Gluten-free sponge cake that's light and airy, but made with whole grain flours and naturally sweetened! This feather-light cake soaks up all kinds of luscious flavors, from berries and cream to trifle to tiramisù. Adapted from my cookbook Alternative Baker, with dairy-free, grain-free & paleo-friendly options.
A Gluten-Free Cake for Special Occasions
This cake is very dear to me on multiple levels. I first developed the gluten-free sponge cake recipe for my book Alternative Baker, where I used it to make trifle, tiramisù, and tres leches cake. I'd been making the gluten version for several years when I worked as a pastry chef at a Peruvian restaurant in San Francisco where I doused it with tres leches mixture and served it with fresh seasonal fruit.
In 2019 I developed a maple-sweetened version for Coombs smothered in strawberry chia jam, fresh berries, and mascarpone cream. It tasted like a giant strawberry shortcake, just the dessert for the first fruit of spring. Jay and I decided to get married on a whim at City Hall with only our moms present, and this cake ended up being our wedding cake. We brought it to our favorite local restaurant Piccino and devoured it after dinner with champagne.
The day of our wedding was also our cat Catamus's birthday. We had hoped to have several more years with him to celebrate this happy occasion, but sadly 2020 would be the only year we would celebrate as a family. Our "cotton anniversary" was last week, and though we missed dear Catamus, we basked in the company of Zeppo and Hank who have made themselves right at home in our lives. You can follow their antics on Instagram in my stories and highlights.
Gluten-Free Strawberry Cake
I wanted to give this gluten-free sponge cake a home on TBG since it's such a special one. Make the gluten-free strawberry cake pictured here, or use the cake as a base for other flavor combinations.
Maple syrup sweetens all components of this gluten-free layer cake (though I've included a classic vanilla version made with sugar if you prefer!) Billows of vanilla whipped mascarpone top the cake layers, swirled with strawberry chia jam and topped with loads of fresh berries. I had some pretty maple candies on hand when I first made this; edible flowers would also be lovely!
The cake itself is dairy-free so if you prefer, use whipped coconut cream in the filling for a gluten-free dairy-free cake that all your guests can enjoy. I also tested a paleo-ish version using grain-free flours (cassava, coconut, and tapioca) which I've included in the notes.
If you give it a try, I hope it becomes a special recipe in your home as well.
Gluten-Free Cake Ingredients & Substitution Suggestions
Just a handful of ingredients go into this lofty gluten-free cake recipe.
Best gluten-free flour for sponge cake
I tested this recipe with many different flour combinations, and my favorite was a blend of:
- oat flour, for fluff and creamy depth of flavor (sub by weight teff flour or chestnut flour)
- sweet rice flour, for stickiness and a neutral taste (sub by weight cassava flour or a GF AP blend such as Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1)
- millet flour, for a buttery, golden crumb (sub by weight sorghum flour)
But this recipe is versatile and forgiving, so feel free to experiment with different flours. Or omit all of the flours and use a good all-purpose flour blend such as Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 flour.
I also included a grain-free, paleo-friendly version made with cassava, coconut, and tapioca flours.
- Neutral vegetable oil moistens the cake. I usually use sunflower oil, but other good options are grapeseed, mild olive oil, and avocado oil. You could also use a flavorful nut oil such as hazelnut.
- Sugar or maple syrup sweetens the cake. I use organic granulated sugar for the classic recipe, but the version shown here uses maple syrup for added depth of flavor. I still use a little sugar to whip the egg whites, which makes them more stable for folding into the batter.
- Egg whites whipped with cream of tartar and sugar gives the cake a feather-light texture. The cream of tartar acts as an acid to stabilize the egg whites, so if you don't have any on hand, it's fine to leave it out.
- Egg yolks add richness and give the cake a golden crumb.
- Baking powder lifts the batter along with the beaten egg whites.
How to Make Gluten-Free Sponge Cake
This gluten-free cake is surprisingly simple to make. The only tricky part is folding the whipped egg whites into the batter if you're new to this technique. But once you've done this a few times, you'll be a pro at it!
Types of Sponge Cakes
- This cake is technically a gluten-free chiffon cake since it uses oil instead of butter and baking powder for lift.
- Genoise is another type of sponge cake that uses melted butter instead of oil, and only whipped egg whites to lift the batter, no baking powder.
- Angel food cake uses only egg whites and no yolks for an even lighter texture that makes it too delicate to layer. This is usually baked in a tube pan rather than made into a layer cake.
