Vegan Gluten-free Vanilla Wedding Cake is a showstopper, amazingly delicious, perfectly sweet, soft, tender, buttery and moist and is so good, it tastes just like any traditional wedding cake. It is frosted with a melt-in-your-mouth vegan buttercream frosting.
Today you will learn how to make, assemble and frost your very own Vegan Wedding Cake that is also gluten-free and amazingly delicious! This is my first ever vegan wedding cake and I'm just ecstatic about it. I went into great detail and photos for each step to help you as much as possible, so it is a very long post for obvious reasons. I know this tutorial will look intimidating but I'm just very thorough in details, it really wasn't that hard, just time-consuming.
This Vegan White Wedding Cake right here is my proudest moment ever when it comes to baking creations. It nearly brought me to tears with how happy the end result became. I honestly lost track of how often I tested this cake before finally arriving on "the perfect recipe". When I shared a pic of this cake on social media, you all kind of went crazy for it and were so much more excited about the recipe than I expected, but very happily surprised that so many of you are interested in it. Many told me you now want to get married again, haha.
This cake is the epitome of what a vanilla cake should be to me. It tastes like a cake made from cake flour, yet it is gluten-free and not made with vegan butter or processed oils (the cake recipe, not the frosting). You know, the ultra tender, cloud-like softness that dream cakes are made of. Since when did gluten-free cakes have to be SO dense, gummy and chewy. I don't like my muffins, cupcakes or cake to be chewy! I have always felt that way, even with regular all-purpose baked goods. I remembered how soft and delicate the crumb was on my own wedding cake years ago, but I truly didn't think I could achieve that with NO eggs, NO gluten and NO oil. Especially when I had so many flops in the kitchen while testing.
You see, this recipe was a request from a very dear reader, Colleen, who has been one of the most loyal longtime readers for years. When she emailed me asking me to create a wedding cake for her daughter, I was completely flattered. I had always wanted to create a wedding cake for my blog, so her request was a good motivator to finally get it done.
She needed it to not only be vegan (obviously), but also gluten-free. Then, to make it more challenging, I personally wanted to make it without almond flour or oat flour, so that it could be much more allergy-friendly for most people. I had my work cut out.
Let me tell you how challenging it is to come up with a vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, nut-free, oat-free wedding cake that tastes just like a traditional wedding cake. No weird flour tastes or textures and slices well. This cake is incredibly moist, buttery, soft, tender, fluffy and just a magical dream. It does not taste gluten-free whatsoever.
I finally arrived at the perfect gluten-free combo for this cake and it's only 2 flours. White rice flour and cornstarch. I tested it with brown rice flour and it was way too detectable for a light vanilla cake. Hidden by spices, it's not noticeable, but in this cake it was gross and made it too dry/crumbly.
Please do not sub the ingredients! Not even ONE. Period. Like I said above, with a wedding cake being such an important cake and cake texture being so important, changing one of these ingredients will alter the cake result drastically. If you cannot do rice flour or coconut, then this cake is not for you. I realize this cake will not fit everybody's needs, but as you can see from all the other allergies I avoided, it's impossible to fit everybody's needs.
My suggestion is THIS. If you want to try experimenting with the recipe, that is fine, but I would suggest to please make the recipe as written FIRST so you know how it's supposed to turn out. After all, I did a ton of work to share the recipe as is, then after you make it as written, feel free to try other subs or flavors. Have fun with it!
The reason for each ingredient:
- White rice flour: Gives lightness and much better binding than brown.
- Cornstarch: This specific starch helps make the cake fluffy and also acts as eggs. Using a large amount with the rice flour created the softest and most tender gluten-free cake I've ever made. Without starch, gluten-free baked goods are too dense and gummy for me. Nope, I like light and fluffy.
- Full-fat coconut milk: Provides wonderful moisture and lightness to the cake.
