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The Ultimate Chocolate Cake 🍫 gluten free, paleo & keto

Incredibly moist and intensely chocolatey, this is the ultimate paleo and keto chocolate cake. Whether you layer it up with our sugar-free buttercream frosting or simply do it sheet pan style with ganache, its bound to please the entire crowd!

Note: this recipe post was first published on June 24th 2018, and has since been updated (slightly!) to yield a muuuch more moist crumb

Tiered keto chocolate cake with buttercream frosting
Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake (With Buttercream Frosting!)

The Ultimate Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake

Intensely Chocolatey ‘N Ultra Moist!

Think of this chocolate cake as first cousin to our suuuper fudgy keto brownies (easily the most popular recipe on the site). They both bloom the cocoa with melted butter, leading to that beautifully intense chocolate kick.

Did you also know that chocolate cakes around the world are often made with an almond flour base? Yup! Think luxurious Italian chocolate cakes, where the almond meal is considered a prime pantry ingredient. So don’t think of this keto chocolate cake as second-best to the traditional wheat versions, but as a beautiful cake in it’s own right.

It’s incredibly moist and with a tender crumb. And while the cake is ideal for layering, you can always whip up just one layer (or even as muffins!).

p.s. this is also my chosen birthday cake year after year. It’s just so good and a true crowd pleaser!

Oh! And yes, you can totally whip up some keto chocolate cupcakes with this recipe too!

Cream cheese chocolate buttercream frosting piped as flowers
Gluten Free & Keto Chocolate Cupcakes

The Method

You guys will essentially be following our super easy brownie methodology (see video for reference). The ratios are a little different though, and there is some added flaxseed and coconut flour for a more crumb-like texture.

The most important thing though? The baking time! You’ll want to bake it until just set and a toothpick inserted comes out barely clean (roughly 15-18 mins). As any chocolate cake, baking too long will dry out the crumb.

Three layers of paleo & keto chocolate cake on a wire rack
Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake (With Buttercream Frosting!)
A bowl of keto chocolate buttercream frosting with a spatula
Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake (With Buttercream Frosting!)
Closeup of chocolate buttercream flowers on a keto chocolate cake
Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake (With Buttercream Frosting!)

The Sweetener

You’ve got plenty of options for this stellar chocolate cake, but do know that they’ll affect the texture quite a bit. Think xylitol and allulose (no aftertaste, softer and fluffier texture), Lakanto (barely any aftertaste, denser texture).

And do note that xylitol and allulose take (much) longer to dry out though so your cake will be extra delicate right after baking. So allow it to cool in the pan for about 30 mins.

Fun fact: it might also be my taste buds here, but I’ve noticed that stevia-based sweeteners (such as Pyure) don’t work so great when chocolate is involved as the aftertaste is accentuated. So I cannot recommend enough that you don’t use stevia-based sweeteners here.

Oh, and if just paleo or gluten free (or not restricted by sugars), simply sub 1-to-1 with coconut or regular sugar.

And if using xylitol, make sure to be careful if you have a pup or little animal around the house, as it’s highly toxic to the little guys! 🐕

Closeup of chocolate buttercream flowers on a keto chocolate cake
Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake (With Buttercream Frosting!)

The Flours

To turn chocolate cupcakes keto you’ll need some super fine almond flour (Anthony’s is my favorite!),golden flaxseed meal (make sure it’s golden!)*, coconut flour (again Anthony’s by a mile!),and a touch of xanthan gum.

*Just keep in mind that for best texture and rise, you’ll always want to regrind your flaxseed meal in a dry blender or bullet.

The Chocolate

You’ll want to use a Dutch-processed alkaline cocoa here. As there’s baking powder involved, using cacao won’t give the same results (at all!).

In terms of brands, my favorite will forever be Valrhona, known to be one of (if not the) best cocoas in the world. That said, as long as it reads cocoa and not cacao you’ll be good to go!

Sliced paleo & keto chocolate cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting
Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake (With Buttercream Frosting!)
Taking a bite of a keto chocolate cake slice with a fork
Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake (With Buttercream Frosting!)
Overhead shot of sliced keto chocolate cake with flower buttercream frosting details
Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake (With Buttercream Frosting!)
A slice of a layered keto chocolate cake
Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake (With Buttercream Frosting!)

Sliced paleo & keto chocolate cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting

(The Ultimate!) Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, European
Keyword: gluten free chocolate cake, keto chocolate cake, paleo chocolate cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6 slices
Calories: 196 kcal

Incredibly moist and intensely chocolatey, this is the ultimate paleo and keto chocolate cake (with cream cheese buttercream frosting!).

Oh, and if baking with cups rather than grams is your thing, just click on US Cups for an instant conversion.

