Paleo Vanilla Cake

Paleo vanilla cake. Most are dense and crumbly and disappointing. Not this lovely incarnation that relies on almond flour, beaten egg whites, and baking soda for its towering stature, lovely texture, and birthday cake-worthy magnificence.

A stack of 3 cakes, 2 paleo chocolate and one vanilla with another chocolate cake in front

Say “paleo cake” and most of us think of dense, crumbly, disappointing approximations of what we know to be cake. Not this lovely paleo vanilla cake from My Paleo Patisserie by Jenni Hulet. The recipe relies on almond flour rather than coconut or grain flour and includes the notable addition of baking soda and whipped egg whites, which contribute to the cake’s lofty stature and astoundingly light texture. So much so that we’ve been hearing that folks who swore they’d never do anything paleo swear by this cake and find themselves making it again and again and again. It’s so good, it will even stand in admirably for any birthday cake. And if you’re also craving a paleo chocolate cake recipe, we can help you out there, too.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Paleo Vanilla Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • (18)
  • 25 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 6
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Preheat the oven to 325°F (163°C). Coat a 6-inch round cake pan with palm shortening or ghee and line it with a parchment paper circle cut to fit the pan.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the ghee or palm shortening and then set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, arrowroot flour, and salt until blended.

Separate the eggs and place the whites in a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and place the yolks in another bowl along with the melted shortening, maple syrup, vanilla, and lemon juice and whisk to combine.

Add the egg yolk mixture to the large bowl with the flour mixture and whisk till the batter is smooth and no lumps remain.

Using a hand mixer or the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they look like softly whipped cream and hold soft peaks when you pull out the beaters, about 2 minutes. Set the egg whites aside for a moment.

Stir the baking soda into the batter and then, using a rubber spatula, immediately beat 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the batter, mixing just until barely combined and some streaks remain. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites into the batter, mixing until only a few streaks are left. Carefully pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake and turn it onto the rack. Let cool completely.

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Recipe Testers' Tips

This paleo vanilla cake was delicious. It was fragrant, nutty, and amazingly moist. Whereas normally cakes made without wheat flour are very heavy, the almond flour and arrowroot flour produce a slightly dense but very moist cake. The beaten egg whites definitely contributed to the lighter texture of the cake.

I used palm shortening and honey. I think the cake would lend itself to lemon curd, chocolate glaze, or any sweetened fruit. I served it with sliced strawberries and softly whipped cream. [Editor's Note: Of course, some of these toppings aren't paleo, but those of you who do keep paleo know who are you and what to do.]

This paleo vanilla cake is fantastic. It was actually easy to make. The last-minute addition of baking soda really does create a lighter texture.

Would I make this cake again? Yes. As a personal preference, I avoid things that are labeled paleo unless I need to make something for work. But I would definitely make this again. I might try using baking powder instead of baking soda because it tends to give baked goods a more gentle rise. I'm a little unhappy about the arrowroot flour as itʻs expensive.

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  1. I made this recipe and it was all and more than I thought it would be! I put it in a 8″ square pan – I forgot to put the flour part in before I put the beaten egg white in the mixture. Then I put the flour mixture in as maybe 1/2 of the egg whites were folded into the mixture. The result was unbelievable! The 8″ pan was perfect and it was about 2″ high in the pan and so moist too. I’m not sure what made this happen but maybe because I forgot to put the flours in before the egg whites? Really not sure.

    1. I’m not sure either, Joanne, but I’m delighted that it turned out so perfectly for you. Thanks for taking the time to let us know.

  2. I doubled the recipe (instead of making two batches) to make a layer cake and worked out perfectly, the only change I made was I use melted coconut oil instead of ghee. I used half honey and half maple syrup. Just about to ice it with chocolate frosting (made with melted dark chocolate, coconut cream and icing sugar).

    1. Wonderful! I’m so pleased that this worked out perfectly for you Jessica. And we truly appreciate you taking the time to let us know.

  3. What an amazing and delicious recipe. How much should I make if I want to fill four 8-inch .75 deep pans? Would making twice as much will be enough? And how long should I bake it?


