Chocolate and Cranberry Coconut Panna Cotta Cake- Grain, Dairy and Sugar Free

In many ways this grain, dairy and sugar free cake is an experimental one. I wanted to try how chocolate sponge, thick cherry spread, coconut cranberry panna cotta and cranberry thick sauce, would work together in a cake to form sound and stable structure, with right mix of textures and balance of flavours. As a base for the cake I intended to have moist sponge layer with intense chocolate taste, where the texture is something between a mud cake and quality chocolate truffles. Dairy free coconut panna cotta was made with cranberries to subdue overpowering coconut flavour and to add some sharpness to this layer of the cake. These two layers were separated with cherry spread, thickened with chia seeds.


I have tried different options for spread, panna cotta and cranberry sauce layers, and finally found the version that worked the best. Among these options I have tried to make panna cotta with agar-agar instead of gelatine, and found it was more difficult in preparation. It did not look bad, but the taste was not as vibrant as with gelatine, and its texture left some unpleasant residue even in combination with sharp cranberry sauce.


The recipe for panna cotta layer is very similar to the recipe already published. However, for the cake I have increased gelatine quantity in the recipe and used only thick part of the coconut cream from the can. It allowed to achieve more airy panna cotta texture, compared to the previous recipe, where the contents of the whole can was used. The differences in textures can be seen on the photos below.



Overall I am happy with the result, both with all the textures coming together in this soft cake, as well as combination of flavours, working to create delicious and vibrant cake.

Update 20.03.2016

I want to share the image of absolutely amazing handmade Thank You card I have received for the recipe of this cake and the cake itself. It took my breath away. I think it deserves to be seen by many.


Instead of providing only new recipes in this post and including the links to already published recipes, I decided to have all the information about this cake in one place.


chocolate sponge layer

  • 100g pure apple puree, I used SPC
  • 1 large egg (50-54g without shell)
  • 50g pure glucose powder
  • 60g almond meal
  • 20g organic pure cocoa powder
  • 3g baking soda
  • coconut oil to grease the pan

If thick homemade apple puree is used, almond meal quantity can be reduced to 50g. Glucose powder was used to replace honey to provide sweetener with a chemical structure that did not need digestion. Sugar – sucrose – both natural and refined is a dimer, which is digested to glucose and fructose. Working with dry powdered sweetener allowed to avoid all the difficulties caused by honey in baking.


thick spread layer

  • 500g frozen cherries
  • 100g honey
  • 15ml lemon juice, 1 table spoon
  • 30g white chia seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 20ml of water can be added (optional)

cranberry coconut panna cotta layer

  • 270g of thick part of coconut cream from 400g coconut cream can, I used Ayam Organic light coconut cream
  • 220g honey
  • 150g frozen cranberries
  • 120ml water
  • 4 gold grade gelatin leaves

In the process of panna cotta preparation, cranberry and honey sauce is split into 2 portions – 250ml to make panna cotta, and remaining 150ml (approximately) to make cranberry sauce for the top layer of the cake.

cranberry sauce layer


  • 1/2 of the leaf gold grade gelatine


chocolate sponge layer

  • put all dry ingredients – almond meal, cocoa powder and baking soda through the sieve
  • mix them with a whisk, set aside
  • grease baking paper with coconut oil
  • assemble 21-22cm springform baking pan with greased baking paper on the bottom
  • grease the sides of the pan with coconut oil
  • whisk together an egg, apple puree and glucose powder for 5 min on high until pale and at least double in volume, all glucose powder should be dissolved by that time
  • add dry ingredients to wet ingredients
  • mix them with a whisk until fully combined
  • transfer the batter into a baking pan
  • spread the batter in the pan
  • tap the pan on a benchtop to make the batter level
  • bake in preheated to 165C fan forced oven for 25-30min, test the sponge with a tooth pick, it has to be dry
  • let chocolate sponge to rest on a wire rack
  • thick berries spread with chia seeds can be applied on completely cool or still slightly warm sponge












thick spread layer

  • place frozen cherries in a sauce pan, they can be given time to defrost or cooked from being frozen
  • add honey and lemon juice (water optional)
  • cook on a very low heat until boiling point and 15 min after that, or until cherries are cooked and soft
  • transfer cherries with the liquid to a heatproof glass and blend using a stick blender
  • return the mix into a sauce pan, add chia seeds and cinnamon stick
  • cook on very low heat for 5 min constantly stirring
  • take thickened spread from the heat and let it cool, it has to be very thick, similar to the consistency of a thick porridge
  • I used frozen cherries, they are sweet, but do not have much flavour when cooked, to use cherries in spreads, I always use lemon juice and cinnamon to add flavour
  • thick spread can be prepared several days in advance, this portion is enough for 2 cakes 22 cm in diameter

