Sunday, 19 May 2019

Gluten Free Rhubarb Upside Down Cake with Strawberry and Almond Sponge

Are you a rhubarb lover or hater? As a child I was a hater, but maturity has brought a love of the pink stuff and with it a desire to make a Rhubarb Upside Down Cake. No ordinary rhubarb upside down cake I hasten to add, but a gluten free one, made with a delicious strawberry and almond sponge incorporating real freeze dried strawberry powder and a very healthy ratio of ground almonds.

I love using ground almonds in gluten free bakes, not only because they add moisture and texture, but because they also add structure, lessening the potential crumbliness and dryness so familiar (and frustrating) to us gluten free folk. They are also amazing in their nutritional value, being a great source of protein, vitamin E, manganese and magnesium. Whilst they may be considered a 'high fat' ingredient, the great news is that most of the fat is monounsaturated which has cardio-protective properties. Sure, I'm throwing them into cake, but every little helps and if I am going to use valuable calories enjoying a treat, I figure I might as well ensure it has some nutritional value too.

The rhubarb I have used comes from my garden. Having completely water-logged and killed a much coveted rhubarb plant that we grew a few years back, we replaced it with a new one (which we put in a more favourable part of the garden) and are now being repaid with more rhubarb sticks than we can ever hope to eat, challenging us to source, invent and experiment with as many rhubarb recipes as we can. Seriously, if you fall into the 'love rhubarb' camp, consider growing your own (if you don't already). It is the plant that keeps on giving.... all summer...

Rhubarb upside down cake is just perfect for using it, because it consumes plenty of sticks in one hit. Better still, because it is upside down, you get to enjoy looking at the beautiful rhubarb hues and textures. Of course, the more pink the rhubarb, the better the effect, so be sure to arrange it pink side down in the bottom of the cake tin before baking.

This particular rhubarb upside down cake packs an extra-fruity punch from the addition of ground freeze-dried strawberry powder in the sponge. From the moment I discovered freeze-dried fruit, I have been a fan and have loved using it powdered in cakes and biscuits. Somehow the flavours of the fruit are extra intense when it has been through the freeze-drying process and depending on the fruit you are using, it can add the most beautiful natural colour to your cakes and cookies.

If you want to experiment yourself, it is definitely worth buying in larger quantities, either as ready-ground powder or to grind yourself at home. The tiny pots that you can buy in major supermarkets are way over-priced and simply won't stretch to large-scale baking. I always buy mine on-line from Healthy Supplies who have the most amazing range... from berries and cherries through to banana, blackcurrants and mandarin. If you buy the fruit pre-ground, it makes a fantastically healthy snack too, especially for little ones. Miss GF has always loved it!

If gluten free rhubarb upside down cake doesn't float your boat, but you are still in need of some seasonal rhubarb inspiration, a number of my good free-from and blogger friends have helped me out by sharing some of their favourite rhubarb recipes. They are all free from gluten and some of them are also free from dairy, eggs, nuts and other things too. I have also included a selection of other rhubarb treats from Gluten Free Alchemist :

Rhubarb Curd - Gluten Free Alchemist
Strawberry, Rhubarb & Pomegranate Jam - Gluten Free Alchemist
Rhubarb-Strawberry Meringue Pie - Gluten Free Alchemist
Champagne Syllabub with Orange-Rhubarb Compote from Choclette at Tin & Thyme
Oven-Baked Rhubarb & Strawberry Risotto (vegan) from Mandy at Sneaky Veg - Looks incredible
Rhubarb & Ginger Crumble Bars (vegan) from Nathalie at Intolerant Gourmand. Who can resist a tempting crumble topped rhubarb treat?
Rhubarb & Custard Layer Cakes - Gluten Free Alchemist
Rhubarb & Ginger Chutney (vegan) from Tin & Thyme
Rhubarb & Ginger Crumble Cake from Rebecca at Glutarama (egg-free and optional vegan). For an alternative crumble treat but with a cake base.
Rhubarb Friands with White Chocolate from Tin & Thyme
Rhubarb No Churn Ice Cream - Gluten Free Alchemist
Rhubarb & White Chocolate Eclairs - Gluten Free Alchemist

Yield: 12 - 16 slices

Gluten Free Rhubarb Upside Down Cake with Strawberry & Almond Sponge

A moist upside down cake made with fresh seasonal rhubarb and a gluten free strawberry and almond sponge (made with real strawberry powder). Perfect as a cake to serve with tea or as a dessert served with custard, cream, or ice cream.
prep time: cook time: total time:


