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 tres leches to tiramisù to Victoria sponge. The recipe is foolproof, the cake layers made with pantry ingredients in about an hour!
Adapted from my cookbook Alternative Baker, with dairy-free, grain-free & paleo-friendly options. Find more cake recipes here!
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 (see below for suggestions).
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 or vegan cashew cream cheese frosting 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. And, for my fellow chocophiles, I just shared a gluten-free chocolate sponge cake recipe made with cocoa powder.
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. Here are some ideas for how to use it:
- 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 dairy-free ganache.
- Make a 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 for a gluten-free tres leches cake. Dairy-free version included!
- A variation of this batter also works for a roulade (jelly-roll) cake or layered with cream and fruit for a trifle. Get the recipes for citrus trifle and roulade cake in my cookbook Alternative Baker!
Gluten-Free Victoria Sponge Cake
Victoria sponge cake (AKA Victoria Sandwich Cake) has risen in popularity lately thanks to The Great British Bake-Off. Here's how to turn this recipe into a classic gluten-free Victoria sponge:
- Make the classic sponge cake recipe using sugar and vanilla in the recipe card notes
- Spread the bottom cake layer with 6 tablespoons store-bought raspberry jam
- Whip 6 ounces heavy cream with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar to firm peaks and spread the whipped cream over the jam
- Place the second cake layer on top and sprinkle with powdered sugar
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.
*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 (Moist & Floofy!)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.
I was looking for a vanilla sponge cake recipe on your site a week ago for this very purpose! Thank you for reading my mind and supplying the birthday recipe I need. :) Also mascarpone stabilized whipped cream is my favorite! Cannot wait to make it and report back. Debating on whether to splurge for the millet flour or sun. :)
Aw how perfect. Happy birthday to you! Please let me how the cake turns out and which flours you decide to use. :)
This sponge cake is amazing! It’s light as a feather but has so much flavor and depth. I used the regular gf recipe with maple syrup and made it with raspberries and raspberry preserve because it was for a friend who loves raspberries. I’ve never eaten so much cake in my life and I loved every second of it!
There are only 2 of us, so I was wondering if I could cut the whole thing in half and use one 6" cake pan (or two). Do you think that would work?
Hi Alene, I do think that would work! I would use 2 pans to be on the safe side. Since the full recipe uses 3 egg yolks and 5 whites, you'll need to cut one of each in half. Otherwise I would err on the side of more egg and go with 2 yolks and 3 whites. Please let me know how it turns out!
Noel Martinez says
Can this be made egg free also?
What would be a good replacement?
I loved this cake! I have tried the chiffon cake recipe in your cookbook and this was just a leg up from that one. I have numerous food allergies and dietary restrictions, and many of your recipes have really allowed me to once more enjoy baking and eating foods that I was previously unable to. The modification here to include maple syrup was PERFECT for me, as I am unable to eat cane sugar. I use monkfruit sweetener instead of the sugar to whip the egg whites and it worked like a dream.
I did end up baking this in a springform high sided pan instead of two cake pans and honestly found it was absolutely decadent as is. I was even able to add a splash of some homemade vanilla extract which I found just gave the cake a little extra boost. Thank you so much for expanding your recipes to include more options for those of us unable to eat standard kitchen staples (dairy, sugar, eggs, wheat, etc). I love your work and look forward to more delicious recipes from your beautifully creative and thoughtful mind.
Awww this note completely makes my day! I've also had to take a break from those kitchen staples, so it's been a fun challenge to experiment with different ingredients, formulas, and recipes too. I'm thrilled that you loved this cake! Using monkfruit sweetener instead of sugar is genius - thank you for experimenting and for the feedback! So glad you're enjoying Alternative Baker too. Someday I'd like to make another cookbook with more vegan / egg-free / sugar-free / grain-free options. But... so much work!
I finally made this yesterday to bring to someone's house for dessert. I wanted to take a picture for you but I forgot with all our excited socializing! It was perfect! The sponge cake was delicious and did not have that gluten free taste that baking recipes often have. People had 2 pieces each! That's how good it was! I used the recipe without maple syrup in the cake. I can always count on you, Alanna. Thank you so much! I did, by the way, make a half recipe earlier and used your suggestions about the eggs, using 2 yolks and 3 whites. It was perfect for the 2 of us and also was delicious. Thanks!
Oh I'm so glad you liked it AND that you got to spend time with friends! That is just wonderful. That's great that the half recipe worked out too!
Instead of the flour blend you mentioned, can I use Bob Red Mills' Paleo baking flour?
