Best Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake {without xanthan gum}

This Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake is deliciously fluffy, light and moist. It is filled and covered with a dreamy vanilla swiss meringue buttercream and is the cake you will turn to time and time again when you need a simple yet stunning vanilla layer cake. And guess what?? No xanthan gum. We just use the most delicious alternative flours for a gluten-free white cake with perfect texture and taste.

Best Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake on a cake stand on a wooden table

The vanilla layer cake is such an important cake to master as not only should the cake shine in its own right but it is also the building block through which many other celebration cakes can be made.

  • change the buttercream to chocolate and you have a perfect chocolate vanilla birthday cake.
  • add some lemon or orange zest to the sponge and buttercream and you have a gorgeous citrus cake.
  • Add chopped nuts to the batter, chocolate chips or even sprinkles for a funfetti cake.

Your basic vanilla cake is where it all starts.

Best Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake on a cake stand on a wooden table

Why is this Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake so brilliant?

  • It’s the perfect gluten-free birthday cake or any other kind of celebration.
  • Light fluffy texture – no claggy, dry sponge here. This has the perfect balance of moist and gentle bounce.
  • This cake holds together beautifully, giving lovely even slices that do not crumble when it sees a knife.
  • Taste – of course it’s thanks to the vanilla but also our specially selected gluten-free flours. Let’s make our alternative flours do double duty of taste and texture here!
  • Also no fancy techniques. Once you’ve whisked together our chosen flours then the cake proceeds the same as any cake. Creaming the butter and sugar, adding the eggs and vanilla then beating in our flour blend. Easy.
  • No xanthan gum! 

READ MORE >>> Why I Don’t Bake with Xanthan Gum

So what’s the secret to the best Vanilla Cake?

Let me tell you… it’s our choice of gluten-free flours. We don’t use a branded supermarket gluten-free flour but blend our own choice of alternative flours. It’s the best way to bake gluten-free then you have total control over the ingredients. And you don’t even need xanthan gum.

Gluten-Free Flours

We only need three gluten-free flours for this beautifully white cake, to make it as accessible as possible, keep costs down and our larder more streamlined.

  1. Sweet Rice Flour – It’s used here for the best texture. Also called glutinous rice flour it has a unique sticky texture that binds the ingredients together and gives great structure and bounce to the cake (you cannot substitute regular rice flour here as they are totally different). Sweet rice flour is not super available in the UK but it’s easy to buy off Amazon.
  2. Gluten-Free Oat Flour – A delicious flour that gives a toasty buttery flavour to enhance the vanilla. It has a lovely fluffy light texture. Oat flour can be picked up at most health food shops and if I run out that’s where I head to. However, like all alternative flours it can be expensive so I find the most economical way is to buy on Amazon. Or you can even make your own – there’s all the info on how to do that in this Ultimate Guide to Oat Flour. If you are intolerant to oat flour you can substitute for sorghum flour. 
  3. Tapioca Flour – a starchy flour which alleviates some of the density of the sweet rice flour and bakes up beautifully, giving the sponge a gorgeous golden colour. It’s not difficult to get hold of tapioca flour in the UK. You can often find 100g pots of Doves Farm Tapioca Flour in the supermarket but it’s quite costly and doesn’t give you very much. You can find more varied brands in health food shops in bags of about 500g or you can buy online.

Best Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake on a cake stand on a wooden table

How to make a Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake

(more detailed instructions in recipe card below)

  1. Beat together the sugar and butter until pale, light and fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time.
  3. Whisk together the whole milk and vanilla extract and set aside.
  4. Whisk together sweet rice flour, oat flour, tapioca flour, baking powder and sea salt in a large bowl.
  5. Add the flour mix along with the milk and mix until just combined.
  6. Divide between 2 round cake tins and bake for 45 minutes.

Pro baking tips

  • In any vanilla cake, gluten-free or not, the quality of your ingredients is absolutely key. Do use the best unsalted butter and whole milk from a local dairy if you can, the freshest eggs from the happiest chickens.
  • Always use the best vanilla extract (never essence) that you can afford. Nielsen Massey is my favoured brand.
  • Use room temperature butter and eggs.
  • Beat the butter and sugar for about 6 minutes, scraping down the sides a couple of times. This is how your cake will be beautifully fluffy.
  • Break eggs into a separate bowl before adding. Then you’re not fishing shell out of your cake batter. It also means you can spot if one of your eggs is bad – although this is a very rare occurrence. 
  • Add the flour mix alternately with the milk – a few spoonfuls at a time – this ensures it is all evenly mixed.
  • After it has baked check for doneness by inserting a clean cocktail stick or skewer. It should come out clean with no wet batter.
  • Leave the sponges for 5 minutes to rest in their tins before sliding a palette knife around the edges and turning out carefully onto cooling racks.
  • Always leave to cool completely before covering with buttercream.

