Gluten Free Carrot Cake

I have a hard time with this whole gluten-free movement that’s been happening the past few years.  I get that some people have genuine intolerances, but for the most part I’m a non-believer.  When someone tells me they don’t eat gluten, I roll my eyes.  Yes. I am that person.  I am a jerk.

Karma is a thing.  Let me tell you why…

You might have noticed that I fell off the face of the Earth a while (err 2 weeks).  Really it’s because I’ve been having major stomach issues and the last thing I want to do is cook and eat food.  Don’t worry.  This isn’t a blog post to tell you that I suddenly am going gluten-free.  No no.  But this post is about exploring new ways of eating, because I’ve come to the realization that having stomach issues sucks.  Right now, I would eat (or not eat) anything to make the discomfort go away.

Because now I understand how much it sucks, I have a little more sympathy for those with food sensitivities.  I have no idea if I have food sensitivities.  I’m currently trying to figure out what the heck is causing my stomach to implode on me.  I’m starting by avoiding dairy for a while.  Jury is still out.  We’ll see.

But in the meantime, let me tell you about my first experience with a gluten-free cake.

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Isn’t it beautiful?  By the looks of it, you wouldn’t even know it’s gluten-free, but it is.  And it came about because my good friend Allison (check our her blog Sweet Potato Bites) has a lot of food allergies.  I wanted to make a cake that would fit her allergy needs for a surprise birthday gathering.  Her husband sent me a list of Allison-approved cake recipes.  After a few days of back and forth, we decided he would make a gluten free cake and I would make a cake that everyone else could have.  Nice compromise for guests not into the gluten-free thing. So I went ahead and made a chocolate cake with raspberry whipped cream filling and frosting.  

But after that night, I still had a curiosity for how a gluten-free taste would be like.  I’ve never really eaten one, other than flourless chocolate cake.   So I went with it and made a cake anyway, because there’s never a wrong time to make a cake. I used a recipe for Carrot Cake from Elana’s Pantry, because having never made a gluten free cake, I couldn’t really wing it on my first try.  

But that said, I made a few adjustments to make 1 smaller (6-inch) cake.  Here’s my attempt:

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Gluten Free Carrot Cake

adapted from Elana’s Pantry

1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of mace
2 eggs + 1 egg white
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup whipping cream
2-3 tbsp maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Grease and line 2 (6-inch) cake pans with parchment paper

I used my vitamix to chop up the carrots instead of grating, but you can grate them if you’d like .  Then I throw all the ingredients into the blender and blended until combine.  It’s really that easy.  Pour batter into 2 prepared cake pans.

Bake about 20 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean.  While your cake is baking, make your frosting.  It’s easy.  Whip the cream.  Once the cream starts forming peaks, stream in maple syrup.  Taste it.  If you want it sweeter, add more maple syrup.  If it’s too sweet, oops!  (JK, add a bit at a time, and try to get your desired sweetness.  I didn’t want mine too sweet I only added about 2 tbsp).

Allow to cool completely.  Then lather with maple whipped cream and serve.  Store leftovers in the fridge.

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Confession: I actually think it tastes better cold.

2nd Confession: I meant to take Allison a piece of this cake but Jesse dug into.  Fail.  But really I can’t complain if he liked it.  That means it was tasty.

 

Overall: I thought this was tasty.

Does it taste like cake? Not really.

Does it have the texture of a cake? Not really.

Is it worth trying? Absolutely.

 

While I don’t have any food allergies or sensitivities that I know of, the point of all this is that I will stop being a hater, because stomach issues suck.

Are you a fan of gluten-free foods?  

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The Best Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I pretty much always wish I had a reason to make a cake.  The more I think about it, it’s one of the reasons I love weddings, because I think wedding cakes are amazing.  Tonight I had a conversation with some ladies about wedding media.  Wedding sites, blogs, shows magazines are all geared at woman.  The wedding is portrayed as entirely about the woman, which to me seems a little unfair, given that the woman is only one half of the equation.

