I call this cake No. 30 because it is the cake I’ve made on my 30th birthday. It’s made up of a gluten free chocolate sponge with a swiss meringue buttercream made from fresh strawberries and kind of a lot of butter. Topped with fresh berries and sweet lilacs, this is the cake that makes me happy today.
|Gluten Free Chocolate Cake|
1 1/2 cups ATK flour*
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup milk
1 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Prepare a 10-inch round cake pan by greasing bottom and sides and lining with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum. Sift in cocoa powder. Set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
Add the dry mix into your stand mixer bowl and mix until there are no lumps left.
Pour cake batter into prepped 10-inch pan and bake for 50-55 minutes.
Poke with a toothpick to test doneness. When it comes out clean, the cake is done! Let cool completely before removing from cake pan.
Slice horizontally into two even layers. Can be stored in the freezer until ready to use.
Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream**
5 egg whites
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
300g softened butter
1/3 cup strawberry juice
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
pink food coloring
Over a double boiler, heat egg whites and sugar to 150˚F (65˚C), stirring constantly. Once the mixture has reached temp, transfer to the bowl of your stand mixture and mix on medium-high until mixture reaches a shiny “fluff”-like consistency and the bowl is cool to the touch.
Lower mixing speed to low-medium and slowly add the butter, about one tablespoon at a time. Continue mixing until all of the butter has been incorporated and the mixture changes from fluff to a light, buttery frosting.
In a separate bowl, combine cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of the strawberry juice to create a slurry. Stir together until combined and smooth, and no lumps are visible. Add slurry to the rest of the strawberry juice and stir. Add all of the strawberry juice to stand mixer bowl with the frosting. Mix on medium, scraping the sides periodically, until everything is combined.
Add salt and food two drops of pink food coloring and mix until combined.
*America’s Test Kitchen flour
6oz white rice
2 oz brown rice
2 oz potato starch
1 oz tapioca starch
0.2 oz non-fat dry milk
**You’ll need two batches to cover and fill this cake.
For a moment, I considered reflecting on my life, my adulthood, and see if I feel successful and content. Then, I decided not to. Some people think 30 is old. Some people would argue that it’s young. But either way, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m me! I’m doing my own thing at my own pace. There isn’t a checkpoint I should or shouldn’t have reached by now. Nah. I’m just the same ol’ guy. I love my husband. I love my cat. Yeah, I don’t think I need to worry about the other stuff.
For the past few years, I’ve made myself a birthday cake. It’s always chocolate sponge with strawberry icing, and is usually topped with pretty things. This year, Toadflax helped me out by getting me my all time favorite flowers for the top. Lilacs! My parents have always had a big lilac bush in the front yard. The scent was a staple of my childhood. I remember braving the bees to try to pick some to bring inside (which was always a bad idea because my whole family has terrible seasonal allergies – they would groan and wheeze and sneeze, but somehow never told me to take them back outside).
So, confession time. I previously have always used a boxed cake for my birthday. I just never spent the time to find a good scratch recipe and the boxed cake was pretty good anyway. I really liked Betty Crocker’s cake mixes. But, I knew that wouldn’t have been cool of me to come in and tell you to make a cake from a box, so I made the effort to create a yummy chocolate cake from scratch.
I didn’t have high hopes. The cakes I was making were turning out gummy and bland and weird looking. What I was really looking for was the Betty Crocker cake, but harder to make. Hah. Great goals, right?
But then this cake happened, and it’s actually better than Betty’s (sorry Betty) and not difficult at all! While I had the testers in the oven, I was nervous. The batter had come out so smooth and delicious already, I felt like this cake was going to be perfect, but I was worried that I was going to be disappointed. All the signs pointed to perfect, and I expected it to be perfect, but it would be so sad if it wasn’t. I just paced back and forth waiting for them. But then they were perfect! So perfect! Exactly what they were supposed to be! This cake is awesome, and I will probably only go back to boxed in a pinch.
As with all gluten free baking, you’ll need a couple different flours, but if you’ve been doing this for a little bit, you probably already have all or most of them. Most grocery stores are carrying these flours these days, but if you’re struggling to find them, I recommend checking out an asian grocer, or amazon! Tapioca flour is one of the flours that gets used most in my house, so I buy in bulk from Anthony
Non-fat dry milk is kind of a strange one, but you can find it in the baking aisle by cartons of non-dairy milk like almond and coconut milk. It comes in a box that contains several packets. The dry milk comes out in small round nuggets, but for this recipe you really want it to be a powder, so what I do is measure out the amount I need and grind it in a mortar and pestle. It’s actually pretty fun because it crushes so easily. Mmmm feels good.
