Five- Layer Chocolate Pound Cake

My mom used to make my birthday cake every year growing up, and even in college whenever I was home close to my birthday. It was a Sara Lee pound cake that was cut into 5-7 thin slices horizontally with chocolate ganache frosting between the layers and covering the whole thing. It was rich, decadent and chocolatey. All of my favorite things in the whole world when it comes to dessert.

It's obvious that I can not eat Sara Lee pound cake anymore nor a classical recipe for pound cake, which is butter, sugar, eggs and flour, so I set out to make my own. I used to be able to look at a recipe, make the changes I wanted to and know that it would come out well. Baking is a science, which is why I got into it in the first place, and while the foundational science has helped me with alternative diets, I'm still finding my groove in gluten free and specifically paleo baking. I don't have a formulaic grain free blend that I know will work for me. Oh, remember I can't have a lot of almonds so I can't always rely on paleo mixes depending on how my body's doing. So the recipe testing began. 


I started with a paleo lemon pound cake recipe that looked dense enough but I could make my specific changes. One, swap almond flour with a cashew-brazil nut flour I made from the pulp of making my own nut milk. I had this, but if you have almond flour on hand, please use that to make it easier on yourself. Hazelnut flour would also be a fabulous substitution in my opinion. 

Two, I swapped the lemon juice to coconut milk. I was going for a vanilla flavor so swapping the juice for the milk would give the cake a richer, more dense structure. Lemon juice is acidic and acid can make a cake tender. That's great, but not what I was going for. Because I wanted a strong vanilla flavor, I also added vanilla extract and the seeds from half a vanilla bean. The second is... yum!

Three, I baked this in a 14x10" sheet pan. You may think this is cheating, but you seriously need a cake cold and dense to make the layers my mom used to make. She'd cut it straight from the freezer. By baking it in the sheet pan, not only does the baking time decrease (yay!), but cutting the layers into two is a lot easier than 5-7. Trust me. 


I was so excited when this came out! It was golden brown and had a slight spring. Not pound cake denseness, but a cakey, wonderful texture the would feel dense enough sandwiched between layers of frosting. Top it with the ganache frosting... everyone will be happy you were born!

layers with frosting
final cake


2 1/2 cups (158 grams) cashew or almond flour

1/4 cup (28 grams) coconut flour

2 1/2 tablespoons maple or coconut sugar

pinch of sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 eggs

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup (105 grams) applesauce

1/2 cup (103 grams) coconut oil, melted

1 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped



2 bags (24 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips (I used these which is still cane sugar, but organic and fair-trade)

2 cups coconut milk

splash of vanilla extract


Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 14x10x1" or 9x13x1" baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Make your cake. Add the flour, sugar, sea salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Whisk to break up any clumps. In a separate bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients together. Pour wet into dry, and mix until smooth.

Pour the batter onto your baking sheet, tapping to release any air bubbles and smoothly it with the back of a spatula. Bake for 13-17 minutes, or until it's golden brown and slightly removes from the sides of the pan. Cool completely before cutting it into thirds. 

If you'd like to make the cake a day or two before you assemble the cake, you may. Simply separate the layers with parchment paper and refrigerate.

Make the frosting. Pour the chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl. Warm the coconut milk on the stove until it starts to simmer around the edges. Pour the milk over the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes before whisking the mixture smooth. Add the vanilla. Place the frosting into the refrigerator until it hardens while being spreadable.

Assemble the cake. Remove the layers from the refrigerator. If you'd like to cut the layers more thinly, cut two of the three layers in half horizontally. We'll use the uncut layer as a bottom. 

Place that layer on a platter you can serve from, and fit into the refrigerator. Spread about 1/2 cup of frosting onto the layer. Continue layering until you get to the top layer. Cover the whole cake- top and sides- with the rest of the frosting. 

Now the hard part: refrigerate the cake for at least an hour, preferably 4, before serving. It will look like a dense chocolate block and that's a-ok! Decorate as you wish before slicing into thin pieces. A little goes the long way, but my favorite slices were the ends with the most frosting :)

birthday cake slice
Jacquie Chamberlain