But in the conversation, one of the things I pointed out is that part of my fascination with wedding media is the aesthetic.  I think weddings are beautiful.  I think cakes are beautiful.  That’s probably why I love food blogs too, because I think the photography is pretty.

Most of the time when I see a beautiful cake my first thought is I want to make that, then second, I want to eat that.  For me, making cakes is fun.  I love making them look beautiful, but I also love making them taste good.

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Because really, isn’t a layer cake just one of the prettiest things out there?

While I always want to make cakes, there isn’t always an occasion to make a cake.  I originally made this cake for a birthday/going away party for friends.  But it was so popular and pretty that I wanted to make it again and photograph it.  

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  I think it just means I appreciate aesthetics. So if you want to make a cake for a special ocassion or no reason at all other than to please yourself… please do! ChocolatePBCake3

And as a bonus, it’s amazingly delicious and the perfect 6-inch cake.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

For Cake (adapted from Hershey’s Chocolate Cake):

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

For Filling:

2 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup whipping cream

For Frosting:

2 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 big pinch of cream of tartar*
1 pinch of salt

For Chocolate Ganache:

3 oz bitter sweet chocolate chips
1/4 heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Make Cake.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and line with parchment paper 2 (6-inch) cake pans, set aside.  In a stand mixer bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add eggs, oil, milk and vanilla.  Beat together.   Add boiling water and beat until combined.  Pour batter evenly between both 6-inch cake pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes (this might vary based on your oven so start checking for readiness after 20 minutes, especially if using a convection oven) or until cooked through (i.e. do the toothpick test: insert toothpick, once it comes out clean, it’s ready).

Allow to cool completely.

In the meantime, make the filling.  Beat together cream cheese, condensed milk and peanut butter.  In a separate bowl, whip heavy cream into firm peaks.  Fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture, refrigerate until ready to use.

Next make your frosting.

Place a glass bowl over a sauce pan that has about 1 inch of water in it, make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl (aka build a double boiler).  Add egg whites, sugar, vanilla extract, cream of tartar and salt.  Mix together.  Heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the egg whites are warm when you touch them.

Transfer egg white mixture to a stand mixer and attach whisk attachment.  Stir on low and turn up the speed every 15 seconds or so until it’s on high speed.  Beat 5-7 minutes or until glossy, stiff peaks form.

Now assemble the cake.  Level your layers and slice in half, so you have 4 layers (you’ll notice in my photo I only had 3 layers, you can accidentally drop one on the floor and have 3 layers as well… that’s allowed, but not advised).  Place your first layer on your cake circle or cake dish of choice. Lay some filling on top of the first layer and spread evenly, press on second layer, it’s ok if it overflows a bit.  Repeat until all layers are complete.

Next, frost with a generous layer of frosting.

Place in the fridge while you make your ganache.  Place chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside.  In a small sauce pan, heat heavy cream and vanilla stirring constantly until it comes to a light boil.  Pour cream over chocolate chips.  Let sit for a minute, then stir until smooth.  Pour over cake and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Allow to cool completely, then slice and serve.

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I had hopes and dreams of making a beautiful vide to go along with this blog post, but I’m still working on perfect my video making skills… but in case you’re curious… here’s my first attempt:

 

Not the prettiest video, but I’ll take it for a first try!  We can’t expect to make gorgeous creations the first time around, and I’m cool with that.

 

So tell me, are you a fan of layer cakes, weddings and pretty things?  Are you overloaded with wedding stuff? Don’t even see it?  Is a cake just a cake for you?  

 

Layer Cakes: Tips, Tricks and Recipes

I love cake. and pie.  Cakes and Pies.

Ok but really I think cakes are awesome.  I also think they’re super labor intensive so I get why people buy them instead of make them, but I really think more people should take up cake making.

This past weekend, I made three layer cakes.