Print

Ingredients

For the frosting (not paleo)

Instructions

For the chocolate cake

  1. Each batch of cake is good for one 8-inch layer of cake (or 6 cupcakes). If you're building a two-layer cake adjust serving size to 12 and for three layers to 18. You guys will essentially be following our super easy brownie methodology (see video for reference). The ratios are a little different though, and there is some added flaxseed and coconut flour for a solid crumb.

  2. Position a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 350°F/180°C. Grease, dust with cocoa powder, and line an 8-inch cake pan, set aside. 

  3. Add almond flour, flaxseed meal, coconut flour, baking powder and xanthan gum to a medium bowl. Whisk until thoroughly combined, set aside. 

  4. Add butter, heavy cream (or coconut oil and cream), cocoa powder, salt and espresso powder (optional) to a large heatproof bowl. Melt over a water bath whisking constantly (or use the microwave in small bursts). Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly. 

  5. Add in the sweetener and one egg at a time, whisking well after each one until completely incorporated. The texture should appear smooth and thick, with all the sweetener dissolving into the mixture (if using erythritol, some granules may remain). Add the flour mixture, whisking vigorously until fully blended (about a minute). Pour batter into prepared pan.

  6. Bake for 15-19 minutes, or until set and a toothpick inserted comes out just clean. Check often after minute 15 to ensure your cake doesn't dry out, and always keep in mind, however, that your cake will continue to cook while cooling! 

  7. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes in the cake pan, before transferring to a rack. It'll be particularly fragile right out of the oven if you made it with xylitol or allulose, so you need to let it set. 

  8. If you're building a layer cake, you'll want to chill the layers (well wrapped) once they've come to room temp. Because of this, I always bake the layers the day before, chill overnight, and make the frosting and layer up the cake the-day-of.

For the cream cheese buttercream frosting (not paleo)

  1. One batch of frosting is enough for roughly two layers (or 12 cupcakes!).

  2. Piping the frosting between the layers (no tip needed), ensures the most even distribution of frosting. And you could even do it with a ziplock bag!

  3. The cake keeps well, stored in an airtight container in the fridge, for about 3 days. And it also freezes beautifully, just thaw it out in the fridge overnight.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

*Please see section on sweeteners for deets and possible substitutions. Just keep in mind that stevia doesn't work (at all!) for these! 

**If measuring the cocoa with tablespoons rather than grams, be mindful of how you scoop as you can end up with a lot more cocoa powder than needed. Drop the cocoa powder into the tablespoon and level it, rather than scooping it out of the bag with the tablespoon (which can lead to overpacked tablespoons!). 

***Must use eggs at room temp. Reason being that if you add cold eggs, you'll solidify the batter and won't be able to mix the flours properly. 

Please note that nutrition facts were calculated per slice (1/6th of a layer), which is the equivalent of 1 cupcake. 

Nutrition Facts
(The Ultimate!) Paleo & Keto Chocolate Cake
Amount Per Serving (1 slice)
Calories 196 Calories from Fat 162
% Daily Value*
Fat 18g28%
Saturated Fat 7g35%
Cholesterol 80mg27%
Sodium 203mg8%
Potassium 162mg5%
Carbohydrates 6g2%
Fiber 4g16%
Sugar 0.5g1%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin A 375IU8%
Calcium 60mg6%
Iron 1.8mg10%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

299 comments

  1. Julia says:

    Is it possible to substitute almond+flaxseed with low-carb baking mix? How would this affect the proportions?

  2. Maria says:

    I used stevia and everything turned out too sweet, is there a reason why you can’t use it? What’s the difference ?

    • Emily f says:

      Stevia is MUCH sweeter than xylitol, around 200+ times sweeter, so you would need to find the ratio vs xylitol for the correct amount to use. However as Paola always says, stevia doesn’t really work well with anything chocolate as it can make it taste bitter

  3. Rita says:

    I made this cake yesterday….checked after 10 minutes….2 times 5 minutes extra and the cakes were ready. Supermoist. Erg lekker.

  4. Mary says:

    I read about not over baking and checked the layers at 8 min. Toothpick was not clean so went two more min for a total of 10 and pulled them then so as not to over-bake them. Sadly it still came out dry, really dry. I followed the recipe exactly so I am not sure what the problem was.

    • Paola van der Hulst says:

      I’m sorry to hear that Mary! May I ask what sweetener you used? This seems to happen sporadically for some of you, and I’m trying to nail down the cause so it doesn’t happen anymore- any help would be useful!

  5. Jill Michaels says:

    I just made the triple layer for my birthday. It was awesome! Suggestions from my experience:
    1. Let it sit with the frosting overnight. The cake becomes more moist with time…
    2. Bake for 12-13 minutes (if doing 3 layers) if using metal pans– 15 minutes was too long. 15 minutes is probably ok with silicone pans.
    3. If you like a lot of frosting, I would 1.5x the recipe to cover the 3 layers.
    4. Next time I will try adding lilly’s dark chocolate chips to the middle layer of the cake to make it a little more fudgy and to change the texture between layers.
    5. Next time I will try a vanilla bean frosting…WISH ME LUCK!

