Sometimes, there’s nothing better than baking something special for absolutely no reason at all.

If I’d have looked hard enough, I could have probably justified the extravagance of a four layer chocolate cake last weekend – there’s always some milestone or an anniversary that you can wheel out for the occasion.  But I firmly believe that you don’t need any excuse for cake whatsoever.

Especially for chocolate cake.

Chocolate Ombre Cake 2

Chocolate Ombre Cake 4

If, like me, you are somewhat challenged in the cake decorating department, a cake like this is a brilliant idea. It might not look like very much from the outside (although you could clearly douse it in sprinkles for added impact) but once you cut into it, everyone will think you’re a cake-baking genius and nobody needs to know that it’s really not very difficult at all.

Chocolate Ombre Cake 5jpg


chocolate ombre cake {gluten free}

Yield: A 7 inch cake

Serving Size: 8 - 10 people

Apart from making this cake gluten free (which is entirely optional), the main change I made was in the frosting - where I swapped in the tang of sour cream for heavy cream - and in what holds the layers together. The original recipe called for caramel sauce in between each which sounded like it might all get a little bit too sweet. I doubled up on the frosting and used that instead. I find the cakes themselves to be a tad on the sweet side so the relatively bitter chocolate ganache is a nice contrast and makes the chocolate the real star of the show.


    For the light and dark layers:
  • 115g (4oz, about 1 cup) flour (I used rice flour but any kind of all purpose flour, gluten-y or otherwise, should be fine)
  • 55g (1/3 cup) ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 150g (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g (2/3 cup) unrefined caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 100ml (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) plain yoghurt
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (for the dark layer only)
  • A splash of milk (for the dark layer only and only if you need to loosen it up a little)
  • For the two middle layers:
  • 115g (4oz, about 1 cup) flour (as above)
  • 55g (1/3 cup) ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 150g (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 90g (1/2 cup) light brown muscavado
  • 60g (1/3 cup) dark brown muscavado sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 100ml (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) plain yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoons cocoa powder (for the darker layer only)
  • For the frosting:
  • 200g (8 oz) dark chocolate, 70% cocoa
  • 200g (8 oz) milk chocolate
  • 280ml (1 cup + 2 tablespoons) sour cream
  • A generous pinch of salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and grease four 7-inch round baking tins with melted butter (or bake the cakes in two batches).
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. To make the light and dark layers, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg and the vanilla bean paste and continue to beat until combined. Fold in half of the dry ingredients, followed by the yoghurt and then the rest of the dry ingredients. Divide the mix into two equal portions (I weighed the mixture into separate bowls to make sure). Fold the cocoa through half of the mixture, adding a splash of milk if necessary.
  3. To make the two middle layers, follow the same process as above but using the dark and light brown muscavado sugar instead of the caster sugar. When you separate the mix into two, fold 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder through half of it to get your slightly darker brown layer.
  4. Pour each different coloured cake batter into a separate tin and bake for about 20 minutes until they have slightly risen and if you insert a skewer into the middle, it will come out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their tins for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
  5. When the cakes are cool, wrap them in cling film and chill them all in the freezer for 15 minutes or so while you make the frosting.
  6. To make the frosting, melt the chocolate together over a very low heat (or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water). When it has melted, remove it from the heat and beat in the sour cream and salt (to taste) until thick and glossy. The frosting should be ready to use immediately but you can leave it to cool for few minutes if it seems too runny.
  7. To frost the cake, place your darkest layer on a plate and dollop a generous spoonful of frosting on top of it. Spread it almost to the edges and place the next darkest cake on top. Repeat with the next two layers. I like to then apply a very thin 'crumb coat' around the whole cake, filling in any little gaps and put the whole thing in the fridge for 15 minutes until it has set. Finally, smear the rest of the frosting all over the cake in as professional a fashion as you fancy.
  8. I keep this cake in the fridge so that the frosting stays relatively firm - it should last a couple of days in there.