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So from my experience of making three cakes in a row, I wanted to share with you a few tips and tricks to making the perfect layers cakes, along with some of my favorite cake recipes.

1. Use the right cake pans.

I used to have these fancy cake pans from Sur La Table, and I’ll be honest… they sucked.  My cakes were always uneven.  First I thought my oven temperature was just weird, but then I moved and my cakes were still crooked.  So I bought new cake pans.  I bought the cheap Wilton ones at Michael’s (I say cheap because I never walk into that store without a 40% off coupon), and my cakes are perfectly even now.  So my tip: go for aluminum cake pans!

2. Parchment paper IS your friend and always grease and flour your pans.

cakepans

Wouldn’t it suck to do all that work and have them stick to the pan?  Yes.  It’s happened to me, and it sucks.

Ever since, I will never make a cake without parchment paper.  Honestly, my least favorite part of making cakes is this step.  I feel like I’m in kindergarten cutting out parchment paper circles.  But it’s a must.  Just do it.

3.  Bake in advance and freeze.

My cakes were all for Saturday and Sunday.  I started baking on Tuesday.  A cake sitting out from Tuesday til Saturday would be dry and gross, but a cake wrapped in parchment paper, double wrapped in plastic wrap then frozen, is still great for the weekend.  The trick is to make sure the cake is completely cooled before you freeze it.  You can flash cool it on a cooling rack in the freezer, but before you wrap it up.  Just make sure it has cooled completely before you wrap it up, if not you’ll get condensation that freezes into ice.  Not cute.

4. A cake without a filling is no fun.

One of the cakes I made was lemon cake with a raspberries and cream filling.  The others were chocolate and banana cakes with peanut butter filling.   Feel free to make your fillings a day or two in advance, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

5. Leveling the cake is important

I finally broke down and bought a cake leveler.  It’s a good idea to level the cakes before you freeze them.  The leveler is basically a metal wire, it’s not super strong and probably won’t cut through a frozen cake.  You can also just use a knife…

6.  ALWAYS do a crumb coat

crumbcoat

A fine layer of frosting before you actually frost is essential.  It holds it all together and prevents you from getting a crumby cake.  If your crumb coat is going on a frozen cake it’s even easier because the crumb coat gets firm faster.  Once you’ve got a crumb coat, stick the cake in the freezer for a few minutes to let the coat harden before you frost.  EXTRA: Put pieces of parchment paper under the cake so you don’t have to worry about a dirty plate/dish.  You just pull out the pieces when you’re done frosting and you have a clean plate/cake circle!

7.  Use a long knife to frost

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I’m not fancy.  My cakes aren’t perfect, but I think they do the job.  I don’t have all those fancy spatulas you can buy to frost cakes.  I use the 8″ slicer knife that came in my knife block.  It’s not serrated and it’s long.  Gets the job done.  A small butter knife makes it hard to get smooth edges all around, so I recommend a long knife.

8.  Use cake circles and boxes

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To make your cakes go from homemade to slightly fancier, go to Michael’s or any cake supply store and buy cardboard cake circles and a box.  I took one of the cakes to a restaurant and the waitress was surprised to find it was homemade.  On that note, if you go to a birthday dinner at a restaurant, call ahead and make sure they don’t charge you to cut the cake.  I had heard of corkage fees but never of cake cutting fees.  Apparently it’s a thing in Hollywood.  Just saying.

Remember, no matter what your cake looks like, it should taste great.  So on that note, here are some of my favorite cake recipes:

  • Hershey’s Chocolate Cake: This is my go to chocolate cake recipe.  I follow it exactly and it never fails.
  • Epicurious Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting: This recipe is great!  I make a few changes everytime, usually adding more liquid.  Today, I made a super variation of it, blog post on that coming soon!
  • Epicurious Moist Yellow Cake (I easily turn this into a lemon cake by replacing half buttermilk with lemon juice, adding some lemon zest and a pack of lemon jello instant pudding)
  • Rum Layer Cake:  This cake is probably one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever made.  Everyone loves it.  It’s just plain tasty.