cranberry coconut panna cotta layer

  • refrigerate coconut cream can upside down for several hours, best overnight
  • return the can to normal position, open it and scoop 270g of thick coconut cream from the top, keep the rest for other cooking needs
  • place thick coconut portion in the fridge
  • place frozen cranberries in a small sauce pan
  • add water
  • cook to the boiling point and 4-5 min after that for cranberries to become soft
  • mash cranberries with miniature masher or the spoon
  • transfer the mixture to a heatproof glass
  • blend cranberries with a stick blender well
  • return thickened solution to a sauce pan through the sieve
  • leave only hard particles on the sieve
  • add honey
  • soak 4 gelatin leaves in cold water, put aside
  • return sauce pan to low heat
  • cook on low heat for 3-4 min, stirring
  • divide the liquid into two portions – 250ml and the rest
  • return 250ml to the sauce pan
  • squeeze water from gelatine leaves and add them to cranberry sauce in the sauce pan
  • stir until gelatine is dissolved
  • take coconut cream from the fridge and whisk it for 2-3 min
  • add lukewarm cranberry sauce with gelatine to coconut cream, if necessary cool cranberry sauce first, placing the sauce pan into a bigger bowl with cold water, stir the sauce constantly when cooling it down
  • gently combine coconut cream with cranberry sauce using a whisk, the mixture will be runny and I usually put it through the sieve to be sure that bigger particles are eliminated
  • panna cotta is ready to be poured




cranberry sauce layer

  • by the time the cake is ready for the top layer of cranberry sauce, the sauce itself has been already set because of the high pectin concentration in cranberry sauce
  • soak 1/2 a leaf of gelatine in cold water
  • reheat cranberry sauce, stir until it becomes liquid again
  • squeeze gelatine and add it to the sauce
  • make sure that gelatine is dissolved
  • wait until the sauce is barely warm, but still a thick liquid
  • pour the sauce on top of the cake
  • spread it by turning the cake from side to side

making the cake

  • prepare and have thick berry spread ready
  • prepare and bake chocolate sponge layer
  • turn chocolate sponge over into the middle of a cake plate or cake serving surface
  • apply thick berry and chia spread evenly close to the edges, leave 1-2 mm uncovered
  • use acetate cake roll around the sponge
  • use sticky tape to fix the end of acetate roll in position
  • using small spatula or palette knife fill the gaps between the jam and acetate roll, to avoid liquid panna cotta leaks to the bottom of the cake
  • the cake is ready for panna cotta layer
  • prepare panna cotta, transfer it into container with a spout
  • carefully and slowly pour panna cotta into acetate ring
  • refrigerate the cake for several hours, until panna cotta set and ready for the top layer of cranberry sauce, do not cover the cake when refrigerated if you want to preserve level panna cotta layer if leaving the cake without the sauce on top, when the cake is covered you will have some drops of liquid coming from condensation on the top of the cake
  • when panna cotta is set the cake is ready for the top layer to be applied
  • pour barely warm cranberry sauce into acetate ring
  • refrigerate the cake again for the sauce to set
  • alternatively, the second portion of the thick spread can be used as the top layer for the cake

Note: colours variation in the photos of the cake below comes from the difference in light during two separate days of photography.







The same cake, made with the whole contents of 270ml coconut cream can, had slightly different texture of the panna cotta layer. Another visible difference in these cakes was the thickness of the chocolate sponge layer. The use of baking soda resulted in a better raise of the batter and produced thicker sponge, compared to the use of gluten free baking powder, which I used in the first bake.



Thick berries spread on the top of the cake can be illustrated by gluten free chocolate mousse cake, which was not dairy and sugar free. I present it here only as an example of overall appearance of the cake.


It might appear that this cake preparation is too complicated, but if you ever made panna cotta, prepared jams with chia seeds and baked sponge cakes, it is just the matter of having all individual parts of the cake sorted out, and taking the time to assemble the cake in steps. To simplify the task, this cake can be made in 2 layers, with chocolate sponge and panna cotta on top of it, and served with any tart sauce.



7 thoughts on “Chocolate and Cranberry Coconut Panna Cotta Cake- Grain, Dairy and Sugar Free

    1. Thank you, I am trying now to master cakes with acetate cake wraps. I have a long way to go to achieve sharp and perfect separation lines and edges. However I am satisfied with this particular cake in terms of texture and flavour combination working together.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hello Irena
    I am getting ready to try your chocolate sponge layer and I know that when I make it « for real » I won’t have the fan-forced baking option. I have read that I should increase the temperature by 15%. What do you think?
    Your cake looks incredible. And then I saw the pannacotta… Thank you for all these amazing recipes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Joelle,
      I would go for 170C preheated. Our friend, I create recipes for, does not have fan option in her oven, so she bakes without it and as far as I saw the results, at least for the bread, they are better baked loaves. No fan baking is more gentle, but sometimes takes more time. For this sponge, because it is not thick, it is not a problem. It might be possible to bake this sponge thicker in case of layered cakes, but I still prefer to bake each layer individually as in Black forest cake.
      Tricky moment in this cake is the medium layer that separates sponge from panna cotta. It has to be thick, not runny. If jam or spread is not thick enough the top and the bottom will be in floating connection, they might move against one another. In this case you can simply make 2 layers, the sponge and panna cotta, without jam/spread. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

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