I haven’t posted anything for at least a couple of weeks. There’s always this brief period in June when I can barely find a minute to, ahem, go to the bathroom. OK, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but because my children decided to enter this world exactly three years and one week apart from each other, the result is two weeks of birthday mania. This mania usually includes scheduling “entertainment,” devising games, ordering party furniture rentals and balloons, buying gifts for the birthday child and trinkets and party favors for the other attendees, decorating the home, and in my home, baking and decorating the cake. At least this year, my son didn’t request anything elaborate as last year’s scarlet macaw, howler monkey and gecko. I still recall the sweat pouring off my brow as I attempted in the 11th hour to research what those creatures look like and then render them in icing. (Let me sing here the praises of Google Images.)
For whatever reason, which appears to elude me year after year, I always underestimate the time it will take to make the frosting and decorate the cake. As you can see from the pictures I’ve included here, I must have been so panicked and stressed out–decorating the cake while the first guests were practically mounting the steps to our front door, that I forgot to cross the “t” in “birthday” on my daughter’s cake. And I can also see that I was so panicked to finish my son’s cake, that my hand was shaking–as proven by the squiggly and uncertain writing on his cake. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t know the secret to writing words on the vertical side of a cake. Please remind me to read up on this before next year.
I’m posting my favorite gluten-free birthday cake, again, because with each passing year, I become more and more certain which is the best version (since I offer a couple variations).
I continue to find this cake to be the most flavorful and moist cake of any birthday cakes I’ve eaten–store-bought or homemade. I also like that this cake is low in sugar and the frosting–while more time-consuming that regular buttercream frosting, uses at least half the sugar of traditional buttercream frosting.
The following is for a full, single 9-inch cake. Double the recipe for two full 9-inch cake layers or 3 thinner 9-inch cake layers.
Juice of 1 orange plus full-fat plain yogurt to equal 1 cup* (roughly 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice and 1/2 cup yogurt)
Grated zest of 1 orange (optional, works well if you’re making a chocolate filling)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 cup good quality mild-tasting olive oil or 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
*I find the orange juice/yogurt combination produces the best moistness and flavor, but you can also replace the juice/yogurt with 1 cup white wine, just be sure it’s a fairly sweet, buttery Chardonnay.
Preheat over to 350-degrees Farenheit.
Prepare 9-inch cake pans by greasing, flouring and lining the bottom of each cake pan with a piece of parchment paper. (Use the bottom of the cake pan to trace a circle on the parchment paper. Cut just inside the line for a perfect fit.)
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
If making the butter version, beat the butter in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer until creamy. Beat in the sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the orange juice/yogurt mixture and vanilla until well-blended. Stir in the dry ingredients until well-blended.
If making the olive oil version, whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the sugar then the orange juice/yogurt mixture and vanilla. Stir in the olive oil and dry ingredients alternating one-third to one-half of each until well-blended.
Pour evenly into cake pan(s).
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, and the cake is springy to the touch at its center. (Mine are always golden-brown by this stage.) Cool in pans. Use a slim knife around the outer edge to loosen the cake(s) from pan. Turn out carefully and let further cool on rack(s).
My favorite during summer months is to simply macerate fresh strawberries and raspberries to which I’ve added a little lemon zest and vanilla extract. This mixture is fairly liquid and soaks beautifully into the cake layer(s) making them extra flavorful and moist.
My son loves chocolate, so in the past I’ve made a chocolate ganache for the inside layer. It takes seconds to make. If you want it fluffier, simply beat with an electric mixer once the mixture is completely cooled. Here’s my recipe:
Finely chop 3 1/2 oz dark chocolate (preferably at least 70% cocoa), and place in a medium-sized bowl. Bring 1/2 cup cream to near boil. Pour over chocolate. Stir until completely melted/blended. Stir in 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. agave syrup. Let cool. (it will thicken considerably). Stir well before spreading on cake(s).
Fluffy, low-sugar frosting
(from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)
This recipe makes just enough to frost the top and sides of a 2-layer cake (the recipe above, doubled). Increase proportions to double or 1 1/2 if you plan to bake more layers or want lots of extra frosting for additional decorating.
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups milk (I’ve used both 2% and 4% with great results)
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into pieces and softened to room temperature
In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt until there are no lumps. Slowly whisk in the milk until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently increasing to constantly, until the mixture bubbles/boils and becomes very thick. This takes roughly 10 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and cool to room temperature. This step is extremely important! If it is even slightly warm, the frosting won’t come together properly. On a fall day in California, this took a little over 2 hours. You can speed up the process by putting the bowl in the refrigerator. However, if you do this, be sure to take it out in time to for it to warm back up to room temperature before proceeding to the next step.
Once the mixture has completely cooled to room temperature (you will feel no trace of warmth when you place your hands around the bottom of the bowl), beat in the vanilla using a hand-held mixer on low speed. Next, beat in the butter, one piece at a time, until fully incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat the frosting for five minutes, until it is light and fluffy (approximately 5 minutes). Spread with a soft-tipped rubber spatula.
As I’ve said before, let us eat cake!