  • 160g plain gluten free flour mix (I used blend A GFA mix from this post)
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon GF baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum (leave out if you use a commercial mix that has it already added)
  • large pinch fine sea salt
  • 25g freeze-dried strawberry powder (if you cannot source strawberry powder, use freeze-dried strawberries and grind into a fine powder using a blender).
  • 100g unsalted butter/dairy free alternative - softened
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 250 ml yoghurt (dairy free if needed)
  • 75 ml milk/dairy free alternative
  • approx 250g fresh rhubarb (sliced lengthways)
  • 80g soft light brown sugar


How to cook Gluten Free Rhubarb Upside Down Cake with Strawberry & Almond Sponge

  1. Ahead of time, prepare your rhubarb by slicing lengthways (you may also want to consider how you wish to lay in the base of the cake pan and cut roughly to size). Place the rhubarb in a dish and sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar, turning to ensure all the rhubarb is coated. Leave to stand at room temperature for an hour, turning occasionally.
  2. Base-line a 9 inch/23 cm non-stick, spring-form cake tin (2" deep) with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  3. Arrange the rhubarb in the base of the cake tin (placing the most pink bits upside down so that they show when the cake is turned out) and spoon over the remaining sugar juice. Make sure that you place the cake tin onto a baking tray before baking as some of the juice may leak out of the base.
  4. Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt and strawberry powder (I weigh mine into an airtight container and shake vigorously to mix) and set aside.
  5. Cream the butter and flour together with the vanilla extract (with an electric whisk) until light and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition.
  7. Mix together the yoghurt and milk in a jug and then add to the bowl about a third at a time, alternating with adding the dry flour mix a third at a time, gently folding through between each addition until just mixed and even. Be careful not to over mix.
  8. Spoon the cake batter into the cake tin over the rhubarb and smooth the top with the back of the spoon.
  9. Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes until the top springs back to the touch and a skewer comes out clean. If towards the end of the bake you are worried that the cake may be getting a little dark, cover with a piece of foil.
  10. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin before turning out (upside down) onto a heat-proof plate (if you are opting to do the stage below, otherwise turn onto a serving plate).
  11. Optional : Lightly grill the rhubarb base of the cake to caramelise slightly (do not place the cake too close to the grill heat), keeping a close eye to ensure you do not burn.
  12. Transfer to a serving plate (if different) and serve 'naked', or with cream, custard or ice cream.
Fat (grams)
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Created using The Recipes Generator

To share some rhubarby love, I am linking my gluten free Rhubarb Upside Down Cake with a few link-parties as follows :


Bake of the Week with Casa Costello & Mummy Mishaps
Baking Crumbs with Jo's Kitchen Larder & Apply to Face Blog
Love Cake with Jibber Jabber

What's For Dinner #201 with The Lazy Gastronome
Cook Blog Share with A Strong Coffee
Fiesta Friday #277 with Angie, Of Goats & Greens and The Not So Creative Cook

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-19 unless otherwise indicated

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Banoffee Cake (with a gluten free sponge) - A Birthday Treat

Many of you will have made Banoffee Pie in the past, but have you ever thought of making Banoffee Cake? That heavenly blend of banana and toffee works perfectly as a layered sponge and as I recently had a birthday (the age for which is best forgotten...) I decided to make one as my birthday treat. This gluten free Banoffee Cake is totally delicious (and I mean TOTALLY delicious). Tempted to try it? Read on my lovely readers for a recipe to make you swoon...

I am a HUGE fan of banoffee. It is one of those combinations that sends my taste buds into ecstatic gratitude with every mouthful. In the past, I have honoured this glorious marriage of flavours in the form of Banoffee Cheesecake, Banoffee Cupcakes, Banoffee Coconut Crunch Trifle, and mini Banoffee sponge cakes. This recipe however is up there with my best gluten free celebration cakes, even if it may not be the prettiest.

When I was plotting ways to achieve banoffee in celebration cake form, I knew that I wanted to recreate some of the texture as well as the flavour of banoffee pie. For the uninitiated of you, banoffee pie is usually made using a biscuit-crust case, filled with fresh banana and caramel/dulce de leche, topped with lashings of whipped cream and a sprinkling of chocolate.

