Gluten free cakes can seem like a terrifying thing. But they shouldn’t be! There are so many products in the supermarket that can help you out. Or better yet, be like Jamie and ‘cook clever’, by which I mean just think about what you’re wanting to make and make adjustments without having to buy xantham gum – whatever that is!
There are a few ways of doing this. The main thing is just thinking about what you’re baking, in this case a cake. Right, so cakes rely on a few things:
- Body – generally from flour
- Raising agent – also generally from flour (self-raising), baking powder, or eggs
- Flavour/Sweetness – from sugar or syrups, fruit etc.
So assuming you want a cake that has body and flavour and isn’t as flat as a pancake, you’ll need to find ways of fulfilling those criteria without gluten. So, let’s start with the easiest one: flavour and sweetness.
Flavour & Sweetness:
Flavour and sweetness generally don’t involve any gluten. It’s typically sugar, cocoa or honey, fruit, lemon juice etc., so you’re free to use them basically as you would in a gluten cake. (Although keep an eye out as some ingredients that seem like they may be gluten free may not actually be…so check labels!)
Secondly, raising agent. Now, most baking powder is gluten free! So you can generally use that as you normally would, however do check the label, because sometimes they are NOT gluten free. Another option is eggs! Beaten egg whites can be used as a raising agent so long as you’re very gentle when you incorporate them into the rest of the cake mixture. Some examples of cakes that rely on egg whites as a raising agent:
And finally, the body. This is really the only part you’ll need to worry about, but it can be tricky. So, there are two options: buy or make your own gluten free flour, or use something less tricky, but more expensive like almond meal.
Aldi gluten-free flour is surprisingly good.
However, I find that it benefits from some additional almond meal or arrowroot flour as they soften the texture of the gluten-free flour and make it less gritty. (Arrowroot can be found easily in supermarkets in the baking isle).
If you’re wondering, gluten free flour is often gritty because it is generally made from a combination of other flours that aren’t as lux as wheat flour. They generally use a combination rice flour, corn flour, potato flour or funny sounding things like sorghum flour. You can definitely make your own gluten free flour, but buying some is fairly cheap and easy, so I would also recommend that.
Now, you can also get creative. Well, in a very limited sense…
So today, I made, what I think is the most amazing gluten-free cake I’ve ever tasted! It was a simple butter cake with some strawberry couli stirred through. But instead of self-raising flour, I used 200g Aldi gluten-free plain flour, 100g almond meal, 20g arrowroot flour and 10g baking powder (gluten free, of course). Combinations like this work really well because whilst some gluten free flour mixes are quite good, they are never exactly as good as wheat flour.
So if you can’t join them, beat them. And you do this by being sassy. How do you be sassy when it comes to gluten free flour? Good question. You be creative, and hedge your bets (with great confidence!) and hope that it works out! That’s what I did, and it was amazing – and gluten free cakes are often the moistest cakes!! So, some good things to know when mixing gluten free flour, or adding to gluten free flour:
- works as a thickener, but adds softness to dry gluten free flour mixes
- can be used on it’s own as a substitute for flour
- makes cakes very moist and delicious!
- works well as an addition to gluten free flour, because like arrowroot it softens the gluten free flour and hides the grittiness that you can sometimes get
- cloudy flavour – it tastes floury in a really unappealing way if used by itself
- use in a flour mix, not by itself!
Oat flour/ground oats:
- nice, neutral flavour
- I wouldn’t use it by itself, but it’s a good filler in a gluten free flour mix because the texture is good and isn’t bland or gritty
- Although, apparently not all oats are gluten free – so check labels and ask friends what they can tolerate.
- Ps. you can make this yourself by grinding oats or quick oats very finely, so it looks like flour.
- good in a gluten free flour mix, but don’t use it as a substitute for flour
- chalky consistency, so use sparingly
- gives moistness though
- just like potato flour – use in a mix, not by itself
- it can be chalky and gritty
- I’ve never used it, mostly because I haven’t been able to find it anywhere, but it seems like the ingredient that can bring a host of mediocre flour substitutes together into a dreamlike flour mix – although I think almond meal and arrowroot do this very well too!
The bottom line:
- gluten free baking isn’t that complicated
- plan ahead and make sure you check the ingredients!
- use bought gluten free flour or make your own
- consider adding some almond meal or arrowroot to gluten free flour to soften it
- experiment, and have fun! Also, taste the batter before you cook it – it’s a pretty good indication of what the final product will taste like!!