Category Archives: Cakes

The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

petal cake with candles 1I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS CAKE!! Sorry for the shouting, but I can’t contain my elation. As Joy would say, this cake is “Bonkers Awesome.” My search for a blog-worthy gluten free chocolate cake has been going on for quite a while now. My youngest son follows a gluten-free and casein-free diet. For special occasions he goes off the wagon, but he doesn’t feel all that great when he does. This week is his birthday and I wanted him to celebrate without feeling sick.sliced cake with glass of milkThe problem with most gluten-free cakes is that they have a dry and crumbly texture. They often fall apart when you bite into them. The main reason for this is that gluten is a protein that provides structure and strength to baked goods so they don’t crumble and fall apart. Gluten also forms air pockets in the batter which leads to light and fluffy baked goods.

The good folks over at America’s Test Kitchen have figured out how to get around these problems and created a stellar GF chocolate cake. I made the cake twice. The first one was served to my son’s co-workers at his office. No one could believe this was a GF cake. Unfortunately, I could not photograph the inside of that cake, because it would be kind of rude to serve a previously sliced up cake. I made the second cake to have at home with friends and family. To them I served a cake that had been hacked up and photographed, because that’s what you do with family.3 slicesThe cake batter comes together very quickly and does not require a mixer. I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour Mix. In gluten free baking, it is important to use a blend of different gluten free flours, not just one kind. Using both melted bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder provide the perfect chocolate flavour. Baking soda and baking powder give the needed lift and xanthan gum supplies strength and structure. Xanthan gum is a common ingredient in gluten free baking. Without gluten you need something to act as the binding agent for the flour. It keeps things moist and helps to hold the cake together without crumbling.

Vegetable oil, instead of butter is the perfect fat of choice as it keeps the cake incredibly moist. I substituted coconut milk for whole milk, as I wanted my version to be dairy free. Almond or rice milk would work too.

To keep the cake super moist, I brushed the cooled cake layers with a coffee flavoured simple syrup. For the frosting, I decided to make a mocha flavoured Swiss buttercream. I substituted unsalted margarine for butter, because I wanted to keep it dairy free. While the taste and texture of margarine will never beat that of butter, in this application, with the addition of chocolate and coffee to create a mocha frosting, the results were very delicious.Ingredients for Swiss Meringue ButtercreamA Swiss buttercream is a bit more complicated than an American buttercream. In an American buttercream you simply beat powdered sugar and butter, and any flavouring you like. With a Swiss buttercream, egg whites and granulated sugar are whisked and heated to 160°F and then whipped into a meringue. Softened butter (and any flavouring) is then added to the meringue. Swiss meringue is smoother, lighter and less sweet than American buttercream. Yes, it’s more work, but I think it’s worth it. You will need a stand mixer and a candy or instant read thermometer.cooking meringuewhites and sugar whipped to stiff peaksmocha buttercreamI decided to decorate the cake with a petal frosting technique. It looks quite impressive but is actually quite simple to execute. You will need a 1/2 inch round piping tip, some disposable piping bags and a small spoon or off-set spatula. First, pipe a vertical row of dots. Next, spread the buttercream dots with a small spatula or spoon. This creates the look of petals. Repeat, one vertical row at a time, until you go all the way around the cake.petal cake 1I have demonstrated the technique in this video.

sliced cake with milk pitcher

Click here to print recipe for The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake.

slice with milk

 

Hummingbird Cake

One SliceI made this cake to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday. Sadly, he will have to enjoy this cake vicariously, from his perch in heaven, as he died in 1999. Some may find this a bit macabre, but those who knew my dad understand that enjoying life vicariously, through others, was ingrained in his being. He got great pleasure and joy from other people’s good fortune.one slice 2Hummingbird cake is a classic Southern dessert, with Jamaican roots. The glorious trifecta of banana, pineapple and pecans meld into a moist dense cake that, once filled and frosted with a cream cheese frosting, could drive a sane person just a tad crazy. I added some unsweetened coconut to the batter because, well, coconut! All you coconut haters can leave it out. You won’t hurt my feelings. I used coconut flakes, but for a less chunky texture, you could use shredded coconut.

This cake recipe is adapted from Bobbette and Belle’s recipe for Hummingbird cupcakes.  ready to bakeNo one is quite sure how this cake got it’s moniker. Some theorize that because the cake is so sweet, loaded with sugar and fruit, that it would naturally attract hummingbirds. Others posit that the cake is so delicious, it makes people hum with happiness, like a bird.cakes coolingassembling cake 1assembling cake 2To decorate the cake I used a #8 Wilton tip to pipe a string of “pearls” around the top and bottom of the cake. I tied some gold ribbon around wooden skewers to create little flags and staggered the heights in the cake.cake and milk

Click here to print recipe for Hummingbird Cake.

Two slices

Caramel Cake and Wishes for a Very Sweet New Year

with-champagne-1 Restraint can wait. Let’s usher out 2016 with decadence. This is a time-honoured Southern Caramel Cake. If anyone knows how to bake a Southern classic it is the Lee Brothers, Matt and Ted, from Charleston. This recipe hails from their book The Lee Brothers Charleston Kitchen.

Admittedly, this cake is a labour of love. But, if you can read and follow instructions, the Lee Brothers will take you by the hand and guide you, step by step, through this challenging but fun to make cake. The tricky part is the caramel icing. A candy thermometer and an instant read thermometer are critical to success.