I knew I didn't want to make the cake too sickly sweet and consequently needed to avoid filling and covering it in sugary frosting at all costs. Layering with freshly-whipped cream alongside a balanced helping of toffee sauce, would not only keep the sweetness down, but would replicate the creamy 'banoffeeness' of its 'pie' equivalent. To be honest, this was no hardship... at GF HQ we far prefer a cream-filled cake, even if it does take up most of the fridge space and has to be eaten twice as quick (although I am not 100% sure that the latter is a negative... Cream cakes in our house never last very long).

Being Coeliac, it was also essential that the sponge was gluten free, so I used my all time favourite, tried, tested and very much loved Banana Bread/Cake recipe, which was one of the first recipes I ever published on Gluten Free Alchemist. The recipe works equally well as a cake or a loaf and has been served as a dressed down version at many cake sales and team meetings over the past 6 years. It is verified yummy!

To achieve the biscuit crunch that you get with banoffee pie, I have added some specially prepared Crunchy Baked Biscuit Crumbs to the layers and decoration. They work perfectly, especially alongside the crisp, crushed dark chocolate cigarillos that adorn the top.

All in all, I am willing to stick my neck out and declare this gluten free Banoffee Cake a triumph.... well actually that was the phrase Mr GF generously used, but blushes aside, I think he may have a point. So if you are looking for a stunner of a cake that ticks the banana-toffee taste box, but still gives you the creamy-crunchy dreaminess of a traditional banoffee pie, let your bananas ripen, grab your cake tins, whack the oven on and bake...

Banoffee, Cake, Banana, Toffee, Gluten free, Birthday, Celebration
Layer Cake/Celebration Cake
Yield: 10 (one x 8 inch sandwich cake)

Gluten Free Banoffee Cake

A perfect celebration cake for Banoffee lovers, this deliciously moist banana cake is layered with freshly whipped cream, caramel sauce and crunchy baked biscuit crumbs, and is decorated with chocolate.
prep time: 50 Mcook time: 40 Mtotal time: 90 M


Banana Cake
  • 210g plain gluten free flour blend  (I used GFA blend A from this post)
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1½ teaspoons GF baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 100g unsalted butter - softened
  • 150g caster sugar (preferably golden caster)
  • 125g light soft brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 medium-sized very ripe bananas
  • 175 ml buttermilk
Crunchy Baked Biscuit Crumbs
  • 200g gluten free biscuits (digestive or chocolate chip)
  • 80g butter - cubed
Caramel and Cream Filling & Decoration
  • 500 ml double cream
  • 200-250g good quality toffee sauce or dulce de leche 
  • handful of toasted chopped hazel/brazil/macadamia nuts (optional)
  • crunchy baked biscuit crumbs (see separate details)
  • dark chocolate curls/broken cigarillos/shards, etc
  • edible glitter (optional)


Banana Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and base-line two 8 inch non-stick round baking tins with baking paper.
  2. Weigh and mix together the flour, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and set aside (I weigh mine into a large airtight container and shake vigorously).
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together, using an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
  4. In a small bowl, beat the eggs together with a fork and then add, a little at a time to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add and beat in the vanilla extract.
  6. Mash the bananas in a separate bowl with a fork, before gently folding into the wet mixture.
  7. Using a large spoon or spatula, gently fold in the buttermilk alternately with the flour mix, about a third at a time, until all the ingredients are JUST combined. Do not over-mix.
  8. Divide the cake batter evenly between the cake tins and smooth the tops before baking for approximately 30 minutes (until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the top is firm to the touch but springs back).
  9. Leave to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Crunchy Baked Biscuit Crumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and line a small baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Place the biscuits in a strong plastic food bag, gently squeeze out the air and hold the top shut. Using a rolling pin, either bash or roll the biscuits to break them down into coarse crumbs. Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter, stirring in a small saucepan over a very gentle heat (or in a glass bowl in the microwave set at medium, on 30 second bursts, stirring well between each) until just melted. 
  4. Mix the melted butter with the biscuit crumbs until evenly blended and then spread the mixture onto the lined baking tray.
  5. Place in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, frequently turning the crumbs to enable them to crisp and 'bake' evenly.
  6. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.
Assembly and Decoration
  1. Place one of the sponges on a serving plate.
  2. Whip the cream to soft peaks (so that it holds its shape well) and then spread a thick layer onto the base sponge.
  3. Top the cream layer with a good drizzle of toffee sauce, a sprinkling of chopped nuts (optional) and a good sprinkling of crunchy biscuit crumbs.
  4. Place the second sponge cake layer carefully on top of the filling.
  5. Top with another layer of whipped cream and thickly drizzled toffee sauce.
  6. Decorate with a rim of crunchy biscuit crumbs, chocolate curls/crushed cigarillos and a sprinkling of edible glitter for a little extra sparkle (optional).
  7. Refrigerate until ready to eat, but remove from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
Created using The Recipes Generator

