gluten-free feather cake

My partner Adam has two brothers.  The youngest was due for a birthday and there were plans for a cozy lunch at his mom’s house.  I asked if I could bake a cake for the occasion.  They said I didn’t have to but, since I’m no longer among the wheat-eaters, I knew I’d be without dessert if I didn’t!  Their sister-in-law is also gluten-free, so I figured she’d appreciate it, too, if no one else did.

I had planned to turn to my standard: Namaste FoodsSpice Cake Mix, a bag of which I try to keep in my pantry at all times.  This time, though, I found I didn’t have it on hand!  When I’d last gone to the co-op, they were out.  I’d opted to invest in a bag of their Perfect Flour Blend.  That was all I had for sweet gluten-free baking, 24 hours before the family celebration.  I had no choice.  It was time to finally test it!

Namaste claims on the bag that their gluten-free flour blend can be used in most any baking recipe.  It made sense to turn to the most traditional of recipes.  My friend Allan recently bequeathed upon me his coveted, first-edition Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  No doubt, you or someone in your family has a copy. It’s the one in the red and white gingham binder.  In the Cakes, Frostings, and Fillings section, I found a Nutmeg Feather Cake recipe that looked promising.  With three eggs, the odds of the cake holding together were good.  I altered the recipe to suit my tastes… and what I had on hand.

gluten-free feather cake

½ c (1 stick)  butter, salted
1½ c  sugar, granulated*
1 t  vanilla extract**
3  beaten egs
2 c  Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend
1 T  nutmeg, pref. fresh grated
1 t  baking powder***
1 t  baking soda
½ t  (sea) salt
1 c  plain yogurt, pref. whole milk

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).  Cream together butter and sugar in bowl until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla, mixing thoroughly.  Sift flour, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.  Then add these dry ingredients to the first bowl alternating with the yogurt, a little at a time.  Mix thoroughly, until smooth.

Pour into two lined or greased 9 x 1½ inch round cake pans and bake for about 25 minutes.  Cake is done when a test toothpick comes out clean.  Let cakes cool completely before frosting.

*Conventional sugar is technically not vegan, sometimes containing small amounts of bone meal.  To keep your recipe vegan or kosher, make sure your sugar is specifically marked as such.

**Conventional flavor extracts contain alcohol, which is often derived from a glutenous grain source, like wheat or barley.  If your sensitivity to such ingredients is high, look for flavors specifically marked as gluten-free.  You can also try to make your own, infusing gluten-free vodka with vanilla beans, lemon zest, and more.

***Conventional baking powder contains cornstarch.  To avoid allergic reactions and/or GMO corn, seek out an alternative at your local co-op or fancy grocer.  Similarly, you can make your own using cream of tartar and baking soda in a 2:1 ratio, adding another part arrowroot or potato starch if you intend to store it for later use.

I found that, despite baking fairly regularly, I didn’t own more than one round cake pan.  I poured the batter into a large rectangular cake pan, and then later stacked one half on the other.  That seemed to work fine, especially because I staggered them; the fat, cut edge of one on top of the short, pan edge of the other.  I didn’t want to use frosting between the layers, so I had to devise some kind of filling.  I tried one idea, and it totally flopped, so I’ll spare you the details.  The second idea was better: almond butter mixed with amaretto-flavor sugar syrup.

Ill-prepared as I was, I turned to the dark side: frosting in a can.  There are so many reasons to avoid this stuff, and it’s really not hard to make a tasty, wholesome frosting from scratch.  Nonetheless, there I was, slathering the stuff onto Aaron’s birthday cake.  Truth is, I don’t do well with dairy, in addition to gluten, and wanted to avoid the extra butter.  Since this episode, I have since invested in a tub of Spectrum Organic Vegetable Shortening.  I also don’t do well with soy, so the fact that frosting in a can is hydrogenated soybean oil might seem like a problem… but I pretend that it’s not?

It looked nice.  I sprinkled on some toffee bits and more fresh grated nutmeg.

Anyhow… the cake!  It rose!  Those of you who aren’t experienced in gluten-free baking have no idea what kind of miracle that is!  I mean, most gluten-free cakes and breads rise, but only nominally compared to the glutenous stuff.  This feather cake was truly light and fluffy.  It was, I daresay, the lightest gluten-free cake I have ever eaten!

Also, so often gluten-free cakes compensate with sugar or chocolate.  I so easily tire of chocolate, which is partly why I was so pleased to find the spice cake mix that Namaste Foods makes.  Finally, something quick and easy that wasn’t going to overpower me with chocolate!  And…!  I found out that Namaste also has a mix for blondies!  Blondies, people!  I am so incredibly impressed with this company.

My feather cake, with no chocolate to hide behind, was still delicious.  It easily stands alone with vanilla frosting, while still able to complement stronger flavors.  I’ve since paired it with a vegan lavender vanilla frosting, and it was di-vine!  Below is a recipe I came up with when I first tried to make frosting without butter.

vegan lavender vanilla frosting

¾ c  Spectrum Organic Vegetable Shortening
2½ c  organic vegan powdered sugar*
5  heads of lavender flowers
2 t  vanilla extract
¼ t  (sea) salt
2 T  water

Using hand mixer, lightly whip half of the shortening.  Add lavender, vanilla, and salt.  Gradually sift in the powdered sugar, one ½ c at a time.  Add water and shortening as needed, to smooth and lighten the consistency.  Take care to not over-beat the frosting.  Makes 2 c.

*Conventional powdered sugar contains cornstarch.  To avoid allergic reactions and/or GMO corn, check the organic options at your local co-op or fancy grocer.

Those of us with non-mainstream diets often struggle to find foods that treat our taste buds as kindly as they do our bellies.  I know that struggle sometimes makes me lose my appetite.  I was so excited to discover this recipe, because it made me feel like I didn’t have to sacrifice so much.  It’s not perfect, though.  Eggs, cow dairy, and conventional sugar, as well as soy and chick peas, are still irritants for my belly.  I know that some of you have even more restrictive diets.  Ideally, I want a recipe that contains no irritants at all.  When I find something better, I’ll be sure to share!

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One Response to gluten-free feather cake

  1. Pingback: gluten-free spumoni cookies « seasonal adjustments

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