Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Chocolate Kiss Cake - gluten free

Last weekend my daughter went to a birthday party, which is often a bit of a trial when I know she can't eat most party food. I have got very good at packing party teas for her and am always very careful to check what food will be on offer so that I can match her pack as closely as possible and she doesn't feel too obvious. She never complains, although I am sure that it must feel rather strange for her at times.

But last weekend I was asked to make the birthday cake for everyone! The birthday girl's mum is fab and is always really thoughtful to make sure that my daughter feels like everyone else. The bonus for me is that I get to make birthday cake, which is something I love to do, because I know my efforts will be enjoyed by lots of people.............

Chocolate was the order of the day, so I made a favourite chocolate sponge with delicious vanilla butter icing and decorated it with chocolate Kisses and my favourite  sprinkles - Magic Sparkles

The Kisses are American -  made by Hersheys and always look fantastic on special cakes. You can use lots of them or a few of them, but either way, the milk chocolate ones are gluten free! In the UK, you can buy them in Asda.

My favourite Magic Sparkles always add a really magical touch to cakes and never fail to impress, especially when they catch the light and sparkle like lots of tiny diamonds. Kids and grown ups love them and feel really special when they find them on their cake.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to eat any of the cake (it wasn't mine to eat), but I was very naughty and made a couple of cupcakes from the mixture before I baked it................ All in the name of quality assurance...... really! The sponge was really moist, the icing was really vanillary and overall, the cake was REALLY chocolaty. My sort of cake................ I hope the kids enjoyed it!

Chocolate Sponge (makes two large 9 inch round sponges)

280g Alchemist flour mix A (from this post), or a commercial gluten free blend          
1 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda                   
2 teaspoons GF baking powder                    
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum (1/2 teaspoon less if using commercial blend with xanthan added)                   
½ teaspoon fine sea salt                                 
60g cocoa                                                
115 ml hot water                                             
360ml milk
1 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
160g unsalted butter (room temperature)
430g caster sugar
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla essence
160g ground almonds


  1. Preheat the oven to 180⁰ C / 350⁰ F / Gas 4. Base-line two 9 inch round cake tins with baking paper (or use smaller tins and some cupcakes cases).
  2. In a medium sized bowl, weigh, sift and mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt and set aside.
  3. In a smaller bowl, weigh the cocoa powder, sifting to remove any lumps. Gradually add the hot water a little at a time, stirring to form a smooth paste. Set aside.
  4. Combine and stir the milk and vinegar in a jug and leave to stand.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric whisk until light, fluffy and pale in colour.
  6. Beat in the eggs one at a time, ensuring they are well mixed.
  7. Add the vanilla extract and cocoa paste and beat thoroughly.
  8. Using a large spoon or spatula, fold in the ground almonds until fully mixed.

  9. Gently fold in the flour mix alternately with the milk-vinegar mixture about a third at a time, ensuring all ingredients are JUST combined. It is important not to over mix.
  10. Spoon the mixture evenly into the cake tins and smooth down the tops. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean and the tops are soft and spring back.
  11. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before decorating.

Vanilla Butter Icing

120g unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
approx. 400-450g icing sugar (sifted)
almond or rice milk (approximately 3 tablespoons) or cows milk

Decoration - 1 bag of Hersheys Milk Chocolate Kisses and sprinkles as you wish.



  1. Beat the butter until smooth.
  2. Gradually add and beat in the icing sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. You may wish to alternate with milk a little at a time as in 3 below.
  3. Add the milk a little at a time to achieve desired consistency.
  4. If the icing appears too stiff, add a little extra milk to achieve the desired spreading consistency, or beat in a little extra icing sugar if too soft.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Gingerbread stars and people - gluten free of course

I have had an unusual craving for ginger this week. I have no idea whether that means anything, but if anyone has any thoughts, let me know....... Either way, to help satisfy my craving, I drank lots of herbal ginger tea, and made some gingerbread biscuits. Quick and easy yes, but they smell so good and everyone in our house loves them, especially my daughter.

These biscuits are absolutely delicious. They are not too sweet and have a slightly soft middle which melts in the mouth, accompanied by that tingly warm hit of ginger.

For an extra bit of zing, I topped my stars with a tangy raspberry drizzled icing, made with freeze-dried raspberry (available from Waitrose, although I buy mine in larger quantity from a company called Healthy Supplies). The fruity sharpness off-sets the rich, sweet ginger spice, and adds another dimension that somehow just works! The colour is also fantastic, making the biscuits look rich, vibrant and attractive. I love the colour of raspberries.............