- Coconut butter (pureed coconut into a creamy liquid): Provides richness and exceptional buttery taste to the cake that makes it so darn moist and freaking amazing!
- Cane sugar: I very rarely ever use white sugar, but for a special rare occasion like a wedding cake, it was a must. I didn't want a cake that was going to be served to guests to taste like maple syrup or too different and also wanted the cake to be as white in color as possible. It's worth it, trust me!
How to Make a Vegan Wedding Cake:
Give yourself an entire day or 2 days before a wedding to get this cake done. It took me 2 days because I have a child and couldn't work nonstop on the cake all at once, but it could easily be done all in 1 day with focus and you have the time. I don’t really recommend making it more than 2 days in advance or it starts to dry out.
If you are just interested in making a 3 layer vanilla cake and not a full-on tiered wedding cake, then you can skip all of the cake building details for the most part. Just bake the 3 8 inch cakes and frost as you see pictured if you like. But for the wedding cake or a special occasion tiered cake like this, follow the tutorial.
First things first, tools you will need if you are serious about this cake and/or cake decorating in general. I'm a baker, it runs in my veins, so these are essential to my cake baking needs. The items in red take you to the link of the item.
- Cake boards. You will need a cake board (cardboard) for each cake size of each tier and the bottom layer of each tier. So for this wedding cake, 3 8 inch boards and 3 6 inch boards.
- Cake turntable. This will make frosting a cake 10 billion times easier than just using a stand, trust me. I actually used 2 here. One for each tier. It made it much easier to ice each one separately (do one while the other is chilling) without having to remove each cake from the stand to ice the other.
- Offset spatula. Makes frosting way easier than a straight spatula, especially for frosting the tops.
- Cake Lifter. When dealing with cake building, having a cake lifter to transport will save you tears from moving the cakes and cracking or dropping them.
- Bench scraper. This works exceptionally well for smoothing the sides. I actually just used the cake lifter above to do this since it was nice and large to accommodate the 3 layers. Some people will attempt with a spatula, but nope, big pain in the wazoo that way for me.
- Dowels. These are for giving structure to the tiers to support the weight of top tiers. Otherwise, your top tiers will sink into the cakes below them. Not good friends.
- Fondant smoother for perfect looking frosting
- Parchment paper
- Large serrated knife
- Large whisk (this makes a TON of batter)
- Electric beater for frosting
- LARGE bowls. This makes a lot of cake and frosting, so you will need giant bowls. Or use a pot if you have to.
- Cake pans. Several. You need as many as cakes you are making. Since I made 3 6 inch cakes and 3 8 inch, I had 6 cake pans for all 6 layers. The cakes that are all the same size bake at the same time, so you need all. I buy my cake pans at JoAnn Fabrics or Hobby Lobby. Aluminum works the absolute best.
- Large serving cake board or stand. I used a heavy-duty 10 inch cake drum designed for heavy cakes. (The silver board you see in the finished cake photos. I got mine at JoAnn Fabrics. They look like this.
- Icing tips of whatever style you like. To add the pretty large dots around my cake, I used Wilton tip #3. It is great for writing, but also beautiful dots at any size.
- Coupler for attaching the tip, otherwise your tip will slide all over the place. Also, I use the coupler for adding the perfect even amount of frosting in between each cake layer.
- Pastry bag for decorating with icing.
- Cake dome to keep the cake covered to keep it moist. We don't want a dry cake. I recommend two. One for each tier since it will be too tall for the whole cake to fit in one cake dome.
Prepare the Vegan Buttercream:
Set out your vegan butter sticks early in the day or several hours before you want to make the frosting (or the night before), so that they can be totally soft and at room temperature, otherwise it will be impossible to beat the frosting. Follow the recipe below to make the frosting and leave out at room temperature covered with plastic wrap until ready to ice the cakes.
