Get FREE recipes right in your inbox
Easy meal ideas that will bring your family to the table fast!

Nanaimo Layer Cake

Prep Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Servings 14 pieces

Jump to Recipe

This is big news. BIG. News.

I made you a healthy cake.

No lies. Look at that cake — don’t believe me?

I seriously SKIPPED my Sunday afternoon nap to write this post for you guys. That’s a big deal. This cake is a big deal.

nanaimo layer cake whole with chocolate ganache frosting swirls and slivered almonds

Would you believe that that cake is entirely gluten-free? It’s made with lentils. I made you a gluten-free, lentil chocolate cake.

If you know me at all, you know that I’m pro-gluten. Pro-bread. Pro-cake. Pro-cookies. Pro-baked goods.

See, Canadian Lentils was having this competition, and I thought, “I should do that. I can do that.” There were five categories, but since I’m not very experienced with cooking with lentils, I thought I’d stick with the baking and leave the other categories to the experts. Not that I’m an expert in baking with lentils, but I figured I had a better shot (given my history with baked goods) at that than anything else.

Anyway, so this cake is made with lentils.

close up image of top of cake including chocolate ganache topped with frosting swirls


So I cook my lentils, puree them, add the rest of your usual suspects to the batter, and pour it into some 8″ cake pans. And cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Yesterday, I frosted it with a seriously incredible nanaimo bar frosting. I thought, this is a Canadian competition, so I am going all out Canadian. For those of you who don’t know, a nanaimo bar is a Canadian bar that has a base layer of chocolate, coconut, and almonds. Then there is a custard layer made with vanilla custard powder (I use Bird’s Custard Powder). It is all covered with a chocolate ganache.

slice of chocolate nanaimo bar layer cake on white plate

So I cut my cakes in half and ended up with 4 layers. I’m all about a good cake-frosting ratio. I don’t like there to be too much cake in between frosting layers. I frosted all layers and the outside. Then I made some ganache to pour over it.

I’m going to make a confession. I used milk in this ganache. I’ve used milk in ganache before. I honestly don’t think there’s anyone who could tell the difference. But if you’ve got cream, you go ahead and swap out the milk. My feelings won’t be hurt.

I piped some more frosting on the top (see paragraph re: cake-frosting ratio). And I sprinkled with some toasted coconut and toasted almonds, because those are in a traditional nanaimo bar. If you’re not into coconut or almonds, just leave it off. If you’d like a little more, you could sprinkle some on top of your layers.

SO. All of that was yesterday. I took some pictures because, of course, that comes first. It looked beautiful, but I was a little worried that I had wasted perfectly good frosting and ganache on a lentil cake. I thought if it wasn’t edible, I could maybe scrape the frosting off. I even made a back-up competition entry.

Last night, we had a birthday party for supper and when we got home I just wasn’t hungry enough to try the cake. And I would have to be pretty hungry to want to eat lentil cake.

As I could avoid it no longer, I popped open the container and grabbed a fork. I wish you could have seen the look of absolute glee on my face as I told my husband, “this is REALLY good!”

You guys. If I didn’t tell you that it was a gluten-free lentil cake, you would never know.  It is that good.

I continued my exclamations: “it tastes like CAKE!”

I am a new believer in gluten-free, lentil cake. My husband agreed. You would never know what it’s made of unless you were told. I would not lie to you guys about cake.

So, thank you, Canadian Lentils, for making me a believer.

whole nanaimo bar layer cake with custard frosting chocolate ganache and frosting swirls

*A note about gluten: Bird’s Custard Powder, which I use, lists corn starch as one of the main ingredients. Pure corn starch is indeed gluten-free, but it’s hard to say whether the corn starch in the custard powder is entirely gluten-free. If you are severely allergic, you will want to double check the ingredients on your custard powder.

