Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cake Walk


As my birthday neared last week, I contemplated making three separate cakes. I really wanted a rich, glutenny chocolate cake for my birthday...with eggs and buttermilk. All items two of my children cannot eat. I plopped down last month's Bon Appetit magazine in front of my husband, open to an enticing picture of such a cake. "This", I said as I stabbed at it with my forefinger, "this is the cake I want, can you make it for me?" He looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. Forgetting the fact that he has trouble warming things up in the microwave, I sighed. I knew the answer. But I hoped. I didn't have the energy to bake three cakes, and I feel one should not have to bake their own birthday cake. But bake one I did. Yes, one.

Since we've gone gluten free I've tried various cake recipes with egg substitutes, or my stand by egg less chocolate cake recipe for Rosie (from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook) with gluten free flour in place of all-purpose. The last experiment, which I was hopeful for, ended in a bundt cake that looked like a flat bicycle tire. The week I made that for Shabbos Lillie asked me if I could make a good cake for next Shabbos. It was at that point that I realized I would have to just make two sets of cake or cupcakes, one gluten free with eggs and one glutenful without eggs. And so it went. Until I received Simply Tempting in the mail (see previous post). The allergy free cookbook contains a section for Passover recipes, hence the cake is made with potato starch (in my estimation the cheapest gluten free "flour"). The recipe for a gluten free, egg free cake fairly jumped off the page at me. I had my doubts though. For the past several Passovers we've made do with mousses, chocolates and ices for dessert as I had not been able to make a satisfying Passover cake for Rosie without eggs. Since they don't have flour, they generally need the eggs for structure, texture and levity. But it was worth a try.

Hubby icing cake

Since Hubby has had kitchen amnesia dating from the time he placed a ring on my finger, I agreed to bake the cake with the girls and he would frost it with them. That left some element of surprise for my birthday cake. After I mixed the batter, I looked into the bowl and it seemed downright liquidy to me. I had never seen such a cake batter before. I realized I may have misread the recipe and added an extra half cup of soy milk, which would explain the liquidy texture. To satisfy my curiosity, I measured out the remaining soy milk in the newly opened container and found that, no, I had measured the correct amount, the recipe just yielded a liquidy batter.

With my doubts I placed the cake pans in the oven and hoped and prayed. The recipe called for baking the cake for 1 hour, which seemed too long to me for 2 - 9 inch round pans. It was, I shortened the baking time by about 15 minutes. The cake came out of the oven with a bit of a cracked top, which may have been due to the long bake time. But it wasn't burnt. The cake cooled, and much hubbub was heard downstairs as I went upstairs to busy myself during the frosting extravaganza. When I apprehensively took a forkful of the cake, I was pleasantly surprised. The texture was like any other gluten free cake, it was chocolaty, and tasted just fine. So baking a cake for my family can be a "cake walk" now that I don't have to make separate cakes to accommodate various family members.

This cake is ideal for Passover (make sure all ingredients are marked Kosher for Passover), and can be made into a sheet cake, layer cake or cupcakes. Baking times will vary (see below). You can frost the cake, top with nuts before baking, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar when cooled, or serve with a garnish of fresh berries. Potato starch should be in the supermarkets in abundance now for Passover...stock up for all year!

Pesach Chocolate Cake
from Simply Tempting, second edition, p. 120 (instructions slightly modified)

3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar

1 1 /2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla sugar (or pure vanilla extract)

1 3/4 cups potato starch

1 cup liquid coffee whitener (or soy or rice or almond milk)
2 teaspoons apricot jam or puree (I used apricot baby food)

1/2 cup oil

1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 9x13 cake pan* with non-stick cooking spray and line bottom of pan with parchment paper to keep cake from sticking. Set aside.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add coffee whitener, apricot puree, and oil (as well as vanilla extract if you are using instead of the dry vanilla sugar). Blend well until smooth. You may use an electric mixer or blend by hand. Add boiling water. Mix well.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to 55 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Serve with whipped cream or frost as desired.

* For 2 -9 inch round pans or 2 - 8 inch square pans bake for 40-45 minutes. For cupcakes bake for 20-25 minutes. Check for doneness before removing from oven.

The following frosting recipe will make your cake taste like a Girl Scout Thin Mint cookie.

Mint Chocolate Frosting

adapted from Cook's Country Magazine, April/May 2010, p. 7

2 1/2 sticks pareve margarine or unsalted butter, cut in pieces, softened
3 Tablespoons non-dairy milk or creamer (i.e., Rich's whip, soy milk, rice milk) or heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon mint extract

1/8 teaspoon salt (increase to 1/4 teaspoon if using unsalted butter)

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

3 cups confectioners' sugar

3 Tablespoons cocoa powder

Using an electric stand or hand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat together butter, cream, extracts and salt until combined, about 1 minute on medium-high speed. Add melted chocolate and continue whipping until combined. Reduce mixer speed to medium-low.

Slowly add confectioners' sugar and cocoa, while mixer is running, and mix until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and beat frosting until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Yield: Frosting for 2 9-inch cake layers, one 9x13 sheet cake, or 24 cupcakes

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