You will need A LOT for this entire wedding cake, so don't freak out. You will need a very large bowl so the sugar doesn't fly everywhere. I based this wedding cake buttercream recipe off of my original frosting recipe from my Best Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes, but instead of all vegan butter, I subbed half with shortening. This is important so that the frosting sets up and holds better. I also like the flavor better and it's more white than made with all butter. Now, I know, normally I never use any oils in my recipes and I actually don't add oil to the cake recipe, but for a very special occasion like a wedding cake, a traditional buttercream is important for both appealing to the taste buds of a crowd, as well as aesthetically-pleasing to the eye and structure. Nobody wants a wedding cake with a melted messy frosting. I make exceptions when needed. And trust me, this buttercream is to die for.
Make the Vegan Wedding Cake:
Before getting started, make sure you have space set aside in your fridge to add these cakes to. You will need the room! Next, make sure your coconut milk is at room temperature or slightly warm. It cannot be cold whatsoever or it will cause the coconut butter to seize up and ruin the batter. I recommend just using straight cans and not from the fridge so that they are already at the best temperature and you will need a good amount anyways. I highly recommend Thai Kitchen brand, it works the best and is always smooth, never chunky.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and lightly spray with nonstick spray 3 8 inch round aluminum cake pans (they bake evenly and work the best) that are 2 inches tall on the sides. Do not flour the pans. I use coconut oil nonstick spray and it works like a breeze. Wipe off any dripping excess oil. Place a round piece of parchment paper on the inside of each pan cut to fit neatly inside. The easiest way to do this is to place the pan on the paper and trace around the pan with a pen and cut just inside the line.
Melt the coconut butter until it is the consistency of oil, as pictured. It should be 100% smooth and runny. This is very important for the batter to mix properly. I use and love the MaraNatha brand, found at most stores, it is 100% smooth. I do NOT recommend homemade coconut butter for a wedding cake like this, as the texture will never be as smooth and will yield bits of coconut in the cake.
Now, buying the jars at the store, it will be solid, so the best way to work with this is to take off the lid, heat up the jar in the microwave for 15-30 seconds or so, just until it becomes soft enough to scoop it all out into a container. I find this much easier and important to store coconut butter, otherwise the oil separates from the coconut meat and is not mixed up properly, which will affect your cake result texture-wise and flavor-wise. The above picture is the coconut butter added to a glass container, then heated just a few seconds until I can stir it enough to fully mix the separated oil and coconut together and reach this very runny texture. You have to be very careful about overheating coconut butter or it will burn it and make it mealy. Depending on your climate, more or less seconds in the microwave may be needed.
First, make the 3 layer 8 inch cake: (you will bake the 8 inch cakes first)
Grab a very large bowl and add the white rice flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk very well until mixed. Refer to the written recipe below for the amounts needed and always, always use a scale for accuracy, especially with cakes.
Add the liquids to a separate large bowl: Add the room temperature or slightly warm coconut milk (make sure to shake those cans well first) to the bowl. Add the melted coconut butter (refer to the note above on how to properly melt it) and then the vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
Make a well in the bowl of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids.
Use a large whisk to mix until the batter is completely smooth, making sure to scrape from the bottom of the bowl too. The batter should be somewhat thick, but pourable, not runny.
Bake the cakes:
Divide the batter evenly among each cake pan and smooth out the tops with the back of a spoon if needed. Pick up the pans and lightly jiggle them side to side to make the tops naturally smooth out.
Bake all three 8 inch cakes at 350°F (177°C) at the same time on the center rack for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of each cake. All mine were done right around 28 minutes. A few dry crumbs are ok, but not wet batter! Make sure you do not open the door until you are at the 25 minute mark so you don't mess up the baking.
Tip: If making both tiers, while your 8 inch cakes are baking, start lining the 6 inch pans and getting the batter ready for those.
Cool the cakes:
Wrap the cakes:
Cool the cakes a minimum of 1 hour or fully in the pan (I cooled mine completely in the pan). This will not negatively affect the result, in fact, since it is a super soft gluten-free cake, leaving it in the pan to cool ensures its structure better.