Best Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake on a cake stand on a wooden table

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This buttercream is light as air, dreamy as a cloud and buttery as hell. If you have never made or tasted swiss meringue buttercream then you will be transported.

The method sounds more intimidating than the practice. But don’t be in fear of it, once you have dabbled in the delights of swiss meringue buttercream then you will never look back.

How to make it

  1. Heat egg whites and caster sugar in a double boiler, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved the temperature has reached 71°C.
  2. Remove from the heat and pour into a stand mixer. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks and the temperature has lowered to about 32°C.
  3. Then on a low speed beat the butter in one cube at a time until it’s totally incorporated. 
  4. Add the salt and vanilla extract. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Tips for SMB

  • SMB is incredibly forgiving and if you are worried that it has broken at any stage it can always be rescued (about 95% of the time). 
  • If you are new to the SMB party then use a sugar thermometer so you know exactly when to move onto the next step of the process.
  • Any problems with the buttercream are usually down to certain ingredients being the wrong temperature – don’t worry, we can fix it! – The problems will always seem to arise when you add the butter.
  • The butter should be at room temperature – just slightly soft.
  • If you are doing everything right then when you have almost added all the butter the mixture will look curdled. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen and just means you are nearly done. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the buttercream will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  • If when you add the butter the buttercream turns to soup then your butter was too warm. Place the whole mixing bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes then try mixing it again.
  • If the butter is too cold then it won’t whip nicely into the egg whites. The mixture will seem greasy and the butter won’t incorporate. Put the mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, when the butter melts at the edges, remove and beat it up again.

Best Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake on a cake stand on a wooden table with little boy in background

Recommended Equipment

  • Stand Mixer – The Kitchenaid is definitely my choice for the ultimate stand mixer. It’s used everyday in my kitchen for all my cakes, bakes, buttercreams plus so many other savoury uses like making mayonnaise or whipping sauces.
  • 8 inch Round Cake Tins – These cake tins are what I always use. They have completely straight sides so your cakes will be beautifully neat, the anodised aluminium means the heat disperses evenly throughout the cake without cooking the sides too quickly, which some darker cake tins do. The cakes slip out of the tins easily and they come in all the sizes you would need, although typically I use the 8 inch tins.
  • Cooling Racks – These are actually really useful as they are nice and high which allow more air to get to your cakes to cool quickly. Plus the cooling cakes take up less room on your kitchen counter if they stack up.
  • Sugar Thermometer – this thermometer is the best way of checking those temperatures when you’re making the buttercream. If you want to temper chocolate or make fudge or other sugary treats then this tool will be invaluable to you.
  • Double Boiler – I use this double boiler for everything – it’s brilliant for melting chocolate.
  • Large Closed Star Piping Tip – This is the piping tip to use if you want to recreate those buttercream flowers
  • Large Flower Petal Piping Tip – This is the one to use if you want to recreate the leaves.
  • Recyclable Piping Bags – I get a huge pack of them as the worst thing is to get ready to ice your cake and discover you don’t have any piping bags left. I use these piping bags for everything from cupcakes to drizzling melted chocolate to piping a straight level of buttercream evenly over a whole layer cake. 
  • Small Offset Spatula – I love the control this spatula gives to smoothing down the sides of the cake.

slices of Best Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake on a wooden table

FAQs

  • This cake is suitable for freezing either before or after you have covered in buttercream for up to 3 months.
  • Keep the cake in the fridge if you are not serving it straightaway. Remove from the fridge about an hour before serving.
  • You can use this recipe to make gluten-free vanilla cupcakes. This recipe makes enough for 18 cupcakes.

More Gluten-Free Vanilla Cakes

If you are looking for a more casual Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake perhaps you might like to try this Gluten-Free Victoria Sponge recipe. It’s an incredibly simple cake to whip up that uses regular gluten-free flour.

