Gluten-Free German Chocolate Cake

When I started this site, I set out to make dishes that were not just “good….for being gluten-free/vegan/sugar-free,” but also good in their own right. However clear this mission was, it was never so imperative as it was on Friday night, when I set out to bake a cake that was to be auctioned off for charity among a group of church members I would have to face again. The perfectionist in me (or should I say the perfectionist that I am) could never live with someone having purchased a mediocre cake. Which meant I spent a little bit longer than usual conceptualizing, writing, and ultimately executing this recipe, my show-offiest of cake recipes to date.

By the time the final layer was set — the coconut-pecan mixture lightly pressed on top — I had spent a good portion of my night and the next morning baking. I baked off a small cupcake-sized amount to taste-test, which confirmed that it was worth the extra effort. I decided it was.

That said, the lucky winner of this oh-so painstakingly created cake ended up being none other than my mom. Something about the “gluten-free,” “vegan,” “sugar-free” description just didn’t get the crowd too eager with their bids. Which is just as well, because really, nothing excites me more than shaking people of their notions that this type of eating is synonymous with deprivation. So when I started doling out slices to the diabetic at one table, the newfound celiac at another, I was delighted to watch their expressions shift from aprehension to pleasant surprise. I began to imagine this cake as not just a cake, but as a glimpse into a delicious world of possibilities, even  without the gluten, sugar, dairy or eggs.

Of course, this is a special occassion type of production, as it is a bit of an ordeal to make. This is the kind of dessert you look to when you want to be a show-off (and show your friends that you’re not missing out in the dessert world). But that doesn’t mean a modified version can’t be tackled on a smaller scale. German chocolate cupcakes, anyone?

The cake itself is quite moist; the frosting light and fluffly. It doesn’t have the exact makeup of a traditional German chocolate cake (not like you haven’t probably figured that out already), but the spirit is most definitely there.

Serves: 10-15

Chocolate Cake:

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat flour

6 tablespoons coconut flour

1 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (non-alkalized)

1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 1/2 tablespoons Ener-G egg replacer

2 1/4 cups light agave nectar

3/4 cup coconut oil (liquified)

1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups light coconut milk

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Agave-Sweetened, Vegan “Buttercream”

1/2 cup soy-free Earth Balance buttery spread

5 tablespoons Spectrum Organic Shortening

6 tablespoons agave nectar

3 tablespoons liquified coconut oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5 tablespoons coconut flour

5 tablespoons cocoa powder

Toasted Pecan-Coconut Mixture:

1 1/2 cups pecans, finely chopped

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

4 tablespoons agave nectar, divided

2 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread, melted


1. For Cake: Lightly grease three 8-inch, round cake pans with some melted coconut oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt and egg replacer until combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together coconut oil, agave and vanilla extract until smooth. Slowly, on low speed, add in dry ingredients until incorporated. Beat in coconut milk and applesauce until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Pour equal amount of batter into each pre-greased pan, using a spatula to spread evenly and smooth out the top. Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for about 1/2 hour. Gently flip to remove from pan and allow to cool completely on rack.

2. For frosting: Beat together first 5 ingredients with electric mixer fitted with a wire beater on high speed until smooth. Add in remaining ingredients and beat until incorporated. Refrigerate to set for about an hour, or until a bit more firm but still spreadable.

3. For coconut-pecan mixture: toss coconut and pecan with melted buttery spread and 2 tablespoons of agave. Lay flat on a baking sheet and bake in preheated, 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden. Let cool to crisp, then toss with remaining agave.

4. To assemble: Place bottom layer of cake on a large plate or tray. Spread about 1/3 of frosting (doens’t need to be a very thick layer) evenly over top. Sprinkle with coconut-pecan mixture, leaving some frosting showing so that the next layer will stick. Repeat with the second layer. To top: spread with remaining frosting just enought coconut and pecan so that the top is evenly covered, pressing down lightly into the top. If frosting seems a little loose, return cake to refrigerator so that the frosting can reset, about 30 minutes (it shouldn’t melt after this).


  1. says

    oh those people do not know what they are missing!!! I love the reaction people give you when you tell them everything “it” is free of.

    Looks great!!

  2. Cherie says

    Thank you soooo much!! This was my favorite birthday cake when I was a kid(my Mom made it every year for me), but I haven’t been able to eat it for about ten years. I can’t wait to make this!!!

  3. Beth says

    To Kelly and Cherie — German chocolate was always one of my favorites, too! I was too intimidated to attempt a modified version until now. It can be a bit of an undertaking, but definitely worth it!

  4. Beth says

    Thanks, Kelly! I wonder how it would stack up to Bobby Flay’s “throwdown” German Chocolate Cake, though…. : )

  5. says

    I LOVE German Chocolate Cake… Oh my… I am on a cleanse right now which is depriving me of any sugar in any form, and I must say this post may be the death of that cleanse. The best kind of death possible. :) Thank you for sharing this!
    Desi recently posted..Coconut Millet

  6. says

    I made this tonight for Easter Dinner tomorrow and also for my daughter’s birthday. One of my layers rose over the side of the cake pan so we were able to enjoy some very tasty pieces of cake. I used butter instead of Earth Balance for two reasons; I don’t react too much to butter and Earth Balance – soy free is more than double the cost of butter. My allergies are such that I will only have a small piece of this lovely cake and my family will be amazed at how good this cake tastes without flour, dairy (other than butter) and no eggs. The cake batter was more than enough for three layers and stands very high. I posted about it on my blog.

    I would suggest making double the amount of the creamed frosting as what I remember most was the gooey coconut-pecan frosting. More is better.

    Thank you for the recipe.

  7. says

    Everyone was impressed with the cake (except for one person who cannot tolerate coconut).
    The cake was good.
    My daughter who is exposed to a lot of vegan cooking remarked on the cake’s ‘lightness’ – as most gluten-free desserts sink to the bottom of the ocean in the heaviness category.
    Good combination of ingredients.

  8. says

    btw… I LOVE your recipes. What does buckwheat do specifically for this recipe? Could I use a combination of other flours, like a 3/4 oat flour and 3/4 all purpose gluten free flour, instead of the buckwheat? If so, what would you predict would happen?
    Wendy recently posted..Coconut Oil

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