Testing one, two, three

How does one make a birthday cake for a sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free dietary need? Luckily for me the particular family member is a grown adult who is open to experimentation in recipes and not a small child who doesn’t understand why they cannot have cake.

Looking into gluten-free flours it seems important to get the 1:1 product that contains Xanthem Gum. I looked at the Xanthem Gum and it was not inexpensive and why would I need that much anyway? Oh, and the gluten-free flour must also not contain any almond flour. I found a small bag and purchased it with the intent of experimenting on my standard cake recipes.

Sugar-free is a challenge. Approved sweeteners are honey, dates, and maybe, coconut sugar. I found a small bag of coconut sugar as well.

Dairy-free is simpler as there are so many dairy-free “not milk” products out there. I like oat milk which is better for the planet than almond milk. Soy has a mixed reputation but would more closely match the protein in cow’s milk. Plant-based butters are available but if you read ingredients carefully you can find margarine that is completely lactose-free. An olive oil cake won’t need butter at all.

I have a Betty Crocker snack cake recipe from the back of an ancient flour bag which I have used for almost 40 years. This recipe is actually vegan. I have chosen the first cake experiment for this recipe as it will only need two substitutions: flour and sugar.

  • 1 2/3 cups flour (Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 GF flour used)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (coconut sugar used here)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (why is vanilla used in chocolate cakes?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray or oil. I do this even though the original recipe does not direct one to grease the pan.

Whisk all dry ingredients together and then stir in the wet ones. Mix thoroughly and pour into prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes until done.

Thoughts: coconut sugar is brown in color with a vague caramel aroma. It also does not hold moisture as well as brown sugar (according to the internet). I was concerned the cake may be dry, but it was not. It may have been done just earlier than 35 minutes though. It did have a hint of a caramel/”burnt-but-not-really” flavor. Coconut flavor was not detected. And the texture was good and cake-like, spongy. Perhaps some espresso powder to enhance the cocoa would not go amiss.

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Brownies?

I was visiting with my daughter and several times throughout the day “brownies” were mentioned. The issue with brownies is the dietary restrictions needed to maintain the well-being of all who are present. More power and kudos to all parents, spouses, etc. who research and experiment and provide nutritious and enjoyable foods for family members who cannot “just eat whatever”. So Daughter and I were faced with attempting to find dessert which would be sugar-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free! And I found a brownie recipe in one of the books she got from her local library. I just can’t remember the name or author.

After reading the ingredient list we find that Daughter has all the ingredients, so we proceed. The alternate ingredients are dates for sugar, coconut oil for butter, and coconut flour for all-purpose. We omitted the walnuts. This is made in a blender.

We first processed the dates in the blender, added the eggs, oil, and vanilla, and lastly the dry ingredients. It was a thick batter and took some time to spread in the 9-inch square pan. We baked it and voila, brownies. Well they did not look at all like the picture in the recipe book.

They also did not have the texture of “ordinary” brownies. They were neither chewy nor cake-y. They had a distinct coconut flavor which Son-in-Law liked. The mouthfeel was more of a coconut-textured, nougat-y type such as a Mounds candy bar insides. But it was a little bit of chocolate for the day!