Gluten-free Plum Cake

April 30, 2013

Gluten-free Plum Cake

When I set out to make a gluten-free version of my pretty Plum Semolina Cake I did not expect to like it more than the original. It is very light and fluffy, with an amazing melt-in-the-mouth texture and a fine crumb. Achieving that with simple, widely available ingredients made me extremely happy.

It took some experimenting to reach this perfect version, for which I used a half-and-half combination of fine cornmeal and rice flour. Too much cornmeal and I had myself a sweet polenta cake, too much rice flour and I could barely lift a square from the pan, for being so crumbly. This one is just right and I absolutely love the delicate flavour that cornmeal imparts to the cake.

What really takes this cake over the top is the fruit - the tartness of the plums against the sweetness of the cake and the beautiful colour contrast make it one of my favourite.

Gluten-free Plum Cake

Here's what I learnt about gluten-free baking with fruit: baking powder causes the batter to rise at a slow rate, that way it soon forms a crust and the fruit is nicely sealed in place; it also adds density to the cake. Adding baking soda is what makes it so airy and light. It makes the batter rise rapidly and that causes the fruit to sink before a crust is formed.

The first time I made this gluten-free cake (last 3 images) I used one full teaspoon of baking soda and the fruit got completely covered with batter, but that cake was also the most amazing. It turned out just as light as the Swiss roll my mom and I used to make - that cloud-like texture relied entirely on properly beaten egg whites, so it was a huge surprise to have achieved the same without eggs and with much less sugar. To see if I could prevent the plums from sinking completely, the second time I made the cake I halved the amount of baking soda and quartered the plums, and it worked!

If you don't care much about appearance, I strongly recommend you try the lightest version (scroll down to the pink plum pictures).

Gluten-free Plum Cake Batter

Gluten-free Plum Cake
Makes 16 squares
Print Recipe

  • 1/2 cup fine cornmeal (not the white cornflour/starch) - 1/2 cup = 125 ml
  • 1/2 cup fine rice flour
  • 1/2 cup demerara sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder (make sure it's gluten-free)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1 cup minus 1 Tb creamy coconut milk (75% coconut extract) - 1 cup = 250 ml
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (I used Bramley applesauce)

Chill the can of coconut milk overnight and discard the transparent liquid before using the cream (see the No-churn Coconut Chocolate Ice Cream post for pictures). I later made a Gluten-free Strawberry Cake in which I used creamy coconut milk with only 60% coconut extract, straight from the can without separating and discarding the liquid. The texture was even lighter, though more crumbly, and the combination with strawberry was the best.
If the applesauce has bits of apple in it, remove them if you can or mash them with a fork, otherwise they will cause the cake to break.


Whisk all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the coconut milk and applesauce and mix well. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes during which it will thicken a little, as the cornmeal and rice flour absorb moisture.

After the initial 5 minutes, preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and prepare the fruit. Wash and pat dry 4 medium purple plums. Cut them into quarters.

Lightly grease the bottom and about an inch up the sides of a 23 cm (9") square pan with non-dairy margarine or butter. Pour the batter in the pan and even out the surface with the back of a spoon. Arrange without pressing the quartered plums cut side down, 4 in a row (to fit, I alternated the direction of each row).

Bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. I switched the top heat off for the last 10 minutes and kept only the bottom heat, so that the cake remains yellow-golden on top.

Gluten-free Plum Cake

Place the pan on a wire rack and let the cake cool completely in it, at least one hour.

Gluten-free Plum Cake

Cut into squares, cleaning the knife each time if crumbs stick to it. Use a small offset spatula to remove the squares from the pan without breaking.

Gluten-free Plum Cake

For the lightest texture I used 1 tsp baking soda and 1 full cup of creamy coconut milk. The plums I used then were dark pink.

Gluten-free Plum Cake

Since I used more baking soda and only halved the plums, their weight and the airy texture of the batter caused them to sink. It didn't really matter, because the cake was sensational!

Gluten-free Plum Cake

If you have used cornmeal and/or rice flour in gluten-free baking, please share your experience.

Gluten-free Plum Cake

Enjoy and spread the magic!:)

If you've tried this cake I would greatly appreciate your feedback. Thank you!



this looks absolutely GORGEOUS - one thing, do you think it'd work if i used yogurt instead of coconut cream? we're moving soon so we're trying to use up our groceries, and i have a JUMBO tub of yogurt in the fridge!

Vegan Magic

Kathryn, I'm thrilled that you like this cake:) As long as the yogurt is full/high fat, yes, it will definitely work. I hope you enjoy it:) Thanks so much for your comment.


Great recipe! I like plums in cakes or other sweet baked things.

Vegan Magic

Medeja, thank you! So do I, even more than eating them fresh:)


Wow - its looks amazingly awesome. I do love plums :-)

Vegan Magic

Sandy, thank you so much:) Try the same cake with strawberries instead of plums, it's out of this world:)

Rachael Leach

Looks delicious...was thinking that chickpea flour might work well for this too :) like Indian Dhokla (but sweet not savoury)

Vegan Magic

Rachael, thank you very much. I have eaten Dhokla before and don't think chickpea flour would work here. Dhokla is steamed and that gives it the airy, spongy texture. It is worth a try though. Thanks for the suggestion:)


I'm new to gluten free cooking.. what is the difference btw yellow corn flour and fine grind corn meal? Why can't I use yellow corn flour in this recipe?
thanks and I can't wait to try lots of recipes from your site, as my husband is allergic to dairy!

