The Beginnings of a Great Birthday Cake: A Recipe for a Two Layer Gluten Free Yellow Cake

My kids love to browse the boxes of cakes mixes at the grocery store. They know that we can’t eat them, but they still love to look. One of their favorites (to look at) are the cakes mixes that have sprinkles inside the cake. All of my kids LOVE sprinkles. If we have sprinkles at home, then they ask for them on everything: ice cream, mashed potatoes, rice, scrambled eggs, etc. You get the idea of how crazy it can get!

I though that this was just a kid thing, but I was wrong. John asked for a confetti cake for his birthday cake. This raised the issue: “How do you copy a boxed cake mix?” And that is a good question because many community cookbooks I see contain dozens of cakes recipes with ingredient lists that begin – 1 box of yellow cake mix.

What exactly is “one box of yellow cake mix” in the gluten free world? How do you convert that to gluten free? The obvious, but incorrect, choice would be to start with one box of gluten free cake mix.

Why is that incorrect? Because gluten free cake mixes usually only make one cake layer while traditional wheat flour mixes make two layers.

So the first thing that you need is a gluten free cake recipe that is the equivalent of a two layer box of cake mix. That, my friends, is posted for you below.

The second thing that you need are edible spinkles, confetti or nonpareils Just pour the desired quantity into the cake. I probably went a tad overboard, but my family does not know the concept of too many sprinkles =)

The sprinkles in the grocery store don’t have as much allergen labeling and disclosure as I would like. In the future I’ll be buying our edible decorations from Baker’s Confetti. I’m pretty excited about the seasonal shapes!

gluten free confetti cake

Two Layer Gluten Free Yellow Cake

Yield: two 9″ cake layers

(please read the note about measurements at the end)

2.66 oz. brown rice flour (approx 1/2 c.)
2.66 oz. corn starch or tapioca starch (approx 1/2 c.)
2.66 oz. sorghum flour (approx 1/2 c.)
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 tsp. xanthan gum
2 tsp. baking powder

6 oz. water (3/4 cup)
8 oz. sugar (a heaping cup)

6 oz. oil* (approximately 3/4 c.)
6 oz. eggs (that’s generally 3 large chicken eggs)
1 tsp. vanilla extract


Weigh out the dry ingredients (the top section of the list) and mix them well with a fork for 3 minutes.

Put a kettle of water on to boil. While you wait, measure out the sugar into a small heat-safe mixing bowl. You can also go ahead and whisk the oil, eggs and vanilla together in a third mixing bowl.

Once the water has reached a boil, pour 6 oz. of water onto the sugar and stir them together until the sugar has dissolved. Add this, very slowly, to the egg/oil/vanilla mixture and mix together for several minutes.

Now for the final step. gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Once the flour is incorporated, continue to beat the batter for 3 minutes.

Pour equal amounts of batter into each of two 9″ round cake pans that you have either (1) lined with parchment paper and greased or (2) greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees F until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

I wish I could give you a more exact amount of time, but when I tested this recipe I was also cooking supper, going back and forth to the laundry house, and breaking up squabbles between tired children. My best advice is to keep an alert nose and check your cake when it starts to smell good!

A note about measurements

Don’t shoot me for using weight measurements. Weight measurements are more accurate than volume measurements. I care about whether or not you waste money on failed recipes, so I’ve given you the most accurate recipe that I can. And, besides, weighing ingredients it’s easier and results in less kitchen cleanup. So, stop complaining about it and buy a digital kitchen scale.

I’ve included volume measurements too, but they are approximate (and I calculated them late at night). I do not recommend that you actually use them. I’m just trying to avoid dealing with disgruntled emails and comments on a Friday afternoon. I you do use them and your cake doesn’t turn out well, you were warned.

*I tested the recipe with vegetable oil and coconut oil. I could discern no difference between the two. I do not use butter in my cakes.


