In our house, we have adopted a largely wheat free diet. This has been particularly beneficial to my boyfriend and while he often benefits from the odd bit of cake trimming, which is not always gluten free, I thought I’d make him his very own wheat free Valentine’s cake.
I went on a gluten free baking course last year to aid in my quest to produce some gluten free treats where people really can’t tell the difference (as much as they might like to try).
NB Gluten is the allergen found in wheat. It is possible to have gluten without wheat e.g. oats, but not the other way round as far as I am aware!!
Gluten free cakes are often perceived as being dry, so you have to do everything you can to make them moist.
Ideas I like are replacing some flour with ground almonds and using fruit and vegetables to provide natural moisture when baked. I love the results so much that a lot of my non-gluten free cakes actually contain fruit purees and ground almonds now too. I need to work on my vegetable cakes though…
I tend to stick with the gluten free flour blends that are readily available now in the supermarkets and haven’t ventured too much into mixing my own.
Something I found helpful was learning a bit about xanthan gum. This is found in most gluten free flour blends and can be added if mixing your own. This is what replaces the glutinous quality you find in regular flour. As such, you really only need a tiny amount, if you're adding more, and you mustn’t over-beat your batter! The more you beat, the more glutinous the gum becomes. You’ll end up with a batter that looks more like pizza dough and cupcakes like ping pong balls.
This was a revelation to me on the course, as I was wondering why I was having so many disasters...
So, this is a vanilla raspberry sponge with cream cheese frosting, white chocolate shards and fresh raspberries. You don’t have to cut it into a heart shape, but I couldn’t resist.
Vanilla cake with raspberries
200g butter or flora
200g caster sugar
125g gluten free self raising flour (I use Dove’s Farm)
½ tsp xanthan gum
70g ground almonds
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g raspberries (defrosted if using frozen)
*Make this non-gluten free by replacing the flour with ordinary self raising flour and removing the xanthan gum.
Preheat the oven to 170°c/190°/gas mark 5. Prepare 2 x 6” cake tins by buttering and lining the bottom and sides. Do the sides with a single piece of grease proof paper and wrap it around the inside of the tin, which will stick to the butter.
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. I crack each one into a mug to check for shell before adding to the mixture. Add the vanilla extract last.
Mix flour, ground almonds and xanthan gum together in a bowl and fold into the mixture with a spatula. A figure of eight action is good so around the sides of the bowl and through middle. Make sure you get rid of all the lumps of flour and then stop mixing.
Divide the mixture into the two cake tins and push the raspberries into the batter using your finger, distributing them evenly between each tin.
Bake both for 25 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool a little, then turn onto a wire rack until completely cool.
Cream cheese frosting
150g butter at room temperature
240g cream cheese (full fat is best) at room temperature
4 tbps icing sugar (or to taste)
2 tsps vanilla extract
Beat the butter until it’s really soft and creamy. Then add the icing sugar a tablespoon at a time to make sure it’s well incorporated. Turn up the speed and give it a good beat until it starts to look a bit like buttercream. Add the vanilla extract.
Try it at this stage to see if it’s sweet enough for you. I could eat a bowl of cream cheese frosting that’s not too sweet. If it’s sickly, I find it leaves a claggy taste in your mouth but everyone’s palette is different!
Give the sides a good scrape down with a spatula.
Now add all of the cream cheese and beat until it just comes together.
If you overbeat it, it tends to turn grainy. If this happens, pop it in the microwave for 10 secs and re-mix. You want it to be lovely and smooth.
White chocolate shards
100g white chocolate (chips or chopped)
Put 70g of the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and microwave it on a low heat for about a minute. Check it and give it another minute until it starts to melt. Don’t let it burn!
It should look like this when it's ready to stir...
Add the remaining 30g of chocolate and mix with a metal spoon until it melts into the rest of the chocolate. This will bring down the temperature of the chocolate and make it easier to work with later.
Cut a piece of greaseproof paper the same size as a baking sheet and lay it on top. Pour the melted chocolate over the grease proof paper and spread with an offset spatula until it measures approx. 20cm x 15cm.
Pop the baking sheet in the fridge for about 20 mins.
Remove and cut into shards with a sharp knife. Try and make sure the widest part of each shard is a straight line that can be place parallel to the cake board when you stick them on the cake.
When you’ve cut the entire piece of chocolate into shards, pop it back in the fridge for another 10 mins to make it easier to handle later.
The assembly job
Put both sponges on top of each other. Cut a piece of greaseproof paper and fold it in half. Lay the crease in the middle of the cake and sketch half a heart shape the same width as the edges of the cake.
Cut the shape out and unfold. Place on the cake and trim around and down the cake.
Voila! You now have a heart shaped cake.
Place a cake board on a cake turntable. If you don’t have one, put some baking parchment underneath the board large enough to grab so you can swivel the board when you need to.
Put a small blob of cream cheese frosting on the cake board and put one of the heart shaped sponges in the centre of the board.
Put a couple of spoons of frosting on top and spread right up to the edges with an offset spatula.
Now put the other heart shaped sponge on top and cover the whole cake in a thin layer of cream cheese frosting. This will catch any crumbs and stick them down so you won’t see them on the finished cake later.
Pop the cake in the fridge for 10 mins for the frosting to firm up a bit.
Now cover the entire cake with a thicker layer of frosting. It doesn’t need to be perfect, as it will all be covered with chocolate and raspberries later. Just make sure you wipe around the board with some kitchen roll if there are any stray crumbs, frosting etc.
Next, press the tallest shards around the cake with the point pointing upwards. Fill the gaps with smaller shards with the points pointing downwards.
Fill the top of the cake with raspberries. Start at the edge and work around and then in to the middle.
Cakes covered in cream cheese frosting are best kept out of the fridge otherwise it can discolour and crack.