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Baking Desserts Recipes

Gluten-free Caterpillar Cake Recipe (dairy-free option)

Gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe – move over Colin and Cuthbert, allow me to introduce you to Celia! Best of all, nobody would know she’s Coeliac-friendly and wheat-free, promise.

Gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe? Yup – forget Aldi and M&S’ caterpillar cake, because at the end of the day… who cares when you can’t even eat either of them?! Celia is the BEST celebration or birthday cake, no questions asked!

It’s not hard to guess where the inspiration came from here, is it? All I ever seem to read in the news recently is about caterpillar cake lawsuits… concerning two cakes which I can’t even eat.

(surprise, surprise)

And whilst you can most definitely find a gluten-free caterpillar cake down the free from aisle in Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda… trust me, you just can’t beat making your own. It’s so much fun and tastes so, so good!

But there was one big problem… what do I name my gluten-free caterpillar cake?! Preferably a name that wouldn’t get me in legal trouble, if possible…

So naturally, I asked you lot! Here’s some of the best/funniest most random suggestions you came up with over on Instagram…

  • Gluten-free Gary
  • Free From Fred or Freddy
  • Cornelius
  • Colon the Caterpillar (?)
  • Copycaterpillar
  • Gluten-free Gladys
  • Free From Freida
  • Calli(ng my lawyer) Caterpillar
  • Gluten-free Greg
  • Mark (or Spencer)
  • Wheatless Willy
  • Dave

…and many, many more hilarious suggestions that made me smile all evening!

But as I had the deciding vote, I decided to go for Celia the Caterpillar as it sounded close to Coeliac – which is what you guys said you were going for! Thank you so much for giving me so many suggestions to choose from.

So that was that – Celia was born. I guess I should tell you a little more about her!

She’s a chocolate swiss roll – super light and fluffy sponge, with fluffy chocolate-y filling that just melts in the mouth.

Then, she’s wearing an erm… ‘coat’ of chocolate buttercream, accessorised with M&Ms – which yes, are gluten-free in the UK!

Her face is made from white chocolate, which I poured into a circular biscuit cutter and allowed to set. Once set, I then dolled her up with big chocolate buttons for eyes, edible eyes, a red M&M for her nose and a little milk chocolate piped for her mouth.

Her ears are just two big white chocolate buttons and her feet are quartered white chocolate Lindt truffles. And yes, of course, all of the decorations I used are gluten-free and double yes – I’ve linked them all in the FAQ section below ?? (along with dairy-free alternatives)

So here’s everything you’ll need for my gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe – consider this your shopping list! Keep scrolling until you see the recipe card below if you’re looking for the full ingredients and method…

Gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe: What you’ll need…

  • Medium eggs: I used medium eggs, so to ensure yours turns out the same, I’d recommend you do too! Unfortunately, you cannot make this recipe egg-free due to the amount of eggs required and the fact that they’ll need to be separated.
  • Caster sugar: In a swiss roll sponge, sugar is incredibly important, so don’t reduce the amount, or even worse, remove it entirely – it won’t work!
  • Vegetable oil: Vegetable oil keeps the sponge super moist and is incredibly important considering there’s actually no butter in the sponge.
  • Vanilla extract: A little goes a long way when combined with cocoa powder in terms of flavour – a good quality one helps massively too.
  • Milk: The protein in milk helps give a gluten-free sponge structure, so don’t skip this even though it might seem like you can!
  • Gluten-free plain flour: I use Doves Farm’s FREEE gluten-free plain flour blend that you can find in the supermarket. Can’t find it in your part of the world? You can always use my homemade gluten-free plain flour blend.
  • Cocoa Powder: This is what makes the sponge chocolatey!
  • Xanthan Gum: This is a binder and incredibly integral to ensuring that a gluten-free sponge can be rolled up without cracking or breaking. Don’t even think about leaving this out!
  • Butter: Make sure yours is softened! This is needed for creating the icing – do not substitute for a spreadable margarine.
  • Icing sugar: Of course, you can’t use caster sugar for the icing – that’s what icing sugar is for!
  • 54% dark chocolate: Dark chocolate creates a wonderfully, rich, chocolatey buttercream but don’t worry – it doesn’t taste like dark chocolate!
  • Decorations: Without these, you’ll just be left with a swiss roll! So I’ve linked everything I used in the FAQ section below, including dairy-free alternatives.

Gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe: Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this recipe gluten-free? Is it suitable for Coeliacs?

It is gluten-free, though nobody would know just by tasting it – trust me!

Bear in mind that minimising cross-contamination is hugely important if you’re Coeliac or making this for someone who is. Here’s some tips from Coeliac UK on minimising the risk of cross contamination:

Also, make sure that all ingredients used don’t have any gluten-containing ingredients. Then make sure that they also don’t have a ‘may contain’ warning for gluten, wheat, rye, barley, oats (which aren’t gf), spelt and khorasan wheat (aka Kamut).

Here’s some more info from Coeliac UK on identifying safe gluten-free products.

Can I make your gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe dairy free?

A lot of the decorations I used aren’t dairy-free, but you can actually make the entire swiss roll dairy-free with three simple swaps:

  • Use dairy-free milk
  • Use dairy-free hard margarine (like a Stork baking block) instead of butter for the icing – do NOT use margarine like you’d spread on toast for icing.
  • Use dairy-free dark chocolate for the icing.
  • Use dairy-free white chocolate for Celia’s face and dairy-free milk chocolate for her smile.

Don’t forget to double check that your cocoa powder is dairy-free too. Of course, all decorations will also need to be dairy-free too, so here’s some easy alternatives:

Dairy-free alternatives for the decorations:

Can I make your gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe vegan?

Unfortunately, because this recipe involves separating eggs, egg replacements aren’t possible here and it cannot be made vegan.

Can I make this recipe low FODMAP?

If you use lactose-free milk and lactose-free dark chocolate, you can easily make the swiss roll part low FODMAP.

Then, ensure you use lactose-free white/milk chocolate for the face and ensure all decorations used are both lactose-free and FODMAP friendly. Job done!

What decorations did you use to create Celia?

Here’s everything I used! Of course, this is just what I used to create Celia as you see her in the photos, but feel free to use whatever you like.

All of the below products are gluten-free at the time of writing, but I always advise everyone to double-check the ingredients on the packets just to be safe. You never know when things might change!

For Celia’s face:

For Celia’s body:

You can find all of these down the chocolate/confectionary aisles in supermarkets, apart from the edible eyes which are in the baking section (I found mine in Tesco).

Can I make your gluten-free caterpillar cake in a food processor or standing mixer?

Of course you can – and it’ll save you on elbow grease! I don’t use a standing mixer or food processor to make the sponge mixture personally – I use an electric hand whisk like this.

However, I do prefer to use a stand mixer for the buttercream as it requires extended mixing, but an electric hand whisk would work fine here too.

However, don’t even think about using an electric mixer to fold the fluffy egg whites into the main mixture – this must be done by hand!

Can I make your gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe by hand?

You can of course, bake this without any assistance from any appliance and simply use a hand whisk. However, you must ensure that you whisk the egg whites for long enough to achieve medium peaks, otherwise the recipe won’t work!

Ensure everything is well combined with no pockets of flour or dry ingredients as you go.

Do I need any special equipment to bake your gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe?

Certainly not! What you will need however is a swiss roll tin – I use this one by Mary Berry and Lakeland, it’s 35cm by 25cm.

If you’re in a bit of a pinch and don’t have a swiss roll tin, you can easily use a baking tray instead as long as it’s roughly the same size and sides aren’t too low.

Oh and make sure you have some baking paper – I use Bacofoil as it doesn’t stick to the sponge or damage it as you peel it off. You’ll definitely need this to successfully roll up your sponge.

Does this recipe need xanthan gum?

You’ll see xanthan gum in a lot of my recipes as it’s an essential ingredient in gluten-free baking. And that’s exactly the case here.