To remove after cooling at least an hour, place a plate over the pan and flip it over. Then place a cake board the exact same size as the cake onto the bottom of the cake and flip it back over and place onto a cooling rack. Repeat with each cake. The cake boards are very important for transferring the cakes easily so that you can frost the cake properly since you will be moving them a few times. If you try to keep picking the cake up itself (with no board) with your hands, they are much more likely to crack. Let it fully cool, about another 30 minutes or so and then wrap with plastic wrap fully carefully (including all around the bottom cake board).
Chill the cakes. DO NOT skip this step or you will have a crumbly mess. Magic happens at this chilling step. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes only to firm up just a bit to make trimming and frosting the cake MUCH EASIER.
Do not chill it any longer than that or it will cause the cake to begin to dry out. We want to get the frosting on there fairly soon to add another protective layer of moisture. Remember at any time to not remove the plastic wrap from your cakes until ready to frost so they don't dry out.
Chilling the cake briefly also helps "set" the gluten-free flours a bit more and it becomes a dream to work with, so do not skip this step or any of them please.
Trim the cakes:
Place your cake with the cake board underneath onto your cake turntable. Using a cake lifter helps transferring the cakes a breeze.
Next, we are going to trim a thin layer of the slight domes off the tops of the cakes with a large serrated knife. Chilling the cake 30 minutes before this step makes working with the cake a breeze. The best way to do this is gently move the knife in a sawing motion while placing your opposite hand over the top as you hold down the layer you are trimming and slightly rotate the cake as you do this. This is where a cake turntable helps out. Now, do not go crazy trimming and butcher it or you’ll create a concave top. Just lightly trim off a thin layer. Doesn’t have to be 100% perfect, just visually level. This is important so that the cakes are all flat and even and stack properly and straight. Your finished cake will look best and also, stacking domed cakes don't sit evenly and can cause them to crack.
If you make a bit of a mess or crack the cake slightly, don’t stress, icing covers mistakes well 🙂
There, nice and flat and ready for the first layer of frosting. Also, you get to nibble on some cake crumbs from the trimmed tops. 🙂 By the way, do you see how soft and fluffy that texture is??
The best way to ice each layer evenly so it looks beautiful when you cut into it is to use the coupler tip (instead of a decorating tip) and a pastry bag. You will need about a cup for each layer. Just swirl it all the way around starting from the outside and keep swirling until you reach the center and the whole layer is covered. Do not spread or flatten it out. Placing the next cake layer will flatten it some and make it perfect for when slicing the cake happens.
You ever notice how when you see the interior of some cakes there is hardly any icing in between each layer? That is because it is hard to detect how much you are adding once you start spreading, so this technique makes it perfect...see dreamy inside shots below!
Ignore my spread out frosting on that bottom layer. That was a mistake that I learned during this process. Just leave as is after you've swirled it on. Now to add the 2nd layer (make sure you've trimmed the top off first) and place the trimmed side face down so that the flat part is upright. Remove the cake board from the 2nd layer.
Repeat the frosting for the 2nd layer and add the 3rd layer, remembering to put the trimmed sides face down and remove the cake boards.
Add the crumb coat:
Add a large amount of frosting on the top of the cake and smooth it out to hang over the sides. Add large amounts to the sides as well. Don't worry about adding to much because the smoothing step will remove excess if needed.
Now, some people ice cakes different ways, but I found this new method as I was icing this cake to work the best and easiest.
Basically you will be applying the icing on the sides by adding large amounts every couple of inches, smooth around the cake and then make sure it's all even by pulling the offset spatula in upward strokes.Go around the whole cake smoothing it out and evenly so that most of the cake is covered. It doesn't need to be perfect since this is just the crumb coat. Since we chilled the cake, it should smooth over fairly easily.
To ensure my frosting is evenly applied, I came up with this frosting technique of upward strokes around the sides. Remember to wipe off excess frosting continuously as you are smoothing out the cake or it will never get smooth.