As for fillings, which per #2 is essential, get creative.  Here are some ideas I love:

  • Mix lemon curd with cream cheese and whipped cream for a quick and delicious lemon mousse filling.  Throw some fresh raspberries in the mix and it’s a perfect filling for a lemon cake.
  • Chocolate Ganache is always a winner.  Try adding orange zest or passionfruit puree to it to spice up your normal chocolate cake
  • Whipped Cream: Sometimes you just need simplicity.  Whipped cream in the middle of a fluffy cake is divine.  Try it.
  • Mix peanut butter, cream cheese, condensed milk and whipped cream for a delicious peanut butter mousse filling.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Amazing.  Just try it.

Remember these tips next time a birthday, party, holiday rolls around.  Making cakes doesn’t have to be crazy hard.  It can be super fun!

What’s your favorite cake combination?

I’m currently a huge fan of banana cake with peanut butter filling and cream cheese frosting!

Little Banana Cake with Caramel Filling

Sometimes you just don’t want a big commitment.  Saturday, I went on a 16 mile hike up the highest peak in Orange County.  That was a big commitment; there was snow at the top of the mountain.. in Orange County…

I was totally ok with that commitment.

But sometimes, dessert can be a big commitment, especially cakes.

Because of this, I think my 6 inch cake pans were a great investment, and I think this banana cake has been my greatest creation from them so far.

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I actually made this twice, so I can tell you with confidence that it’s doubly tasty.

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Little Banana Cake with Caramel Filling

adapted from Epicurious

For Cake:
1 cup + 1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
1/2 cup sugar, heaping
1 egg
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp whole milk
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Caramel filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Icing:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Sift together flour, corn starch, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add in egg, continue to beat for another minute or two.  Beat in mashed banana, milk, vinegar and vanilla.  Add in flour mixture until well combine.

Pour batter into 2 (6 inch round) cake pans (greased, floured and bottom lined with parchment paper).  Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden and cooked through (mine took 25 mins, but yours might differ based on your oven so start checking after 20 mins).  Allow to cool completely.

Make caramel filling.  Melt sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Once sugar starts to melt turn flame to low.  Work out any clumps by stirring.  Once the sugar syrup is a deep amber color, remove from heat stir in butter (mixture will foam a lot but keep stirring), stream in cream as you stir, then stir in vanilla and salt.   Set aside to cool a bit.

caramel

Level off each layer using a serrated knife.  Place your bottom layer crumb side down on a plate (put some pieces of parchment paper around the edges to get a clean frost).  Spread half the caramel in the middle of the cake.  Put second layer on top and spread with remaining caramel.  Caramel should still be warm to the touch but not pourable.  You’ll have to spread it with the wooden spoon and it will smooth out on its own (if you let it cool too much you won’t get a smooth top.  Alternatively if the caramel is too hot, it might flow over the edges, no biggie, you can cover that with icing).

unfrostedcake

Next make frosting.  Beat half a cup of heavy cream, once it starts to form soft peaks add in sugar and vanilla.  Continue to beat until it forms firm peaks.  Frost the cake as desired.  If you plan to frost the entire thing (including the top) and decorate, double the frosting.  I only frosted the sides

partiallyfrostedcake

then used a piping bag with a star tip to decorate the edges to leave the caramel exposed.  Both are great, tasty options.

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If you’re ready for a big commitment (aka a full size cake), double the recipe and bake in two 8 or 9 inch cake pans.

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Either way, store this cake in the fridge until about 45 minutes before you’re ready to serve it.  Don’t come complaining to me that your caramel is too hard if you take it out of the fridge and slice it immediately.  Like all commitments, that part needs time too.

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What’s your next commitment?

Please tell me it’s this little banana cake!