I am sharing my gluten free Banoffee Cake with :

Fiesta Friday #271 with Angie and Ai Made It For You
Cook Blog Share with Everyday Healthy Recipes
Love Cake with Jibber Jabber


Bake of the Week with Mummy Mishaps and Casa Costello 
Baking Crumbs with Apply to Face Blog and Jo's Kitchen Larder 
Tickle My Tastebuds Tuesday #233 with Lori's Culinary Creations

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-19 unless otherwise indicated

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Brownies - Dark and Dangerous! (free from gluten, nuts and optional dairy free)

Meet my Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Brownies... Dark, fudgy, dangerously moreish and perfect for the Easter chocolate binge which is fast approaching (well... Easter doesn't have to be all about eggs does it?). This gluten free brownie recipe is made with dark orange chocolate and 'spiked' with a little extra orange oil for a truly citrus-infused experience. I made mine with Terry's Dark Chocolate Orange although it does have a 'may contain' wheat label, so if you are Coeliac, you should use an alternative such as Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Dark Chocolate Orange bar, Lindt Orange Intense bar or Tesco Zesty Orange bar. If you like your chocolate a little bit fruity, this one's for you.

I've been meaning to make these decadent mouthfuls for ages and actually bought the Chocolate Oranges when they were on offer at Christmas, but then life got in the way and they just didn't happen. All power to my self control though... Chocolate Orange in the house for 3 months uneaten? Go me!!!!

Trust me though, these beauties are worth the wait and the self-control. They pack a serious chocolate punch... enough to top up the empty winter serotonin banks with one square and because they are made with dark chocolate and offset with a hint of tangy orange, they are definitely less sweet than a lot of brownies.

Although I made these gluten free brownies with already infused orange chocolate you could just add extra orange extract to the mix alongside bog-standard chocolate, but be absolutely sure to choose dark chocolate. It makes for a more intense flavour experience and brings out the citrus beautifully.

I am also fairly certain that they could be made with ordinary wheat flour, although (for obvious reasons) I haven't tried it, but if it's gluten free brownies you are hunting down, this recipe is both wheat free and Coeliac friendly. Sub the butter for dairy free spread and use dairy free dark chocolate and you also have yourself a delicious dairy free treat too. Upgrade and make it a full-on chocolate-lovers dessert. Grab a bowl, and top with your favourite ice cream or custard and devour.

The eagle-eyed among you will notice there's a bit of a major change with this post. After nearly 6 years of blogging, I have finally found a route to making printable recipe cards on my Blogger blogging platform. I'm ecstatic actually! There seem to be a million and one app options for recipe developers who use Wordpress, but (as far as I can see) virtually none for the rest of us. Yet it's so important that you lovely lot can access my recipes in a way that is easy to use in the kitchen.

I am hoping that over time, I will be able to back-track across my old recipe posts and update as many as possible to include a printable version and I'd love you to let me know which Gluten Free Alchemist recipes you want me to update next. So if you have a favourite, please leave me a comment so that I can make sure the best recipes get updated first.

Of course, if you do make these deliciously fudgy gluten free Chocolate Orange Brownies, then make my day and let me know about it. Even better... take a photo and tag me in on social media.

If Chocolate Orange isn't your thing... there are plenty of other brownie options to choose from on Gluten Free Alchemist. We have recipes for :
Pear & Walnut Brownies
Beetroot Brownies
Chocolate-Banana-Coconut Brownies
Very Gooey Chocolate Brownies
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Brownies
Minty Chocolate Brownies
Chocolate-Cherry-Pecan Brownies
and even
Toblerone Brownies

Recipe for gluten free Chocolate Orange Brownies :

Gluten Free Brownies / Chocolate Orange Brownies
Brownies / Traybake
Sweet Treats
Yield: 16 squaresPin it

