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What do flourless cakes use instead of flour?

Quick Answer

Flourless cakes use ingredients like ground nuts, chocolate, and eggs instead of flour. Common flour substitutes include almond flour, coconut flour, nut meals, and cocoa powder. The binding and structure that flour provides in traditional baked goods is achieved through creative use of eggs and fat.

Ingredients Used in Place of Flour

Ground Nuts

Ground nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and pistachios can be used to replace flour in cakes. Nut flours have a similar texture to all-purpose flour and provide structure in baked goods. Almond flour and almond meal are the most common nut flours used in flourless baking. Almond flour is made from blanched almonds and is finner than almond meal which contains almond skins. The high fat content of nuts means nut flours also impart moisture and richness.

Coconut Flour

Coconut flour is made from dried, ground coconut meat. It has a high fiber content and absorbs a lot of liquid which means it cannot be directly substituted for regular flour. No more than 20% of the flour in a recipe should be replaced with coconut flour. Coconut flour gives cakes a soft and tender crumb.

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder can provide structure, moisture, and flavor in the absence of flour. Cocoa powder contains cocoa solids that impart structure to baked goods. About 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder can be used to replace 1 ounce of flour. Cocoa powder pairing nicely with ground almonds creates a nutty chocolate taste.

Chickpea Flour

Also called gram flour or besan, chickpea flour can be used instead of regular flour in cakes. Chickpea flour contains no gluten so combines well with other flour substitutes. It has a strong taste that complements spices and chocolate well. About 1/4 to 1/3 cup of chickpea flour equals 1 cup of regular flour.

Using Eggs for Structure

Since flourless cakes lack gluten, eggs play an important role in providing structure in the absence of flour. Beaten egg whites give lift and airiness while egg yolks provide moisture and fat needed for richness. More eggs are used in flourless cakes compared to traditional cakes. Typically, six or more large eggs are required for a standard sized single layer cake. Egg whites are often whipped into a meringue separately before being folding into the batter gently. The extra air whipped into the eggs causes greater rise despite the lack of gluten.

Fat for Moisture and Tenderness

With no gluten present, flourless cakes rely on fat to impart moisture, richness and tenderness. Butter or oils high in saturated fats like coconut oil or palm oil are used. The water in butter keeps cakes moist while the fat tenderizes. Butter is creamed with sugar to incorporate air before adding eggs. Oils can be substituted for a dairy free cake. More fat is used relative to flourless versus traditional flour cakes. Often, equal weights of fat and flour replacements are used.

Common Types of Flourless Cakes

Cake Type Main Flour Substitutes Used
Torte Ground nuts like almonds or walnuts
Chocolate Cake Cocoa powder and ground nuts
Coconut Cake Coconut flour and coconut milk
Chestnut Cake Chestnut flour and chocolate
Carrot Cake Ground nuts like walnuts or almonds
Lemon Cake Almond flour and citrus zest


Torte style cakes have been made without flour for centuries. Ground nuts like almonds and hazelnuts are used to make a fine textured yet moist cake. Egg whites are whipped separately before being folding into the nut mixture for lift. These cakes have an intense nutty flavor.

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate is a natural partner for nut flours like almond and coconut. Cocoa powder can replace up to one third of the flour in a recipe. Dark chocolate provides moisture and deep chocolate flavor. Chocolate liqueur enhances the decadence. Sour cream or yogurt also boosts moistness.

Coconut Cake

Coconut flour combined with coconut milk or cream provides a super moist and soft textured cake. Coconut extract can boost flavor while eggs supply lift. Shredded coconut coats the cake with nutty coconut taste.

Chestnut Cake

Chestnut flour has a signature sweet nutty quality that pairs well with chocolate. Milk is often used to balance dryness from lack of gluten. Chestnut flour’s natural sweetness means less added sugar is required. The nut protein and starch gives structure despite no gluten.

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is well suited to being flourless because the carrots add moisture. Ground almonds or walnuts provide flavor and texture. Spices like cinnamon are enhanced without the competing flavor of wheat flour. Crushed pineapple keeps this cake super moist.

Lemon Cake

Almond flour with fresh lemon zest creates a moist and tangy base for lemon cake. Coconut flour can also be used. Buttermilk, milk or yogurt incorporates needed moisture. Light flavors like lemon highlight almond flour’s subtle nutty notes.

Tips for Successful Flourless Cakes

– Use pan with straight sides like round or square vs. bundt or loaf
– Grease pan well then dust with cocoa or nuts
– Separate eggs and beat whites to soft peaks for lift
– Don’t overmix once egg whites are added to keep volume
– Let batter sit 5 minutes so flour substitutes absorb moisture
– Bake in pan of water to prevent drying out
– Check for doneness early since no gluten to set structure
– Let cool completely before removing from pan
– Store in refrigerator since less preservatives than flour cakes

Benefits of Flourless Cakes


Flourless cakes are inherently gluten-free which makes them a great option for anyone with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity. They can be enjoyed without adverse health effects. Many traditional flourless cake recipes are gluten-free like tortes and chocolate cake. With the popularity of gluten-free diets, flourless cakes offer an ideal dessert solution.


Replacing wheat flour with nuts and cocoa powder provides more fiber, protein and healthy fats compared to traditional flour cakes. Nuts offer heart healthy unsaturated fats. Cocoa contains antioxidants. Coconut provides medium chain triglycerides. So flourless cakes can be a more nutritious choice.

Moist and Rich Taste

The extra eggs and fat used in flourless cakes means they are exceptionally moist and rich tasting. The intense chocolate or nut flavors shine through when not competing with wheat undertones. Flourless chocolate tortes and nut-based tortes have an indulgent taste and texture.


Flourless cakes are extremely versatile. Simple nut flours can be flavored with anything from lemon to mocha to maple. Popular flavors include chocolate, coconut, carrot and vanilla. Nuts like almonds, walnuts and pecans provide adaptable neutral bases to build flavor upon.

Free of Wheat Allergens

Those with wheat allergies or sensitivities can safely enjoy a flourless cake. Wheat flour is fully omitted and replaced with nut flours. Coconut flour makes another allergy free choice. Eggs often provide needed structure instead of wheat. Flourless cakes provide dessert options for those avoiding wheat.


Flourless cakes utilize a variety of nutritious ingredients like nuts, chocolate, coconut and eggs in place of wheat flour. Ground nuts like almond flour mimics the texture of all-purpose flour while providing more nutrition. Cocoa powder adds chocolate flavor and structure. The binding properties of eggs are relied upon heavily for lift and structure. Additional butter or oil gives these cakes an irresistibly moist and rich taste. Classic flourless cake recipes like chocolate torte and hazelnut-almond torte highlight the possibilities. Flourless cakes are great options for gluten free, allergy friendly and nutrient dense desserts.