Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

A Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake recipe with step-by-step photos. A French chocolate and almond cake which is light, moist, gluten-free and also dairy-free! Also called a Queen of Sheba Cake (Reine de Saba).

slice of queen of sheba cake (reine de saba) on white cake stand with silver cake knife

Queen of Sheba Cake (Reine de Saba)

I am conscious that I have quite a few recipes for chocolate cake on this blog, but I suppose one more can’t hurt …

This recipe for Queen of Sheba Cake (or Reine de Saba) was given to me by my French mother-in-law after some pleading on my part. One afternoon, after she had served a procession of five courses at lunch, she brought out this beauty for dessert, a plain chocolate cake which tasted anything but.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

This is a gluten-free chocolate cake which, unlike most which are rich and decadent, is instead light and soft.

And like most French cakes, this one is served plain with maybe a dusting of cocoa on top, or simply with whipped cream on the side.

slice of queen of sheba cake (reine de saba) on white cake stand with tea cups in the background

Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake

Although the original recipe for a Reine de Saba uses butter (as most French recipes do!), I have made this cake on several occasions using coconut oil instead with perfect results.

Hence, if you need to make a dairy-free chocolate cake, this is your recipe!

Reine de Saba by Julia Child

My mother-in-law found the recipe for this cake, called a Reine de Saba, in a French magazine some many years ago. When she sent me the recipe, I instantly recognised the cake as one which Julia Child made on her show, The French Chef.

Fans of the wonderful Julia Child can watch the episode here where, back in the olden days, cooking shows had the luxury of devoting an entire episode to just one recipe:

If you are interested in Julia Child’s recipe, the recipe can be found in her book, The French Chef Cookbook.

queen of sheba cake (reine de saba) on white cake stand with tea set in the background

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Having compared the recipe below to Julia Child’s, it became obvious to me that there must be many different recipes out there for Reine de Saba.

In particular, Julia Child’s recipe for Reine de Saba contains flour and the aromatic addition of rum.

On the other hand, my mother-in-law’s recipe is for a flourless chocolate cake, but which contains cornflour (cornstarch) for stability and is alcohol-free. Although, you could certainly add a dash of rum, Grand Marnier or even Frangelico to the batter for a more adult affair.

If you are also serving children, perhaps the best compromise is to serve a bowl of whipped cream on the side, laced with your favourite liqueur.

How to Make Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

For a printable recipe, please scroll down.

ingredients for queen of sheba cake, reine de saba
Step by step photos for queen of sheba cake, reine de saba. Separated egg whites and egg yolks
Step by step photos for queen of sheba cake, reine de saba. Beaten egg yolks with small bowls of dry ingredients.
Step by step photos for queen of sheba cake, reine de saba. Melted chocolate in bain marie with green spatula.
Step by step photos for queen of sheba cake, reine de saba. Cake batter with melted chocolate added.
Step by step photos for queen of sheba cake, reine de saba. KitchenAid bowl with whisked egg whites.
Step by step photos for queen of sheba cake, reine de saba. Cake batter with egg whites added.
Step by step photos for queen of sheba cake, reine de saba. Cake batter in cake tin.
Step by step photos for queen of sheba cake, reine de saba. Finished baked cake in cake tin on wire rack.
Step by step photos for queen of sheba cake, reine de saba. Finished cake on white cake stand with bowl of whipped cream.

More Gluten-Free Cake Recipes

If you are looking for more gluten-free cake recipes, you might also like the following:

Gluten-Free Lemon Cake

Sunken Chocolate Amaretto Cake


Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

5 from 3 reviews

  • Author: Thanh | Eat, Little Bird
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 35 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 8-12 slices
  • Category: Cakes, Dessert
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: French

A Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake recipe with step-by-step photos. A French chocolate and almond cake which is light, moist, gluten-free and also dairy-free! Also known as a Queen of Sheba Cake (Reine de Saba).



  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) (without fan).
  2. Line a 22 cm (9 inch) springform cake pan with greaseproof paper.
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter (or coconut oil) in a bain marie, or in a stainless steel or glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Make sure that the bowl does not touch the water.
  4. Let the melted chocolate cool briefly while you get on with the next steps.
  5. Separate the eggs.
  6. Place the egg whites into the bowl of stand mixer, and place the egg yolks into a large mixing bowl.
  7. Lightly beat the egg yolks with the sugar.
  8. Add the cornflour (cornstarch), ground almonds and salt.
  9. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the batter.
  10. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form.
  11. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter, about one-third at a time.
  12. Pour the batter into the cake pan.
  13. Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  14. Run a palette knife or knife around the edge of the pan to help prevent the cake from sticking to the sides.
  15. Leave the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  16. Serve with whipped cream.