Chocolate Orange Brownies - Gluten Free. Optional Dairy Free

Divine dense and fudgy gluten free brownies made with dark orange chocolate. Rich and decadent, but not over sweet.
prep time: 15 minscook time: 25 minstotal time: 40 mins


  • 300g dark orange chocolate (I used Terry's Dark Chocolate Orange) - dairy free if needed
  • 150g unsalted butter (or dairy free alternative)
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract/oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 70g golden caster sugar
  • 70g soft light brown sugar
  • 130g plain gluten free flour blend (I used GFA blend A - See flours page)


  1. Base-line a square non-stick 8 inch/20 cm baking tin with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  2. Using a heat-proof bowl, melt and stir the chocolate with the butter over a saucepan of lightly simmering water, or in the microwave (medium setting, 30 second bursts, stirring between each). Once melted and smoothly blended, add the orange extract, stir through and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugars together until well-blended and airy.
  4. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until blended.
  5. Lastly add the flour and fold through with a wooden or silicone spoon/spatula until combined. The mixture should be a thick dropping consistency - If it feels a little too thick, add a splash of milk and fold through. 
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until just firm to the touch.
  7. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool completely, before slicing to serve. It may help to refrigerate before slicing to make the cutting easier, and then bring back to room temperature.
Fat (grams)
Sat. Fat (grams)
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Fiber (grams)
Net carbs
Sugar (grams)
Protein (grams)
Sodium (milligrams)
Cholesterol (grams)
Created using The Recipes Generator
Gluten Free Chocolate Orange Brownies shared with :


Cook Blog Share with Apply to Face Blog
Baking Crumbs with Jo's Kitchen Larder & Apply to Face Blog
Love Cake with Jibber Jabber

Bake Of The Week with Mummy Mishaps & Casa Costello
Fiesta Friday with Angie & Foodie On Board

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-19 unless otherwise indicated

Monday, 4 March 2019

Dark & Sticky Jamaican Ginger Cake (gluten free, optional dairy free, nut free, rice free)

Remember McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake?... Sticky, dark, rich and temptingly warming? Well this is my gluten free copycat..... just like Mcvities, except it's home-made and it's free from gluten... which in my book, makes it better.

Perhaps I alone in having a 'god... I'm going to miss this' list from the moment I had to go gluten free? I doubt it... but either way, Jamaican Ginger Cake has to be on my top ten gluten free desired list.... yet search as I have, I've yet to find a 'free from' variant commercially available. Which means.... if you want it, you have to make it yourself.

So that's what I've done... and because I hate the thought of anyone else being deprived, I've decided to share.

Fortunately, I've made it as simple as possible for you and come up with a recipe that's as easy as pie. Actually, it's easier than pie. You literally mix your dry stuff, melt your wet stuff and beat it all together with an egg. Seriously, I kid you not... the most difficult bit is leaving it in the oven for an hour, whilst the spiced aroma wafts through the air around you and your stomach rumbles uncontrollably.

This is not my first foray into Jamaican Ginger Cake development. I created my first recipe back in 2016 after a work colleague needed a gluten free version to make Gingerbread Stuffing at Christmas. It was a great cake.... also deep and sticky and very like the old glutenous McVities sponge that I remember. But some recipes just need to be taken one step further.

My previous recipe contained ground almonds and used light brown sugar... Sure there's nothing wrong with almonds or light brown sugar, but on a whim, I decided that I wanted to develop a darker, more gingery, nut free, rice free, optional dairy free version, that would be more accessible for other food intolerances.

It was worth the effort.... I am truly proud of my Jamaican Ginger Cake Mark 2. It has the perfect texture... (not over airy or over-dense).... It has the characteristic back-kick of cinnamon-infused ginger which warms the palate and gives you a big internal winter hug... It is expectantly sticky on the teeth and sat side by side with its gluten-filled counterparts, it competes with ease and (in my humble opinion) would probably win hands down.

How do I know? Because it has been tested on friends, family and colleagues who have been spotted sneaking back for an extra slice or three and who (mostly still being gluten-eaters) have compared it more than favourably.

For quality assurance, I have made sure to check its trifle-making versatility with a re-run of my Winter Ginger and Pear Trifle (essential if you want to WOW at dinner parties) and I (and all my taste-testing guinea pigs) can confirm that it is unbelievably good.

But don't take my word for it... give it a try yourselves.
If you do, please let me know how you find it and even better... take a quick photo and tag me on social media so that I can swoon over your efforts and be proud of both our success.