  6. Hi Paola, this chocolate cake was every bit delicious. It cut very well too. I dressed the cake up for my youngest sister’s 60th Birthday. A shame we can post photos ! Trust you are in better health today!

  7. Lisa says:

    Anyone ever try Spenda as the sweetener? I want to make it this weekend…Splenda (sucralose) has no carbs (not even sugar alcohols) and I don’t think it tastes any more artificial than xylitol. Measures same as sugar (but I usually use less)…does it measure same as xylitol? Want to make sure I don’t get too much…

  8. Dominique says:

    For this recipe would the So Nurished Monk Fruit/Erythritol blend bought from Amazon work if it was processed into a fine powder?

  9. Jackie secor says:

    I can’t find the right sugar so I did get the coconut sugar but what can I use for the frosting making it today so a speedy answer would be so Appreciated

    • Paola van der Hulst says:

      Hi Jackie! If you’re keto coconut sugar isn’t for you! Regarding the frosting, coconut sugar may come out a bit grainy unless its super fine ground, a touch of maple syrup works too if not keto 😉

    • Bella says:

      My cake turned out absolutely delicious!! I was worried in the beginning bc I didn’t have xylitol and only had Lakanto which I ground in a coffee grinder to make it like powder to let it dissolve quicker but bc Lakanto is monkfruit mixed with erythritol, my batter did turn out pretty thick. I literally picked up the dough and pressed and leveled it in the 8” pan. I thought it was going to turn out awful. To my surprise, after baking it for 14 min, the cake was so moist. I let it cool and put icing on it and voila! my husband and sons loved it so much they devoured the whole thing. Thank you for this awesome recipe!!

    • Helen says:

      I have not found flaxmeal either so I subbed it with psyllium husk and coconut flour. The recipe calls for 30g flaxmeal, so I did 15g coconut and 15g psyllium husk. First time I tried doing it this way, it was super thick and came out dry. Also the grainy texture makes it feel like wholemeal cake. Not a bad texture, but I love a soft cake. My 2nd attempt I blended all the flours together so it was smooth and added about 1/2 cup water to soften the mixture. Psyllium husk thickens in liquid, so this is why the first one was dry. 2nd cake is so soft and moist!! I could not wait to ice it before testing the results. Now I know what to bake for my husbands birthday next week!

  10. Blackie says:

    I made this cake just as your recipe says, but used a different recipe for a chocolate butter cream frosting and the results were wonderful. The cake was moist (cooked each layer for 16 minutes) and the taste was great! I have also adapted the recipe and used it in making a spice cake (I just substituted the spices for the cocoa and espresso) and it also was great. Thanks so much for this recipe. Being a diabetic I haven’t had chocolate cake in 15 years and I smiled the entire time I was having my first piece, and it didn’t spike my blood sugar level. Thanks again for making me feel normal once more.

  11. Kelly says:

    You link to two different xylitols here. Is it ok just to use the health garden one, and blend it to powder for the icing? leery because the NOW one has made me sick before. Making this for my keto son’s third birthday in a few weeks 🙂

  12. May says:

    Hi.I am tasked with making a birthday cake that is gluten free, dairy free & Keto … i was wondering is there is an alternate icing option? Kind regards

  13. Pamela says:

    OMG this is so good!
    I have drooled over the pictures of this cake for a long time before becoming brave enough to try it. I decided to make a practice batch of 6 cupcakes (easier than a cake?) for an upcoming double birthday party for my mom and me. She is not keto or paleo – just “regular” – and I am keto. So, I made the 6 practice cupcakes and the amount of frosting as is in the recipe to use on the second batch of cupcakes. At first the cupcakes appeared so small – and it felt like I was putting way too much frosting on them – but I used muffin liners (greased and dusted with cocoa powder) and because of that I had to put more frosting than I would have normally. Anyway…. this was so rich and so good I couldn’t eat all of my “small” test cupcake! You could easily dust these with a bit of powdered xylitol and skip the frosting altogether. My mom is going to love this recipe! She is turning 83 and I am very excited to be able to make something for her that she will love and that I can eat as well! However, next batch I will make the cupcakes without the liners for ease in icing them – or maybe try ramekins and serve the frosting on the side!
    I always have so much fun with all your recipes – even when they don’t turn out as pictured. I always learn something and enjoy myself very much. Each gnom-gnom dinner is more of an event than a meal. Thank you Paola – your ability in the kitchen and your generosity with this site is truly inspirational. I wish you weren’t dealing with a health issue – but I am so grateful you are keto!

