Welcome to my blog, through which I hope to be able to share my experiences of gluten free cooking, baking, experimenting and eating.
When my daughter was diagnosed (age 6) with Coeliac Disease, our world of eating changed overnight. From breads, pastry and pasta to cakes, biscuits and puddings.......... suddenly most of what we knew was 'off the menu'. I think I must have tested every available gluten free product on the market, seeking out replacements to try and keep things as normal as possible. I was disappointed to find that what was available was often dry, crumbly and flavourless.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to turn my kitchen into a laboratory, turn all I knew about cooking on its head and start creating!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Holiday Birthday Chocolate Cake Update - the result? Yay.... it worked!


We just got back from two and a half weeks in Crete! We had a fantastic holiday and much needed family time. I didn't want to come home, but sadly holidays have to end and I started a new job straight away, so a return to the UK was inevitable. I have every intention of testing out a few of my favourite Greek dishes now I am back and hope to be able to share with you the amazing progress the Greeks have made in their embracing of gluten free eating in the two years since my last visit. but first....... I cannot wait to give you a cake update......


Remember that fudgy hybrid of a brownie and chocolate sponge that I posted just before I went away? The special gluten free cake mix that I developed to take away on holiday to celebrate my daughter's 10th birthday? Well....... I can confidently report that it works as well abroad as it does at home. Phew!

And while on the subject..... Thank you so much to Vicki at The Free From Fairy for allowing me to guest post whilst she was taking a break herself and for promoting the recipe to this amazing cake whilst I was off galavanting!

Tested in a totally unfamiliar kitchen with random, improvised equipment and the addition of a few local Greek ingredients (mainly for filling and decoration), it was perfect...... and the birthday girl was very, very happy..... If she told me once, she told me 20 times.... 'This is the best birthday cake I have ever had Mum'!


Her birthday was the day after we arrived at our second holiday villa, so no sooner had I unpacked, than I was in the kitchen in the sweltering heat, rummaging through cupboards and drawers looking for suitable bowls, measuring equipment, spoons, forks and scrapers.


We had already been told by a couple of ex-pats we met the week before that nobody bothers to bake because it is too hot in the kitchen, but not one to be put off by the trivialities of weather, I cobbled together a salad bowl (for batter mixing) couple of mugs (for melting and warming ingredients in the microwave) and a small serving bowl and dessert spoon for beating together some butter frosting. I seriously lucked out with some kitchen scales I discovered lurking at the back of a cupboard which took the guess-work out of estimating butter weight. I also found a flexible spatula, but was relieved that my recipe didn't require any whisking because as predicted, the villa was whiskless.


I had aimed for a really straight forward batter-mixing process and was very pleased that everything went to plan. In addition to the cake mix's basic dry ingredients, the caster sugar had been weighed out before leaving the UK and brought to Greece in a zip-lock bag. Whilst I rate my chances pretty high in guessing the weight of butter for a cake, I have no clue whatsoever about measuring sugar without scales and thought it was probably too crucial to risk getting wrong.

I threw a couple of bars of dark chocolate in the case for reliability (I reckon us UK chocolate eaters have far higher quality expectations for our chocolate consumption) and also because the birthday girl had made an advance request for chocolate icing. The candles made the journey from the UK too, mainly because I really couldn't be bothered to waste valuable holiday time hunting any down.


One of the dilemmas before leaving home was what I would actually bake the cake in. Not wanting to add any extra weight with metal cake tins and not being able to find anything disposable that would be either structured enough to hold the mixture in shape or non-stick enough to turn out the baked sponge without completely destroying it, I brought two silicone baking moulds instead. Another space-saving wheeze came in packing one square and one round mould, so that the round one would fit snuggly inside the square!


Rather than cut off the square corners of the base sponge to match the layers, we decided to utilise the uniqueness of their shape for decoration purposes. The ubiquitous giant Toblerone that we bought at the airport on the way out (every holiday should have one) was genius..... The triangular pieces fitted each squared corner perfectly........ How amazing is that? The cake decoration gods were definitely smiling on me that day!


The birthday girl's specific request (but only after arriving at our holiday destination) was to fill the cake with vanilla frosting (with extra chocolate chips of course) and a light spreading of strawberry jam. The jam was easy to find..... icing sugar and vanilla less so. The Greek alphabet is pretty unfathomable to us non-Greek-speaking travellers, but tenacity pays off and we eventually managed to find both. The icing sugar seemed extra fine compared to the UK and the vanilla we found came as portioned powder stored in cute little vials. I subsequently found some vanilla paste, but too late for the cake, which had long since been eaten!


With a spreading of basic chocolate icing on the top, I then handed all decorating duties to the birthday girl..... She was entirely responsible for everything that followed...... Doesn't it look fab?

As a special treat, I'd brought from the UK some Hotel Chocolat chocolate Gemstones and we sourced some gluten free sprinkles in a local Greek supermarket (with ingredients listed in English).