Vegan Magic

Krista, thank you very much for your enquiry. They are the same thing, just different names in different countries. Here cornflour is actually the white corn starch, used to thicken sauces. You can see in the preparation picture that I used the yellow one. I hope you enjoy the recipes and look forward to your feedback:)

R VSewell

Hi Vegan Magic!

I just made this recipe and it really tasted good! The only problem is that the cake breaks! I don't know if is because I added some of the coconut cream liquid! but I did this because the dough was too dry :( ... I also used light brown sugar. What do you think happened to my cake? Thank you.

Vegan Magic

Rosalia, thank you so much for the feedback, I'm very happy you enjoyed it. This cake is much lighter than a regular cake and since it has cornmeal and rice flour its texture is a little crumby. You can see from the pictures that it did crack a bit. For it to break, either there is too much liquid in the batter, the coconut milk isn't high-fat, the oven tends to burn on top (in which case the pan can be placed lower or the top heat turned off after a few minutes), not enough space between the fruit pieces, or the cake was overbaked. If you think any of these factors influenced the result, you could change it next time you make the cake. Alternatively, for a firmer texture you can add 1 flax egg (1 Tb ground flax seeds mixed with 2 Tbs water). I hope this helps.


Is there anything other than rice flour you can use in this recipe? My family doesn't like the texture of it in animal crackers so I don't know if they will like it in the cake. Also can you make this cake with rhubarb and strawberries? Thanks.

Vegan Magic

Hi, thank you for your interest in this cake. Before experimenting with other types of flour, I recommend using the rice flour. With this combination you can't really tell it's in there. Millet or quinoa flour might work in place of rice flour, but I haven't tried either of them so can't really say how the texture would come out. I've made a strawberry version twice and loved it even more than this one. Rhubarb, never tried it so I don't know if it would soften enough during the short baking time this cake requires. I hope everyone enjoys the cake, if you give it a try:)


I doubled the recipe, used more plums, cut back the sugar by 25%, didn't drain coconut milk, and added 1 egg at last second. It was very rich in flavor, and moist, almost a little mushy in middle of 9x13 pan, but everyone said it was delicious.

Vegan Magic

Gina, thank you for the feedback, I'm glad everyone enjoyed the cake:) The wet centre must have been due to the extra liquid from the egg and the addition of plums which released more juice and limited the space between the fruit pieces where the moisture could evaporate.


I made this last night. It came out really well. We were out of corn flour so used a coarse cornmeal (more like flakes, not polenta) which we zipped first in a food processor. And regular organic evaporated cane sugar. We did the extra baking soda and full coconut milk can.

The plums came from our tree and we used more of them than the recipe called for and they were very small and hand-pitted so more of a mush than pretty slices.

The cake was very large crumb (more like a sweet bread than a cake) but tasted good. The plums all stayed on top and were very tart. Next time I will toss them in some sugar before adding to the cake.

I have two pictures for you:

Vegan Magic

Cyndi, this must be the most detailed feedback I've received so far, thank you so much for that! I'm delighted that you liked the cake. After seeing your pictures (thanks a lot for sharing them!), if I make this cake again I will try your subs, but use large plums because I like to have a balance of textures. Too much cake and not enough sweet, juicy fruit is not good enough for me;)

Amanda Nielsen

We thought it was very good but wanted smaller pieces of plum. The only change I made was to use a chopped apple as opposed to applesauce but it still worked!

Vegan Magic

Amanda, I am so happy you liked the cake! Thank you very much for the feedback. I have tried using apple instead of applesauce in a different recipe (coming soon) and it worked great, so yeah that's a good sub to make.


I loved your chocolate date mousse so much that I thought I would check out your other recipes. This looks great and would love to try making it, perhaps a strawberry rhubbarb version like someone else suggested (rhubbarb releases its water incredibly fast, but is obviously very tart). Is there enough sweetness from the cake to balance that? Also, do you think it would be possible to use almond or coconut flour instead of the rice flour? Thanks!

Vegan Magic

I'm really happy that you found another inspiring recipe:) I find the cake sweet enough, but I've never baked with rhubarb so I can't say if the sweetness will balance the tartness. Almond flour or coconut flour would make the cake too crumbly to be able to slice it properly. If I were to experiment with either of them, I'd definitely add some corn flour for binding. If you give it a go, please let me know how it comes out:) Happy baking!

Sel P

I wrote earlier as Anonymous and came back to share my experience with making this cake! I made it today, altering the recipe a bit. I used coconut flour instead of the rice flour, and coconut sugar as the sweetener. Because coconut flour requires more liquid, I added more coconut cream to the mix (about 1/2 cup more). Unfortunately the cream of the can hadn't solidified very much in the fridge, so it was very liquidy. I also alternated strawberries and plums, and used just more than 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.

The fruit stayed looking nice on top, but the slices did not hold their shape because of the loose crumb. The flavor and texture totally reminds me of buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup, which, being from the northern U.S., are very nostalgic flavors for me. The coconut flour has a strongish coconut flavor , so I'm guessing that had something to do with it. Overall, I'm looking forward to eating more of this in the morning!

Vegan Magic

Sel, thanks so much for sharing your experience with the cake. I'm guessing the loose crumb was due to the fat content of the coconut ingredients. Maybe different amounts would work well or even adding a binder. I'm happy it still came out good. Happy eating!:)


I've made this twice this week as Mt family loves it so so much! Thanks for the great recipe.I used unsweetened blueberry applesauce as I had nothing else in the house and it was awesome.

Vegan Magic

That is fantastic!!! So glad everyone enjoyed it. I'm curious about the blueberry applesauce, I haven't seen this combination in the stores here. Must be really good. Many thanks for the feedback:)

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