The general idea of this cake is adapted from the BBC Good Food website with my favourite chocolate frosting. A quick google the other day showed me that my friend Kate had also blogged about this cake which, if nothing else, shows that great minds think alike. Just as a tiny word of warning - I've made elements of this cake multiple times (not least because I dropped one of the cakes while taking it out the oven and had to make it again) but I've only made the assembled cake once and I usually like to test recipes a couple of times before posting. That said, I tend to trust BBC recipes and can take some comfort from the fact that Kate has made it too.
Tagged with →  
58 Responses to "chocolate ombre cake {gluten free}"
  1. Skye says:

    A friend sent me a card the other day that said: cake is the answer no matter the question. Made me laugh. But so true. Although, I think that – if we’re going to be really pedantic – chocolate cake is the real answer, no matter the question! This is really beautiful, Kathryn – I love how showy it is in its graphic simplicity. Xx

  2. This is the prettiest thing I’ve seen all day. Yum!

  3. This is a really cool idea. I’m terrible at cake decorating as well, so I appreciate this technique which looks kind of flashy but isn’t super hard. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Mmm, that looks delicious! I love ombre cakes, especially chocolate ones. :)

  5. Kris says:

    Just beautiful!!

  6. Erin says:

    This is just gorgeous!

  7. You are correct ma’am, you do not need an excuse for cake (or perhaps cake is the only excuse you need?). In any case this one looks fab!

  8. Kezia says:

    I 100% agree – no excuse is needed to justify a good cake. I also love cakes that look beautiful inside once cut into, and this one is a stunner!

  9. This cake looks amazing, I would not have guessed that it was gluten-free! And yes, cake does NOT need an occasion:-)

  10. I love ombre hair (unfortunately, I can’t get it myself as my hair is so short at the moment) but after seeing this post, I love ombre cake even more! And I totally agree with you that one should bake cake for no reason at all…other than for the reason that cake rocks. xo

  11. katherinea says:

    You have put that together so neatly!
    I get a subscription to Good Food from my parents each Christmas and this is a recipe I do want to try in some form. My excuse will probably be that my colleagues need feeding. I might go fot coffee or caramel with the chocolate.

  12. I love ombre cakes but don’t have enough occasions to make them for. I’ve always wanted to try a rainbow one using natural food colours (beetroot, carrot etc) but to be honest, I’ll probably never get round to it. This looks more manageable and utterly delicious to boot – pinning!

  13. I don’t think you need an excuse to make chocolate cake. This one looks fantastic. Love those layers. It doesn’t like you are at all hampered in the decorating department!!

  14. Absolutely gorgeous cake! It looks amazing and would love to try it out with different colours (eg. red ombre!)

  15. This just makes me want to break out my rice flour when I get home and get baking – just because ;-) lovely post Kathryn!

  16. Grace says:

    Hoping for an occasion very soon where I can “justify” making this!

  17. This looks incredibly rich and I like to idea of a sour cream frosting! You never need an excuse to eat/bake cake! EVER. L x

  18. Amanda Paa says:

    I have been waiting for this recipe since I saw you post the instagram – so stunning!! Bravo… :)

  19. Ashlae says:

    You, my friend, are a baking goddess. What a stunning cake.

  20. KATHRYN! My jaw actually dropped when I saw this recipe. GOOD WORK, LADY. GOOD WORK. Now come visit and make it for me? Please? Pretty please?!

  21. cynthia says:

    Sheer perfection, lovely lady!! This is so very gorgeous. And as usual, I’d never ever guess it was GF — you’re a baking goddess. Love this so much <3

  22. I am a pretty horrible cake baker/decorator so knowing that this cake can still impress despite my shortcomings is reason enough to make this immediately (and also, because chocolate cake :)).

  23. What! This is completely impressive to me. So beautiful! I’m a little scared to try to make it, haha, but as far as wanting to eat it, I am allllll in.

  24. What a beautiful cake! Special indeed. And gluten free? Your recipes amaze!

  25. Gluten free and gorgeous, lady! I am totally loving everything about this cake!!!

  26. Linda says:

    Beautiful cake! I’m impressed that the four layers are such distinctly different shades of, well, earth tone I guess. I’d love a slice right about now, as I contemplate the contents of my freezer and realize we just ran out of ice cream! (How’s that for an occasion?)

  27. This looks absolutely stunning! For me it’s rustic all the way, so I love that you said that this cake is for people like ‘us’. Definitely bookmarking this one for the next special occasion.