And so...... My little gluten free girl has turned 10. I cannot believe how fast time has flown and as she heads for her final year in primary school, I continue to watch her become more grown up and independent with each and every day.......

I am sharing my cake update with the following (full recipe for the mix can be found here) :


We Should Cocoa with Choclette at Tin and Thyme - This month anything goes!










Love Cake with Jibber Jabber who's August theme is Pack Me A Picnic. Picnic? Definitely this cake slices for easy travel..... But this mix goes further as a packable mix to make when away too!





Simply Eggcellent with Dom over at Belleau Kitchen who is also accepting any recipes this month with no specific theme. This cake was made with carefully sourced local Greek eggs!








Shop Local with Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary...... Bit of a twist here...... I am entering in celebration of my local successful Greek ingredient hunt.









Free From Fridays with the Free From Farmhouse and Hungry Little Veggie.










Tea Time Treats with Karen over at Lavender & Lovage (and The Hedge Combers). August's theme is a very apt Summer Holiday Baking!


Recipe of the Week with A Mummy Too.








Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum.







Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-15 unless otherwise indicated

26 comments:

  1. I'm not surprised the birthday girl was happy with happy with her cake - it looks lush! Like you'd want to forget the plates and dive straight in :)

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    1. Thanks Laura... That's pretty much what we did!!

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  2. Happy birthday to Miss Gluten Free Alchemist Jnr. I can see she had inherited your flare for decoration - you both did a brilliant job. Did you have to check that the icing sugar was gluten free - I know when my niece was first gluten free, we had to make sure we had pure icing sugar and the regular one had wheat in it but these days most icing sugars tend to be gf.

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    1. She says thank you very much! She loves to decorate a cake does my daughter!
      That's an interesting question about whether the icing sugar was GF.... I have never come across one that isn't so didn't even check! What a bad parent I must be.... But she didn't appear to get glutened, so I guess it was fine..... this time.... I'll check next time!

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  3. What a masterpiece to create on holiday. Looks delicious and fab decoration. Really special. Can't wait to hear about your other holiday explorations

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    1. Thanks Katie. Good to hear from you!
      I made some amazing baked Feta at the weekend.... Will be posting soon xx

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  4. Wait. You took a Baggie of powder through customs? I'm confused. Delighted it worked. This is probably where the American cups measurements come in really handy! Plus there are loads of Greek cakes so it's nonsense that they don't bake. They just do it at night!! Lovely cake. So much effort. Thanks so much for linking to simply eggcellent xxx

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    1. Thanks Dom. Now you mention it, I got seriously frisked both on the way out and back! Maybe I look like a seriously dangerous cake-runner!
      My daughter was extremely concerned when she saw me packing though..... I had to persuade her that as it smelt of chocolate, we really would be fine!
      Good thinking on the 'cup' front.... I hadn't thought of that one!

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  5. Wow - how scary to bake away from home! Love the shape of this cake

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    1. Thanks CC. It did end up pretty unique!
      Baking away from home for a birthday was a little daunting.... but hey.... every birthday needs a cake and we certainly weren't going to find a GF one in the shops!

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  6. This looks so much fun! And retro in a good way - hope the holiday was fab x

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    1. Cheers Stuart. My daughter had lots of fun decorating it! And the holiday was just what we all needed!

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  7. The cake looks amazing! I'm glad other people are still committed to baking when on holiday like I am!

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    1. Thanks Kat. I can't believe how much baking I did actually do...... It was fun!

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  8. Aw, looks fabulous. I'd be delighted to get a cake like that!

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    1. Thank you Emily. The birthday girl was thrilled with it!

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  9. This is really nice, you have done well here especially because you baked it in a different kitchen. Ilove the photo of your little one, she looks so happy!
    Well done for getting a new job! Ciao.

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    1. Thanks Alida. Cooking in an unknown kitchen is always a challenge, but I was well prepared!

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  10. I'm so impressed at your organization! I guess with gluten free ingredients you need to be. How very special to have such a wonderful cake baked for your birthday whilst on holiday.

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    1. Ha ha. Thanks Ness. I think my 'organisation' drives my family to distraction..... but hey! If you want to cook a decent cake away from home, you need to be prepared!!

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  11. THANKS so much for this wonderful entry into Tea Time Treats! LOVE the recipe and photos so much! Karen

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  12. Well what a fabulous accolade, the best birthday cake ever has got to be worth all that effort. I'm mighty impressed with your organisational skills in getting to the grand finale. And 10 is really something too. Glad you had a super holiday and good luck with your new job. AND thanks for sharing this with #WeShouldcocoa :D

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    1. Absolutely worth all the effort Choclette! There is something very special about seeing your birthday girl happily enjoying your birthday efforts! And this was a cake that needed to be shared!

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  13. Happy Birthday to your daughter! The time certainly flies, doesn't it! What a fantastic cake to celebrate with though, and thank you for linking up with the Shop Local Challenge! :)

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