    1. Baking can get a little tricky when you double ingredients, Ariana. We’d suggest you make two separate batches of the cake batter. We can’t tell you exactly how long to cook it, but the baking time will be a little shorter, so keep a close eye on the cakes and check for doneness with a tester or toothpick. Do let us know how it turns out!

  4. Omg, what a fantastic cake! I topped it with keto buttercream and coconut flakes. Delicious, loved it! I substitute the arrowroot flour for cornstarch (a bit less than 1/4 cup), it worked. My cake came out moist. So good!

    Thank you!

  5. Can I use this recipe for cupcakes? How many does it yield? How do I adjust the baking time? Pls help! Thanks

      1. Great questions, Connie. We’ve never tried making these as cupcakes, but some of our readers have done so with great success. You’ll probably need to reduce the cooking time to 18 to 20 minutes, and definitely check for doneness with a skewer. Since this makes a smaller-than-average cake, you may only get 9 or 10 cupcakes from a single recipe. We haven’t tried freezing it, but cakes generally freeze well. Just make sure it’s fully cooled, wrap tightly in plastic wrap before freezing and be sure to thaw it in the fridge or countertop overnight before using. Let us know how it turns out!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to let us know how much you loved it, Jessica. We can’t wait to hear what you try next!

  6. Question: Just ONE 6″ baking pan? Not two? Did you make several for the illos, or did you slice the one horizontallly to create layers? TY!

    1. Yes, Judith, just a single pan. But thanks for checking. The stylist for the cookbook made several different cakes for the photo—-we understand it can be a little confusing. The intent isn’t to be misleading, just I think to show both the vanilla and the chocolate versions of this same recipe. We hope you enjoy your cake!

  7. hi! do you have any suggestions as to how i could make this cake lemon-flavored? also, could i use butter instead of ghee?

    1. Hi Audrey, although we didn’t test this variation it should be fine to use butter and lemon extract in place of the vanilla extract.

  8. I just made this cake for my daughter’s birthday and it was DELICIOUS! I’ve always struggled with the paleo vanilla cakes – somehow they’re just never that great. The reviews were promising, and it did NOT disappoint. I did use butter instead of ghee/palm shortening. I doubled the recipe and used two pans for a layered cake. And the last difference was that I used half walnut syrup (it’s like maple syrup, but we tap out walnut trees), and half honey. Honey can be an overpowering flavor, so I always try to do half honey, half syrup on desserts. It worked great. It was dense (Of course – it’s paleo), but moist. With 100% approval from all partakers – gluten-free kids and not gluten-free kids alike! I a mostly paleo buttercream frosting to go with it.

      1. Thank you! I wanted to leave another comment because I made this cake again this week by birthday and a friend’s birthday. But this time I made a sheet cake, using the same substitutions as before. I used just the single recipe and an 8×12 pan, cooking time totaled 20 mins. I’d been craving some cardamom, so I put 1 tsp in. It was delicious, and came out perfectly. Enjoyed by all yet again! Just passed the recipe on to my sister for a graduation cake for my niece. I can already tell this is my forever go-to vanilla cake. I typically don’t enjoy baking, but I genuinely enjoyed baking this!

        And yes! Walnut syrup! I once read on a blog that if there was a string quartet of syrups, maple would be the violin, but walnut would be the cello. It’s dark and rich and nutty.

        1. Superb, Michelle. And, “If there was a string quartet of syrups, maple would be the violin, but walnut would be the cello. It’s dark and rich and nutty.” That’s some great food writing there. We should hire you!

  9. This is my go to vanilla cake recipe. I’ve made it for birthday’s and baptisms many times! It’s never failed me. Thank you!

    1. Charlotte, if you do, the cake won’t be as high and the baking time will be different. How long to bake it? We can’t say, because we didn’t test it that way. If you chose to use the larger pan, make sure to watch for signs in the recipe that it’s done.

  10. This is the BEST vanilla cake ever. We use it for strawberry shortcake and love it more than regular vanilla cake!

    1. Vicki, because of the specific science involved in making this paleo, I’m reluctant to recommend another flour, say coconut flour because it will act differently. Most paleo cakes use almond flour.