Just after I had made them, I packed a few stars into a tub and popped them in the car for the school run. Seeing them in the car, my daughter eagerly asked, 'can I have one?' As she opened the tub, she announced with glee 'oooooh these smell delicious. It's a good job I can have one, because if I was only allowed to smell them, I might just have to be naughty and eat one anyway......' Then she wolfed down several in a row, so I guess they must be okay......

The recipe that I have used here has been adapted from 'Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes' (Kelli & Peter Bronski (2011)). I have taken out the allspice and cloves as I find they distract from the rich taste of the ginger and added extra ginger instead (because for us, they weren't gingery enough). I have also changed the ratio of brown sugar to molasses, using a greater amount of brown sugar, because I find the heavier weight of molasses can give a bitter taste.


180g unsalted butter (room temperature)
80g soft brown sugar
60g molasses sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
210g gluten free plain flour (I used the alchemist mix A from this post)
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
sugar sprinkles as desired

Raspberry Icing                                         

Approximately 6 teaspoons icing sugar

3 teaspoons freeze-dried raspberries (ground into powder)

Boiled water added a little at a time to drizzling consistency


  1. Preheat the oven to 190 C / 375 F / Gas 4-5.
  2. Cream together the butter, brown sugar and molasses using an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat to incorporate. 
  4. Thoroughly stir in the flour, xanthan gum, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt, until fully incorporated and smooth in texture. 
  5. Divide the mixture in half and wrap each in cling-film. refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow the dough to firm up.
  6. Remove from the fridge and roll out the first half on a sheet of baking paper sprinkled with cornflour to prevent sticking, using a rolling pin (dusted with cornflour) to a thickness of about ¼ inch.
  7. Using a cookie cutter, cut shapes into the whole dough sheet, but do not remove the shapes.  
  8. Slide the baking paper and dough sheet onto a baking tray to keep flat and place in the freezer for about 5 minutes to harden. This will enable the cookie shapes to be more easily removed.
  9. Place the cookie shapes onto a baking sheet.
  10. Repeat steps 6-9 for the second piece of dough.
  11. Any remaining dough can be briefly kneaded to bring together and steps 6-9 followed again.
  12. Decorate with sprinkles as desired.
  13. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes (dependent on the size of the cookies) until the edges are slightly brown and set and the cookies are firm but still chewy. You may have to bake in several batches dependent on how many cookies you have made.
  14. Leave the hot cookies for about 5 minutes on the baking tray, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  15. If you are making raspberry icing, mix the icing sugar and raspberry powder together in a small bowl. When you are ready to use, add hot water a little at a time, stirring into a smooth paste until the desired consistency is reached.   
  16. Drizzle over the biscuits using a decorating bottle or careful teaspoon.
  17. Leave at room temperature until the icing is fully set.
  18. Store in an airtight container.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Cheese & Bacon Quiche - gluten free

Do I detect Spring in the air? I can't believe I have actually been able to leave the house without a coat this week. The daffodils are finally blooming, the trees are beginning to blossom in abundance. It has been a long winter!

I love this time of year....... The light is bright but subtle, the colours are beautiful and fresh and the air is crisp with a hint of warmth. I am blessed to live in a coastal town, within a 5 minute walk of the sea. In the evenings, the light and the last rays of the sun play on the clouds, making the sky an ever changing kaleidoscope of pinks, yellows and blues. Whether the tide is in or out, the reflections are mesmerising and truly beautiful.

As we move towards summer, thoughts turn towards the pleasure of picnics and eating in the garden......  
One of my favourite warm weather lunches is quiche and salad. Simple and straightforward, but very tasty and nutritious. Made fresh is best, but it can always be prepared and stored in the fridge or freezer, ready to eat warmed at the table or cold on a picnic.  

My daughter's favourite quiche is cheese and bacon, but when she was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, finding a recipe for a good pastry that would remain crisp, short and hold together was not easy. Eventually I was told (by a colleague of mine) about a book called 'How to Cook for Food Allergies' (Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne (2007)). It has some really helpful information on substituting ingredients for a whole range of allergies and intolerances and in amongst its pages, I also found a fantastic recipe for Rice and Almond Shortcrust Pastry. I have amended the quantities of flour and almonds for my own version and added a little xanthan gum as I felt it needed something to help it bind a little better. The end result has produced consistently delicious quiches, sausage rolls and fruit tarts, over and over again. It needs a slightly different process and handling to traditional wheat-based shortcrust pastry, but once I accepted the new 'rules' and avoided any temptation to over-handle or chill before rolling out, I had no trouble producing pastry which is versatile, tasty and has a wonderful texture and bite.

