A tender, floofy vanilla coconut flour cake that comes together with a whisk and bowl in under an hour! Free of gluten, dairy, grains, refined sugar, and nuts. Top it with a double batch of paleo cream cheese frosting for a layer cake worthy of birthdays and other celebrations.
Thanks to Bob's Red Mill for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own.
After I posted a recipe for a coconut flour lemon cake last year, a few readers asked if they could make a paleo vanilla cake by omitting the lemon zest. Last week, I tested the recipe and while it worked beautifully, I wanted to give it a few tweaks to make it taste and feel more like a classic vanilla cake.
The original recipe uses coconut yogurt and lemon juice to add tangy goodness. This accentuates the lemon zest and it makes the crumb extra springy. Acidity seems to increase the sticky power of gluten-free flours. I'm not sure why this is, but I've observed it many times in my 10+ years as an alternative baker!
In any case, when I swapped vanilla extract for the lemon zest, I found that the tanginess overpowered the delicate vanilla flavor. So I dialed down the lemon juice and used coconut milk in place of coconut yogurt. Bonus that coconut milk is shelf-stable and easy to keep on hand!
I was so pleased with the result! In addition to tasting like a classic vanilla birthday cake, the lower acidity helped the cake bake up with an even softer, more tender, pillowy crumb.
The Easiest Coconut Flour Cake Ever
This coconut flour cake is simple, versatile, and it's free of many common allergens – dairy, eggs, gluten, grains, refined sugar, and nuts. It's super simple to make – just whisk everything together in a single bowl, pour into pans, and bake.
Serve it plain, with a dollop of coconut yogurt and fresh berries for an easy spring dessert. Bake it into a sheet cake or cupcakes for casual parties and potlucks. Or top it with my favorite vegan paleo frosting and build a dreamy paleo birthday cake for a lucky recipient.
With its fine crumb and rich vanilla flavor, no one will realize how healthy-ish it actually is.
Ingredients and Substitution Suggestions
- Vanilla Extract adds lovely floral flavor to this paleo cake recipe, giving it a classic birthday cake vibe. Be sure to use gluten-free vanilla extract if need be.
- Lemon juice adds acidity to the batter, which influences the texture as well.
- Coconut milk moistens and enriches the batter. Be sure to use full-fat coconut milk that has been well-combined. If it's cold in your kitchen and your room-temperature coconut milk is chunky, you can gently warm it in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until it's smooth and well-combined. Let cool to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
- Eggs help lift and set the batter. I don't recommend swapping them out if you can help it. But if you're allergic, you could try some combination of applesauce, flax or chia egg, aquafaba, or Just Egg.
- Oil adds moisture while keeping the flavor neutral, and the cake is still soft when chilled unlike with butter-based cakes. I used grapeseed oil here, which is light colored and mild in flavor. Sunflower oil works well too. For a purely paleo cake, use avocado oil or mild olive oil. I haven't tested melted coconut oil, but it could work; it will just make the cake firmer when chilled.
- Maple syrup sweetens the cake. Use a light-colored syrup and you won't taste it in the finished cake. Or use a darker maple if you want more maple flavor. The consistency of the maple is important for the texture of the cake, so try not to swap it for another liquid sweetener if you can help it. That said, agave syrup would be the closest in terms of moisture content and sweetness level. Or you could use honey thinned with a little hot water or coconut sugar liquified into a syrup.
- Baking powder and baking soda lift the batter, making it light and airy. Be sure both are fresh and perky for the best lift.
- Salt sharpens the flavors. I use fine sea salt, but kosher salt will also work. Avoid table salt, which can taste harsh.
Flours for Gluten-Free Coconut Flour Cake
A trio of flours creates lofty cake layers that no one would ever guess are gluten- and grain-free! I've formulated this recipe to work with these exact flours, so I'd recommend making it as written if you can. But if you must use different flours, I've given my best guess suggestions below.
All flours can be ordered from Bob's Red Mill, or look for them along with other alternative flours at well-stocked grocers.
- Cassava flour gives this cake structure and a springy texture. If grains aren't an issue, try subbing a GF all-purpose blend by weight, such as Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1.
- Organic coconut flour absorbs moisture and fluffs up the batter while keeping the flavor neutral. Coconut flour is far more absorbent than any other flour, so if you swap it out, you'll want to increase the amount of flour by about double. You could try blanched almond flour, which is commonly used in paleo baking.
- Tapioca flour makes the cake extra fluffy and tender. You could also try using arrowroot flour, which should be interchangeable in baking recipes, though I haven't tested it here.
How to Make Paleo Coconut Cake
This low-maintenance cake comes together with just a whisk and a bowl.
Paleo Birthday Cake
Build a festive paleo layer cake by spreading cake layers with frosting. I've shared several favorite options below! Here I used my paleo cream cheese frosting and I topped the cake with nature's sprinkles: crushed freeze-dried raspberries, bee pollen, and toasted coconut. But actual sprinkles would be lovely too!
Paleo Sheet Cake
Want to skip all that layer cake fuss? Bake the cake in a 9x12-inch baking pan lined on the bottom and sides with parchment paper for a paleo sheet cake. Once the cake has cooled, invert it onto a large cutting board, peel away the parchment paper, then invert it right side up on a serving platter. Slather the top with paleo cream cheese frosting and top with your decorations of choice, if using.
