Monday, October 6, 2014

Gluten Free Vegan Vanilla Cake

Not much of a food photographer. Or a cake decorator.
I grew up around cake. My mother had her own business making cakes- birthday, wedding, and pretty much every other occasion you can think of. She stopped selling them when we moved from one state to another, but of course we still had cakes. She even made my brother's wedding cake. I saved her the trouble of making mine- she had to fly across the country for my wedding, so I didn't want to ask her to make a cake on top of that. Plus the caterers at my brother's wedding thought it would be fun to put a heavy box on top of the box containing the largest layer of cake, so she had to fix the cake while the reception was starting. And then she had to serve the cake later- my mother is such a good person.

When I moved to California, I would make cakes for for birthdays- coworkers, friends, husband. These were always vegan, and I got pretty good at making them, though I never made really pretty cakes. More like smears of frosting, and the occasional little piped on designs. I made gluten free vegan cupcakes for one friend's birthdays after she cut gluten out of her diet. So when she asked if I would make a GF/vegan cake for her wedding, it didn't seem like much of an issue.

Except that she moved a few years ago and I hadn't baked anything gluten free since. And GF/vegan cakes are harder to make than cupcakes. I also didn't know when I started that sweet rice flour isn't a suitable replacement for white or brown rice flour. It's basically like adding starch instead of flour, and the first recipe I attempted already quite a bit of starch. I used Ener-G egg replacer, which is basically more starch. When I "poured" the "batter" went into the pan, it was really glopping down dough, and trying to get it to spread to the far reaches of the pan. When it came out of the oven it looked like a giant biscuit. It deflated, leaving a jelly-ish cake that was inedible. Thankfully you can compost all food in San Francisco, so that's where it went.

Not realizing my issue was most likely an overly starchy cake, I moved on to round two. Unfortunately, round two coincided with the beginning of a heat wave in the bay area. Baking and hot weather do not go well together, and least when you don't have air conditioning.

I used a different recipe for round two, since I wasn't really fond of the first recipe- the blogger wasn't clear on teaspoons vs. tablespoons, and so I figured it wasn't worth figuring those out for a second time. I used a GF/vegan cupcake recipe, modified a bit to use the flours I had on hand (which might have been fine, if my rice flour was white or brown instead of sweet), turning it into a 9-inch round, and adding xanthan gum. Throwing xanthan gum into your recipes just because you haven't probably isn't the best idea. I know it's supposed to help with GF baking, and I knew this recipe produced crumbly cupcakes, so I figured I'd just see what would happen. What happened was Fail Cake #2- it deflated soon after it came out of the oven, leaving behind another gummy messy. Into the compost bin it went.

I decided it was time for some research. First thing I figured out was that I should save my left over sweet rice flour to make mochi, and go out and buy some brown rice flour. I found a recipe for vanilla cake from a blog that seemed good at explaining all sorts of things pertaining to gluten free baking, which made me feel more comfortable using it. Giving Fail Cake #1 another try with brown rice flour might have resulted in a decent cake as well, but I was still afraid it might result in Fail Cake #3.

And I finally have a gluten free vegan cake that is worth eating. I've listed the ingredients I used below. See the original blog for directions how to bake (steps 10-17). I'll probably try it with the pomegranate and strawberries at some point, but I didn't make the frosting and filling from this recipe- I just used leftover vegan buttercream from last week for the first cake.

Like people, it's what's on the inside that counts for a cake.

Based on Gluten-Free Strawberry Pomegranate Cake by Gluten Free Gigi.

2 1/2 cups Gluten Free Flour Blend (I mixed up a bunch of this before starting the recipe)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup Earth Balance, softened (one stick)
1/2 cup soy yogurt, plain or vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons flax meal
1 1/2 tablespoons chia seed (use white if you don't want little dark spots, though I didn't mind them)
9 tablespoons water
3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk (use other milk substitute if you like)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Start by mixing the flax, chia seed, and water in a small bowl so they can become all goopy. The chia seeds add a little texture, but they don't change the flavor.
I didn't actually measure the yogurt- just plopped the six ounces of yogurt from the container into the bowl and that worked well enough.
The layers were a bit thin, but at least they weren't gummy! One was quite a bit thinner than the other, because my depth perception is kind of sucky. I used 9-inch pans.
The edges of the cake came out tougher than the rest of it- this might be due to my pans or my oven. My oven loves to bake things quickly.
Check out the rest of the blog- there's a lot of interesting information on various ingredients used in baking.
I pretend this is healthy, since it has chia, flax, and brown rice flour. Plus, it's cholesterol free!

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