Really Tall Chocolate Layer Cake, Gluten Free

It’s our anniversary.  The 39th to be exact.

We are celebrating 14,244 days of smitten with a chocolate cake that is a mere understatement of just how besotted we are with, well, cake.  This is also where I share the adorable story of how we met at the tender age of 15 and got married about 5 minutes past our 17th birthdays.  And this is where you usually gasp in astonishment.

Go ahead.  I’ll wait. (sipping coffee)

Before I get to that story, an important message.

This giant chocolate cake?

Don’t try it at home.  At least not without a crane, scaffolding or something to hold it up after you cut the first slice.  I also highly recommend having a surgeon standing by to stitch that finger back together once you cut it almost clear off while trying to extract a towering piece of cake that all but begs for a payloader to carry it to the plate.  Don’t get me wrong.  There is nothing wrong with forty pounds of buttercream and ganache attached to a slice of cake, but for most people it might send them into a diabetic coma.  Let’s just say one slice of this cake will feed a family of six.  And unless you have a cake dome that is more than one story tall, forget about covering it.

Take it from me and my bandaged finger – try a half recipe and don’t make the thing taller than 8 inches.  Twelve inches tall for a six-inch round cake is a little crazy.  But then again, this story reminds me that we’ve never quite operated with a full container of sanity.

Back to the story of how we met.

Skulking in while the orchestra was already well into practice, the new girl clutched a brand new shiny French horn under her arm.  The orchestra director pointed to her seat while all the other Izod, khaki, and Topsiders wearing eyeballs followed her with curiosity.  Dressed in her best goth-black, arriving mid-year, she was obviously not from any suburb they knew.

A boy in a button down shirt with a pocket protector loaded with pencils and a slide rule was sitting in the 4th chair of the horn section holding his dented not so shiny French horn. He wouldn’t look at the girl as she scooted past him to her seat. Literally stepping on the toes of his black tie-up shoes, she sat in 2nd chair.  Let’s just say it wasn’t love at first sight.

He would go home and bluster about the girl who stole 2nd chair.  His parents said little, but raised an eyebrow or two.  He had never spoken about a girl until then.

During orchestra practice when they managed to sneak a look at each other, eyes meeting, she would blush and lose her place, and the boy would turn beet red and scowl.

It might be love.

They slipped away on a Greyhound bus to begin a life together just days past their 17th birthdays.  Their parents called them run-away teens. They called it running toward a life they were impatient to begin.

Sleeping one night on Revere Beach in Boston, the skies let loose with a storm that drove them to shelter.  It happens that the only shelter was a small police sub-station. They called home with a little help from their friends at the police station. Their families were looking for them and the girl’s father was planning a shotgun wedding.  You know.  Just in case.

The bride wore a slightly used, oddly fitting bridesmaid’s dress and the groom wore his first real suit.  And they ate cake.  And each year hence, they still eat cake.

This chocolate cake comes courtesy of my good friend Annie, author of the Lemon Tart Diary blog here.  I’ve adapted it and recreated it gluten-free.

The ganache is courtesy of Ina Garten here and the vanilla buttercream is from Joy of Baking here.  I doubled the ganache and made 4x the buttercream. Yeah, you can stop snickering now.

The finished cake with butter-cream frosting and chocolate ganache is fashioned after Max’s Niagara Falls Cake which used to be a favorite of ours back in the old days before gluten-free came calling.  While it looks similar albeit a little too skyscraper-like, this gluten-free version is tastier (sorry Max).

Though my tall self was standing on a step stool to apply the last of the buttercream rosettes, it just never occurred to me that I was creating a one of a kind monster tower cake.

Seriously, I beg of you – I’ve included the recipe, but if you are reasonably sane, make a half recipe.  Consider yourself warned!

And here’s to another few thousand more days of smitten for the girl who bakes such ridiculous things and calls chocolate a food group and for the boy who is stuck trying to photograph a six-inch round, twelve-inch tall cake and make it look normal (which is why we refer to him as Cap’n Awesome).