Kitchen Notes

To make this a gluten-free cake, make sure that you use gluten-free cornflour. Not all brands of cornflour (cornstarch) are gluten-free. The original recipe calls for fécule which, in France, refers to potato starch. If potato starch is readily available where you live, you could use this in place of cornflour.

The original recipe for Reine de Saba uses butter. To make this a dairy-free cake, I have made this recipe several times with coconut oil with very successful results. You can smell the coconut while the cake is baking, but there is barely any taste of coconut in the cake itself.

This cake is really delicious with the addition of 1-2 tablespoons of liqueur to both the cake batter and whipped cream, such as Frangelico, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Amaretto, or rum.

OVEN TEMPERATURES All recipes on this website state temperatures for a regular oven (i.e. a conventional oven without fan). If you have a convection oven with a fan, please consult the manufacturer’s handbook on how to adjust the temperature and baking time accordingly.

CONVERSIONS To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 196
  • Sugar: 14.5g
  • Sodium: 39.3mg
  • Fat: 12.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 18g
  • Fiber: 1.3g
  • Protein: 3.7g
  • Cholesterol: 75.2mg

Did you make this recipe?

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This recipe was first published on 21 July 2013. It has been updated with more comprehensive recipe notes.

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  1. Kayk 22 July 2013

    Definitely will make this when I can afford the ingredients. I love the look of your blog, btw. I love the way you include lthe video and pics of the ingredients. Will definitely follow.

    • eat, little bird 23 July 2013

      Thank you! Where possible, I like to include videos to help tell my story about a recipe. I hope you will enjoy visiting my blog.

  2. Rosalind 22 July 2013

    Thank you for the tip on beating egg whites. The cake looks yum and I will definitely try it one day.

    • eat, little bird 23 July 2013

      You’re welcome 🙂 A lot of recipes simply tell you to beat the egg whites until they are stiff, but fail to explain how to do so. I’ve even seen some recipes tell you to start beating the egg whites on very high speed. I’m not sure what the difference is to the end result, but I like to start off slowly to loosen the egg whites and to see the stages that it goes through, and not least to make sure that you don’t overbeat your egg whites.

  3. Silver Magpies 22 July 2013

    A version of this cake is a staple at our house…if the timing is fortuitous we eat it warm from the oven, whe it is still puffed and soufflé-like. Yum! If any survives, it is equally good when cooled.

    So glad to see you back so soon!


    • eat, little bird 23 July 2013

      Oh yes, I should have mentioned that the cake can also be served warm … might amend that later! But it is also delicious served cooled. My husband and I can polish one of these cakes between ourselves in just 2 days!

  4. The more chocolate cake recipes the better! Yum!

    • eat, little bird 23 July 2013

      I agree! 🙂

      • Kay 24 July 2013

        I agree too! It’s amazing; the infinite variations of chocolate cake available! 🙂

  5. Paula 22 July 2013

    Hi, Thanh!! Nice to see you again!! 😛

    There are never enough chocolate cakes, and less with that texture!!

    What fun are things. You fall in love for a french recipe of a French relative. You ask for the recipe, she send it. And… you recognize the recipe for gâteau au chocolate (French type) thanks to a cook… from US!!
    But now, I also see the recipe, and yes, very similar also to the one I use for my gâteau au chocolat 😛

    A couple of months ago I made one with Frangelico. You now have to use all you can, while baby can’t sink teeth into!! Then, you’ll have to take alcohol out of your desserts 😛 Just a joke!!

    These days, we’ll be finally in Switzerland, will be only 2 or 3. As I told you (no, I don’t expect you to remember) we rented a car and will be in Germany, Alsace an Austria. So we’ll need another trip to visit more of Switzerland, but I’m happy to know a little!

    See you!!

    • eat, little bird 24 July 2013

      Hi Paula 🙂

      LOL!! I didn’t realise but it is rather ironic to learn about French food from an American, isn’t it?? I love Julia Child. I have most of her books and even some of her DVDs.

      I’m sure there are many versions of this chocolate cake recipe. I’m not exactly sure why this one is called a “Reine de Saba”, but it tastes great and that’s all that matters 🙂

      And you are right about the alcohol … I ought to make the most of the opportunity now! I absolutely love the combination of Frangelico and chocolate – I can confirm that it works really well in this cake.