Small-Batch Coconut Flour Cake
For a smaller cake that serves 8, cut the recipe in half. Bake the cake in one 8-inch round or square pan for a single layer cake, or divide it between two 6-inch cake pans for a smaller layer cake.
Coconut Flour Cupcakes
This recipe will make 20-24 cupcakes. Divide the batter among muffin tins lined with paper muffin cups and reduce the baking time as needed.
The Icing on the Cake: Favorite Toppings
Use any of these fluffy, spreadable, not-too-sweet frostings on top of and between your coconut flour cake layers. (Or licked off of spoons – I won't tell!)
- Paleo Cream Cheese Frosting: shown here! Silky-smooth, pipeable, and made with cashew butter, coconut yogurt, maple syrup, and coconut oil.
- Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting: Vegan cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar make a vegan take on classic cream cheese frosting.
- Less-Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting: a lower-sugar take on the classic with lots of flavor options: chocolate, matcha, citrus, and more.
- Vegan Chocolate Ganache: a two-main-ingredient recipe for chocolate lovers.
- Whipped Coconut Cream: Spread billows of coconut whip on the cake layers. I love this option with fresh berries for a giant berry shortcake of sorts.
- Salted Tahini Frosting or Peanut Butter Frosting: two buttery options that add extra flavor.
- Vegan Chocolate Frosting: made with coconut sugar and cocoa powder for extra-rich flavor.
Coconut Flour Cake for Everyone
This simple coconut flour cake has the tender crumb and vanilla flavor of a classic birthday cake, but it's free of many common allergens for everyone to enjoy.
However you serve it up, I hope you love it as much as we do!
More Gluten-Free Cake Recipes
- Paleo Lemon Cake with Coconut Flour
- Gluten-Free Lemon Almond Olive Oil Cake (grain-free, dairy-free)
- Gluten-Free Sponge Cake with Strawberries and Cream (paleo option)
- Gluten-Free Carrot Cake (dairy-free, paleo option)
- Gluten-Free Tiramisu (grain-free, dairy-free, paleo options)
*Bojon appétit! For more Bojon Gourmet in your life, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, purchase my gluten-free cookbook Alternative Baker, or subscribe to receive new posts via email. And if you make this gluten-free coconut flour cake recipe, I’d love to know. Leave a comment and rating below, and tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet.*
Coconut Flour Cake (GF, DF, Paleo)Print Recipe Pin Recipe
- 2 batches paleo cream cheese frosting, chilled until firm
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil for the pans
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup (210 g) neutral oil such as grapeseed, sunflower, avocado, or mild olive oil
- 1 ¼ cups (390 g) maple syrup (preferably light-colored grade A amber)
- 1 cup (230 g) well-combined full-fat coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon strained lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar)
- 1 cup (140 g) Bob's Red Mill cassava flour
- ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (93 g) Bob's Red Mill coconut flour
- ¼ cup (30 g) Bob's Red Mill tapioca flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- for decorating (optional): crushed freeze-dried raspberries, toasted shredded coconut, bee pollen
- Make the frosting and chill until firm while you prepare the cake layers.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Rub the sides of two 8-inch round cake pans (with 2-inch high sides) with the coconut oil. Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper cut to fit.
- In a large bowl, combine the eggs and oil. Whisk until smooth and emulsified. Whisk in the maple syrup, then the coconut milk, vanilla, and lemon juice.
- Place a strainer over the bowl and sift in the cassava, coconut, and tapioca flours with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk until very smooth. If there are some lumps in the batter, let it sit for a minute or two, then whisk again. The batter will start out very thin, but it will thicken up as the flours begin to absorb moisture.
- Pour even layers into the prepared pans (about 675 grams each by weight) and smooth the tops.
- Bake the cake layers until the tops are golden and puffed with some cracks, the edges pull away from the sides of the pans, and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with moist crumbs, 25-35 minutes.
- Place the cakes on a wire rack and let cool completely. Once cool, wrap tightly and chill until firm; this will make them easier to handle and frost.
- Once the cakes are chilled, loosen the edges of the cakes from the pans using a small, offset spatula. Turn the cakes out onto plates and peel away the parchment, then place right side-up on plates or cutting boards. If the cakes are domed on top, level them with a large, serrated knife.
- To frost, place one cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread a healthy layer of frosting over the top, making it as even as possible. Place the second cake layer over the frosting and smush it down slightly.
- Now spread a healthy layer of frosting over the top of the cake. If frosting the sides, pull the frosting down the sides to cover. Smooth with an offset spatula. This is your crumb coat. Chill or freeze the cake until the frosting is firm, and repeat frosting the top and sides to make a thicker layer. You can repeat this once more for a third layer if you like. Smooth the top of the cake.
- Pipe frosting around the edges using large and medium star tips. Sprinkle with crushed freeze-dried berries, toasted coconut, and/or bee pollen. Or go classic with sprinkles.
- Chill the cake until ready to serve. If you’re waiting more than a few hours, place the cake in a box to keep the frosting from drying out.
- Use a large, sharp chef's knife to cut the cake into wedges.
- The frosting will stay firm at cool room temperature for an hour or two, but it does melt easily if placed in direct sun or if the room is warm. Ideally, chill until ready to serve, then slice and let slices come up to room temperature before serving. This will ensure gooey frosting and soft, pillowy cake.
- The cake is best within 1-2 days of baking, but leftovers will keep, refrigerated airtight, for up to 3 days. Or freeze leftovers for up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature before enjoying.