Sunday, 24 March 2013

Gluten-free cakes, bakes and mistakes!

When I was growing up one of the most memorable things about birthdays were the amazing cakes my mum used to make. We would spend ages deciding what kind of creation we wanted, looking through a fantastic cookery book that Mum had that had pictures of every type of cake that a child could imagine- castles, cars,  bunnies, .

Mum is a fantastic cook and passed on her love of baking. I really enjoy seeing butter, eggs and flour coming together into a tasty triumph (or on occasion a fantastic flop). That said, I'm not a creative baker. I need a recipe to follow and can make a small change or two with out too much risk (substitute orange essence for lemon!) but I am not good at guestimating quantities or making up recipes as I go along, so learning to bake with new ingredients was a challenge.

Learning from the experts:
Very early on, I went looking for a good gluten-free cook book.  There are plenty on the market and also lots of recipes available on line. I picked up Phil Vickery's 'Seriously Good! Gluten-Free Cooking'- which is a nice recipe book, but some of the meals are a bit too sophisticated for a toddler and wouldn't be the quick and easy type of food I would be preparing after a busy day at work. I didn't like the fact that you have to create your own flour mix using rice flour, corn meal and corn flour for most of the baking recipes. I've found that baked goods using this mix are a bit coarse in texture.  I also got 'The Gluten-free Cook Book for Kids' by Adriana Rabinovich. This is a nice book, with lots of tips for coping with a child on a gluten-free diet. She also has a website with recipes and tips: . The only downside of the cookbook is the lack of pictures- I quite like to see what I'm aiming for!
Additionally Coeliac UK and most companies who provide gluten-free products have recipes on their websites to help you make the most of their ingredients.

How to adapt:
I've found the best gluten-free baking  recipes are ones that don't deliberately set out to be gluten free, they just don't contain flour. However, most 'normal' recipes can be adapted fairly easily. Most of the big supermarkets sell gluten-free flour- often both plain and self-raising. Dr Oetker do a gluten-free baking powder which can be used of you only have plain GF flour and need self-raising. For some reason I find that GF flour and flour mixes are a little on the dry side, so I usually add a little bit more liquid to recipes where I've substituted GF flour for normal flour. I was introduced to the other saving grace of gluten free baking by a friend from work- xanthan gum- honestly, it's the future! Just half a teaspoon into any recipe stops it becoming crumbly and falling apart, as many recipes seem to do.  (Just don't spill it- it's a pain to clean up!)

Birthday bakes and mistakes:
For Alexandra's 2nd birthday, her first after being diagnosed, I decided to go easy and do GF cupcakes. Dove's Farm have a simple recipe here: . I was really proud of myself and was having fun doing different toppings and decorations  when I thought to have a look at the sprinkles and sugar strands I was liberally shaking all over my GF goodies. Yep- 'may contain wheat and gluten'. There were about 4 buns that I hadn't finished which could be rescued, but the rest were all off limits to the birthday girl!
I have since been very careful with sprinkles and cake toppings, and I have to say gluten-free ones aren't that easy to find. The nicest sprinkles I've had have come from the US via my Mum and sister.

Alex's 3rd birthday cake required a bit more experimentation. Remembering how much I loved choosing a cake and not wanting to deny Alex the opportunity I asked her what type of cake she would like. 'A pink princess castle' please was the response. The web provided lots of examples of castle cakes- most with ice-cream wafer cones for the turrets (not an option), shop- bought swiss-rolls (not an option), and sugar-paste (which I am rubbish at).
Eventually after a few disasters I managed to adapt a recipe for a swiss-roll and cobbled together a cake which ticked all the boxes.

Gluten -free Lemon Swiss-roll Recipe

4 large eggs
125g caster sugar plus a little extra for rolling
125g Gluten-free plain flour
1 teaspoon Xanthan gum
1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
1 small lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons of lemon curd- home made or shop bought willdo
Butter for greasing

·        Heat oven to 220 degrees C
·      Lightly grease swiss roll tin and line bottomwith baking parchment, lightly grease parchment
·      Put eggs in bowl with caster sugar and whiskwith electric mexer until pale yellow and thick enough to leave slight trailwith whisk
·     Seive flour, xantham gum and baking powder intomixture and fold in gently
·       Grate the zest of the lemon and add, along withjuice of lemon and fold through
·      Pour into tin and gently spread to ensuremixture reaches the edges
·     Put in preheated oven for 10 minutes, untilsponge is golden and starting to come away from edge of tin
·      Prepare large piece of baking parchment bysprinking with caster sugar
·      Turn warm sponge out onto parchment, removelining parchment and trim the edges off sponge
·   Score slightly about an inch from one short end,then roll up the sponge with the sugar covered baking parchment and leave tostand (seam side down) for about 3 minutes
·     Meanwhile, heat lemon curd for a few seconds inthe microwave
·     Unroll the sponge and spread with lemon curd
·      Roll up again and wrap tightly in bakingparchment and leave to cool

     You can use jam instead of lemon curd or make it chocolate by adding cocoa powder if preferred.

     Alexandra will be 4 soon and has requested a chocolate 'Hello Kitty' cake. It will also be the first party she has had that hasn't just been family and I intend to have a completely gluten-free event. Any ideas or suggestions welcome!



  1. Glad she can't read-serious pressure for next week if she could!!

  2. Already serious pressure Brian- she's been quite specific in her wish list!!