ashley avatar

Pin this recipe to save for later

Pin this recipe to your favorite board

Nanaimo Layer Cake

Stunning gluten-free nanaimo bar layer cake made with lentils. Chocolate lentil cake, nanaimo bar frosting and chocolate ganache. *Check custard powder to ensure it is gluten-free — see note above recipe.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Cuisine American
Course Dessert
Servings 14 pieces
Calories 590cal


For the cake:

  • 1 cup split red lentils dry
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the frosting:

  • 1 1/2 cups butter room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup vanilla custard powder
  • 3 cups icing sugar

For the ganache:

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup milk


  • Toasted coconut optional
  • Toasted almonds optional


  • For the cake:Spray two 8″ round cake pans with non-stick spray and line with wax paper (cut to fit). Spray the wax paper with non-stick spray.
  • In a medium pot, bring lentils and water to a boil. (*Note: feel free to use canned lentils if you wish. You will need 2 cups cooked in the end). Boil over medium heat about 15 minutes, until lentils are soft and the water is gone. Remove from heat and puree in a Magic Bullet, blender or food processor. (I like the Magic Bullet for things I want super smooth — use whichever appliance you have that will get the best results). Set aside to cool slightly.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • When slightly cooled (about 10-15 minutes), add milk, eggs and vanilla to blender or food processor along with the lentils. Puree until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  • Add remaining ingredients (butter through salt) and puree until smooth, about 20-30 seconds.
  • Divide batter between the two pans and bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • For the frosting:In the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter, milk, custard powder and sugar. With the whisk attachment, beat on low for a couple minutes until the icing sugar is mostly incorporated.
  • Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy. (*Note: colour will become significantly lighter throughout the process. Make sure you beat the frosting until light and fluffy). Set aside.
  • Assembly:If desired, slice each cake into two to make 4 layers (completely optional). Place one cake layer down and frost the top. Repeat until all layers are used.
  • Frost the top and sides of the cake.
  • Chill at least 1 hour before topping with ganache.
  • Make the ganache:In a pot over low heat, add the chocolate and milk (you can also do this in a double boiler or the microwave). Heat on low, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. If ganache appears too thick, add a couple tsp more milk.
  • *You do not want your ganache to be so thin that it runs right off the cake.
  • Allow ganache to cool about 15-20 minutes so that it doesn’t melt your frosting and so that you can more easily control the flow down the sides.
  • Remove chilled cake from the refrigerator and slowly our ganache on top of cake, a little at a time. Slowly bring the ganache to the edge of the cake, and allow some rivers of chocolate to flow over the sides.
  • Chill cake in the refrigerator before garnishing as desired.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 590cal | Carbohydrates: 60g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 130mg | Sodium: 471mg | Potassium: 412mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 46g | Vitamin A: 1025IU | Vitamin C: 0.6mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 3mg

Want to save this recipe?

Create an account easily save your favorite content, so you never forget a recipe again.

Register Now

Tried this recipe?

Tag @thereciperebel or hashtag #thereciperebel —
I love to see what you’re making!

Tag @thereciperebel

Meet Ashley

My name is Ashley Fehr and I love creating easy meals my family loves. I also like to do things my way, which means improvising and breaking the rules when necessary. Here you will find creative twists on old favorites and some of my favorite family recipes, passed down from generations!

Read More

You May Also Like

Reader Interactions


  1. Rebekah says

    I made this and no one knew it had lentils!!! It was so fudgey and slightly crumbly, just like any kind of cake! uuuuhhhmazing!! Thanks for sharing. I didn’t know if you had an IG, but I posted mine @_mykitchen_toyours if you wanted to see how mine turned out! Thank you again for such an incredible recipe!

  2. Lily says

    Does this really use 3/4 cup of custard powder? That seems like a LOT! I’ve got some Bird’s, but I don’t know if I have that much….

    • Ashley says

      There’s quite a bit of frosting in between the layers and on the top and sides — you can always use a little less and use more icing sugar if you need to!

