Flourless Vanilla Bean Cake

The timing couldn’t have been more awful. I haven’t had so much as a sniffle in 3 years and then I came down with a whopper of a flu right in the middle of our short visit with our daughter. Yesterday I boarded the return flight armed with a wad of kleenex the size of a carry-on bag and settled into a hellish four hours of being sick as a dog but trying desperately not to show it. I hate to admit it but I’m one of those people who glares at hackers, coughers, and sneezers on planes. I would have been shooting daggers at myself for sure.

Hopefully none of you were on Virgin America flight 233 from Chicago last night. It was bad.

But now I’m home and I’m ready to cook. Something easy so I won’t keel over in the middle of making  it. Those soft pretzels that I was planning to make the minute we touched down will have to wait.

This cake is based on my absolutely insanely delicious Belgian Chocolate Cake, and if you haven’t taken  a look at that one, I suggest you do asap. You’ll want to make it for the holidays, I promise you.

I’ve always had a fascination for opposites. In this case the deep rich Belgian chocolate of the original cake is switched out for an equally moist and rich vanilla. I was planning to swap out the snowy white confectioner’s sugar for cocoa powder but when I saw how golden brown the top of this cake got in the oven, I decided to stick with the confectioner’s sugar topping.

You can either dust the cake all over or you can get fancy and sift your sugar or cocoa powder through a doily to get a beautiful lace pattern. Both vintage crochet or paper doilies will work, you just need to find one that fits your cake and has enough cut-out work so the design will show through. It helps to experiment a bit beforehand so you know what works and what doesn’t. I find that old crochet doilies leave the best patterns, but work with what you have.

Lay the doily flat on the top of the cake and sprinkle the cocoa or powdered sugar liberally and evenly across the entire top with a sifter or small strainer, going around the outside of the doily so you will get an impression of the outer edge, too. Then carefully lift the doily off without disturbing the pattern. (It helps to have an extra set of hands here).

This cake is very moist, with a chewy, almost pecan-pie-without-the-pecans type of texture.

3.34 from 24 votes

Flourless Vanilla Bean Cake

Author Sue Moran


  • 9 ounces good quality white chocolate cut in chunks
  • 1 stick 8 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut up
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond flour or regular flour
  • 5 large eggs preferably room temperature, beaten with a whisk until well blended
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract don’t skimp
  • seeds of 1 vanilla bean
  • confectioner’s sugar or cocoa powder for sifting on top


  • set the oven to 325F
  • Put the butter and then the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds, and stir again. If it’s not completely melted, put it back in for another 30 seconds, and stir until the chocolate completely melts.
  • Add the sugar and flour to the chocolate, then the eggs, extract, and vanilla seeds and blend well. The mixture will thicken. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Pour into a well oiled 9 inch spring-form pan. Bake for about 55-60 minutes, until firm on top and cracks form across the surface. Cool on a rack briefly and then remove the outer ring.
  • Sift confectioner’s sugar or cocoa powder over the top.

Cook's notes

The cake will puff up and then settle back down right about when it's done. It will be golden brown and shouldn't be jiggly in the center.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.


I can’t say I wasn’t glad to get home last night. My head was exploding and every bit of my body ached. But I’m feeling a little melancholy after leaving my daughter. Maybe it was because she’s now living in a part of the country that’s new to us all. Or because there was a gentle drizzle the whole time we were there, or that the last coppery leaves were swirling down from the oak trees. Maybe it was that the sun came out suddenly just as we were pulling out of town, and gave everything an achingly beautiful golden tinge. The slightly scruffy streets of Madison, lined with vintage homes re-purposed for student housing, with all the bikes and couches propped up on the old porches reminded me of my own early days with my husband. And somehow, seeing the coop where my daughter and her boyfriend shop, the places where they work and study, the streets and bus stops they’ll be traversing every day for the next years left me with a simultaneous feeling of connection and distance from them. Anyway I’m at least glad to have left my daughter in such a vibrant and creative place; Madison is lovely and I wouldn’t mind living there myself. Maybe that’s why it was so hard to leave.

Or maybe it’s just that this flu is kicking my butt.

 Note:  In response to reader’s comments I’ve adjusted the amount of butter and almond flour in this cake.


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  • Reply
    August 22, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Hello! My 3yr old son has asked for a vanilla cake with vanilla and raspberry icing (very specific). Would this cake be too sweet with a buttercream icing?

    Thank you!

    • Reply
      August 23, 2019 at 5:29 am

      I do think this would be too rich for a frosting, Britt. I have a vanilla cake with a blackberry frosting that you could use with raspberries coming up soon on the blog, I’ll try to email it to you today!

  • Reply
    Patti Wilson
    July 27, 2019 at 7:29 am

    Hi there. So glad I found you when I was searching for a flourless white cake! I’m planning on making this for my birthday and would like to know if I can freeze what’s left? My husband is a cardiac patient and doesn’t eat sweets so there will be cake left and I don’t want to be tempted to eat it all myself! Thank you. I enjoyed the post that went with this recipe and look forward to perusing more of your recipes and fun posts!

  • Reply
    Marcy Dulberg
    January 3, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    You say it’s a flourless cake yet there is flour in the ingredients????

    • Reply
      January 3, 2019 at 1:45 pm

      The almond flour is a nut meal, Marcy, so not a grain flour.

  • Reply
    December 15, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Made this for a party last night! I reduced the sugar like someone else said to 8 TBS and I only baked it for 45 minutes- it was AMAZING!!!

  • Reply
    July 11, 2017 at 5:47 am

    Making this today! Can you use parchment paper so it wont stick to bottom? Using it in a number 7 shape pan and not spring pan.

    • Reply
      July 11, 2017 at 7:45 am

      This is an older recipe, Melissa, and as I recall it is quite moist, not sure it will be easy to get out of a regular pan. Imagine a flourless chocolate cake, they are so fragile, and this one is too. I don’t want you to be disappointed!

    • Reply
      June 16, 2018 at 11:42 am

      I made this cake night before last. It’s very similar to my flourless chocolate cake recipe so I made it in a glass pie pan like I do for that recipe. I buttered the glass pan, lined it with parchment paper and buttered that also. The only gluten free white chocolate I could find nearby (I need GF recipes), was Hersey’s Kitchen Premier White Chips and used them instead of white chocolate baking bars. The chips were quite sweet so I cut the sugar amount down to 8 T. and could have used only 6 T. since I don’t care for overly sweet sweets. The recipe worked very well and came out of the pan with ease after chilling it overnight and running a butter knife all around the rim. This is a nice change from the semi-sweet chocolate flourless cake that I have been making for years.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2016 at 6:54 am

    Oh my goodness, just when I am good at making your chocolate belgian cake, I see this!! I use coconut flour on the chocolate cake- will that work here? The chocolate cake is now requested for family birthdays!

    • Reply
      March 16, 2016 at 7:39 am

      These bars don’t contain any flour at all, Lynn, it’s crushed cookies for the crust, so maybe you could find a gluten free gingersnap, in fact, I remember that Tates has one, and I bet it’s delicious.

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