Searching for the Perfect Gluten-free White Butter Cake + Notes on Preparing Cake Pans

Part I.

As an innkeeper, I am aware of just how many people have food sensitivities or allergies and also of how difficult it can be for them to find foods that they can eat when they travel. This is especially the case when it comes to special events, such as  wedding receptions, where the food choices are limited.

I am working on perfecting my gluten-free white butter cake recipe which could be used for wedding cakes or baby showers. My goal, of course, is for my gluten-free cakes to be 100% as delicious as my regular wheat flour cakes. I would say that I am about 90% there with this particular cake. The flavor and crumb (cake texture) are good, but it does not quite have that melt-in-your mouth quality of my other cakes. I think that I just need to increase the butter a little on my next attempt. The two key issues to solve with gluten-free baking are (1) using the right wheat flour substitute for your recipe and (2) figuring out the right flour-fat ratio. In many recipes such as cookie recipes, a one-to-one substitution of rice flour for all-purpose flour works fine. Substitutions for specialty flours, such as cake flour, are a different story.

Normally I use cake flour for baking white butter cakes. Cake flour has a low protein content – 7.5% as compared to 10% for all-purpose flour- and weighs 3.5 oz. per sifted cup. While rice flour has an even lower protein content – 5% – it is not milled nearly as finely as cake flour. To lighten the texture of cakes made with rice flour, the flour needs to be blended with starches which are very fine in consistency. These starches also act as thickeners helping to compensate for the reduced protein content. The gluten-free cake flour blend that I made for this recipe is significantly lower in protein than cake flour – 2.5%, and is heavier weighing 4.5 oz. per double-sifted cup; but it works pretty well.

Laurie’s Gluten-free Cake Flour Blend:

Whisk together, and then sift together twice, the following ingredients.

1 c. white rice flour

1/2 c. tapioca starch

1/2 c. potato starch

1 T. Cake Enhancer (from King Arthur flour)

I used 9 oz. (by weight) of gluten-free cake flour blend as a substitute for 7 oz. cake flour in my regular white butter cake recipe. As I mentioned above, the flavor and crumb were good, but the cake didn’t have the melt in your mouth quality that really makes for a wonderful butter cake. Next time, I think that I shall increase the butter slightly. The other option would be to decrease the flour, but since the dry-wet ratio of the batter seemed right, I am going to try the increased butter option first – my theory being that the recipe needs increased fat to compensate for the increased weight of the flour.

If you have been experimenting with your own gluten-free cake recipes, I’d love to hear from you!

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Part II.

Proper preparation makes removing any cake from the pan easier.

(1) Place your baking pans on parchment paper and trace the outside with a pencil. Cutting just inside the pencil lines, cut paper to fit inside pans.

(2) Cut strips of parchment paper long enough to wrap around the sides of your pans, making the strips just taller than your cake pans.

(3) Butter the inside of the cake pans and one side of each of the pieces of parchment paper. Place paper, buttered side up/out in pans.

(4) Sprinkle with sifted flour or gluten-free flour. Tap pans to distribute the flour. Shake out any extra flour. (If you prefer to use baking spray, skip buttering the paper. But don’t use baking spray for gluten-free baking.) Fill with batter and bake.

(5)  After baking, allow cakes to cool then remove parchment paper from sides of pans, invert cakes, remove paper from bottoms of cakes, then re-invert.

Your cakes should turn out the pans perfectly each time.

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Garlic Chives: Let the Harvest Begin

Garlic Chives (allium tuberosum) are one of those plants with which I have a love-hate relationship. I love the way that they look  in bloom and the way that their flowers help fill the gap between summer and autumn in the garden. But garlic chives are one of those plants that are not happy staying put. They spread themselves all around the landscape. Fortunately, they have culinary uses. (A rather pungent herb with a flavor akin to garlic and onions, garlic chives can be used in stir fries, soups, and stews.) Since mine are just on the verge of going to seed, for the past few days we’ve been yanking them out of the garden except the few spots where they are wanted. Then we’ve been sorting through it all, removing stems, roots, and damaged leaves, washing the healthy leaves, and putting them in the  oven to dry. Since the pilot lights in my ovens are always on, the ovens never cool below 110 degrees F. which makes them perfect for this use. Once the garlic chives are completely dried out, I will chop, bag, and store them in the freezer until ready to use. I find that herbs keep their color best this way. I’ve read that garlic chives lose their flavor once allowed to flower, however, to me they seem plenty flavorful; and besides, I just couldn’t let them take the space they have appropriated in my garden if I didn’t let those striking white clusters appear.

Rosemary

For this first time ever, I have successfully over-wintered Rosemary in a pot outdoors. I am thrilled to have fresh rosemary to cook with that I thought that I would share my favorite way to use it. Start with fresh rosemary that has been washed and dried off. Put some olive oil and fresh rosemary in a skillet, then warm over medium heat. Once the rosemary has lost its bright green color, remove from pan. Use flavored olive oil right away to flavor eggs, potatoes, asparagus or mushrooms.Image