As you may have noticed, my interest in gluten free baking and cooking has skyrocketed in the past month or so. This is partially due to the amount of requests I’ve had lately for gluten free fare, but more likely, it is just because I enjoy the challenge.
Recently, I was asked to bake a cake for a birthday girl who was allergic to dairy, eggs, wheat gluten, and soy products. These first two concerns, I obviously had covered my default, being vegan and all. However, gluten and soy products are something I often take for granted in my baking and cooking. However, I accepted this challenge, and we decided that I would create a vanilla jam filled cake with “buttercream” and fresh raspberries on top:
Now, I am not going to divulge the recipe just yet, but in my gluten free baking adventures I have learned a few lessons I would like to share about gluten/allergen free baking:
-Flax seeds are awesome. I have really been depending on the paste made with ground flax seeds and warm water to bind everything together and allow for a moist cake. I have to admit that I enjoy this combination more in chocolate cakes; texturally it just works for my palate better, and the nutty taste is often overshadowed by the cocoa too much to notice it. However, I tried this in the white cake I made, and they worked really well. I am sure a regular “egg replacer” would work okay, but in my experience I have found that store bought egg replacers or those made with various starches turn out a little dryer and don’t always have the binding results I enjoy.
-Mixing “flours” are your friend. I don’t advise trying to bake gluten free cakes or cookies with just one kind of flour. I would use at least two or three. So far, my favourite combination has been rice, potato, and tapioca flours/starch combined. Depending on what I am baking, I adjust these ratios accordingly. I have also used coconut flour and almond meal in the past where appropriate, though since I know some people who are allergic to nuts I try to stay away from almond flours. I don’t recommend chickpea flour unless I am coating french toast, or tofu usually. I personally don’t really like bean flours.
Pay mind to texture and density, and select your “flours” accordingly.
-Check ingredients on EVERYTHING. This is obvious for most vegans already. However, I have seen soy lecithin appear in coconut and almond milks before, so I had to be pretty careful with my last cake. I ended up going for an almond milk that contained sunflower lecithin instead for my last cake, which was fantastic.
-Splurge for the xanthum or guar gum in gluten free baking. I know that these ingredients can seem costly when you’re eyeing a little $8 satchel of xanthum gum at the organic market, but try to swallow your pride and just buy it. It’ll last you forever, I keep my xanthum gum in the fridge. These ingredients can be used interchangeably in most GF recipes and act as excellent binders and emulsifiers. If you are making a gluten free, egg free recipe, you won’t want to skimp on this ingredient, even if you have an “egg replacer” already…unless you like crumbly cookies! That said, a little bit of this stuff goes a long way- using too much will cause your cakes and such to be a little sticky or gummy. So do your research, use your judgement, and you’ll be just fine!
*Note: xanthum gum is apparently derived from corn, in case you have any allergies. In that case you may want to choose another option!
-For soy free frostings, I prefer not to use gross shortenings. For the cake above I used a combination of coconut oil (very rich, excellent especially for chocolate chip cookies and stuff in place of “butter” or margarine) and some soy free Earth Balance!
I hope Joanna doesn’t mind me posting the picture she put on instagram to show off the yummy cake! Since I wasn’t able to cut it open at home, this is an idea of how the vanilla raspberry cake looked like on the inside:
Speaking of insides of cakes, here is a closer look at the gluten free, soy free vegan cake bites I brought to the potluck the weekend before last. While I didn’t use the recipe, these were definitely inspired by Oh She Glow’s cake balls that I saw on pinterest. Mostly they’re brilliant because I felt too lazy to make those trendy cake pops, though in retrospect, having a stick to dip them with in chocolate would have made it twelve times less messy! Next time! Also, keep in mind a lot of chocolate chips have soy in them, so be on the lookout for soy free brands if you have allergies. 🙂