Really Tall Chocolate Layer Cake, Gluten Free
Recipe type: better than dessert
The cake recipe will feed a small city of very hungry cake eaters. Please cut the entire recipe in half! You should end up with a nice small cake that is reasonably tall.
  • 155 grams of unsalted butter, melted
  • 256 grams of very warm water
  • 150 grams of vegetable oil (I use peanut)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon pure vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 545 grams GF flour (145 g almond flour, 100 g each: superfine brown rice, superfine white rice, GF oat flour, starch)
  • 600 grams sugar (yes, indeed)
  • 130 grams unsweetened cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 260-300 grams eggs (4-5 large eggs PLUS one large egg yolk) room temperature
  • 225 grams buttermilk, room temperature
Chocolate Ganache
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 16 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (use really good chocolate chips)
Buttercream Frosting
  • 16 oz. or (1 pound) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond flavoring
  • 33 oz or (8 cups) of powdered sugar, sifted (really)
  • 5-7 tablespoons cream
Other ingredients
  • chocolate sprinkles, or lots of chocolate curls for cake finishing
  • huge container of tums
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 3 round baking pans. Add parchment circles to the cake pans and butter the parchment. Flour the pans with unsweetened cocoa.
  2. Weigh butter in a glass or microwave container that holds 4 cups. Melt in microwave. Into same container weigh in water, oil and flavorings. Stir. Weigh flours, sugar, cocoa in one large bowl and add salt and baking soda. Whisk to incorporate all the dry ingredients well without covering the kitchen with dust or cocoa powder. Set aside. Weigh the eggs in one container and the buttermilk in another. First add the butter/oil/water/flavorings mixture to the dry ingredients and stir well. It will be very thick. Add the eggs, one at a time and incorporate each before adding the others. Add in the buttermilk and stir vigorously for a minute making sure everything is incorporated. Let sit for about 15 minutes and stir once.
  3. Pour into prepared pans until about ⅔ full. Bake cakes about 20 minutes and rotate. Bake about 8-15 minutes more and keep an eye on them. Depending on how tall your cake pans are, they may need more or less time in the oven. Remove when a toothpick comes out clean. Don't over bake. Cool thoroughly and invert onto rack to cool completely before frosting.
  1. In a medium bowl over a pan of water (double boiler), gently heat the cream and chocolate chips together until the cream is quite warm. Remove from heat and let it sit for a minute. Then stir until the chocolate is thoroughly melted and mixed in. Let cool until spreadable. You will be reheating more later for the topping - this makes plenty for the whole cake.
Buttercream Frosting
  1. In the bowl of stand mixer, whip the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and almond flavorings and whip until incorporated. Scrape down sides. On low-speed add in the sifted sugar and once it is all in the bowl, add in about 4 tablespoons of cream and turn the speed up to high. Scrape down sides if necessary. Add more cream if it seems to a bit thick. Whip on high for 4 minutes. Fold with a spatula to make sure everything is incorporated.
  1. Slice domed tops to make the layers even and flat. Cut each cake layer in half evenly. Place bottom layer on a cake board if you want (easier to move). Or place directly on cake plate. Slide parchment pieces gently under the cake edges to catch drips while you frost. Add a layer of ganache to the top of the bottom layer - rather thick (make sure it is cool and gooey thick enough to spread). Place another cake layer on top. Add an even layer of buttercream, rather thick. Add another cake layer and do the same. Add the top layer and make sure everything is squared up and even. Slather on a gentle layer of buttercream, slightly thin this time. Crumb coat the whole cake with buttercream, sealing in all those pesky cake crumbs. Let it set a bit to seal, but not too long that it hardens. Add a thick coating of buttercream to the sides and using an icing comb or a spatula or a fork, create lines around the cake for decoration. On the top of the cake add piped dollops of buttercream evenly space around the edge leaving about 2 inches of space in between dollops (or rosettes). On the bottom of the cake using your hand and an offset spatula, carefully add about two inches of sprinkles or chocolate shavings around the circumference of the cake.
  2. Slightly reheat the remaining ganache over a double boiler until it is melty again. Wait for it to be pourable but not hot (or it will melt the buttercream) and gently pour it over the top so that it creates a thick layer but still spills down the cake between the dollops (roses) of buttercream. A little goes a long way. Let it all set. Retouch the rosette dollops if needed. Serve to an appreciative audience.

 oh oh.  scaffolding? crane?

payloader delivery?