    1. Hi Altie, we only tested the recipe using arrowroot so I can’t say for sure. That being said tapioca is used as a substitute for arrowroot though you might need a tad more- maybe 1/3 cup. Please let us know if you try it.

    2. Hi Altie, I used tapioca and it turned out lovely… so light! Only problem is… I eat it too quickly :)

  11. Hi. I made this cake for my birthday yesterday and it turned out delicious.
    I had it naked, with only a bit of passion fruit frosting between the layers and in a circle on the top, surrounded by raspberries. Got lots of great feedback.

  12. I believe I’ve commented on this dish before, but I must say, as a young boy this is a nice and easy dessert for the family that everyone likes. I highly recommend it.

  13. Will you be reprinting your Patisserie book? I have bought the electronic version, but I prefer a hard copy. But the current cost of a hard print edition (USD 114!) is more than I can afford for a baking book. So I was hoping there would be another printing run? :)

    1. Rachel, we reached out to the publisher to inquire if perhaps there would be another printing and we have yet to hear back. I’m guessing you’ve also looked on ebay and spoken with some used bookstores? Have you tried Kitchen Arts & Letters in Manhattan? They are magnificent at finding wonderful cookbooks…

    1. Karen, we haven’t tried freezing it. I think it should work fine so long as you let it cool completely, wrap it tightly in several layers of plastic wrap, and then freeze it for no more than a month or so. And then when you’d like to serve it, try to let it thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter. Good luck and kindly let us know how it goes!

  14. Going to make soon! Wanted to see if I could substitute coconut oil instead of ghee/palm shortening? Thank you! Can’t wait to try!

    1. Terrific to hear, Ashley! As for substituting coconut oil, I’m tempted to say yes but we haven’t tested it that way so I can’t promise you with absolute certainty that it will work. I do think the mild flavor of a refined coconut oil (as opposed to those labeled extra-virgin) would be really quite nice in this cake, imparting just a little sweetness and hopefully not too much coconutty overtones. I’m just a little concerned about any textural differences the coconut oil may bring to the cake. If you do try the cake with coconut oil, use room temperature oil and kindly let us know how it goes?

  15. Hi there, was wondering if you could make and freeze this cake in advance and then get it out to frost when you needed it? Do you know if anyone has had any luck doing this?

    1. Alice, we haven’t tried that with this cake, although your suggested approach should work just fine, as it does with most cakes. Just be certain to wrap it well in several layers of foil or parchment paper and then in plastic wrap or a very large resealable plastic bag. Kindly let us know how it goes…

  16. Hi – curious if you’ve tried substituting a gluten-free or paleo flour mix for this recipe and if you’d think that would be a suitable substitution. Thanks!

    1. Hayley, that’s a terrific question. Actually, we didn’t try it with a flour mix of any sort because we were so taken with the texture of the unusual combination of arrowroot and ground almonds in the recipe. We think that’s what lends the cake its truly unique and ethereally airy texture. If you try gf flour here, kindly let us know how it goes! But perhaps try it first as written, just because she’s really stumbled upon something that works.

  17. I made this recipe this week and was very happy with it. I used butter instead of ghee/shortening, tapioca starch as I couldn’t get arrowroot flour and honey. It rose beautifully and made for a wonderful Christmas cake with a lovely honey flavour.

    Three-layer vanilla paleo cake covered in red and green frosting and topped with candy globes

    A slice of a three-layer vanilla paleo cake covered in red and green frosting and topped with candy globes

      1. They are made using candy melts and a silicone mould. Mine aren’t paleo but I am sure you could use a paleo chocolate.

    1. Connie, we didn’t test it that way, and because paleo baking is so specific, I don’t want to willy nilly say yes, and then have it not work.

      Does anyone out there have experience with this swap?

  18. Best Paleo cake I’ve made. I used vanilla ghee because that’s what I had on hand. It tasted similar to a pound cake. Definitely recommend!

    One layer of paleo vanilla cake topped with whipped cream, strawberries, blueberries.

  19. Hi, I would love to make this cake ahead of time and pop it in the freezer for a few days before the party. Will this cake freeze well?