      Enjoy your trip through Switzerland – the weather has just been beautiful here these past few weeks so I hope it will be a magical time for you 🙂 I can’t wait to hear all about your trip!

  6. Alan 22 July 2013

    Fabulous!! Disappeared too quickly for my liking!. And thanks for introducing Julia Childs!… What a fantastically eccentric and knowledgable cook. I’m now devouring her YouTube videos!!! Thank you!

    • eat, little bird 24 July 2013

      Enjoy her videos! I think they are wonderful to watch, if not just to see how cooking shows were filmed back in those days. I love that the focus was solely on the recipe and cooking tips, and not so lifestyle driven like today’s cooking shows are.

  7. thelittleloaf 22 July 2013

    In a world of insanely rich and gooey chocolate cakes it’s so refreshing to see a light one! This looks wonderful.

    • eat, little bird 24 July 2013

      Yes, I agree that it is refreshing to have a “light” chocolate cake. One doesn’t feel so bad after having dessert then 😉

  8. thespicysaffron 22 July 2013

    Lovely post, Thanh !! Photos are stunning as usual 🙂

  9. Rushi 22 July 2013

    Oh Thanh, this is one of my favourite French cakes of all time. A friend of mine made a similar cake and I had a hard time trying to stay away from the cake. I made a different recipe sometime back for Christmas and it was such a hit. What I like about this cake is that it’s a crowd pleaser, one can never say no to a slice or two 🙂
    Thanks a million for posting the recipe 😀

    • eat, little bird 24 July 2013

      I’m glad you also know of this cake in France. There are lots of recipes for flourless chocolate cake out there but this one is perhaps my favourite 🙂

  10. Carmen 23 July 2013

    mmm yumi! i have a couple of versions and every one its fine!!

  11. Angela 23 July 2013

    I am from Australia and am checking how many teaspoons are in your tablespoon? We have 4 teaspoons in a tablespoon but many countries have three. Could you let me know if you have 3 (15 ml capacity) or four (20 ml capacity)?
    Thanks so much,

    • eat, little bird 23 July 2013

      Hi Angela,
      I have a large collection of measuring spoons which I use frequently and they are a mix of standards. The tablespoons which I use are generally 15 ml capacity (3 teaspoons). Although, I just measured my favourite tablespoon and it yields 10 ml!! Hmmm …

      I haven’t drawn a difference between Australian and UK/US tablespoons on my website because, for me, I haven’t found there to be a difference in results in a lot of the recipes which I have tried. But to err on the side of caution, a tablespoon mentioned on this website would generally refer to a UK/US tablespoon, i.e. 15 ml.

      I hope this helps!

      • Angela 23 July 2013

        Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
        Regards from Australia,

  12. Jennifer @ Delicieux 24 July 2013

    You’re right Thanh, one more chocolate recipe can’t hurt. In fact, I believe there is no such thing as too many chocolate recipes. 🙂 Especially a recipe as delicious as this!

    In a funny co-incidence I’m reading Julia Child’s My Life In France at the moment (which I’m loving) so I especially loved seeing the video of Julia making the cake. I can’t help but smile when I see her cooking.

    • eat, little bird 24 July 2013

      I love her book, My Life in France, and I hope you will enjoy it too! Her cookbooks are quite old-fashioned but I love reading them. She’s quite instructional with her cooking but I sort of like that because I feel that I learn a lot from her writing and her shows.

      I have a sign in my kitchen with a quote from Julia Child which says, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream”. I always smile when I see it 🙂

  13. Angela 24 July 2013

    Hi again,
    I am wondering which version of the cake do you prefer…Julia Child’s or your mother-in-law’s? Is there any difference in texture?

    • eat, little bird 24 July 2013

      Hi Angela,
      I actually haven’t tried Julia Child’s version. When my mother-in-law sent me a scan of the recipe which she had used, I recognised it as one which Julia Child had made on her show, mostly because the name of the cake was quite unusual. But I’m hoping to try Julia Child’s version very soon …

      Julia Child’s recipe contains 3/4 cup of flour, which is not a lot compared to normal cakes, but I think it would be a denser than the recipe above. Cornflour typically adds lightness to a cake, which is probably why I like my MIL’s recipe.

      Also, my MIL’s recipe doesn’t include an icing. Although I love icing on cakes, I particularly love the crust on this cake which gives it that crumbly look.

