Bake More Often – 1/10

In a productive start to the New Year and my new challenges, I baked this weekend. Motivated by the presence of buttermilk creeping ever closer to its expiry date in the fridge I planned a baking afternoon for Sunday with the intent of making soda bread along with something sweet from my new Lorraine Pascale recipe book.

The soda bread plan led to my mum making a big pot of homemade soup to eat it with, which is motivation in and of itself to get round to making bread. Second day soup plus soda bread? Bliss. The second part of the plan went slightly adrift, but in a good way, due to remembering that Monday was my friend Alison’s birthday. Now surely, I hear you say, cake and a friend’s birthday are an excellent plan? Well, you’d be correct, but there was a potential issue…

Some time ago, Alison was diagnosed as coeliac and banished all wheat from her diet. We happened to get chatting about the rubbishness of many gluten-free baked goods and how difficult it was to get certain kinds right. In a moment of rash enthusiasm/foolishness, I promised her I would learn gluten-free baking and make her a birthday cake. As with so many good intentions, I kept meaning to try it out – I even bought Xanthan gum – but never quite getting round to it. And now it was the Friday and her birthday was in 3 days time and I still hadn’t done anything about it. I had a choice, admit failure and buy her some gluten-free cookies or forge ahead and make her a cake. * So of course, I spent Saturday searching through gluten-free cookbooks in the library and searching the shelves of my local town for rice flour. (There was a brief panic at the thought of trying to track down gluten-free baking powder, but thankfully the stuff I already had in the house turned out to be gluten-free by accident.) After some quick and cryptic enquiries with the birthday girl, I settled on making her an almond cake.

The recipe uses ground almond as a substitute for the flour, which actually gives a decent texture to the batter – it looks and feels like cake batter. I have, for various reasons, eaten quite a bit of gluten-free cake and generally found them to be dense and occasionally gritty in texture with a certain…aftertaste. I can’t vouch for the taste of the finished product – but some surreptitious sampling of the batter assured me that it tasted promisingly of almond. And my usual ‘is it cooked yet’ tests, suggested it was both a promising colour and the correct amount of bounce for a good sponge so the signs were hopeful.

Almond Cake

As promising as the recipe seemed, I did chicken out of its recommended icing – it started with soaking blanched almonds overnight and ended with sprinkling flaked almonds over the finished products and seemed altogether a bit excessive. So I stuck with a simple butter-cream icing, gently tinted pink with a dash of almond flavouring to tie it together. I sprinkled some pastel shaded 100s and 1000s over the top instead…

Decorated Cake

And as to the taste? Well it was a present wasn’t it? But the recipient assures me it was good so we’ll need to take her word for it won’t we…

*For those of you wondering why I didn’t just make her a batch of brownies – which are naturally gluten free – well it isn’t technically cake, I felt that was cheating.

Categories: bake more often, challenges | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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