I have used it here to make the cheese and bacon quiche that my daughter loves. There is nothing fancy about it......But it is tasty and delicious...... Not over rich and not over wet. Perfect for those warm summer days.....

Rice & Almond Shortcrust Pastry (my version) - lines one 10-12 inch (25-30cm) flan tin


130g brown rice flour
50g corn flour
40g ground almonds
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
110g cold butter (cubed)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon cold water

Dough Method - by hand

  1. Weigh and sieve the flours, xanthan gum and salt into a large bowl and stir together with the ground almonds.
  2. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water and then pour into the crumb mixture.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the crumb mixture using a table knife until it begins to clump together.
  5. Bring the dough together with your hands and press into a ball. Knead very briefly to ensure ingredients are fully amalgamated.

by food processor

  1. Weigh the flours, almonds, xanthan gum and salt into the food processor bowl and pulse briefly to  mix together and remove any lumps.
  2. Add the cubed butter to the mixture and pulse again until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water and then pour into the food processor with the crumb mixture.
  4. Turn the processor on and mix until the ingredients form a smooth dough. This will not require any further kneading. 

Pie Base

  1. Roll the pastry out straight away (do not chill in the fridge), using corn flour on the work surface and rolling pin to prevent any sticking.
  2. Carefully lay the rolled pastry over the flan tin with the support of the rolling pin and ease into the base, gently moulding into the sides of the tin.
  3. Trim the pastry edge flush with the top of the tin, using a sharp knife.
  4. If there are any cracks or holes in the rolled pastry base, use the trimmed remains to 'repair'. - Roll and trim to size, and using cold water, dampen both the area around the crack/hole and the down-side of the 'patch' and gently press together, smoothing the edges with a finger dipped in water to seal and tidy.
  5. Place the prepared flan pastry in the fridge for half an hour to chill prior to baking.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas 5.
  7. Scrunch and then flatten a piece of baking paper large enough to lay inside the flan base so that it is more flexible and then base-fill the pastry case with baking beans.
  8. When the oven has reached temperature, blind-bake the pastry with the baking beans for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  9. Whilst the pastry base is cooking, prepare the filling ready for use.

Cheese & Bacon Quiche Filling 


8 rashers (about 200g) back bacon (cut into small pieces)
110g mature cheddar cheese - grated
250ml double cream
50ml milk
3 large eggs
a handful of chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)
salt and pepper to season


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4 (or turn down to that level when the pastry bases are cooked and removed).
  2. Gently cook the bacon in a small non-stick pan, stirring frequently, until it is golden brown but not crispy. Then set aside on some kitchen towel to drain any excess moisture.
  3. Beat the eggs, cream, milk, parsley and seasoning together in a bowl until well combined and airy.
  4. When your pastry cases are cooked and ready, sprinkle the bacon in an even layer at the base of the case, followed by a layer of grated cheese (reserving a small amount of cheese to sprinkle on the top).
  5. Pour the cream mixture over the top of the bacon and cheese and sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top.
  6. Bake immediately for about 30 minutes until the top is firm and set and there is no 'wobble' to the wet mixture.
  7. Remove from the oven and eat hot or warm or cool for later.

                                Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Best Banana Bread

When I offer to make a basic cake these days, whether for a school fair, cakes sales or for colleagues, the most likely request is for Banana Bread. It wasn't always so........ When I cooked with wheat flour, it was good, but never that good. But this recipe, well....................

It seems gluten-free Banana Bread has a major fan club and a growing number of gluten-eating 'converts', at least down my way. I get asked 'is that cake really 'unleaded'?' I ask the doubter why they are so surprised. This Banana Bread is so good as to have even the most cynical gluten-eater fooled and persuaded.

I don't know why I am surprised. I have experience on both sides of the fence, having been a gluten eater myself for over 40 years before Coeliac Disease became a defining factor in my world of food. So much of what I now bake at home (by necessity gluten free), tastes so much better than when I made it with wheat.................. providing I can find or develop a great recipe. But that's the secret I guess ........... Don't accept the temptation to allow yourself to be fooled into eating dry and tasteless alternatives as though that is all you should expect. Hold out for moistness, flavour and decadence!

This Banana Bread has it all and is versatile enough to adapt into delicious cakes and muffins too. It comes well tested and with a 'multi-starred' rating from both gluten and non-gluten eaters alike. I have been told (by 2 gluten-eating friends) that it is the best banana bread they have ever tasted. And I get the impression that both of them have a lot of banana bread experience.