      But I will experiment soon and report back 🙂

  14. Angela 24 July 2013

    Thanks so much. I really think your Mother-in-law’s will deliver what I am looking for. I like to add some alcohol for flavour…when would I add it?
    I do so appreciate your replies. You are amazing.

    • eat, little bird 24 July 2013

      A dash of alcohol would really lift this cake, I think! I would add about 1 tablespoon of your favourite liqueur to the slightly cooled melted chocolate, or to the batter when you are mixing in the melted chocolate.

      If you want a cake which is quite strongly flavoured with alcohol, then you could add more than 1 tablespoon, but I would experiment first.

      I hope you will enjoy this cake! Let me know how it turns out for you.

  15. This looks delightful! One can NEVER have too many chocolate cake recipes! I can’t wait to try it! Bien fait!

  16. Amrita 11 August 2013

    When it comes to a chocolate cake recipe, no amount is enough to have in your repertoire.

    I once had a college-mate who gave me the recipe or ‘a’ recipe for chocolate cake that she’d made for a dinner party. It was a flour-less cake and it was doused in a goosebump-inducing amount of chocolate ganache. The ganache had rolled off the top of the cake and formed a puddle around it. The cake was dark and gleaming like yours and it melted in our mouth.

    She called it the Queen of Sheba cake. And I think you’ll agree with me if I say that one can never fall out of love with a cake with that name.

    • eat, little bird 11 August 2013

      Your college mate’s cake sounds similar to Julia Child’s version of the Queen of Sheba. Your description of the cake is very mouth-watering! I’m not sure how the name of the cake came about but it is a memorable one 🙂

  17. Elizabeth 15 October 2013

    You know, your blog is beautiful and inspiring. I am a big Rachel Khoo fan too, and I felt happy seeing so many of her recipes cooked. This chocolate cake looks fab. If I were to ever start a food blog, this is what I would want it to look like. 🙂

    • eat, little bird 15 October 2013

      Oh that’s so lovely of you! Your message has just made my day 🙂 I hope you will enjoy your visits to my blog!

  18. Allen 27 November 2013

    Yummy! This one is different from Donna Hay’s recipe of flourless chocolate cake which I keep and make all the time. Will definitely give one a shot : )

  19. Lillian 22 May 2014

    Quick question: do you use unsweetened baking chocolate or semi-sweet baking chocolate? Can’t wait to try this recipe!!

    • Eat, Little Bird 22 May 2014

      For this recipe, and also most baking recipes, I would use chocolate with a minimum of 60% cocoa content. There is sugar in the recipe, so if you were to use chocolate with anything less than 60% cocoa content, the cake might be on the sweet side.

      In the US, I think chocolate with around 60% cocoa content is called semi-sweet chocolate, but I could be wrong … Check the packaging and hopefully you can use this as a guide.

      I hope this helps!

  20. Sharon Conser 16 April 2015

    I’m assuming the oven temperature is set to 350 degrees? I didn’t find in the photo instructions what the oven baking temperature was… Thank you, I can’t wait to make this!
    Hugs, Sharon

    • Eat, Little Bird 16 April 2015

      Hi Sharon,
      The instructions for preheating the oven is in photo 8. And yes, the oven temperature is 350°F. I hope you will enjoy this recipe. It’s one of my favourite recipes 🙂

  21. Madeleine 9 April 2018

    This is an excellent recipe! I have made it a few times now and my family absolutely loves it. It is delicious both with and without alcohol. It is particularly good with Frangelico!

  22. Julia 12 April 2018

    Love this recipe! Looks yummy! Thank you for sharing this great recipe!

  23. Camelia 13 February 2020

    I made this cake today for a family member who just gave birth. It’s amazing! She can’t eat wheat so this was a perfect choice. I made a blackberry-blueberry whipped cream to go with. I love the way it crumbles and melts into your mouth… I am making it again tomorrow, just for us! 🙂 Thank you Thanh, I’ve loved and followed your blog for many years, it’s just perfect (both aesthetically and content-wise). I’ve been very happy to see how it evolved and expanded, you deserve all the success. I wish you all the best!

    • Eat, Little Bird 28 February 2020

      Hi Camelia,
      Thank you so much for your lovely words 🙂 This recipe means a lot to me because it comes from my mother-in-law, and we make it quite often at home when we have guests, whether they have a gluten-intolerance or not. In fact, I recently made it for my daughter’s birthday for our family celebration, and she declared it to be her favourite cake. Which means a lot because there is no frosting or frills with this cake! It’s just a lovely and soft chocolate cake 🙂 Hope you will enjoy many more recipes here!