Cakes were one of the first things that I learned to bake by myself when I was a child, so it was really emotionally important to me to learn how to bake a really good gluten free cake.
I lucked out early on and converted a Red Velvet Cake that turned out marvelously. Then this past summer I really dug into the science of cake-baking and created my own gluten free yellow and chocolate cakes from scratch.
I’ll share the chocolate cake with you in the next email!!!
But now….5 thoughts about gluten free cake.
Gluten Free Cake is Amazing!
First off, don’t let anyone convince you that delicious gluten free cakes are impossible. They’re not.
The boxed gluten free cake mixes that I’ve tried have been rather mediocre. But it’s all in the recipe. If you have a good gluten free cake recipe, then you can aboslutely make wonderful gluten free cakes that no on will realize are gluten free.
GF Cake Mixes: Egh…
Cake mixes are fine when you need a cake fast, but they are not my first choice. Why? Well, because the cake mixes that I’ve tried have generally turned out to be dry, overleavened and expensive.
Obviously, dry and expensive are not good, but you may be wondering why I take issue with an overleavened cake mix.
Have you ever tried to make a layered cake with a cake that has a huge hump in the middle. It’s very nearly impossible. The hump is caused by having too much leavening (baking powder and/or baking soda) in the cake. And if you’re starting with a cake mix you can’t take out the leavening that’s already in there, so there is no good fix.
Also, be sure to read the back of all gluten free cake mixes. Why? Most of the mixes only make one layer! Outrageous? Yes!
So what is cake, essentially?
The four main ingredients are flour, sugar, eggs, and fat. You’ll also generally need an additional liquid, such as water or milk. The four ingredients work together and against each other to create the perfect cake.
The flour and eggs create the structure of the cake. The sugar and oil tenderize, moisten and sweeten it. If any of the ingredients is included in the wrong proportion, then you have cake failure.
The ratio for cakes is not set-in stone. Instead, there are guidelines:
(1) The weight of the sugar should equal or exceed the weight of the flour.
(2) The weight of the eggs should be equal to or greater than the weight of the fat.
(3) And finally, the weight of the liquids, including eggs but not liquid fats, should be equal to or greater than the weight of the sugar.
I was really happy to find that these ratio worked pretty well with the gluten free flours that I like to use. You still need to add some sort of binding agent, like xanthan gum or guar gum, but otherwise it works pretty well.
You may not be ready to go out and develop your own cake recipe from scratch, but the guidelines can be useful for checking recipes to see if they are likely to work. That’s always handy before you use $10 of flour, right?
What about ingredient substitutions?
Eggs are somewhat difficult because the proteins in the eggs create part of the structure of the cake as they set. You can always use egg replacement powder (if that doesn’t contain problematic ingredients).
Also, don’t forget to check some vegan recipe sites. Vegans don’t use eggs either, and they still make cake, so some of their tricks might work well for you.
Sugar is also difficult. You could use a liquid sugar like agave nectar if you use a special method to mix up the cake batter, but you may need to make adjustments to other ingredients (like reducing the liquid).
Fat is an easier substitution because you have a lot of choice (butter, oil, shortening, coconut oil, etc) since the melting point of the fat is not essential to the success of the final product like it is in cookies.
Flour substitutions can change the amount of liquid needed in the recipe but as long as you are cognizant of that and use a few different flours you should still get good results..
Make Your Own Cake-in-a-Box
Some of my favorite cookbooks are the sort that were put together by a school or gardening club to sell as a fund raiser. The only downside to those cookbooks when you’re gluten free, is that most of the fun cake recipes start with: 1 box of white cake mix.
That’s not very helpful to us gluten-free bakers unless we know what goes into a box of cake mix. Luckily we do!
First off, you need the recipe for your favorite white, yellow, or chocolate gluten free cake mix. You’ll need to use a recipe that makes a two layer cake, since the non-GF cake mixes make two layers.
Then measure out all of the dry ingredients: gluten free flour, sugar, salt, leavening agent and binding agent. Put these ingredients into a sealable plastic bag, and note the amount of the ingredients (by weight) on the bag using a Sharpie marker, just in case the recipe tells you to prepare the cake according to the package directions. Now you’ve got 1 box of cake mix all ready to go into your next cake.