cake recipe also contains lots of butter and a small dose of buttermilk to add richness and tenderness to this light delicate cake.

One thing to keep in mind, gluten free cakes stale rather quickly because of their starch make up. I recommend baking this cake as close to the date it will be eaten as possible. If it needs to be made in advance I suggest that after it is baked your remove the upper crust (see The Upper Crust for an explanation of this) and wrap it well with three layers of plastic wrap and freeze as soon as possible.

If you yourself are gluten free or bake for loved ones or friends that maintain a gluten free diet this is an excellent cake to bake. It is a crowd pleaser that will delight both gluten and gluten free eaters alike.

Happy baking!

Gluten Free Vanilla Cake


  • 12 ounces (340 grams) unsalted butter, softened- 1 ½ cups
  • 15 ¾ ounces (551 grams) granulated sugar- 2 ¼ cups
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 ½ tablespoons (23 milliliters) vanilla extract
  • 5 ¼ ounces (150 grams) rice powder- 1 cup
  • 2 ¼ ounces (60 grams) sweet rice powder- 1/3 cup
  • 7 ½ ounces (210 grams) cornstarch or potato starch- 2 cups
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (8 milliliters) baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon (4 milliliters) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) xanthan gum
  • 6 ounces (180 milliliters) buttermilk- ¾ cup


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C). Grease three 8-inch round cake pans with a generous layer of butter or shortening.
  2. Beat butter and sugar for 2 minutes on medium-high speed of mixer. Add eggs one at a time and beat until well combined. Stir in vanilla.
  3. Sprinkle in dry ingredients to distribute. Turn mixer on low and mix to moisten dry ingredients. Pour in buttermilk and mix on medium for one minute until well combined and smooth.
  4. Pour into prepared pans and bake for about 25-30 minutes until the cake tests clean with a toothpick. Cool 10 minutes in pan and then turn out to a cooling rack. Cool completely if using immediately, or wrap in three layers of plastic wrap and freeze if using later. Frost the cooled cake with your choice of buttercream. Enjoy!


65 thoughts on “Gluten Free Vanilla Cake and Gluten Free Baking Tips”

    1. Yes, I would love to! I have done quite a bit of vegan baking as well. My neighbor’s son has extensive allergies and I cook for them once a week so I am always on the lookout for ways to bake vegan. I don’t know if you are familiar with The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book, but it is an excellent resource and I have had wonderful success with her recipes. I will work on generating some egg and dairy free recipes to share. 🙂

  1. Now if you can create a sugar free, gluten free, egg free, and dairy free cake that tastes good…..THEN I will be impressed! Oh, and can you make sure it’s organic? Just kidding, but you would be a multi millionaire if you could make all that happen! Can’t wait to try this….was surprised at the lack of variety in flours, like coconut, sorghum, etc…..just sticking to rice and potato makes sense because they are so fine…looking forward to it!

    1. Haha! Yes, I wish I could! My daughter’s teacher this year was vegan and gluten free which made it difficult to make any dessert worth eating. (One batch of chocolate cupcakes tasted oddly mushroomy, ew!)

      When I was working on the predecessor of this cake I baked cupcakes with many different gluten free flours on their own in order to investigate their individual properties. I actually loved the structure and taste of super fine sorghum, but in a cake this simple the slightly fibrous texture really stood out; I could not get the mouthfeel the way I would like with any sizeable amount of sorghum added. With the coconut, it has such a distinct flavor I was afraid it would distract and take on a nuance that was far from pure vanilla-y. I think gluten free oat flour may be a nice addition, but it is not super easy to locate in my small town and would have to order it from Bob’s Red Mill online. Anyway, rice and potato were just the most neutral flavored and fine textured that they allowed the butter and vanilla to take center stage. Best of luck with this cake. 🙂

  2. Hi Summer, just wondering if arrowroot would be a good choice for a starch, more neutral tasting, stands up better in an acidic environment and with freezing, etc. Also, did you know Fred Meyer will order that Bob’s Oat Flour for you? I think Roth’s will too.

    1. I think arrowroot would also be a good choice. I just have less experience with it than other starches. The fact that is does not have the high heat requirements that cornstarch does and that it is stable makes it desirable. I have used modified cornstarch which has similar properties but I was unsure how widely available it was so I decided not to include it in the recipe. Thanks for the tip about Fred Meyer. I may just order a case from Bob’s Red Mill online since I use it frequently to bake whole grain for my children. As far as lecithin is concerned, I don’t know that there would be a huge additional impact in adding it. The extra eggs do increase the lecithin typically present and the xanthan gum also helps to stabilize emulsions formed. Have you had success using lecithin? I would like to do a post on secondary emulsifiers and their benefit in general as soon as I have time. 😉

  3. Oh shoot darn, hit the “enter” key too soon. Also wondering what you think about using Lecithin in your gluten free recipe.