Tip: Use 1 separate bowl for the crumb coat frosting scrapings so you aren't mixing the messy crumb icing with the clean icing. Keep using that crumb icing to finish the crumb coat.
Now use the bench scraper or icing smoother to drag along the sides of the cake while rotating your turntable. Scrape the excess off into the crumb coat bowl and keep repeating until it is smooth. This is tricky to get down, so refer to youtube tutorials to help.
See that excess? Wipe this off continuously into the crumb coat bowl. This is how you will get a smooth finish.
Now to smooth the top, use your offset spatula to gently drag the excess icing off starting from the outside edges and pulling it towards the center. Keep wiping the excess icing off and repeating until you get it as flat as possible. Be patient, it takes time. Remember if it's uneven, then your whole cake will be a bit lopsided in the end.
See, look how straight and smooth that crumb coat is! This will make the final frosting look that much better.
Now, place the crumb-coated cake in the fridge as is (carefully!) until it's firm and no longer sticky to the touch, about 30 minutes. But don't leave it in there much longer than that or it will get too hard and cold and can dry out the cake.
Repeat the steps for the 3 6 inch cakes:
While the bottom tier is chilling, repeat the same steps above for layering and adding the crumb coat to the 6 inch cake. I used an additional cake turntable so life would be much easier. Please see the NOTES below on the printed recipe for the ingredient list and amounts for the 6 inch cakes. For the 6 inch cakes, they will bake anywhere from 22-30 minutes. Mine were done at 25 minutes.
After your 6 inch cakes have cooled completely following the steps above, wrap them as well in plastic wrap each with a bottom cake board to keep them sturdy and place them in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes as well, while you move on to add the final frosting layer to the bottom tier.
Add the final frosting layer:
Add the final coat of frosting following the same method (as above) of smoothing the sides and top. This will require much more patience and detail to get it smooth. You are going to want to add a large amount of frosting on top of the cake and smooth out and push it out to the edges of the cake, letting it hang over. Then add large amounts of frosting on the sides about 1/2 inch thick so that it completely covers the crumb coat. It's best to add a lot than not enough, so that way it will be smooth and even. Smooth it fairly well with the offset spatula turning your rotating cake stand. Then use a bench scraper to hold it against (gently) the sides and spin the cake stand slowly as you drag the scraper along to create a smooth effect. You will need to fill in any gaps or holes with extra icing if needed. Continue to scrape off excess icing in between smoothing and repeat until it's as smooth as you can get it. It's the same process as I did above with the crumb coat, just with more precision since it's the final layer.
Now place the cake back in the fridge for about 15 minutes only just so it's no longer sticky to the touch. This is just to mildly chill it so that it's ready to be smoothed out even further with a Viva paper towel. You can skip this step if you are not interested in a ultra smooth look, but as you can see, it makes it almost like fondant with this step.
Transfer the bottom cake to the cake stand:
You will now transfer the bottom tier to the cake dome or cake stand using a cake lifter.
Smooth the frosting with a Viva papertowel:
After the bottom tier has chilled with the final frosting layer for 15 minutes and no longer sticky to the touch, you can gently apply a Viva paper towel and go around the cake to smooth it out even further or any imperfect spots. You have to have a gentle hand and gently apply pressure with the fondant smoother. You will go back and forth and in circular motions along the sides and top. Be gentle when smoothing the top round edges. Very gently and slowly peel off the paper towel. Do this for each tier (I forgot to take a photo of doing it to the bottom tier, which is why you see me smoothing the top tier) until it is as smooth as you like or have patience for, lol. Refer to youtube videos again, this will help. This will not work if your cake hasn't chilled for about 15 minutes first. If your papertowel is sticking too much, chill it a few minutes longer.
Adding the dowels for structure:
Insert 1 dowel gently through the center of the cake and mark where it meets the top of the cake with a pen or food-safe pen if you afraid that you will touch the icing with the pen.
