Gluten-free cake baking tips. By Wanda Ra Freeman
In these modern times, more and more people are becoming coeliac or intolerant to gluten. If you yourself are not gluten-free, then chances are you have a friend or relative who is. If you enjoy baking and have attempted your favourite recipes by simply swapping wheat flour for a gluten-free blend, then you may have ended up with interesting sandy rocks instead of delicious cakes.
Thankfully I have been practising gluten-free baking since I was a girl and I have some tips to help you adapt your recipes to gluten-free delights.
What goes wrong?
1. Gluten-free flour blends can produce very dry cakes.
To overcome this problem, I usually swap out ¼ of the flour for ground almonds which are oily and retain moisture.
Another thing that helps with moisture is to add 1 tbsp of yoghurt or applesauce to the recipe. Most white gluten-free flour blends absorb a lot of moisture, so the applesauce or yoghurt won’t make the batter too wet. Another reason this helps is that both applesauce and yoghurt are acidic and will react with baking soda and baking powder to help the cakes rise.
As well as ground almonds there are some gluten-free flours that retain moisture such as gram flour (chickpea flour), buckwheat flour, and oat flour. All these flours are wholegrain and will help keep your cakes moist and increase the baked goods’ nutritional value. When adding one of these flour options, I recommend swapping out 1/3 of the gluten-free flour blend for one of the flours listed above.
2. Gluten-free cakes can come out flat and hard.
Gluten-free flour blends don’t have the same elasticity as flour containing gluten so often the cakes don’t rise as much or will sink after rising.
To combat the flat cake problem, I add ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda to the recipe even when using a self-raising gluten-free flour blend.
Another tip to help achieve a real fluffy cake is to separate your eggs. First, add the egg yolks with your wet ingredients. Then beat the egg whites separately into stiff peaks and fold them into the cake batter at the end.
Whilst these tips are helpful, perfecting gluten-free cakes will take some practice and experimentation. Have fun with it!
Below are two great gluten-free recipes. One that I adapted using the tips above and a gluten-free pastry recipe that I developed through trial and error.
Mary Berry’s chocolate cake … turned gluten-free.
225g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing.
225g coconut sugar plus extra for sprinkling
4 free-range eggs
110g gluten-free self-rising flour
55g gluten-free oat flour
55g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
50g cacao powder
For the filling
4 tbsp apricot jam
300ml whipping cream, softly whipped
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Lightly butter two loose-bottomed 20cm/8in sandwich tins and line the bases with baking paper.
- Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, and cocoa in a large bowl and beat for 2 minutes, or until just blended. (An electric mixer is best for this, but you can also beat by hand using a wooden spoon.)
- Divide the mixture evenly between the tins. Level the surface using a spatula or the back of a spoon.
- Bake for 25–30 minutes. The tops of the cakes should spring back when pressed lightly with a finger. Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 5 minutes. Run a small palette knife around the edge of the tins, then carefully turn the cakes out onto a wire rack. Peel off the paper and leave it to cool completely.
- Choose the cake with the best top, then put the other cake top-down onto a serving plate. Spread with the jam and whipped cream, put the other cake on top (top upwards) and sprinkle with caster sugar to serve.
Wanda’s gluten-free shortcrust pastry
200g plain gluten free flour
50g ground almonds
110 grams diced butter
I egg yolk
About 1 tbs of cold water
Mix the butter, flour, almonds, and egg yolk in a food processor until a breadcrumb texture forms, fold in cold water until you have a soft dough.