  14. Megan says:

    Is the batter actually supposed to be pourable? Mine was more like a scoop and spread with a spatula. It tastes wonderful but not even in the pans due to having to spread the batter into the pans. Just wondering where I could have gone wrong?

    • Paola van der Hulst says:

      Depends on the sweetener you use… say Erythritol will be much thicker than xylitol or allulose. Keto batters are always thicker than your regular ones though, just different ingredients can’t expect the same behavior xo!

  15. Pei Pei says:

    I made this 2 weeks ago, came out perfect! I’m making it again today, but I didn’t read the instruction, I mixed all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. So now I just microwaved the butter, will let it cool, then I’ll mix the melted butter to the dry mixture, and then add eggs.
    Folks, wish me luck!

  16. Cheryl Dumais says:

    I’ve made this cake twice and once it was amazing and the second time not so much. BUT it was my fault. If you want to make the cake you must follow the directions to the letter. That means the eggs must be room temperature and the directions to wisk really well are important. If you are used to regular baking this is much fussier. I will say though that for a sugar free cake it ROCKS. Even my dry second attempt that I rushed to put together was tasty but not as moist as the first time when I was careful.

  17. Lara says:

    I have enjoyed several of gnom gnomes recipes, but this cake is awful. It doesn’t taste like a cake at all. It’s a flax brownie is all. Very sad that I spent all the time and ingredients for such a bad cake. Sorry for a negative review, but it’s honest.

    • Michelle says:

      I was super excited to try this cake, but was really disappointed! The pictures look incredible and the crumb and texture look like a regular all purpose flour chocolate cake. I followed the directions closely, checked it in the oven every 1-2 minutes, nearing the end of the baking cycle, yet it came out dry. I’m thinking it needs avocados or something to add some moisture, because there isn’t really anything in it that would make it moist. Expensive ingredients to have to throw away😣

  18. Alfonso says:

    It was a disaster. On step 2 “Grease and dust with cocoa powder and line an 8” pan” I put butter and cocoa powder and because of this all the surfaces is contact with this powder cane out burnt.
    The worse part was the frosting. I use butter, Philadelphia cream cheese and Lakanto sweetener and what a mistake that was it tasted horrible. Stick with xilithol. The quantities for a triple layer for the frosting are way too much and waster a lot of $

    • Paola van der Hulst says:

      Too bad it didn’t work out for you, but don’t get why it burnt.. greasing and dusting with cocoa is standard method for chocolate cakes everywhere 😉 and, if you don’t like the taste of Lakanto why didn’t you use xylitol to begin with? That’s why I give you guys the options so you choose from the sweetener you like best 🤷‍♀️

      • Alfonso says:

        I used Xilitol for the cake & it tasted great except for the burnt edges. I ran out of Xilitol and used the Lakanto for the frosting and did not like it at all. Is Philadelphia cream cheese ok for this?

    • Tim says:

      My wife and I are also confused by the wording in Step 2 where it instructs, “Grease, dust with cocoa powder, and line an 8-inch cake pan, set aside.”

      We greased the pan, then dusted it with cocoa powder, but usually when a recipe calls to “line a pan” they usually say “with parchment paper” or some such. But if we’ve greased and dusted it, surely that’s all we’re to do. So what’s are we supposed to line the pan with?

      This is the second time we used this recipe, BTW. The first time it turned out *absolutely delicious* though more like a really, really yummy brownie than a cake. It could be due to our substituting in Lakanto Monkfruit sweetener instead of the xylitol as others have seemed to note a heavier, denser result when using the Lakanto.

  19. Alfonso says:

    “1 batch of frosting makes enough for the three layered cake.” Does that mean with the servings at 6 is enough for the three layered cake?

  20. Catherine says:

    Hi Paola, heads up on the dairy-free note, when you change the number of servings at the top, the amounts below for coconut oil and coconut cream do not update with everything else. I should have noticed that when measuring…but luckily I caught myself before I put into the oven 😮😅

  21. Victoria says:

    I LOVE your recipes!! I’ve tried several (Cinnamon cereal, Soft Doughnuts, etc) and they’re delicious!! However, why is it that most of the time, when I plug your ingredients into a Keto calculator, the carbs are MUCH higher than your quote. This recipe yields 20.2 grams of carbs, with 5.9 from fiber, netting 14.3 grams of net carbs. I might as well eat a store-bought cupcake.

    • Paola van der Hulst says:

      Awesome to hear Victoria!! It just sounds like it’s counting the sugar alcohols as regular carbs (common practice to substracy them as you do fiber, so bloggers just leave them out as our nutrition labels aren’t fact and don’t have the ‘sugar alcohol’ section) xo!

  22. Dominique says:

    My birthday is this week and it’s been so hard to find a cake that actually has good reviews for Keto! I started about two months ago and I have been craving Cake for soooooo long. I am looking forward to making it!

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