Hi! I haven't tested the recipe with that flour blend so I don't know whether it will work or not. Please let me know if you experiment! It's usually best to swap the flour by weight if you can. :)
Hi Alanna, I went ahead and tried it with the same weight proportions. It didn't have a good rise but the texture wasn't bad at all. Still everyone finished the cake :)
Thanks for the lovely recipe.
Thanks so much for reporting back! I'm sorry the cake didn't rise as well made with that mix but I'm so glad it was enjoyed regardless! If you try it with the flours called for, please let me know how it fares!
Paige McDonald says
Just made this cake for my birthday and it was a hit! All my friends loved it. Texture us on point- light and fluffy and not too sweet. I made the whipped topping dairy-free with whipped coconut cream, DF cream cheese, and Culina yogurt. It paired perfectly with the cake. Also, made blueberry chia jam. This cake is going to be a go to for now on. It was so good.
That sounds incredibly delicious - I want to try your version!!
Thank you for sharing this beautiful recipe! I’m curious if melted butter can be used in place of oil?
That's a great question! I haven't tried using melted butter here. My main concern would be that it might congeal when you whisk it with the other wet ingredients. Genoise uses melted butter, but it's added by folding it into the batter along with, or after, adding the whipped egg whites. For this reason, genoise tends to be more technical to make. But of course feel free to experiment, and please let me know what you try!
Alanna, this cake is delicious!
Can I freeze the prepared strawberry cake, and store it for later use?
And when ready to use it, just put it in the fridge overnight or take it out of the freezer several hours before eating?
I'm so glad you liked it!
I think if you freeze the assembled cake, the cream might get weird and the berries might drop a lot of juice. It would be better to freeze the layers, then defrost them and assemble when you're ready to serve. But I mean, even if the filling texture gets gloopy, it would still taste delicious! Please LMK what you try. :)
I wanted to post a picture but can’t figure that out so I tagged you on IG. I used to bake my son a box cake in a Bundt pan for his bday very similar to this for years. Haven’t done so in 10 yrs b/c I couldn’t find a grain free good enough. Until now. Celebrating his bday tomorrow and can’t wait for him to see this cake!!
Aw I'm so glad this recipe did the trick! Thanks a bunch for the kind note. Happy birthday to your son!
Karen Collins says
I just made this cake for my daughter’s birthday. I tweaked it for high altitude and hoped for the best. It was amazing!!!! Everyone raved about it and couldn’t believe it was gluten and dairy free. I can’t thank you enough for providing so many options and suggestions to make sure of certain success!! The texture was light and not too sweet. It paired so wonderfully with fresh berries. Will try so many more of your recipes since this was so tasty!!!
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
Awww this brought a huge smile to my face! I'm so glad the cake was a hit. Good job tweaking it for high altitude, it sounds like it worked perfectly! What changes did you make? I'd love to add those notes to the recipe card to help other high-altitude bakers.
Wishing you and your daughter a super sweet year ahead!
Just baked it as a base for a mango mousse cake. I useg only sugar, no maple syrop and added mango mousse to moisten the dough. It turned out beautifully, best ever sponge cake. Thanks
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
That sounds so delicious! Mango mousse must have made the cake so flavorful and golden. Thanks for sharing your variation!
I made this cake a few weeks ago for my daughter’s first birthday and it was absolutely perfect in every way! I was thinking of trying a different variation and substituting honey for the maple. Do you think that would work?
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
Aw I'm so glad it was a hit! I haven't tested it with honey, but I think it should work! I would try 1/2 cup honey thinned with 2 tablespoons boiling water since honey is sweeter and thicker than maple. Please let me know how it works!
This was so delicious! My ideal kind of cake. The sponge was so light and airy. I loved the combo of cream and mascarpone. And the rhubarb strawberry jam packed a lot of flavour without being too sweet. I'd definitely make this again. Thank you!
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
I'm so glad you liked it! It's one of my favorites too. Thanks a bunch for the kind note and rating!
I have previously used this recipe for a baked Alaska, and it turned out great. Now the same one of my kids wants a chocolate Swiss roll for his birthday, and I’m wondering if you have measurements on hand for adding cocoa powder, &/or baking instructions for making it in a thin sheet pan. Any suggestions for me?
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
Baked Alaska sounds so good with this cake - yum! I shared a cocoa version of this cake here. I have a swiss roll recipe in my cookbook if you happen to have a copy! I tweaked it from this recipe to make it more pliable. But here are the baking instructions which you're welcome to try with either of these recipes. :)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325oF. Line a 12 by 17–inch (30 by 43–cm) ungreased rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit.