How else would a gluten-free sponge be able to perform the miraculous feat of rolling up without breaking? Xanthan gum is the star here!

So yes, if you can tolerate xanthan gum, please ensure that you use it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend attempting this recipe without it.

Can I make this recipe using other gluten-free flours like buckwheat flour or coconut flour?

There’s a big difference between ‘gluten-free plain/self-raising flour’ and a *singular* type gluten-free flour. When I say ‘gluten-free plain or self-raising flour’ in a recipe, I mean a BLEND of gluten-free flours, not just one, singular flour.

Most gluten-free flour you buy in the supermarket typically contains a blend of rice flour, potato flour, maize flour, tapioca flour AND buckwheat flour. That’s a lot of different flours!

In gluten-free self-raising flour, there’s usually even a little baking powder and xanthan gum in it too which always helps. So to replace it with just one specific type of flour… that’s not going to cut it at all. Definitely go for a gluten-free flour blend.

Do I need weighing scales to bake your gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe?

In short… yes, yes and yes! And I wouldn’t advise attempting any of my recipes without them.

A lot of work went into fine tuning ratios and quantities and for me, baking is all about consistency and precision. I want you to make this recipe and for it to turn out EXACTLY like mine did.

I’d recommending using digital cooking scales like these so you know you’re getting an accurate measurement and replicating my recipe as accurately as poss.

How long can I keep your gluten-free caterpillar cake for?

I’ve kept my gluten-free caterpillar cake for 3-5 days in an air-tight container with no problems.

If you need to keep it any longer than that, I’d highly recommend freezing it (see advice below for doing that).

When the sponge starts getting a little dry, it’s probably starting to get past its best.

Can I freeze your gluten-free caterpillar cake?

Of course! I’ve frozen it for up to 2-3 months no problem. Ideally, slice up the cake first before freezing. Then, you can easily defrost a few slices at a time instead of the entire thing.

When you want to eat it, each slice should take around 3 hours to defrost at room temperature.

Gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe: Method

Oh and here’s a printable version of my gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe. Please remember to give it 5 stars if you tried it and enjoyed it as it helps people know it’s worth trying too! ⭐️ Feel free to leave your written reviews in the comments below this post.

Gluten-free Caterpillar Cake Recipe (dairy-free option)

Gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe - move over Colin and Cuthbert, Celia is in town and she's 100% Coeliac-friendly and wheat-free too! See the FAQ section for links to the decorations I used as well as dairy-free alternatives.
Keyword birthday cake, Caterpillar Cake, gluten-free baking recipe, gluten-free caterpillar cake, wheat free baking
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 57 minutes
Calories 540kcal
Author Becky Excell


  • My Swiss roll tin


For the sponge:

  • 4 medium eggs separated
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 ⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk dairy-free if necessary
  • 45 g gluten free plain flour
  • 15 g cocoa powder ensure dairy-free if necessary
  • 1 ⁄4 tsp xanthan gum

For the ganache filling and covering:

  • 250 g butter softened (or Stork hard margarine if dairy-free)
  • 250 g icing sugar
  • 250 g 54% dark chocolate dairy-free if necessary

For the decoration - you don't have to use them all! (everything below is linked in the FAQ section, along with dairy-free alternatives)

  • 50 g white chocolate for Celia's face - plus a little extra to use as glue
  • 4 cubes of milk chocolate for Celia's smile
  • 2 giant white chocolate buttons for the ears
  • 2 giant chocolate buttons for the eyes
  • 2 edible eyes
  • a handful of M&Ms to decorate and one for Celia's nose
  • 2 white chocolate Lindt truffles for the feet


To make Celia's face:

  • Place a small amount of non-stick baking paper onto a baking tray and place a round 7cm cookie cutter on top of it. Melt 50g white chocolate in the microwave, mixing between short bursts. Once melted, pour your white chocolate into the round cookie cutter. Hold the cutter down so it doesn't leak out as you pour! Place in the freezer or fridge to fully set.
  • Once almost set, you can remove the chocolate from the cutter. Use a little extra melted white chocolate to work as glue (dabbing a little onto the backs of everything as you go) to stick on two chocolate buttons as eyes, some edible eyes (optional) and finally, a red M&M for the nose.
  • For the smile, I simply placed a few cubes of melted chocolate into a piping bag and snipped off the end to leave a 4mm hole. Then I piped away!
  • Pop Celia's face back into the freezer or fridge to set until you are ready to decorate.