I am sharing my gluten free Dark & Sticky Jamaican Ginger Cake with the following :


Cook Blog Share with Recipes Made Easy
Baking Crumbs with Jo's Kitchen Larder and Apply to Face Blog
Love Cake with Jibber Jabber

Fiesta Friday #266 with Angie, Life Diet Health and The Not So Creative Cook
Bake of the Week with Casa Costello and Mummy Mishaps

Dark Jamaican Ginger Cake (makes 1x two pound or 2x one pound cakes)


260g plain gluten free flour (I used my GFA rice free blend which you can find here)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ tablespoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

110g unsalted butter or dairy free alternative - cubed
110g soft dark brown sugar
100g golden syrup
100g black treacle (molasses)
160ml water (if you use a rice-based flour blend you may need a little more, but add any extra at the end when you know the consistency of your batter)

1 large egg - lightly beaten


  1. Prepare you loaf tin(s) by fully lining with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/ Gas 3)
  2. Weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt until fully blended and any lumps have been broken down (I weigh mine into an airtight container and shake vigorously). Set aside ready in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Put the butter, sugar, syrup, treacle and water into a large saucepan, and place over a low heat, stirring frequently until the butter has completely melted and the sugar dissolved and all are well blended into a smooth liquid. DO NOT BOIL. 
  4. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Add the liquid to the dry mix and beat with a wooden/silicone spoon until well blended.
  6. Add the beaten egg about a third to half at a time and beat through with the spoon (the mixture should be smooth and reasonably 'loose' - gloopy dropping consistency).
  7. Pour the mixture equally into the tins and smooth the tops.
  8. Bake immediately for approximately 35 minutes to 1 hour (depending on size of tin) until the cake(s) are just firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave in the tins to cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. 
  10. Best eaten a day + after baking to get the characteristic Jamaican Ginger Cake stickiness, but equally delicious if eaten straight after baking.  
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-19 unless otherwise indicated

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

The Best Gluten Free Maple Shortbread (gluten free, refined sugar free, optional dairy free, optional vegan, egg free)

I've been wanting to achieve a really good gluten free shortbread biscuit for ages... One that holds its shape, melts in the mouth and tastes crisp yet creamy. I mean... who doesn't love a moreishly good shortbread? Clearly not just me, because shortbread biscuits have been around for a very long time... dating back to the mid 18th Century.

Sure there are plenty of commercially available gluten free shortbreads now available in the shops and you may wonder why I would want to waste time trying to make my own when I could just pop down the supermarket... The thing is.... whilst it's really convenient to grab a pack from the shelf without the hassle of weighing, mixing, rolling and baking the ingredients, I actually think that most gluten free shop-bought shortbreads aren't really that great. Considering how much they cost, I expect better.

Part of the problem is that the commercially available biscuits are heavily weighted towards the use of rice flour.... This leaves them gritty in texture and (this may just be me) clearing my throat for some time afterwards. They are also (in my humble opinion) decidedly too sweet. That makes seeing them on the supermarket shelves frustrating, because without fail, I get ridiculously excited when they appear in their 'special' seasonal boxes... magnetically tempting my gaze towards them.... only to remember that if I buy them, I am setting myself up for disappointment.

So I have decided that I will not waste my time or frustration on them anymore... Especially since a traditional shortbread recipe is made with a simple combination of butter, sugar and flour and providing you stick to a few basic rules, can be made with the minimum of skill.

The recipe I have created (and it has been through a number of tweaks and amendments to get it just right) aims to be a little healthier than your average gluten free shortbread. It uses a home-mixed GFA rice-free flour blend that you can find the instructions for here (and which I keep in a topped-up airtight container in my larder), so contains no rice flour whatsoever and replaces white sugar with maple syrup as a more natural sweetener. (If you can't be bothered to mix your own flour, these shortbreads would work well with Free From Fairy rice free plain flour blend - see side bar for link).

Maple syrup may be more expensive, but is entirely unrefined and apparently, is high in anti-oxidants, zinc, calcium and potassium (as well as being lower in calories than honey). Ok... it's still sugar, but it has such a divine and unique flavour, that using it makes these shortbreads extra special (healthier or not).

Although I made mine with butter (I grew up thinking that shortbread should have 'all butter' on the label), if you are vegan or dairy intolerant, make a simple switch and replace the butter with your favourite alternative soft dairy free spread. It's better to use vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract too, to ensure the dough maintains a firm consistency.