Remove the dowel and cut with sharp shears or and line up 3 more dowels next to the one you already cut and cut those to match the size. Insert all 4 dowels into the cake as pictured, about 2 inches apart, keeping in mind the shape of the circle so that the top tier covers it. Repeat this process in a circle 2 inches apart as pictured, keeping in mind the top tier will need to cover it correctly.
Now place a round piece of parchment paper the same size of the top tier in the center of the bottom layer on top. This is so when the servers at the wedding serve the cake, it doesn't take off a big blog of icing with the top tier when they pull the cake board off.
Add a dollop of frosting on top of the parchment paper in the center to act as “glue” for the top tier.
Add the top tier:
Now, I don't recommend adding the top tier until the day of the wedding/event because you will need to keep both tiers covered in cake domes so they stay moist and the whole cake will not fit under one cake dome. Since both tiers will have already been frosted, it doesn't take much time to just add it on top. To make transferring the top tier easier, I suggest chilling it about 15-30 minutes or so in the fridge beforehand so you don't mess up your pretty frosting. This is what I did before placing it on top. Use the cake lifter to carefully transfer it from the fridge and place on top of the bottom tier. Remember, the cake board is underneath the top tier and keeps it from sinking into the bottom tier.
If you make any oopsies after transferring, just use the fondant smoother and papertowel again to smooth any imperfections out.
Tip: Now, I did not add a center dowel for the top tier since this is just a two tier cake and I didn’t feel it was necessary. If you are transferring it to a wedding and are paranoid the top tier will slide, then add a dowel measured the height of the cake and poke a whole through the center of the cake board that is at the bottom of the top tier in the very center before you add the top tier. Then add the top tier and insert the dowel down the center of the cake and push through until you hit the bottom. Use another dowel to push the tip down once the end of the dowel reaches the top of the cake, not your fingers or you may mess up the icing. Cover the spot with frosting and smooth out.
Time to decorate:
Decorate any way you choose. I used an icing tip to make simple elegant dots around each tier. This also hides any imperfections around the bottoms, as well as the cake boards. I then added sugar white roses around the cake. I wanted a simple, but naturally-flowing look to the cake. Elegant but simple. I bought the white roses. That was the only thing I didn’t make. I would not do them again if the cake needs to sit out for a really long time because they started to fall off from the frosting because they were too heavy.
Ready to slice and see this beauty on the inside??
Voila! There she is! Beautiful white vegan wedding cake. Well, technically it is more of an off white, not totally white, but I got it as white as possible. Even traditional white cakes are not truly "white", but more of a pale, pale yellow, which this one is. The baking soda does give it a bit of pale yellow tint.
Most importantly, it slices beautifully, is magically moist, delicious and check out those perfectly even frosting layers. Again, following these exact steps, particularly the chilling steps during the process, helps to set this cake's structure.
My cake diet was so worth the end result.
This will be the showstopper at the wedding or special event.
Fluffy, soft, super tender and just like a traditional wedding cake.
I strongly recommend watching wedding cake youtube tutorials (there are 100's!). I watched many of them for hours and it helped me immensely to learn how to properly structure a wedding cake. Seeing them in action helps. There are many different methods of how people do it and I shared today what I felt was easiest for me in my own way, but the videos helped so much as a starting point. It is time-consuming, yes, but it's worth it and it really wasn't that hard, just a lot of steps/time. Plus, a wedding is a special day.
I hope you all love this cake as much as we all do. It is magically delicious and beautiful to look at. Please follow the exact recipe and steps so you can have the correct results. It is all worth it.
For the cupcake version, see this post!
Please respect my hard work here and do not copy my recipe or repost the written recipe anywhere. Please link to me instead giving proper credit. I work very hard to create my recipes and share them for free, so please be respectful and link properly. If you are inspired by this recipe, again, please give proper credit.