After making the batter as directed, pour it onto the prepared baking sheet, and quickly but gently use an offset spatula to spread the batter into a thin, even layer. Rap the pan on the counter once or twice to pop any large air bubbles. Transfer to the oven and bake until the cake is golden on top, pulls away from the sides of the pan and feels fairly firm when you press the top gently with the pads of your fingers, 18–22 minutes.
Working quickly, dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar (or cocoa powder if making the cocoa version) and loosen it from the sides of the pan using a small offset spatula or knife. Place a large, clean kitchen towel over the cake and top with a second baking sheet or large cutting board. Wearing oven mitts, grab the whole thing and flip it over. Remove the hot pan and carefully peel away the parchment paper. Trim away 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) from each edge of the cake, and roll up the cake with the towel; this will help set the shape and the steam will keep it moist and pliant. You can either roll the cake from a short end for a fatter roll or from a long end for a skinnier roll. Either way, let the cake hang out in its towel roll until mostly cool, about 1 hour.
Then you unroll it, fill it, and roll it back up. Please let me know if you try it! :)
This is so, so beautiful. Not having all ingredients on hand, I’m wondering if I can use coconut sugar or maple sugar (I tried using even half of the organic cane sugar in your gorgeous shortcakes but am horribly sensitive to it) and simply create layers and the topping with coconut whipped cream and sliced strawberries. Or any suggestions? Summertime dreaming always includes strawberries, cake, and whipped cream!
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
Aw thank you! I think using coconut or maple sugar will work (assuming you mean just for whipping the egg whites, and using the maple syrup that I call for in the base recipe?) I haven't tested it myself so I'm not sure if they will whip up as well as they do with cane sugar. Please let me know if you try it!
Whipped DF coconut cream is a great topping for this! I also like using a rich coconut yogurt such as Culina as a whipped cream replacement. Another great DF topping is my paleo / vegan frosting - so luscious!
Sebastian Martello says
Hi Alanna, this site is just great. I've gotten many request to make gluten free cakes from the church members and finding tasty recipes ( that should look as good as the taste ) has been difficult.
So, What do you suggest I add or subtract from this recipe to make a standard lemon chiffon ( two layer ) cake. thanks
P.S. Can't wait to get your book.
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
Hi Sebastian, Thanks very much for saying so! I actually have a citrus chiffon cake variation in the notes. Start with the classic sponge cake variation that uses sugar, and start by rubbing lemon zest into the sugar. If you like, you could make some lemon curd and use it between the layers along with some whipped cream. Please let me know if you try it!
Thank you Alanna - made this for my husband’s birthday recently and we polished it in off in no time - the cakes rose beautifully with a gorgeous crumb. The filling with strawberries made it irresistible. So delicious, will definitely be making again.
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
I'm so glad you loved the cake! Thanks a bunch for the sweet note and rating and HBD to your husband!
I’d like to use this to make a Victoria sponge cake for my birthday cake! …sans white sugar that is for the cake and compote. (Found some exquisite strawberry preserves from Italy without cane sugar recently and was dreaming of using them in the compote)! Any suggestions? I typically house a very dark, pure maple syrup from a small farm in Vermont as my go-to here in my refrigerator so am wondering if agave, since beautifully champagne/golden, may work best alternatively…? Merci!
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
That all sounds amazing! I haven't tested this recipe with agave but I think it should work since it's pretty similar in liquidity to maple syrup. Those preserves sound dreamy! Please LMK if you try it, and happy almost birthday!
Love Coombs and typically use their very dark maple syrup- should I grab their lighter colored variety instead for this? Or agave? Also, I can’t indulge in the marscapone or heavy whipping cream sadly- would coconut cream or soft goat cheese and Culina work instead or perhaps just coconut whipped cream…? Just curious as to how the layers will hold up after setting them up, or could I possibly ‘deconstruct’ slices individually, creating the layers right before plating…? This is beautiful! Will decorate with some luxurious Evolve keto white chocolate bar squares as well, which are so divine!
Alanna Taylor-Tobin says
Big Coombs fan here too! It's totally up to you; I think the flavor of the dark syrup would be nice, but the light one (or agave) would taste more clean and bright. I haven't tested it with agave but I think it should work fine!
Coconut whipped cream would definitely work for layering. Possibly Culina, but it might crack or look weird when set in the fridge, and it will be more dense. When I made a Paleo version of this, I used my cashew butter frosting and it was *so* good. If you can tolerate those ingredients, that would be my best suggestion.
Please let me know what you try!