I did test the biscuit dough without using xanthan gum (as it can add a bit of a 'slimy' texture to biscuits), but whilst it held together and baked fine, the shelf life was slightly limited by greater crumbliness. Having said that, if you find that xanthan gum doesn't sit well with you, just leave it out or replace with a little ground psyllium husk for stability. Once baked though... these biscuits will stay fresh for well over a week, providing they have been kept in an air-tight container.

Like all good shortbread, this cookie dough is sturdy enough to allow for imprints and patterns. I rolled mine using my new toy... a beautifully crafted embossed rolling pin from Pastry Made. It took a few goes to ensure the right pressure for optimum markings, but I am absolutely in love with it.

If you like sugar sprinkled on your shortbread, go ahead... That seems to be the traditional way, although I decided to keep mine as simple as possible.

So how do you make a really good gluten free shortbread? There are a few basic rules that are helpful to get them perfect...

Rule #1
A shortbread is a tightly structured biscuit.... it doesn't need baking powder or bicarbonate of soda as this will cause it to be too light and will lose any markings you choose to add (whether by rolling pin or press) and will distort the shape. Don't use self-raising flour.

Rule #2
Equally, when you cream the butter/spread with the sugar/syrup, you are aiming to combine it rather than make it 'fluffy'. Don't over-mix.... if it is too light and fluffy, the final shortbread may be too crumbly.

Rule #3
Be patient. The nature of gluten free flours is that they need time to absorb moisture and to settle. When you add the flour to the mix, beat slowly and firmly, pressing it together little by little, so that it has time to blend well and stabilise. When it starts to come together, use a floured or gloved hand to bring together and knead gently until smooth.

Rule #4
Make sure your dough is firm and pliable, but not sticky and be certain to chill it in the fridge before you start rolling it. This will make it easier to work without it getting too warm. When ready to roll, cut into thirds and roll each, one at a time. It is fine to re-knead and re-roll, but make sure that you chill the unbaked biscuits again before cooking.
So there you have it...

I am sharing my free from Maple Shortbread with the following :

Baking Crumbs with Apply to Face Blog and Jo's Kitchen Larder
Cook Blog Share with Everyday Healthy Recipes
Fiesta Friday with Angie

Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching for Spice

Maple Shortbread  (makes about 25 to 30 biscuits)


240g butter (softened)/ soft dairy free spread
140g maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
300g plain gluten free flour mix (I used my rice free home-mixed blend that you can find here)
pinch fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (unless your flour mix already contains it)

decorate with melted chocolate and nuts if you wish
sprinkle with caster sugar (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter/spread until smooth.
  2. Add the maple syrup and vanilla paste and beat to combine. Be careful not to over-mix.
  3. Mix the flour, salt and xanthan gum together and then add to the wet mix. Beat with a firm silicone/wooden spoon (see Rule #3 above) until it comes together into an even dough. 
  4. With floured hands, knead gently to complete the blending process and bring together into a ball. If the mix is too sticky, sprinkle a little more flour onto the dough and knead in until you have a good consistency. If you have used a flour which absorbs more liquid and has made the dough dry/crumbly, add a little more maple syrup.
  5. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
  6. Prepare 2 to 3 baking trays by lining with baking paper.
  7. When ready to roll, lay a large sheet of baking paper down and sprinkle with flour. Cut about a third of the dough, place it on the floured baking paper, sprinkle the top with a fine layer of flour to prevent sticking and roll to a thickness of about ½ to 1½ cm (as you prefer).
  8. Carefully cut your shortbread dough into shapes using a cookie cutter and place on the prepared baking trays. Chill for half an hour before baking. 
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  10. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the shortbreads are golden at the edges (they may need a couple of minutes extra for thick shortbread). Rotate the trays half way through to ensure an even bake. 
  11. Once baked, either remove from the oven and allow to cool (they should firm up as they do so) or if you have made thicker shortbreads, you may choose to leave them in the oven (turned off) to cool as the oven cools (this ensures they dry into a really crisp biscuit). If you are sprinkling with sugar for a traditional finish, do so before they cool.
  12. If you choose to decorate (although they are perfect without decoration), make sure they are completely cool before dipping in melted chocolate and adding sprinkles. 
  13. Store in an airtight container. 
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