Or what about if you want to bake something up with the kids? Then these Gluten-Free Fairy Cakes are exactly the right recipe for you. So easy – especially for little helpers and such fun to decorate with them too.

If you make the Best Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake please leave a comment below and give the recipe a rating which helps others find the recipe on Google. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own baking creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.

Best Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake {without xanthan gum}

The Best Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake is made without xanthan gum and is deliciously fluffy, light and moist. It is filled and covered with a dreamy vanilla swiss meringue buttercream.
Prep Time1 hr 15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time2 hrs
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: British
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 882kcal

Ingredients

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake

  • 225 g unsalted butter
  • 400 g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 150 ml whole milk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 160 g sweet rice flour
  • 140 g oat flour
  • 40 g tapioca flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 9 egg whites 270g
  • 450 g caster sugar
  • 540 g unsalted butter at room temperature, cubed
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan assisted oven/gas mark 3/320°F and line and grease 2 x round 8 inch cake tins.
  • Beat together the sugar and butter until pale, light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, beating on a low speed.
  • In a measuring jug whisk together the whole milk and vanilla extract and set aside for a moment.
  • Whisk together the flours, baking powder and sea salt in a large mixing bowl until completely combined.
  • Add the flour mix alternately with the milk, adding the flour in three additions and the milk in two (begin and end with the flour), scrape down the sides of the bowls as needed and mix until just combined.
  • Divide between the cake tins and bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • Heat egg whites and caster sugar in a bain marie, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 71°C.
  • Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat and pour into a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  • Change the attachment to a paddle attachment. On a low speed add the butter slowly cube by cube. When you have almost added all the butter the mixture will look curdled. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen and just means you are nearly done. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the frosting will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  • Add the salt and vanilla extract. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Assembly

  • Place one of the cake sponges on a cake board or cake stand.
  • If you are going to be piping the buttercream flowers and leaves then set aside a small amount of buttercream for that purpose.
  • Fill a piping bag with the rest of the buttercream. Snip the very top off the piping bag and pipe concentric circles around the top of the cake sponge. Use a small spatula to smooth so it creates an even layer of buttercream.
  • Place the second cake sponge on top of the buttercream then add another layer of buttercream.
  • Pipe the rest of the buttercream around the sides of the cake and use a spatula to smooth.
  • Decorate with piped buttercream flowers and leaves if you wish.

Notes

The Cake
  • Use the best quality ingredients you can and always use vanilla extract (never essence).
  • Use room temperature butter and eggs.
  • Beat the butter and sugar for about 6 minutes, scraping down the sides a couple of times. This is how your cake will be beautifully fluffy.
  • Break eggs into a separate bowl before adding.
  • Add the flour mix alternately with the milk to ensure it is all evenly mixed.
  • Check the cake is baked by inserting a clean cocktail stick or skewer. It should come out clean with no wet batter.
  • Leave the sponges for 5 minutes to rest in their tins
  • Always leave to cool completely before covering with buttercream.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • Use a sugar thermometer so you know exactly when to move onto the next step of the process.
  • The butter should be at room temperature - just slightly soft.
  • If you are doing everything right then when you have almost added all the butter the mixture will look curdled. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen and just means you are nearly done. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the buttercream will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  • If when you add the butter the buttercream turns to soup then your butter was too warm. Place the whole mixing bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes then try mixing it again.
  • If the mixture seems greasy and the butter won’t fully mix in with the egg whites then the butter was too cold. Put the mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, when the butter melts at the edges, remove and beat it up again.

Nutrition

Calories: 882kcal | Carbohydrates: 93g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 54g | Saturated Fat: 33g | Cholesterol: 192mg | Sodium: 170mg | Potassium: 192mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 71g | Vitamin A: 1695IU | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 0.9mg

The Ultimate Guide to Oat Flour

Oat Flour is a brilliantly versatile gluten-free flour with a subtle buttery flavour and great nutritional properties. Unlike a lot of gluten-free flours it is economical and you can easily grind it yourself at home using rolled oats. Here’s all the information you need to start baking with oat flour today.

Image of jumbo rolled oats and gluten-free oat flour on a wooden board

Are oats gluten-free?

