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Thaddeus and an Allergy-friendly Chocolate Cake Recipe

Thaddeus, my baby, turned four today. Up until yesterday, he wanted a giant cookie cake decorated with frosting that said “Happy Birthday Thaddeus!” I planned to use my gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe, make some homemade “butter” cream frosting and dream about Great American Cookies’ cookie cakes from my pre-gf days. Yesterday, though, he changed to chocolate cake decorated with Dog Man.

Luckily, I have a one bowl chocolate cake recipe that is so easy there is no reason for boxed chocolate cake mix. It’s one that my mom made, my grandma made and I don’t know how many people before her. The original recipe used regular flour, so I substitute gluten free flour. It was already dairy free, nut-free and egg-free, so, as long as you’re careful with the toppings it is a handy dessert if you have those dietary restrictions. 

Decorating the cake was another matter. If you’re not familiar with the Dog Man book series, here’s what Dog Man and his sidekick Cat Kid look like:

Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild
Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild

 

He only wanted the heads on his cake, so that made it a little easier. They have that deceptively simple look, though, so I was still nervous. The end result was recognizable, even with constant interruptions and my never having painted on frosting before. I really couldn’t have hoped for anything more.

Chocolate Cake
Chocolate cake with Dog Man and Cat Kid frosting for Thadd’s fourth birthday.

Chocolate Cake Recipe

Chocolate Cake

This is a simple chocolate cake recipe that is super easy. It is dairy-free, egg-free, and if you swap the wheat flour for a gluten-free flour blend, it's gluten-free, too! To make it gluten free, I like Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free blend because it already contains xanthan gum. If you use a different gluten-free flour without xanthan gum, I would add about 1-1.5 teaspoons of xanthan gum.
To top, make a simple buttercream (with shortening and non-dairy milk to keep it non-dairy) or use your favorite store bought frosting. You could also sprinkle the warm cake with dairy-free chocolate chips, let them melt a little, then spread across the top for a rich, chocolaty treat.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Course: Dessert
Keyword: 9 x 13, cake, chocolate, dairy free, easy, egg free, gluten free, one bowl, simple
Servings: 29 2x2 inch servings

Equipment

  • 9 x 13 rectangle pan

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups Flour see recipe summary for gluten-free adjustment
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil any light flavored liquid vegetable oil is fine
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Grease the 9 x 13 inch pan, either with shortening, butter, or cooking spray
  • Combine the first five (dry) ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until evenly blended. Alternatively, sift them together into the bowl.
  • Add the remaining (wet) ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended. You can use a spoon or an electric mixer.
  • Pour the batter into the greased 9 x 13 inch pan.
  • Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.

Notes

I frosted this cake with buttercream tinted blue, then used gel food coloring to paint the faces. I then piped buttercream for the eyes, facial features, outlines, writing and trim. I clearly am not a trained cake decorator, so I can't really say which tips I used or any other details.
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Cupcakes

Sometimes after binge watching baking shows, you just have to bake cupcakes.

Lots of cupcakes

I substituted a 1 to 1 gluten free flour blend for the flour in the yellow cake recipe out of my favorite Better Homes cookbook. The cupcakes turned out a little dense, but not bad. Most gluten free cakes are a little dense, so I’m not sure there’s a good solution.

My favorite part of any cake is the butter cream frosting.  A slightly dense cupcake doesn’t bother me, as long as the frosting is good. My frosting recipe also came from my Better Homes cookbook. Some of my family can’t have dairy, so I substituted shortening for the butter and almond milk for the milk.

My Sunbeam Mixmaster worked beautifully for both the cake batter and butter cream frosting. I’ve had it for over a year and a half now, and the only problem I’ve had was with the beaters.Those were cheap and easy to replace, and it’s been going strong ever since.

Frosting delivery device

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