    1. Hi Marie, we did not freeze this cake during our testing so I can’t say for sure. Most cakes freeze well however the lack of a gluten structure in this particular cake might affect the texture after freezing.

  20. I’m going to try this for my daughter’s 1st birthday cake :) Can you suggest a paleo/healthy-ish frosting that will take food coloring well and not melt too quickly—party will be outdoors in July. Thanks!

    1. Moose, we don’t have such a recipe on the site but here are a couple from the author of the cookbook in which we found this magnificent cake recipe. Everything we’ve tried from her has been magnificent, so we have no reason to believe these frosting recipes wouldn’t be splendid. With this chocolate frosting recipe, you can omit the cocoa and replace it with a little food coloring or try the plain frosting recipe that you can fancy up with berries or other coloring agents. Good luck and happy birthday to your daughter from all of us!

  21. I made the cake this weekend. Doubled it, and used 9X13 inch pan (per other commentators), followed the recipe exactly. Seriously, I don’t see how they made the beautiful cakes in the pictures. Mine didn’t rise to but 1 inch (in a 2 inch pan). My family liked the taste, but the texture was terrible, it had big air holes and was fairly dense. I’ve made better paleo cakes, I do think the arrowroot flour made it more tender than other almond flour cakes I’ve made.

    1. Hi Nikki, I’m sorry that you did not enjoy the cake. The original recipe calls for 6 inch pans. Although we had a number of readers that used a 9×13 pan and doubled the recipe, our testers followed the recipe as written and had great success. The difference in pan size and doubling the recipe might be causing some of the issues that you encountered?

      1. Hi Beth!

        Six inch pans are not the norm for me since I have a big family (normally we have 25 at a birthday party. I’d get laughed out of the room if I showed up with 6 inch cake (Crocodile Dundee style: “Here’s my six in paleo cake” ( Family member laughs) “That’s not a cake” (produces a sheet cake) “That’s a cake!”). At any rate I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve made Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake and altered it by folding in stiffly beaten egg whites and have gotten a nice “lift” so I was expecting it to work with this recipe, but sadly it didn’t. I did think the arrowroot flour gave it a nice ‘soft’ texture so I’ll be experimenting by adding that to my other almond flour cakes! All was not lost! And isn’t that the fun in cooking anyway??

  22. Hi. I would like to know if can I replace the eggs for something different (no egg replacer) my daughter is allergic to eggs. She can’t also have corn starch, potato starch, apple cider vinegar and apples.

    Thank you in advance

    1. Hi Yadira, though we haven’t tested it, I’ve heard of replacing an egg in baking recipes with a gelatin “egg” which uses gelatin and water.

  23. This recipe turned out well for me! In fact, we are adopting it as our standard family birthday-cake recipe! It was very soft and light. The flavor was great. We could only finish a 1/4 of it so I’m interested in seeing how it is the second and third day.

    I could see adding crushed freeze-dried fruit depending on the season or mood to tweak it or at least to the frosting to add variation.

    Also-question: I only had a 9-inch pan. Do you think this will make a difference in the texture or is it more to have a bigger height per layer?

    1. Kristina, so delighted you and your family enjoyed the cake. The size of the pan is more for height than anything else. As you can see above, many readers made tons of size variations.

    1. Ira, we didn’t test it that way, and changing fat can change the recipe, as each reacts differently. If you do make it with either of those oils, let us know how it turns out.

    1. Angela, lovely question! I am tempted to say yes but we haven’t tested it that way so I can’t promise you with absolute certainty that it will work. I do think the mild flavor of coconut oil would be really quite nice in this cake, I’m just a little concerned about any textural differences the coconut oil may bring to the cake. If you do try the cake with coconut oil, could you kindly let us know how it goes? Thank you for urging us to think outside the box!

    1. Sarah, baking is a precise science, and paleo baking even more so since there are a lot of substitutions. That being said, Chloe (above) made a 9-x-13 cake and it turned out perfectly.

      1. So, I doubled the recipe and put it into a 9×13 pan. It took quite a bit longer to bake (maybe 25 minutes extra), but it filled the pan perfectly, cooked nicely all the way through, and tasted delicious! I am also at a high altitude, so that probably impacted my results as well. Still, thanks for a great recipe!