Oats themselves are gluten-free but are often processed in mills with other grains so there is a lot of cross-contamination. If you are gluten intolerant or coeliac you must make sure it’s certified gluten-free on the label. It’s also the unfortunate fact that some coeliacs and people with a gluten intolerance just simply can’t tolerate oats at all whether they are processed in a gluten-free environment or not. So always check with whomever you are baking for that oat flour isn’t on their black list.

The benefits of oat flour

Oat flour carries the same benefits as oats themselves which are delicious and nutritious.

  • They are high in a fibre called beta-glucan which helps lower cholesterol, supports your immune system and contributes to fight hunger pangs.
  • The soluble fibres are also considered to lower blood sugar by reducing glucose absorption meaning oats are especially beneficial for diabetics.
  • Oats are also good for your skin which is why you see oatmeal added to lots of skincare products.
  • They are high in protein compared to other grains.
  • They are a good source of magnesium too so assist in energy production.

READ MORE >>> Health Benefits of Eating Oats and Oatmeal

However, this is all just bonus material as oats also taste terrific which is carried through into your bakes and also add texture from beautifully fluffy bakes to flaky pastry. See for yourself in this recipe for Gluten-Free Eccles Cakes.

What is oat flour?

Oat flour is basically very finely ground oats. You can easily grind oats yourself to make oat flour but the finer the grind then the fluffier the cake which is why I buy commercial oat flour. I like to use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free-Oat Flour which is widely available and certified gluten-free.

However on the very regular occasions which I run out then there is a negligible difference in the homemade version. It’s also the much cheaper way to go.

Image of jumbo rolled oats and gluten-free oat flour on a wooden board

How to make oat flour?

Oat flour is simple to make as all you are required to do is:

  1. Bung a heap of jumbo rolled oats destined for your porridge into the food processor and turn it on.
  2. Within about 30 seconds you will have a beautiful oat flour.

If you need a specific amount for a recipe then the ratio is: 1.25 Jumbo Rolled Oats  :  1 oat flour
So to make 100g of oat flour then you will need 125g rolled oats.

SHOP THE RECIPE >>> FOOD PROCESSOR

Can you substitute wheat flour with oat flour?

It is possible to create bakes using merely oat flour but it is not wise to substitute oat flour into any wheat flour recipe. Instead you should search out recipes which are specifically written with oat flour in mind.

Using oat flour by itself can also be very successful in cookies and biscuits. However, a delicious cake using just oat flour will need a lot of hand holding with its other ingredients to help the cake bind together. You will probably also need more eggs than a regular recipe to help the cake to rise. 

Image of jumbo rolled oats and gluten-free oat flour on a wooden board

Why use oat flour?

There are many alternative flours out there so why might you choose to use oat flour in your gluten-free cakes and bakes?

The reason would be for the bags of personality that oat flour brings to the table. There is none of this neutrality that wheat flour carries. Instead oats are imbued with a deliciously toasted butterscotch flavour which is almost sweet and pairs so beautifully with so many flavours and gives a lovely background note to your bake. It’s distinctive but doesn’t overpower.

Oat flour is also higher in protein and fibre than many other alternative flours which means it gives a lovely soft texture to your bakes, it fits perfectly in a homemade gluten-free plain flour blend as it works so well with other alternative flours.

How do you use oat flour in baking?

There are lots of recipes which benefit from the inclusion of oat flour. I love using it in biscuits and cookies but oat flour also works well in crumbles or crisps due to its crumbly chewy nature.

Oat flour can be put to excellent use in a gluten-free all purpose flour mix and I pair it a lot with white rice flour and tapioca flour which can be substituted for wheat flour in most recipes. The white rice flour gives the bake a structural integrity but the soluble fibres of the oats gives the bake a softer quality and negates the grittier properties of white rice flour. The tapioca is an excellent binder and mimics some of the gluten properties of wheat. 

If you want to try using oat flour, these recipes are excellent places to start:

Digestive Biscuits
Strawberry Gooseberry Crumble
Red Velvet Cake
Steamed Chocolate Pudding
Best Gluten-Free Blondies
Raspberry Doughnuts
Golden Beetroot Carrot Cake
Salted Caramel Chocolate Espresso Cake

What flavours pair well with oat flour?

Take your pick, this is such a versatile flavour. Although its nutty toffee-like tones are an especially good match for chocolate, caramel, vanilla, nuts, spices, stone fruits, berries, bananas, apples, squash and coffee.

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