To make the sponge:

  • Preheat your oven to 180°C fan / 200°C. Lightly grease your Swiss roll tin and line with non-stick baking paper.
  • Separate your eggs into two small bowls - egg whites in one and yolks in the other.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add your egg yolks and half the caster sugar (50g). Whisk together until combined, then add your vanilla, milk and oil and whisk once more. Sift in the flour, cocoa powder and xanthan gum, and mix in until well combined, thick and glossy.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk your egg whites (using an electric hand whisk or stand mixer ideally) until they start to turn white and frothy. Gradually add the remaining caster sugar (50g), whisking until you have medium peaks.
  • In three stages, add your egg white mixture to your egg yolk mixture, folding it in carefully between each addition using a silicone spatula. Once all the egg white mixture is fully folded in, pour your mixture into your prepared tin. Spread it out gently to make sure it’s nice and even and bake in the oven for 10–12 minutes until cooked through.
  • Place a piece of non-stick baking paper on your work surface and dust it with the icing sugar.
  • While your sponge is still warm, loosen it from the tin and flip it out onto the baking paper. Peel off the baking paper on top that once lined the tin – don’t worry if you lose the outer layer of the cake because it sticks to the paper as you peel it off, that’s totally normal. Using your baking paper, roll the sponge up from the short end – the paper should be inside it as you roll. Try to roll fairly tightly, then leave the sponge to cool fully while rolled up. I prop something up against it to stop it from unrolling itself.

For the icing and covering:

  • While the sponge is cooling you can prepare the filling. Melt your dark chocolate (I do this is the microwave in short bursts, mixing in between) then put to one side to cool whilst making the rest of the icing.
  • Place your softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl if you intend to use an electric hand whisk), mix on its own on a high speed for about 5 minutes. The butter should change from a more yellow colour to being a lot more pale.
  • Add your icing sugar gradually to the butter (I do this in two stages). I mix each addition of icing sugar for around 3-5 minutes before adding the second half. Now add in your melted, cooled chocolate and mix until fully combined. It should be a nice, easily spreadable consistency - you can always loosen it up with a little milk, if needed.

To assemble:

  • Carefully unroll your sponge and remove the baking paper. Fortunately I never find the sponge cracks using my recipe, but if it does a little, it doesn't matter - it will all be covered in icing - just be delicate!
  • Spread a layer (around 1cm thick) of your icing on the unrolled sponge (I leave about a half cm gap around the edge). Carefully roll the sponge back up and transfer it to a serving board or plate. Do this as tight as you can for the best swirl.
  • Cover the rolled up sponge with the rest of the icing. Cut one of the ends off so its more flat and then cover it with a decent amount of icing. At this point, I used the flat end of a fork to create ridges all along the body of the caterpillar, just like the 'real' caterpillar cakes often have - this isn't mandatory!
  • Place on your M&Ms - I chose to only use the red, yellow and blue ones from the packet.
  • Cut your white chocolate Lindt truffles into quarters and gently press them into place - I only used 6 of the quarter pieces and ate the other two bits!
  • Place the face onto the icing so it sticks well. Optionally stick your giant white chocolate button in behind the face as ears too.
  • Slice (try not to feel bad for decapitating Celia as you go) and enjoy!
 Thanks for reading all about my gluten-free caterpillar cake recipe! If you make it, I’d love to see how it turned out so don’t forget to take a snap of your creations and tag me on Instagram!

Any questions about the recipe? Please do let me know by following me on Instagram and leaving me a comment on a recent photo!

Thanks for reading,

Becky xxx

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