I would find it very hard to live a life without cake - it would be a very rare occasion that you would walk into our kitchen and not be able to find a slice of homemade cake or a sweet treat to go with a mid morning or afternoon cuppa (and even then there is probably a secret stash in the freezer too). But a few of my friends and Brighton Bakery customers aren't able to enjoy regular cakes as most cakes use regular wheat flour, and that's no fun if you're gluten intolerant.
So I'm particulary sympathetic to those who are are gluten intolerant, especially as a lot of the gluten free treats I've tried on sale in the supermarket are far inferior in taste and texture to their wheat based versions. I've dallied with a few GF recipes in the past for our market stalls and for various cakes I've made. An excellent book I use a lot is Harry Eastwood's Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache, where all the recipes can be made with either regular or gluten free flour, and they have the added bonus of being better for you as they use grated vegetables and ground almonds to reduce the fat and sugar content in the cakes.
So when I was asked to make a gluten free chocolate cake this recipe book was the first one I pulled off the shelf. The Light Chocolate Cake looked perfect, which uses grated butternut squash in the batter to keep in lovely and moist. Well how glad am I that I did a trial run of this cake, as it turned out to be a disaster! The cake took more than twice as long as it should have done to cook and despite the lovely quality ingredients and expensive organic cocoa powder I used it tasted really bland. Oh dear - having ticked and starred nearly every recipe I've tried in this book, this one got a big fat cross (I've carried on my mum's tradition of marking up her recipes - it's so handy when you try as many things in as many cookery books as I have).
I decided that I could do much better by tinkering with my favourite regular chocolate cake recipe instead. It turned out so well that I thought I would share the recipe with you - next time your gluten intolerant friends are round for tea you can let them eat cake.
Emily's Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Recipe
serves 25 party portions or 10-12 big slices
165g very soft butter
300g golden caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 medium eggs
265g gluten free flour (I use Dove's Farm)
3 level teaspoons gluten free baking powder
1 level teaspoon xanthan gum
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
70g good quality cocoa powder (I like Green & Blacks)
3-4 tablespoons milk
1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line an 8" round deep cake tin.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the softened butter, sugar and vanilla with electric beaters or a freestanding mixer until pale and fluffy.
3. Gradually add the eggs to the mixture, one at a time, beating really well after each one (it's important to add them slowly and mix well otherwise the mixture can curdle).
4. Mix together all your dry ingredients really well and pass through a sieve to ensure the baking powder is evenly distributed.
5. Using a big metal spoon, fold about a third of the flour mix into the batter. Follow this by folding in about a third of the buttermilk, then keep alternating with the dry mix and the buttermilk until it is all incorporated. Finally add the milk so that you have a happy cake batter consistency (I find that the GF flour absorbs more liquid than regular flour - it's better to have a slightly looser batter than one that's too stiff as it can end up dry).
6. Bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes - if a skewer dipped in the centre comes out clean then it's done. Cool in the tin for at least 5 minutes before tipping on to a wire rack to cool completely.
7. Once cool you can cut the cake into layers and fill with your favourite icing - I think the best is a chocolate meringue buttercream but you could use a ganache or any filling you like. The cake should keep in an airtight container for up to a week.
I got some lovely feedback from the lady I made the cake for - she said the guests at the wedding couldn't tell any difference from a regular cake and the bride was thrilled she could actually eat the cake for once!