Mocha Nib Torte – Gluten-Free Boxed Cake Makeover!

So dark and dreamy... I'm in love.

I cannot tell a lie: this feels like cheating.

A cake from a box? Moi?  How dare I post a recipe using a cake from a box!

But hear me out:

1. Wednesday I film a 10-episode series on gluten-free recipes for EHow: Food.  Basically after I got the gig the producer and I checked recipes off they need shot.  Upon hearing that I have to shoot all 10 in one day, I chose a few quick ones (boxed cake, pancake, pumpkin cookies) to balance out ones that take a tad longer (cupcakes, biscotti).  So of course I had to test a few ideas out, pimping out the recipe as much as I could without actually adding time to what is supposed to be a simple, time-saving procedure.

2. One of my upstairs private chef-friends had recently mentioned that he sometimes uses a boxed cake mix and elaborates on it (layering with chocolate mouse and dark chocolate shavings, adding Meyer lemon zest and juice to a white cake etc.) when scrunched for time.  He’s an amazing cook and makes mad money at his gig.  If he can, why not I? (Also, if happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow… I ask that too).

3.  I’ve been gluten free off and on for almost 20 years.  At some points, I was extremely strictly gluten free (now I only eat gluten as a treat every few months with a really good piece of bread or an icy beer at a ball game).  I was on this diet long before gluten-free boxed cake mixes ever existed.  I never had the luxury of a quick cake… I actually just went without cake completely for a long while.  So now and then it feels awesome to live it up… yes, with a boxed cake.

Thus ends my defense for why I’m posting a recipe featuring a boxed cake mix that uses… gasp!… instant pudding mix, amongst other things.

Here’s why this cake is so stellar:

  • The pudding mix I used is gluten and dairy free.  It adds extra chocolate fudginess without actually adding the weight of chocolate.
  • Using raw cocoa nibs ads crunch and an extra boost of awesomeness.
  • Coffee gives it a punch and deepens the flavor panel.
  • Baked in a tart pan or in individual cake pans it makes an elegant presentation.
  • Because it’s so rich and dark, it pairs incredibly well with fresh fruit and cream.

I ate far too much of it (curse my roommate for going on vacation!).  I made one 11-inch tart: one of the neighbors instantly ate a quarter of it.  I gave him the rest after shooting this piece.  Because along with the tart I made two individual 4″ cakes, one which I immediately ate.  The other I stuck in the freezer so I couldn’t nibble off of every time I went in the kitchen.  It’s really, REALLY delicious.

Enough with the explanations, Dusty.  Here’s the recipe.

Horribly, addictively moist and mocha-y.

Mocha Nib Torte

I used a “Decadent Chocolate Cake Mix” from Gluten-Free Pantry.  It’s mostly white rice flour and potato starch, so not the healthiest.  Because of the rich chocolate and coffee flavors, you can be liberal with whichever cake mix you use.


  • 1 box gluten-free chocolate cake mix, such as the Gluten-Free Pantry or King Arthur Flour
  • 1 packet of chocolate pudding dry mix (some are dairy free; check labels for gluten and dairy ingredients)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp instant coffee
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp raw cacao nibs (or ground walnuts, if you don’t have access to cacao).
  • Raspberries or strawberries, whipped cream and powdered sugar, as desired
  • Eggs, oil, butter, etc., as your box cake requires
  • cocoa powder, for dusting pan


  • Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease an 11″ tart pan and dust with cocoa powder.
  • Make cake according to box instructions, with substitutions as necessary.  For example, I used unsweetened almond milk instead of buttermilk/yogurt.  If desired, use coconut oil instead of butter to make dairy free etc.
  • Add the chocolate pudding and cinnamon to the cake mix, and the vanilla and instant coffee into your wet ingredients (if using some sort of milk, add then to completely dilute).
  • When batter is mixed, fold in 1 Tbsp cacao nibs.  Pour into pan, then sprinkle with remaining cacao nibs.
  • Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool completely before serving.  This cake tastes even better on day 2.
  • To serve, sprinkle serving plates with sifted powdered sugar.  Garnish with a few strawberries, some cacao nibs, and a dallop of whipped cream if desired.


  1. Hey ‘no guilt required’ Superstar. I frankly love knowing how to sexify a boxed mix. Despite all the from scratch cakes I make on my blog, I just made two family birthday cakes using Pamela’s mixes (delicious, proven, reliable). I employed creativity with the filling and frosting and let Pamela do the thinking on the cake. It’s not realisitic to make everything from scratch!

    I have not used any boxed pudding mix since becoming gluten free (which I have been religiously for 7 years; any accidentaly departure has reminded me quickly it’s not an option). I love knowing about that too.

    I would like to volunteer to be the official President of your Fan Club. Other than your Mother I feel sure no one adores you more than I and I have loved watching your star take flight in the short time we’ve known each other. You are one of a kind and the universe is clearly rising up to acknowledge that in all the opportunities you are taking on right now.

  2. Oh my, Dusty, it really is dreamy. What a ridiculously good looking cake! I can see why you’ve used to boxed stuff, but I just can’t bring myself to do it…

  3. Kiri W. says:

    Ooooh, with pudding, coffee AND cocoa nibs? I might just sell my soul!
    And holy cow, 10 recipes in a day?? I bow to you.

  4. Paula says:

    I can’t imagine prepping for and shooting 10 complete recipes in a day! Congratulations and you are amazing. This revamped and upgraded cake from a box looks absolutely delicious and I’d eat it up without a twinge of guilt.

  5. kristina says:

    haha omygosh you are busy! I’m glad had time for this cake though :) I’ve been trying to bake a lot more GF and dairy-free too lately, this sounds fabulous!

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  7. I can say that I actually tried Jacqueline’s recipe (made by the gluten free baking master herself) and it was absolutely INCREDIBLE. I talked about it for days, and still dream about it at night lol. No joke people, this recipe is unbelievably amazing, definitely a bakery quality torte.

  8. Donna Krizenesky says:

    Your mixes are better than anything i’ve made from scratch. Everything has gotten so much better now. I can enjoy cakes, cookies and bread again. Thanks for all the mixes and recipes. Donna

  9. Amber says:

    Mmm Looks delicious! This would be even better using Pamela’s chocolate cake mix! I’m going to have to try this one out.

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