  3. Anonymous says


    I was just wondering if I could replace the lentils with flour. If that is possible, how much flour do I replace the lentils with? Or should I keep the recipie the way it is? I am making the cake for somebody’s birthday which is in a few days, so please reply ASAP, I don’t want to make another cake because she loves nanomio bars.


    • Ashley says

      I’m not sure about replacing the lentils with flour. You could either keep the recipe the way it is, or just substitute another chocolate cake recipe in its place and keep the frosting, ganache and garnish the same — that is what really makes the “Nanaimo” anyway!

  4. Annie Laurie says

    I made this last night and it’s the best gluten free cake I’ve ever made! It’s the first gluten free cake I’ve had that didn’t taste like someone put sand in the batter. I am so excited to share this with all my friends who are gluten free…what a treat to be able to serve them this. Thank you!

  5. Alanna says

    This cake is AMAZING!!!! Thank you for posting it! I just made the cake part (only thing is I’d do 3 cups of water to boil the lentils…. had a small issue, but nothing earth shattering! ;)) I made them into cupcakes, there was enough batter for just over 2 dozen, the batter is very runny, so a bit of a mess, but hey, that’s baking! They rose one, though once I pulled them out of the oven they dipped a tiny bit, but it suited the Blackforest Cupcakes I was making! Thank you, thank, you, thank you for this recipe!!!!! I don;t like gluten-free cakes because they are heavy and dry, but this one was AMAZING! Thanks again, I will be checking out your other recipes for shore!

      • GG says

        Hi Ashley – thank you for sharing this innovative cake recipe. I made it last night, following the instructions to a tee, but the batter didn’t rise much. The whole coke came up to less than 2 inches in height. Any ideas on what must’ve gone wrong? Also, I couldn’t find custard powder in our area so I substituted it with instant vanilla jello pudding mix – I’m a little nervous about tasting this tonight =\ any thoughts?

          • Ashley says

            Have you tried it yet? I used 8″ pans, so mine would have been a little taller just for that reason. I don’t recall exactly how much it rose, but I think even with 8″ pans they weren’t super tall. I cut each in half but my layers were pretty thin after that. Let me know how it turned out!

          • GG says

            The webpage wont let me reply to your latest comment, so I’m crossing my fingers and hoping this text makes sense 🙂

            Okay, I think I got carried away with your photography and thought you got a tall-ish cake. We’re going to cut the cake on Saturday – I’ll send you a picture and tell you how it turned out 🙂

            Another question since I have your attention – I slathered a layer of the custard-frosting yesterday and chilled the cake and the leftover frosting overnight in a pipe bag.I did the ganache layer today. Now, I want to make those cute flowers you made on top of the chocolate only to find that the leftover custard-frosting in the pipe is a cold solid :-O Do I just thaw it out or give up?

            Thanks for all the responses, Ashley!! 🙂

          • Ashley says

            Did you try cutting the layers in half or just leave them? I would think they’d be pretty difficult to cut if you use 9″ pans. I would guess, with my pans being 8″ that each cake was just over an inch before I halved it. So I would guess that I ended up with 4 1/2″-3/4″ layers. The frosting, ganache and garnish do add quite a bit of height. You can always try leaving the frosting out of the fridge to come to room temperature — I would leave it at least a couple hours before you try piping. Hope that helps!

          • GG says

            Ashley – the cake was divine! Zero leftovers – ppl kept coming back for more 🙂 Hope you can see the pic I uploaded to my fb page. Thanks again for all the help and the amazing recipe.

    • Ashley says

      It’s kind of unreal! I wouldn’t lie about a cake made from lentils. Lol. I’m not usually that adventurous with my baking!

  6. Ruth Unrau says

    This looks really good! I am going to try it next week for a bridal shower. The bride can not have gluten and this sounds like a delicious way to make a gluten free dessert.

    • Ashley says

      Thanks! I was surprised how good it actually tasted! I would just check to see if there is gluten in the custard powder if you are making the frosting as well — that’s one thing I’m not sure about.

Leave A Reply

Have you tried this recipe? Leave a rating