The cake layers are rich and buttery, and come together quickly.cake-into-pansIt never ceases to amaze me how simple ingredients like milk, sugar and butter are transformed into a fluffy caramel frosting. spreading-caramelThe gossamer light caramel icing, dissolves almost instantly on your tongue. It has a perfect salty-sweet balance that keeps you coming back for bite after bite.adding-pearlsI found some leftover Callebaut Dark Chocolate Pearls in the cupboard and decided to decorate to top of the cake with them.

Wishing you all a sweet, happy and healthy new year.

Click here for recipe for Caramel-Cake.

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Brown Butter Salted Caramel Crunch Cake

cake-sliceswhole-cake-2Last week was my birthday and I made my own cake. Some people think that having to bake your own birthday cake is quite sad, but I’m not one of them. When you bake your own cake, you get exactly what you want. I gave quite a bit of thought about what to bake. (Way more thought than is probably healthy, I’ll admit).

As an early birthday present to myself I ordered Bobbette and Belle’s new cookbook. I read through it and stuck post it notes on over half  half the pages. The photography is gorgeous and there are so many recipes that inspired me. It is a very well written book with lots of tips and techniques. While some of the recipes are not for rookie bakers, the instructions they give are very thorough.
bb_book_fullsizeAs soon as I saw their Salted Caramel Toffee Cake, I knew I found my intended. Three layers of  classic vanilla cake filled with homemade salted caramel buttercream, toffee pieces and a caramel drizzle. 

This was my starting point, but I made a few changes. here’s how my cake came together.

 

I started with their recipe for a classic vanilla cake but I browned the butter first. cake-ingredientsBrown butter adds a layer of toasty, nutty deliciousness. Making it couldn’t be simpler. Butter is composed of butterfat, milk protein and water. When you brown butter, you are essentially toasting the milk protein. As you heat the butter, and it begins to bubble and sputter away, the water evaporates and the hot butterfat begins to cook the milk solids, turning them from creamy yellow to a splendid speckled brown colour and your whole kitchen smells like toasted hazelnuts. It’s insanely gorgeous!

It is best to brown the butter in a light coloured pot, so that you can easily monitor the browning process. Note that only the milk solids will turn brown. the butterfat stays clear. As soon as you reach the perfect brown colour, pour the butter out of the hot pot to let it cool completely.white potbrowned butterYou will need to chill the brown butter and let it harden before you can cream it with the sugar.creaming-brown-butter-and-sugarDivide the batter evenly into 3 pans and bake.cake-batter-goes-into-pansNext I decided to alternate layers of brown butter vanilla cake with layers of almond meringue. I thought the textural difference of pillowy soft cake layers would be fantastic with chewy crunchy meringue. soft-peaks-for-almond-meringuepiping-meringueA salted caramel buttercream would be the perfect glue to hold all these layers together.buttercream-one-cube-at-a-timebuttercream-2Admittedly, there are a lot of components to prepare for this cake. Don’t try to do it all in one day. Make the components on day one and assemble on day 2. I have included detailed instructions on how to make all the parts, in the recipe below.

Click here to print recipe for Brown-Butter-Salted-Caramel-Crunch-Cake

Light the candles and make a wish!make-a-wish

 

 

 

Apple Custard Cake

sliced-cakeI have a recipe for an apple caramel cake that is outstanding. But some occasions (maybe breakfast if you’re my husband) call for a simpler cake. This cake is perfect for those times. This is a dense cake. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I mean dense in the best possible sense. This is yellow cake at it’s finest. Owing to butter, eggs, whole milk and sour cream it has a compact velvety texture.

My dad would have described this cake as plain. And he would have meant it as a great compliment. He liked subtle flavours, nothing too sweet, ornate or fancy. The inspiration for this cake comes from Sarabeth’s Good Morning Cookbook. Sarabeth knows good breakfast!

The first tweak I made to the original recipe was to toast the sugar. Stella Parks over at Serious Eats convinced me to give it a try. The bottom line is that toasting sugar in the oven tames sugar’s sweetness and the longer you toast it, the more intense the caramel flavour will be. Check out her article if food science is your jam.

I toasted my sugar for about 2 1/2 hours. The toasted sugar is on the right. I tasted both, side by side and did find that the toasted sugar tasted less sweet. You can toast 4 pounds at one time and it will keep forever, just like white sugar. toasted-sugarStart with a 9 inch tube pan (also called an angel food cake pan). Butter and flour the pan very well.brushing-panI made this cake twice last week. The first time I made it, I found it too plain. (Sorry dad!). On the second go-round I added an additional layer of apples and coated the apple slices in cinnamon-sugar.

Half the batter goes into the pan. Smooth it out.smoothing-batterI used the first Honeycrisp apples of the fall season! Pink Lady or Granny Smith would also be great choices.slicing-applesTop batter with cinnamon apples.arranging-applesRepeat with a second layer of batter and cinnamon apples. Then drizzle with custard mixture.drizzling-custardResist the urge to turn the cake out of the pan until it has completely cooled. Your patience will be handsomely rewarded. 3-slicesThe ribbon of cinnamon coated apples that runs through the center of this cake is quite beautiful.one-slice-1

Click here to print recipe for Apple-Custard-Cake.

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