Adventures in Cake

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Cakes give you hell. Cakes will always give you hell. Especially if you’re on a timeline or it’s a cake for a very special occasion. Because, you know, that would be frustrating. Even when you know you’ve followed a recipe correctly, there’s still that finger-crossed wait while the cake is baking, praying it rises properly and won’t sink in the middle.

Cakes can be tricky, but the stress with baking a cake is mostly in your head. Once you are familiar with your ingredients and comfortable with all that science-y stuff, making cakes is really just a… piece of cake.

Gluten-free batters share the same basic processes as traditional batters. One bowl wet, one bowl dry; mix together; pour into pan; pop in the oven. Breaking it down further, ingredients are also similar. The differences really only being the use of gluten-free flours and leavening—and in a specific proportion to one another. Ridding our batter of dairy and eggs also means using the most suitable replacements.

As an example, when I make cakes or muffins or loaves (anything bread-like), I tend to use a combination of sorghum or brown rice flour (sturdy, versatile flours) with a small proportion of starch and an appropriate amount of guar gum (to mimic the absence of gluten).

I also know from experience that gluten-free flours and starches really suck up liquid. So when I’m adapting a traditional recipe I may use up to 0.5 times more liquid than originally called for—but on humid days, I may not have to add as much, or any extra liquid.

Also, pro tip: if you aren’t a fan of the texture of gluten-free cakes and breads, try adding something to the batter like nuts and seeds (if applicable for you), shredded coconut, or dried fruit. I find these make an improvement in the overall texture.

Bottom line is you must experiment. Cakes will be picky and cakes will surprise you (hopefully a good surprise). Happy cake baking!
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Fat-Free Chocolate Snack Cake

vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free, fat-free (easily adapted to be nut-free and/or refined sugar-free)

1/2 cup cacao powder
250mL boiling water
1 tsp instant coffee
1-1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup starch
1/2 tsp guar gum
1 cup organic sugar
1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup applesauce
1 egg replacement (leavening)
2 tsp gluten-free pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square dish with aluminum foil (leave an overhang) and spray the foil. Set Aside.

Boil water in a kettle; measure out 1 cup and mix with cacao powder and instant coffee. Leave to cool a bit.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, starch, gum, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the middle, pour in applesauce, egg replacement, vanilla, and cacao mixture. Mix until smooth. Stir in walnuts, if using.

Scrape batter into prepared dish and smooth out the top. Gently tap dish on a flat surface to rid of any bubbles and settle the batter.

Bake cake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in dish for at least 2 hours before removing and slicing. I like to dust the top of the cake with organic confectioners’ sugar just before serving. It is also sturdy enough to ice with your desired flavour of icing or glaze with a chocolate ganache (shout out to all the chocoholics out there). However, this cake is also great served without any accompaniment—maybe just some tea!

Makes 9 servings

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