  24. I would love to try this cake recipe, but am wondering a couple things. First of all, would it turn out okay if I made a double recipe and poured it into two 8-inch cake pans for a layered cake? Should I make adjustments to the temperature/cooking time at all?

    Also, I am not a fan of lemon-tasting desserts. Can you taste the lemon juice at all in the finished cake? I know lemon juice used in whole wheat bread doesn’t make the finished bread taste like lemon, but I wasn’t sure about this cake. Thanks!

    1. Chloe, because you’d be doubling the recipe and using different size pans, I really can’t say how it will turn out. Too many variables that we didn’t cover in testing. I do know that the layers would be thinner, as you’re using the same amount of batter in one 8-inch pan that you’d be using in a 6-inch pan. And, no, you wouldn’t taste the lemon. Too little!

      1. I doubled the recipe, but then put it into a 9×13 pan. I didn’t change the temp or the cooking time, and it turned out miraculously well! I frosted it with Italian Meringue frosting (also paleo), and the family was really impressed with it overall! Thanks for an awesome recipe.

  25. Truly fantastic. Even my cake hating husband (I know…who hates cake!) loved it. Doubled the recipe and it made 24 cupcakes for my son’s bday. My daughter is on the autism spectrum and has a hard time with gluten. This is by far the BEST vanilla cake recipe I’ve found. I did use Tapioca flour and a very finely ground almond flour with real butter but otherwise followed the recipe as directed. Thank you!! The recipe is bookmarked!

  26. Could I use butter instead of ghee? How many cupcakes do you think this recipe would make and how long would they take to bake?
    Thank you for this amazing looking recipe!!

    1. Hi Sarah, it should be fine to use butter instead of ghee. As far as the cupcakes, this recipe produces a 6 inch cake so I’m thinking you would get around 10 cupcakes which should be done in 18 to 20 minutes. Since we only tested the cake recipe, not cupcakes, I would use a cake tester or toothpick to confirm the timing. Hope this helps.

  27. Hello and Happy Friday! Is it possibly to sub the arrowroot flour with tapioca flour as I have that on hand? I cannot wait to make this in my new 6 Cup Nordicware Bundt pan. Many thanks!!

    1. Happy Friday to you, Diane! And yes, absolutely, subbing arrowroot flour with tapioca flour should work magnificently. And I envy you your new Bundt pan—I’ve had my sights set on one but have yet to pull the trigger. Kindly let us know how it goes!

        1. Well, the cake come out really well, but next time I’ll flour the Bundt pan as buttering it wasn’t enough for it to release perfectly. It took a lot of cajoling to get it out without breaking. There were a few spots that stuck, a reason to taste I say, and it was divine. I made 1 1/2 the recipe to fill the 6-cup Bundt and it was pretty perfect. It did exceed the rim a little but it didn’t over flow. THANK YOU for a wonderful recipe. Next time it’ll be the chocolate!!

          1. Magnficent, Diane! And thank you so much for taking the time to let us know! And I love that you included your measurements so others, too, can try this as a Bundt cake. I think your suggestion of buttering and flouring the pan is a good one if using a Bundt pan given the extra nooks and crannies. Again, thank you!

  28. The photo appears to depict both vanilla and chocolate cakes. What are the changes to the recipe for the chocolate version? Hope to make this for a niece with celiac, and the reviewer results were very encouraging.

    1. Maureen, we actually have the chocolate version in testing at the moment and intend to update the recipe as soon as we can. At the moment we’ve had one person make the chocolate version with success but we always wait until we have at least two spectacular results before we post a recipe. Do we have a little time? Perhaps a week? If not, kindly email me at and I’ll share with you the chocolate version.

  29. I have had no success making grain-free cupcakes until I’ve found this recipe. I’ve never really liked almond flour because of the dense texture and the after taste but this recipe is really good. Thank you very much!

    1. You are so very welcome, Josey! It’s magnificent to hear that this has filled a void for you! Seriously, you made my day, my week, maybe even my month, Josey. Many thanks for taking the time to let us know!

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