I've made loads of sponge cakes since my stint at pastry school back in 2006 and chiffon cake always wins by a landslide. The baking powder helps to make it foolproof, and the oil gives it a tender texture even when chilled. It has a sturdier crumb that makes it perfect for layer cakes. You can also cut it up and layer it into a trifle or tiramisù. It makes a perfect base for tres leches cake, albeit less traditional, since its open crumb soaks up liquid without becoming soggy.
How to Use GF Sponge Cake
This gluten-free chiffon cake makes a versatile base for many types of cakes and sweet treats.
- Layer it with whipped mascarpone, berry chia jam, and fresh berries, as shown here, for a gluten-free strawberry cake.
- Spread it with lemon curd and whipped cream.
- Brush the cake with flavored syrups or boozy spirits before topping with frosting or ganache.
- Make fully gluten-free dairy-free cake by using whipped coconut cream.
- Cut into slices to make my easy gluten-free tiramisu recipe.
- Poke it all over and douse with tres leches mixture. A variation of this batter also works for a roulade or jelly-roll cake. Get the recipes for citrus trifle, coconut tres leches cake, and roulade cake in my cookbook Alternative Baker!
Gluten-Free Cake for Everyone
You can please almost all eaters with this gluten-free dairy-free cake that can be made grain-free and paleo-friendly. However you serve it up, as a gluten-free layer cake or component of another dessert, it's sure to be a hit with its tender, open crumb and classic flavor.
More Gluten-Free Cake Recipes:
- Gluten-Free Rhubarb Cake
- Gluten-Free Blueberry Coffee Cake
- GF Banana Cake with Chocolate Ganache
- Gluten-Free Olive Oil Cake with Almond & Lemon
- Gluten-Free Tiramisu Dessert Recipe
More Strawberry Recipes:
- Gluten-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
- Hibiscus Berry Smoothie Bowls
- Strawberry Caprese Salad
- Gluten-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Galettes
*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 sponge cake recipe, I’d love to know. Leave a comment and rating below, and tag your Instagram snaps @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #bojongourmet.*
Gluten-Free Sponge Cake (dairy-free, grain-free & paleo-friendly options)Print Recipe Pin Recipe
- ¼ cup sunflower oil or other neutral oil
- 3 large egg yolks
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (55 g) sweet rice flour (or sub cassava flour by weight)
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (50 g) millet flour (or sub sorghum flour by weight)
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (40 g) GF oat flour (or sub teff flour by weight)
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea or kosher salt
- 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons (25 g) granulated sugar
For Gluten-Free Strawberry Cake:
- 1 batch strawberry chia jam or other preserves
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- ¾ cup mascarpone (or crème fraiche, or more cream)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 2 tablespoons cold maple syrup
- 2 pint baskets strawberries, some hulled and quartered, some halved
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325ºF. Line 2 ungreased 8-inch round cake pans with rounds of parchment paper cut to fit. The cake batter will crawl up the sides of the ungreased pan as it bakes, making the cake extra fluffy.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, egg yolks, and maple syrup.
- Place a strainer over the bowl and sift the sweet rice, millet and oat flours with the baking powder and salt directly into the yolk mixture, adding back any bits left behind in the strainer. Whisk until very smooth.
- In the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and whip until the whites are glossy and just hold a firm peak when lifted from the bowl and turned upside down, 1–3 more minutes.
- Use a flexible silicone spatula to fold one-third of the whites into the batter, then gently fold in the remaining whites until just combined and no streaks remain.
- Immediately pour the batter into the prepared pans and quickly but gently use an offset spatula to spread the batter into a thin, even layer.
- Transfer the pans to the oven and bake until the cakes are golden, spring back to the touch, and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, 20-30 minutes. Remove to a rack and let cool completely in the pan.
To finish the gluten-free strawberry cake:
- Whip together the mascarpone, cream, vanilla, and maple syrup together until the mixture holds firm peaks. Chill until needed.
- To assemble the cake, remove one cake layer from the pan and peel off the parchment. Place the cake layer right-side up on a serving platter and spread with a little less than half of the whipped mascarpone. Dollop half of the strawberry jam over the cream and swirl lightly. Top with a layer of quartered strawberries and dollop with a bit more whipped mascarpone (this helps the upper layer stick to the bottom layer).
- Remove the second cake layer from the pan, remove the parchment, and place on top of the bottom layer. Top with the remaining whipped mascarpone, swirls of jam, and the remaining quartered and halved berries. Decorate with maple candy, if using.
- Serve right away or chill for up to several hours before serving. To serve, use a large, sharp chef’s knife dipped in hot water and wiped clean between each cut to slice the cake into wedges. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.