  28. What a beautiful cake! Using cocoa powder for this effect is just brilliant.

  29. Such a pretty cake… and gluten free! “HEART” this!

  30. stephanie says:

    cake for cake’s sake is one of life’s truest pleasures! and slicing into this beauty…sigh. i for one would be wiggling with pleasure in my seat!

  31. Lindsey says:

    you’re such a genius! i always thought of ombre as just ombre icing, never the layers of the cake! and 4 layers!? you totally outdid yourself, so very beautiful! and i love how it’s a cake for cake’s sake! have a lovely weekend! xo

  32. Alanna says:

    What a handsome cake! I find most cakes too sweet, too, so the sour cream and bitter chocolate sound like the perfect solutions here. Yum!

  33. Allison says:

    Hi Kathryn! Just stopped by your GORGEOUS blog and I’m falling hard for it. It’s bright and beautiful and all of your food looks amaaaazing! This cake… takes the cake! I can’t believe it’s gluten-free! I think chocolate ombre is my new favourite flavour. Yum!

  34. Gorgeous and delicious layers of chocolate!! Yum :)

  35. Such a pretty cake, I love the shades of ombre!

  36. Eva says:

    I discover your blog thanks to Helen from “Scrummy Lane” and I love it! Your cake is just gorgeous !

  37. Once again – my heart skips a beat Kathryn!!

  38. Erika says:

    Kathryn, you are a gluten-free GODDESS. This cake looks so, so incredible and the whole “challenged in the cake-decorating field”? You are calling my name, girl. I so agree that cake does not need an excuse, but luckily I have a few birthdays coming up for which I could definitely make this…woohoo!! I cannot wait to try this luscious-looking beauty!!

  39. Yes! I love the idea of an easy baking project that makes for an impressive and delicious result. And the fact that you make all of your deliciousness gluten-free makes me love you all the more Kathryn.
    P.S. Next time you see Emma Gardner, tell her to give you a hug from me:)

  40. Tashiana says:

    It’s so perfect! I’m pretty sure that if I attempted it then it would be nowhere near that neat….

  41. Chocolate ombre cake just sounds amazing. I love that you get all the different kinds of chocolate in this cake!! So pretty and decadent!

  42. Daria says:

    Made this cake from bbc, too. Absolutely fabulous!!!! Love your frosting. Baking a cake is an Occasion(w/ a capital “O”) itself – and should happen at least once a week!

  43. I LOVE baking for no reason at all. The whole process from start to finish is such an enjoyable experience. This cakes look so pretty! I love the idea of a ombre cake.. Hope you are having fun on you vacay!

  44. That is one very impressive gluten free cake!

  45. Kate says:

    This cake is just brilliant, Kathryn! I don’t have the skills for fancy ombre icing techniques, but this is like a surprise-inside cake that I could manage!

  46. Just looking at this cake makes me SO HAPPY! I wonder what it’ll be like when I actually feed my face this 4 layered ombre beauty! I know my mouth is going to have a celebration of its own! DELICIOUS!

  47. Oceane says:

    The cake looks so good! Thank you for the recipe!

  48. Filed away for my next celebration of absolutely nothing at all except the pleasure of having a gorgeous cake to share with family and friends :)
    How does that saying go? Always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of champagne in the fridge.
    I would rather have cake myself!

  49. It looks so moist! Love it. And I’m decorating challenged, too. I refuse to frost cakes. They get filling and some frosting plopped on top. Done!

  50. Dom says:

    simple… stunning… well done!

  51. Papajka says:

    This cake looks absolutely stunning ! You are a genius. I am definitely doing this one for my cousin’s birthday this weekend. I have a question though, he doesn’t like heavy frosting, so I am not sure about the ganache. Do you have any Idea how to make lighter but still chocolatey frosting? :)

    • kathryn says:

      You can use whatever frosting you like – the one I used is pretty rich which is why I use it sparingly but you could use a standard chocolate buttercream if he would prefer that?

  52. Becka says:

    Hi, I just wanted to ask if this recipe worked without the ground almonds. I’m making it for my boyfriends birthday and he hates nuts to an odd amount. He really likes chocolate cake though, so how chocolatey does it taste?

    I also wanted to ask about cake colouring, if it’s not too silly. Some ombre cakes I’ve seen online use food colouring to make shades of a colour with the different layers. Would that work with this cake, or would the dark brown colour wash it out and look muddy and unappealing do you think?

    Thanks :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *