Before I moved to Vienna, I ran a small catering company in Singapore, mainly making birthday cakes and party food for adults and children’s parties. I was busy!!

This chocolate cake recipe is the same one (except now gluten-free) which I used for countless birthday cake orders. Even in the tropical hot weather, chocolate fudge cake was in high demand. Here are a few photos of past orders using the same recipe to give you some ideas for decorating or styling your birthday cake.

One important tip is to use the very best cocoa powder. In Vienna, I use Callebaut (Belgium) or Valrhona (French) brands, however, using a top-quality home brand will be just fine to give that velvet-smooth chocolatey fudgy taste to the cake.

The frosting/icing will appear quite runny when you finish making it, but after several hours of chilling, it will stiffen and be manageable to spread. It is important to not keep the assembled cake out at room temperature for more than one hour (30 minutes in the tropics) or the frosting/icing will soften too much.

I hope you enjoy making this cake for your special someone or even for yourself.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake


For the cake:

  • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 500ml water
  • 30g good quality cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups store-bought or homemade gluten-free plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon xanthan gum
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the fudge frosting/icing:

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 140ml water
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 270g icing sugar, sifted
  • 70g good quality cocoa powder, sifted

For the decorations:

  • Store-bought chocolate decorations, for decorating (check the ingredient list for any possible gluten)
  • Extra strawberries, to garnish
  • Whipped cream, to serve with (optional)
Step-by-Step Instructions:
  1. Surprisingly, the first thing to make is the frosting as it needs to cool down considerably before decorating the cake. Start by adding the butter, water and caster sugar to a medium pan.

2. Over a low heat, mix the ingredients until melted and the sugar has dissolved. Be careful not to boil it.

3. Sift the icing sugar and cocoa in a bowl.

4. Using an electric hand whisk or a balloon whisk, gradually add the butter mixture to the icing mixture, until the mixture is smooth.

5. Cover the bowl and chill for a minimum of 1 hour, preferably allow several hours to stiffen.

6. Start preparing the cake by lightly greasing the interior of 2 or 3 cake tins with butter, then dusting flour all over. Tap the excess flour out into the sink or in the bin. Cut a circle or square shape from baking paper to fit the base of the cake pan.

7. Add the butter, sugar, water, sifted cocoa and bicarb. of soda in a large pot and bring to a boil.

8. Bring down the heat to low and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. It should look like hot chocolate, slightly glossy underneath the foam.

9. Leave the butter-chocolate mixture in the pot to cool down in the fridge for at least one hour.

10. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

11. Using a bench stand mixer or an electric hand mixer on a low setting, whisk in the eggs one at a time into the butter-chocolate mixture.

12. Sift the flour gradually over the mixture and whisk in well.

13. Pour the cake mixture into the cake tins nearly ¾ full.

14. Tap the base several times to release any air bubbles.

15. Bake the cake one at a time or if they both fit on the middle shelf for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cake top feels bouncy and set. Insert a toothpick in the centre, if it comes out clean, the cake is ready.

16. Allow the cake to cool down in the tins on a wire rack for 30 minutes before removing them from the tin.

17. To remove the cake from the tin, slide a butter knife around the edges to loosen it from the pan. Then place the wire rack on top of the cake pan and flip it over. Tap the base lightly and gently ease the cake onto the wire rack. Remove the baking paper from the base and allow it to cool down further.

18. Once the cake has completely cooled down, you can begin to frost the cake with the prepared chocolate frosting/icing.

19. Remove the frosting/icing from the fridge. Give it a stir. If it is too thick and hard, zap it in the microwave in intervals of 15 seconds until it is soft and manageable to frost the cake.

20. Spread the frosting/icing on the first cake layer. Layer the side that had the baking paper under it as it will be the most level to frost.

21. Place fresh strawberries on top of the frosting.

22. Add a bit of frosting/icing under the second cake. This helps the cake stay put on top of the strawberries.

23. Stack the second cake on top of the first frosted cake with the smooth part facing up.

24. Start frosting the entire cake top and sides.

25. Decorate it however you wish with chocolate curls, chocolate buttons, iced flowers, figurines or buttercream icing to create a design.

26. Chill the cake for at least one hour before presenting it on a platter with birthday candles and more strawberries and a bowl of whipped cream.

  • Serves enough slices for 8 to 10 people or 20 small portions for children or small appetites.
  • Keeps for 3 days chilled.
  • Freezes well as sliced portions.

Try different fruits to fill and serve with the cake, like raspberries or cherries.