  1. Wow! That is one absolutely IMPRESSIVE looking cake! I bet it’s difficult to cut & serve, but boy, it sure is pretty! Happy Anniversary!

  2. That looks so delicious!! The height is awesome. I have yet to master Ganache..somehow it does not set up as thick as it should! Any tips?

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      I’ve never had good luck with ganache either until Ina Garten’s method. She melts the cream and choc at the same time v. heating the cream and then adding chocolate – and always use a double boiler. I also made a batch for the inside of the cake and stuck it in the refrigerator overnight which makes it hard. Have to let it sit out for hours to soften enough to spread and it won’t be shiny which is ok for inside a cake. For the outside I made the (Ina) ganache early and just let it sit on the counter forever until it could still pour but was getting close to not doing that. It keeps the shine if you don’t refrigerate it. Oh – and I read a nifty tip about getting it to move if it is too thick and I’d love to give credit to someone but I can’t remember where I read it – use a hair dryer on low setting over the chocolate on the cake to get it to flow, but be careful – too much heat melts the buttercream….. Hope that helps!

  3. CUTE story. I recently made a GINORMOUS anniversary cake too, because honestly, big celebrations like anniversaries deserve cake!!!! Congratulations!

  4. Amaziinnggg cake and a lovely post 🙂 I love your ganache tips above too, ive never made the stuff but plan to really soon so reading that was really useful thank you! You are a talented baker indeed 🙂

  5. Beautiful story. =) And your is awesome too.

  6. I like tall cakes! And this one is just so catching, with all that chocolate, I love beautiful ideas that stand on the back of it. If we have more recipes like this one we could have better and more desired gluten free recipes. Good work and thank you!

  7. I love it! The towering cake, the beautiful story. Happy anniversary, with many more to come! 🙂

  8. Wowsa! I love how tall it is! Tall chocolate cakes are awesome! I just had one for my anniversary too! I think the love story was so touching!

  9. This cake looks delicious! I really like the combination of flours you suggest. However, you say to use 545 grams of the flour blend, but the amounts of the flours you list in the parentheses add up to only 445 grams. Should the additional 100 grams be a starch like tapioca or cornstarch? Also, have you ever tried making this cake using 8″ round pans? I know the baking time may need to be adjusted, but I didn’t know if the cake will still rise to a good level using a bigger pan.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Jayne – thank you! great catch. went back to my working notes and indeed – I left out the 100 g of starch. I used arrowroot, but any starch you like will do. you can make the cake in 8 inch rounds. the baking time should be just about right for an 8 inch pan – but watch them after you rotate the pans and as soon as a toothpick comes out clean, remove them from the oven. I used 6 inch pans which made the cake dramatically tall, but most people would use an 8 or 9 inch round pan. It will still be tall because there are 3 layers and you can cut those in half to make it even taller. let me know how it comes out. and thanks again for finding the missing starch!

  10. LOVE your meeting story! High five to horn players (I’ve been horn playing since age 9; did music school and all) your tale is nothing short of AWESOME. I met my trombone playing husband in wind ensemble.
    The cake is also epic.
    Thanks for the grin you brought me this evening 🙂

  11. Wow – great story and impressive cake! I just stumbled on your site looking for a decadent chocolate layer cake to make for a friend’s birthday. I may have found it, though I need to de-dairy the recipe. (I think that can easily be done.)

  12. Marylees says:

    I was wondering if I could replace the almond flour with another flour, my son is allergic to tree nuts 🙁

    Thank you.

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      yes, indeed. just use the same weight – if you have a favorite AP GF flour that would work just fine. enjoy!

  13. What type of starch in the GF flour, tapioca, potato?


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