Summer is full of fresh fruit, BBQs and vacations: three reasons to enjoy a good dessert! What’s on the menu? I’d recommend Cornmeal Sheet Cake with Mixed Berries and Lemon-Cream. Keep reading for the recipe.

GF & Dairy-Free Cornmeal Sheet Cake w/ Mixed Berries & Lemon-Cream

GF & Dairy-Free Cornmeal Sheet Cake w/ Mixed Berries & Lemon-Cream

GF & Dairy-Free Cornmeal Sheet Cake w/ Mixed Berries & Lemon-Cream

I recently made this cake for this year’s 4th of July celebration. I started with a recipe I found in Martha Stewart Living‘s July issue and made a few modifications to make it gluten free (GF) and dairy-free. The original directions are below, followed by my modifications.


  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 18 ounces mixed fresh berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries (cut in half if large), plus more for serving
  • Whipped cream, for serving


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line with parchment, leaving overhang on long sides. Butter parchment. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

2. Beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of buttermilk and beating until just combined. Spread batter in prepared pan.

3. Sprinkle berries over top, then sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Remove cake with parchment and cut into pieces (3 or 4 on short side, then 4 or 6 on long side). Cake is best served the same day, with whipped cream and additional berries.

Chef’s Notes:

Here’s how I made this dessert GF and dairy-free:

1. In place of the all-purpose flour, I used the same amount of a GF flour mix from Authentic Foods.

2. For GF baking, it’s important to add a small amount of xanthan gum. For cakes it’s recommended you use 1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour, so for this dessert I used 1 1/2 teaspoons.

A bit more about xanthan gum:

In foods, xanthan gum is most often found in salad dressings and sauces. It helps to prevent oil separation by stabilizing the emulsion, although it is not an emulsifier. Xanthan gum also helps suspend solid particles, such as spices. Also used in frozen foods and beverages, xanthan gum helps create the pleasant texture in many ice creams, Xanthan gum also helps thicken commercial egg substitutes made from egg whites, to replace the fat and emulsifiers found in yolks. 

Xanthan gum is also used in gluten-free baking. Since the gluten found in wheat must be omitted, xanthan gum is used to give the dough or batter a “stickiness” that would otherwise be achieved with the gluten.

3. In place of the buttermilk, I used the same amount of coconut milk.

4. I decided to keep the eggs in this recipe as I have not yet found a suitable substitute that I like.

5. For the topping, the original recipe calls for whipped cream. However, I usually like to mix a prepared lemon curd (eggs, sugar and milk) with whipped cream to many of my desserts.

Since I could not find what I wanted in the small grocery store available to me over the holiday weekend, I used a prepared lemon pudding mix instead. I actually found one that uses water in the mix instead of milk! My only problem with the mix was the artificial, overly sweet flavor; however, adding 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice is just enough to give the pudding a homemade/fresh taste.

To keep the entire dessert dairy-free, serve the pudding on the side and omit any whipped cream.

For those that want the full flavor, combine one part of the lemon pudding or lemon curd with two parts whipped cream. Adding the cream will give you a nice, light texture that will enhance your dessert, I promise!

Download and print the recipe here.

Have you had any success finding a delicious GF, dairy-free summer dessert? Share it via Facebook, Twitter, Google + or any of my other social media accounts!

Mary Hathaway, Owner of Dinner Diva, has been a personal chef since 2002. She cooks regularly for clients who have special dietary needs, value healthy cooking by using organic products where possible and those who want healthy family meals but have no time to cook. Whether it’s a dinner for 4, a holiday party for 20, or a set of meals for the week, all of the recipes are customized to her client’s needs or lifestyle. Go to: for more info.