Photo by: NPA

Chocolate Birthday Cake with Whipped Chocolate Frosting

Photo by: NPA

Cooking for Isaiah is a love story of Silvana Nardone’s journey to develop great-tasting meals for her son, Isaiah, after he was diagnosed with food intolerances to gluten and dairy.

If you overwhip the chocolate frosting, just add water, a drizzle at a time, to make it glossy and smooth again.

PREP TIME 30 minutes (plus cooling)
COOK TIME 30 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups gluten-free flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1½ cups water

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch (22.5-cm) round cake pans with cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment paper and grease the paper. To make the cake, in a small bowl, whisk together the espresso powder and boiling water; let cool slightly. Whisk in the cold water, vanilla, oil and eggs.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until just combined; divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack.

3. To make the frosting, in a large microwavable bowl, melt together the chocolate chips and water on high power, about 2 minutes; stir until smooth, and let cool to room temperature. With a handheld electric mixer, beat the chocolate mixture on medium-high speed until light and whipped, about 12 minutes.

4. Run a knife around the edges of the pans to release the layers. Invert one cake layer onto a cake plate, flat side facing up. Using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread about 2 cups of the whipped chocolate frosting evenly on top. Invert the remaining cake layer, rounded side up, onto the frosting. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before slicing.

Silvana Nardone, author of Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy, Delicious Meals is the founding editor in chief of Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine, where she is also the ‘No-Recipe Zone’ and ‘Sweet Spot’ columnist. A writer, editor, cooking instructor and food consultant, Silvana is the coauthor of Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian. Previously, Silvana was an editor at Food & Wine magazine before opening her Italian bakery, Fanciulla. She has appeared on many national television shows. She has also been featured in the New York Times and in New York magazine. Silvana lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, Stephen, and their two children, Isaiah, 13, and Chiara, 4.

Editor’s note: Leave your comments below and you could be a lucky winner of Silvana’s book Cooking for Isaiah!

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finally! my twin sister and i have celiac disease and it is really hard to find good recipes with normal ingredients. it is also difficult to watch the cooking channels which we love and know that we will never be able to eat it without extensive remodeling of the recipe. thanks for your devotion to your son and readers like us. it makes my world a little brighter place! thanks again

MMM! Makes me want to cook from scratch again! Thank you.

Oh how perfect! My daughters 2nd birthday is next week! This will be a great cake to make! We are right in the middle of allergy testing! Thanks

Thanks for great cake recipe that doesn't need xanthan gum. My 3 boys and I all have celiac plus we live in Tokyo, Japan where it is difficult to get special ingredients. It's great to have resources like this!

Thankyou, thankyou for sharing your recipe. We have gluten lactose allergies too, and finding different recipes poses a problem. However I have found that by substituting gluten free flour for flour and oil for butter is most recipes. To make a difference, I sometimes grate raw .apple into the cup cake mixture which the children enjoy.Carrot cake also adapts well. I am longing to set your recipe before the little mites. Thankyou.

PASSOVER!!!!!! If anyone is reading this because of their allergies to gluten and dairy, get yourself a Passover cookbook. Jewish women have spent hundreds of years coming up with delicious, wheat-free, dairy-free desserts for the holiday. So long as you make sure the recipe is "parve" (dairy-free, nearly all of the desserts will be) and doesn't have matzo meal (which most of them don't), you can find many, many, MANY wonderful dishes to try...

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Looks good... I'll try it for my kids!!!!!!!!!!!

I am so glad that I found this website. My daughter is autistic and I've been wanting to try different recipes that is wheat free, gluten free & dairy free. Thank you so much.

Sounds delicious and easy. I run into a lot of people that mention gluten-free diets, I can't wait to tell them about the book available.

Thank you for the recipe. I have many friends that have gluten allergies so this will be a warm welcome dessert that I can fix when they come to visit. Thank you!

My nephew will have a birthday cake this year!!!!!!!!!!!!

Woo Hoo, I cannot wait to try this! It is our son's first birthday party this Sunday. So..... We will just have to 'test' out the recipe NOW! Gluten-free is the WAY to be! On to baking...........

Love it - looks like one anyone can make, and still get something everyone will like!

That cake looks wonderful! Me and my daughter both have a dairy allergy, and I have a handful of friends with celiac sprue who were all diagnosed as adults after having been ill for many years (Ashley the oldest, and April the newest). I've got many other friends with food allergies and intolerances (Eliza the most allergic), and I'm always looking for delicious things to make them. Most of them haven't had a good chocolate birthday cake in years! Thank you, thank you!

Sound like a great recipe! I do not have any gluten allergies, though, and do cook a lot of cakes, so I would like to use flour that I already have on hand. Can you use the regular unbleached flour? Would there be any substitutes I'd need to use to do that?

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