  4. I honestly don’t know where you find the time to do what you do but appreciate that you do do it, and do it so well.
    What little experience I do have with Lecithin has given a finer crumb, higher rise, delays staling, moisture retention, and chuckling over the common/generalized definition of surfactant. Have you ever tried wiping that stuff off a wall?
    I’ve found that Arrowroot is easier to work with than a corn starch but I usually reach for the Clear Jel as I already have it on hand and works for what I do. You are right, Clear Jel is difficult to find, regardless of what others may say, I think perhaps it gets confused with Sure Jell.
    Another bit of unsolicited info, if you can (noun not verb) Pomona Pectin is a nice beneficial product, and like everything else in this world available through Amazon.

    1. Thanks Bridget! I have some limited experience with the commercial emulsifier Surfax and am interested in comparing it to lecithin and other emulsifier/stabilizers.

      I have a bag of Arrowroot that is begging to be used. I will let you know how it goes as I play with it more. How do you feel it compares to potato starch? And if you don’t mind, how do you use the Pomona Pectin? Smiles!

  5. Please do let me know how it goes.

    Surfax? Do you mean SLS?
    I’ve worked with rice starch before but not in a kitchen 😉
    I’ve have used potato starch in a kitchen but in cooking only, not baking. Some line-cooks, chefs, grandmothers, and nuns unwittingly (and smartly if you ask me) use it as a thickener in place of flour or cornstarch in dishes that won’t be boiled. It doesn’t dilute the color or distort the flavor of the dish.

    Something I really appreciate about you and your site is that I quite literally do not have to “reinvent the wheel” to get done what I need to do. Long story short, I don’t need to spin around as fast as a centrifuge or genetically modify rice or potatoes to get Amylopectin. And what a V-8 moment that was too! You are now my “Go To” site for recipes that actually do work.

    Pomona Pectin allows you to use less sugar in jams and jellies. It also enables the use of honey, agave nectar, maple sugar etc instead of cane sugar. It comes in a two parts, one part pectin, one part a calcium, use as you would any other pectin but, follow the manufacturers directions of course. I personally like to freeze my jams, maybe because in Ziploc bags they stack so nicely in the freezer. Here is there website

    Enjoy the weather,

    1. Oooo the Pomona pectin sounds wonderful! It has been a couple of years since I have made jam (I am trying to kill my blackberries but I miss the fruit 🙁 ). But the sunshine inspires me to preserve the bounty. Here is a site that carries Surfax. It is a combo of sorbitan monostearate and polysorbate 60 from vegetable sources. You can order either component from amazon but Surfax only comes in a bulk size from food distributors. I am going to try it in vegan cake to see if I can replicate the delicate, fine texture of egg containing cakes. Thanks for all of your fun comments! 🙂

  6. Hi Summer, I’m really struggling to locate sweet rice flour in the uk, do you think it would it be worth trying out this recipe with just rice flour/cornstarch alone? I have a friend who has many allergies and can’t tolerate the pre-made gluten-free flour mixes so I thought a rice flour cake would be perfect! Thanks for this blog!

    1. Hi Nikki, Yes this cake will work fine without the sweet rice flour. The texture might be just slightly different but not enough to worry about. Sometimes sweet rice flour is called glutinous rice flour because of its gluey properties. It may not be any easier find it under this name, but I wanted to let you know in case they label it as such there. Good luck with this cake!

  7. Thanks Summer, I’m going to try it out! I’ll also start scouring local Asian stores for the glutinous rice flour too!

    1. My coffee grinder is sooo tiny that I would be at it for hours! 😉 Great idea though. I will do that if I get desperate!

    1. Yes! That should work great just substitute it for the flours, xanthan gum and leavening if it contains baking powder or baking soda. 🙂

  8. Hi Summer, just wanted to report back on the success of this cake! My GF friend was extremely happy with her birthday treat, many thanks x

  9. Hi Summer! I hope you see this post. Need to ask you if this cake is stable for fondant and stacking?

    What is the price range to put a cake like this together? I hear indigents are pretty pricy. I was asked if u can make a glutin free cake and I have no previous experience. I don’t want to limit what I can offer ppl.

    Anyway, I really trust your recipes. I have made 2 and with success!!! I’m confident that it will work.

    Thx for your research. This is truly chemistry at its finest!!!


    1. Yes! This cake will work well for stacking and fondant. The price depends on what brands you use and the cost range in your area, but the flours I have used in this cake are on the lower end of the scale so it should not be too much to offer to people. Just keep in mind that this cake is best served as close to baking as possible due to the starchy nature of gluten free ingredients. Best of luck!

  10. Thank you so much for this recipe Summer, it is my new favorite. This is great with or without frosting. Even my 13 year old, gluten loving son, raved over this one. This is the third cake (of your recipe’s) we have tested and we have loved every single one. I am gluten free, so to be able to actually enjoy a piece of cake from start to finish, without having to swish and spit after checking for mouth feel, sweetness and texture is such a nice change.

    I also agree with Cori, in that I love how trustworthy and dependable your recipe’s are … and I can’t tell you what a difference your thwacking method has made – who knew?

    Some questions: I know you have a gluten free mud cake, but can I just use this recipe and substitute some of the dry ingredients with cocoa powder for a chocolate cake? Also, how will this work for cupcakes? And, I was testing a pumpkin spice cake yesterday and I would just love to be able to make a gluten free version. Could I replace the buttermilk with pumpkin puree, or maybe do half buttermilk half puree? Or should I just leave well enough alone?


    1. Hi Nancy! I am so glad that you have had success with this cake. 🙂 Yes, I think you could easily replace 1/2 cup of the rice powder with cocoa powder and it would give you a lovely cake. You really should try the Gluten Free Mud Cake though; it is fantastic! Also, I believe that a pumpkin version of this cake would be lovely. I would use 1 cup of pumpkin in place of the 3/4 cup of buttermilk and of course add some pumpkin pie-type spices. Please let me know if you try this and if it is delicious I will post the recipe! I love fall cakes! Blessings 🙂

      1. OK, sold … my next cake will be the Gluten Free Mud Cake!

        I will also make the gluten free pumpkin cake and let you know how that turns out. Flavor wise, the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice work really well with both your Sour Cream Vanilla Bean Cake and your Vanilla Cake … but I missed the mark with the moisture. Now I see why … it’s not an even swap. Thanks for the suggestions and Blessings to you as well.


        1. Update: I substituted the pumpkin puree for the buttermilk and added some pumpkin spice as you suggested and it was fantastic … so moist and tasty – thank you. I also made your Gluten Free Mud Cake, and oh boy is that a chocolate lovers dream – so rich and yummy.

          Thank you again,

    1. You can use 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and 1 cup of milk. Let is sit for a few minutes and then use as you would buttermilk. 🙂

  11. Hi Summer! Do you think any adjustments need to be made for higher altitudes when using this recipe? Thank you!!

  12. I absolutely love your recipes.!!!!!! This will be my first time making gluten free cakes, but I wondered how will this recipe will hold up for cupcakes?

  13. Could you make this into gluten free cupcakes? or would it be easier to make you vanilla cupcake recipe gluten free? And if so, what substitutions would you recommend for the flour in the vanilla cupcake recipe? Thank you so much!!! I just adore your recipes and what you do!!!

  14. Hi Summer

    I have a few questions, I hope you don’t mind.

    I live in the UK and don’t rate my chances of finding sweet rice powder. I have regular rice flour that I can refine further, but I also have oats that I can process into powder/flour. Do you think it would work better using the rice flour or oat flour?

    Also, I’ve got Fructose Malabsorption – that’s an inability to process any fruit sugars. As a result, this will be my first time baking (and hopefully eating!) any kind of dessert in almost three years. I would really love to try it instead of just serving it to others. Regular flour is out, hence the GF recipe, but I’m also not great with granulated sugar. I am able to eat pure maple syrup. Is there a way that I can replace the sugar with maple syrup? I’m assuming it wouldn’t be an even swap, and also that I’d have to adjust my dry ingredients, but I’m afraid I don’t know too much about that. Any advice?

    Last question! You’ve said to serve it as soon as possible – how much leeway is there between baking time and serving time? I wanted to bring it to Christmas lunch but don’t think I can take over my mother in law’s kitchen on Christmas morning…

    thank you!

    1. Hi Bridget,
      Yes, you deserve to eat some of “fruit” of your labors! I would try the oat flour. I use oat flour quite a bit to replace half of the wheat flour in muffins and quick breads and I love it! Use oat flour in place of the rice flours and keep the corn starch.

      For the sugar, use 2/3 to 3/4 cup of maple syrup for each cup of sugar. I would keep the liquids the same.

      I really hope this works and allows you to have a special treat!

      You can easily make this a day ahead, but you can also make it farther ahead and freeze it until needed.

      Let me know how it turns out!

      1. HI Summer. Love all of your recipes. I’m a little confused not he rice powder and sweet rice powders. I found Authentic foods superfine sweet rice flour and superfine regular rice flour but nothing in rice powders in any brand. Is this the same thing? I’m making this next week and the GF mud cake for Valentines day. The regular mud cake is my favorite and I use it often.

  15. Hi Summer, Please disregard the about comments! OMG- I made this cake today to test on my group, for my little cake business. It was the best GF cake I have ever made and we have ever tasted. I made the cake ( using Authentic foods rice flours) as a White Almond Grand Marnier Cake with raspberry Chambord buttercream and white chocolate buttercream frosting. Amazing and had no signs of tasting like GF. I also made the vanilla with lemon buttercream filling and white chocolate buttercream. I did 2 6″ cakes, stacked them as a double barrel and covered with the buttercream. I had the most success using parchment collars and turning my oven down to 325. 35o with parchment gave a very crusty finish on the sides. I was a blue to flash freeze them in triple plastic wrap and wrap in foil, 5 days before I needed to start assembling the cake. Thank you so much. The GF chocolate cake is next for February.

  16. Hi Summer! Could you make this into a GF white cake? If so, what additions of fat could be added to replace the fate of the yokes and how much fat? Thank you!

    1. Hi Kara, You could try a cup-for-cup product but it is likely the results will be different. Since I haven’t tested this recipe with any such flours I can’t recommend any for certain. Sorry! I know that it would probably make life simpler to just have one gluten-free flour on hand.

    1. It shouldn’t taste overly ricey. I would try a different brand of rice flour to see if that helps. Otherwise, you could replace a small amount of rice flour with fine sorgum flour. The sorghum has the most wheat-like flavor I have come across. It will affect the texture if you add too much though and it may not look as pristinely pale with the sorghum added.

  17. Hi Summer, firstly I’d like to tell you l love your cake recipes! I love every single one I have made! I’ve made your vanilla GF cake and they are currently in the oven. I intend to bake 6 layers for a tall double barrel cake. Question is, if I freeze them asap, can I fill and cover them in buttercream or ganache the day before pick up?
    Thank you for all your knowledge,

    1. Hi Fay! I’m so glad you have enjoyed my recipes. Yes, if you freeze these cakes you should fine filling and covering them the day before. I would keep it chilled after frosting if possible, but be sure it is at room temperature for serving for the best texture. I wish you the best!

    2. I always freeze my cakes and then fill and frost them on the day they are needed. The GF vanilla too!
      It has always worked well for me, and seems to help trap in the moisture too. Best of luck!

  18. I make this cake all the time,, for home, friends and business and love it. After reading your description at the beginning of the science indoor testing, I am guessing that making it a white cake by using 12 egg whites in place of whole eggs will not give it the structure needed? White cakes are very popular with my clients. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Pam! You should be fine adding all egg whites. You will get more structural proteins in the game that way. Yolks provide little structure-wise. Please leave your results in the comments if you try it. It’s great to let others know if they can make the same change. 🙂

      1. WHITE Gluten free Cake- SUCCESS! It worked beautifully. Light and fluffy. I used 2- 8″ pans with parchment collars- I always use those when I’m not sure of how a cake will act or others that like to rise hight and then fall back down- it keeps them from sinking in.
        Anyway- mine domed a little while baking , but looked great. I used 12 egg whites in place of the 6 whole eggs. and followed the recipe as stated. I bake at 325 degrees so it baked for 40-42 minutes. The lower temp also helped since it did brown a bit more on top , but not overcooked and will get cut off when leveled anyway. I may try a lower temp. next time if baking for myself and not a client. Beautiful cake- love it both ways and now I have it as a white cake. Appreciate your support to try it Summer.

  19. Hi Summer- Do you think this recipe would do ok doubling it ? And would it do ok in a 3″ pan? I’m considering trying it but worried about messing with the structure and having it fail. I make this all the time, as you know, in the 2″ pans- one recipe at a time. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Pam! You can easily double the recipe, but I would be leery of baking it in a 3″ pan. Gluten-free cakes are so short on structure stabilizing proteins, that the chance of collapsing under the added batter weight is high enough to cause major apprehension. It is worth a try, but I would do one layer as an experiment without an expected outcome and not when you need it for an event.

      1. Thank you. Perfect timing. I was just collecting my ingredients. I am actually going to make a 7″ cake . I’m going to try it in 7″ pans, instead of 8”, of which I only have 2 – 2″ and the rest in my 3″ pan- scale all of the pans equally. I use parchment collars, so I am hoping the 3″ pan, with the same volume won’t brown too much and will bake successfully too- fingers crossed. I can always remake it if not successful and it over bakes. Thanks so much!!

        1. You should be fine with an equal volume in a 3″ tall pan. I used to always bake my 6-inch cakes in two 2-inch tall pans and one 3-inch tall pan. The 3-inch pan browns a little less, because the added height shields the surface, but the finished product ends up equivalent to the 2-inch pan cakes. I hope it all goes well!

          1. Aha- thank you. I had that backwards thinking it would brown too much. Wonderful.
            So appreciate it as always, Summer.

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