  1. Elizabeth Hyzy says:

    I applaud you for using weight measurements! Especially in gluten free baking, it is so important to be accurate. And it’s just so much easier to weigh things on a scale than use cups to try and measure everything out. Thanks so much for this, I’m making my sister’s wedding cake all gluten free so I’ll be testing this one out soon!

    • Thank you for using weight measurements!! They are so much easier to use and so much more accurate. Wish I had learned about this method years ago, even before I was gluten-free. Now, I only want to use recipes that give me weights. Thank you. Cake looks delicious and festive.

  2. I am not opposed to getting a scale, but I do have one question before I do…Do we/should we ever sift our gf flour substitutes prior to weighing?

    • Melissa » I do not sift my flours…ever. That’s mainly because a sifter would mean one more thing in my tiny, tiny kitchen and one more step in the process. Conceptually, sifting the flour shouldn’t have any affect on the amount of flour being used if you weigh the flour, right? My brain is a little fuzzy for physics at 6 AM.

  3. I was resistant at getting a scales (one more new gadget) but Mary finally pursuaded me and I am glad! It really is easier and more accurate. They come in small, flat versions that don’t take up much cabinet space. If you are one of the resistant ones like me, get a coupon for Bed, Bath, and Beyond and go pick one out!
    Thanks, Mary!

  4. Sandtruck says:

    Love cooking by weight. 2.66 oz? Why not use grams? Much more accurate. I don’t know of any scales that measure ounces in hundredths, just whole ounces.

  5. Sandtruck says:

    Why not use grams? I don’t know of a scale that measures hundredths of an ounce. Grams would be far more accurate in my opinion.

  6. Martha Hilborn says:

    That’s the lovely part of weighing ingredients versus using measuring cups. Your weight will always be the same whether it is sifted or not. But when using measuring cups, the amount will differ greatly from sifted to non-sifted. Liquid measurements will never change as 1 fluid oz of a thick liquid is the same as 1 fluid oz of water. The weight measurement method only applies to dry ingredients. And thank you, Mary Frances, for including those weights.

  7. I’m wondering if I missed something when reading the above. When adding the sprinkles, do you just stir them in before pouring the batter into the pan(s)? Also, would this work in one large rectangular cake pan?

    ~Thank you

    • T. Earp » Yes, I stirred the sprinkles in before pouring the batter into the pan. This cake was written to be the equivalent of a two-layer cake boxed mix, so it should work in a 9 x 13 pan too. Hope you like it!

  8. Marilyn says:

    I’ve tried the yellow cake with and wihtout sprinkles, and the chocolate cake….my cakes seem very dense and heavy….am I doing something wrong?

    • Did you make any substitutions? How did you measure your flours?

      • marilyn says:

        I measured them by oz on a scale….made no substitutions….my layers were only about an inch high…I understand there are hints about mixing these but could not view them altho I did buy the cake baking program….

  9. Cheryl in NC says:

    Hi! Normally I don’t like to comment until I’ve actually tried a recipe (and can’t wait to try this and will comment again when I do!) but just wanted to add my two cents to Marilyn’s question about her cakes being “dense and heavy” and only an inch high. I’m no expert, but I have often read of the importance of fresh baking powder, so I’m wondering if that might have been the problem. Often when a recipe is generally successful for people, I’ve noticed that when it isn’t, it is usually due to old powder. Also, her scale may be malfunctioning, right? But still, I think I’d replace the baking powder first. Hope that helps somebody. :D

  10. I usually cut back on the sugar in recipes. What would happen if I cut back the sugar by about a 1/4 cup? Can I use half oil and half apple sauce?

    • Susan, I don’t like terribly sweet cakes myself, so I would not cut back any further. I’ve never tried the applesauce sub myself as I don’t really try to make my desserts healthy, but I’d love to hear what difference you notice if you decide to do side-by-side trials.

      I do know that the GF cakes that I’ve made with butter are much grittier and the cakes that I make with oil. So I would expect that there would be a chance that it would be more gritty. However, you just never know until you test it. I would never have guessed that applesauce would be such a great egg substitute, so I try not to opine on what I haven’t personally tested =)

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