The flour blend is called “ATK” in my recipe because I essentially used America’s Test Kitchen all purpose gluten free blend. It is only slightly different, because in the original recipe, it makes over 9 cups, but I just wanted enough for the cake so I did a little fancy math and rounding and cut it down. The recipe above will make roughly 2 cups and 2 tablespoons of flour, still more than you need, but I felt like going any smaller in measurements wouldn’t be accurate or worth it. So instead, I have a container that I add the leftover flour to that is gradually building up over time.
Ok, so, you’ve got your flour under control. The making of this sponge is really pretty easy. Just combine all your dry ingredients in one bowl, and wet in another, and combine. This cake has the perfect amount of chocolate for me. It smells like brownies but doesn’t taste heavy. I wanted my cake to be wide and kind of short so I just filled one 10-inch pan, but you can also do two 10-inch pans if you don’t want to have to slice the one into two layers. You can also make cupcakes with this recipe! Just adjust the bake time to 23-25 minutes.
While your cake is cooling, you can make the frosting! Swiss meringue buttercream has become my all time favorite icing. It’s weird, because I have always complained about how typical buttercream tastes too buttery, and then I try this recipe that uses SO MUCH BUTTER but I like it more?? It’s so smooth and light though, and the strawberry gives it such a bright pop!
To start the icing, you should prep your strawberries first. I like to use fresh strawberries, but there are a couple steps. They aren’t hard though!
Start with a pint of strawberries. This is typically the size you see in the grocery store, so just plan to use them all. I made a note in the recipe, but in case you missed it, I needed to use two batches of this icing to cover my cake. I was able to get two batches worth of strawberry juice out of my berries, but feel free to get two pints just in case.
Wash and quarter your strawberries and puree them in a food processor. Bzzzzt. Make your husband do it if you can’t stand the sound because it’s your birthday. Then, move the puree to a cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice. Now you have juice! Keep in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Now move on to egg prep.
YOU HAVE TO USE REAL EGGS. NO BOXED EGG WHITES.
I know that’s a lot of eggs to go through, but I promise it’s worth it. I tried boxed egg whites several times, but the end result is kind of gross. Instead of being light and smooth, the frosting is reaaaally greasy and it’s nearly impossible to spread on the cake because it just won’t stick to itself. It’s nasty man. Don’t do.
Ok, so separate your egg whites and put them in a small bowl that you’re going to use over your double boiler. This is when you heat a pot of water on the stove with a bowl on top of the pot. This way, you are heating the egg whites and not cooking them. Stir in the sugar, and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, to 150˚F. Please keep stirring at they are heating! You want the heat to be evenly distributed.
Once they’re ready, pour the egg white and sugar mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer and beat on high for a couple minutes until the bowl has cooled down and the egg whites form a magical fluffy marshmallow. This stage is so pretty ugh. I always sneak some licks here.
Lower the mixer speed to low-medium, and very slowly add the softened butter and little bit at a time. I shoot for about a tablespoon at a time so it really gets combined each addition. If you add the butter too quickly, the mixture will start to look nasty and curdled. It isn’t ruined though! You just have to mix it for a lot longer if it gets there. So, just save yourself some anxiety and go slow. You’re creating an emulsion here. The butter and egg don’t reaaaally want to be friends at first, but they’ll get there and they’ll like it.
Once all the butter has been incorporated, it should soon come together as a totally different creature. It’ll be like a happy frosting cloud of sweetness. I sneak a lick here too. You can do the same.
Now to add the strawberry juice. Measure out 1/3 of the juice, and then take a tablespoon out of that and move to a small bowl. Stir in your 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch until you don’t see anymore lumps. This is a slurry! You do this to make sure the cornstarch doesn’t stay all clumped up in your liquid. The cornstarch is really important in this recipe because otherwise the juice gradually will separate from the buttercream and it will look like a monster. The cornstarch keeps it all together. Don’t add any more than 1/2 tbsp though or you’ll taste this dusty stuff. Ew.
Add your slurry back into the measured out juice and stir, then you can combine it with a pinch or two of salt and toss in your buttercream. Whip it up with pink food coloring and it’s done!
I recommend applying a crumb coat to your cake first, and then icing completely. Plop on some flowers and berries and then it’s done! I gotta go do birthday things now!