I confess this is not my own recipe, but has been borrowed from the very talented Adriana Rabinovich (The Gluten-Free Cookbook for Kids (2009)). I have adapted it minimally (only changing the ratio of almonds to flour slightly) because it is just sooooo good as it is.

Then I got to thinking........... 'I bet this tastes really good with chocolate'. It does!!!!! Add a handful of chocolate chips for extra decadence..............

............or layer and smother with either delicious chocolate butter icing, made with dark chocolate, melted chocolate, or chocolate ganache.


Ingredients (makes 1 large loaf or 12 large muffins. Use 1 ½ times the mix for an 8 inch sandwich cake)

210g plain gluten free flour mix (either from this post, or a commercial blend suitable for baking)
100g ground almonds
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 ½ teaspoons GF baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
100g unsalted butter - room temperature
150g caster sugar (I use golden caster sugar)
125g light soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 medium-sized bananas
175 ml buttermilk

Optional :
100g walnuts, pecan nuts or hazelnuts - oven-toasted & chopped
100g dark chocolate chunks


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4. Base-line a large loaf tin (or cake tins if using) with baking paper or prepare a muffin tin with muffin cases.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, weigh, sift and mix the flour, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugars in a large bowl, using an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add and beat in the vanilla extract.
  5. Mash the bananas with a fork in a separate bowl and fold gently into the wet mixture.
  6. Add the nuts and/or chocolate chunks (if using) and fold in gently.
  7. Using a large spoon or spatula, gently fold in the butter milk alternately with the flour-almond mixture about a third at a time, ensuring all the ingredients are JUST combined. Do not over-mix.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin, cake tins or spoon evenly into muffin cases.
  9. Bake for approximately 20 minutes (large muffins); 30 minutes (cake); 45 minutes (large loaf), until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the top is firm to the touch but springs back.
  10. Leave to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Decorate as you choose or just enjoy as it is.

Chocolate Butter Icing

120g unsalted butter - room temperature
130g dark chocolate
200g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (approx.) almond (or cows) milk

  1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl in the microwave (do this very gradually in 30 second bursts on medium, stirring between each) or over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until fully melted and quite smooth. Leave to cool slightly.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth and fluffy, then gradually add the vanilla, icing sugar and chocolate a little at a time until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the milk and beat thoroughly (omit this if your icing is at the desired consistency already).
  4. If the mixture is too stiff, add a little extra milk. If too soft, keep beating to thicken or add a little extra icing sugar.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Orange Cake 3 Ways ...........

Oranges….... sweet, sharp and succulent. They make deliciously grown up cakes which always seem perfect for a celebration.  You can make them extra ‘tart’ with a bit of zesty decoration, decadent with chocolate and cream, or boozy with a splash of Cointreau. Delicious as a large cake for sharing or individual small cupcakes, dressed to impress.

We have had a bunch of birthdays recently, so I have made a lot of cakes ……. but the orange variety has been one of my favourites. These ones are truly gluten free, and are moistened with some ground almonds. Apart from adding an extra bite, the almonds seem to improve the texture of the cake over a couple of days, - perfect if you are strapped for time and need to make your sponge in advance for a celebration.

Gluten Free Orange Sponge (makes 2 x 9 inch sponges; 2 x 8 inch sponges + 4-6 cupcakes; or a whole load of cupcakes)


300g Alchemist gluten free flour mix (A) from this post, or commercial plain GF flour blend
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
175g ground almonds
350ml milk
1 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
150g unsalted butter (room temperature)
430g caster sugar
3 large eggs (room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
Zest of one orange (finely grated)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / (350 F) / Gas 4. Base-line two 9” non-stick cake tins (2“ deep) (or prepare your cupcake cases).
  2. In a medium sized bowl, weigh, sift and mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum, salt and 50g of the ground almonds (reserve the remaining 125g for use later) and set aside.
  3. Combine and stir the milk and vinegar in a jug and leave to stand.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.
  5. Beat in the eggs one at a time, ensuring they are well mixed. 
  6. Add and beat in the vanilla extract and orange extract.
  7. Using a large spoon or spatula, gently fold in the remaining ground almonds (125g) and orange zest ensuring they are fully mixed.
  8. Gently fold in the flour mix alternately with the milk-vinegar mix, about a third at a time, ensuring all ingredients are JUST combined. It is important not to over mix.
  9. Spoon the batter evenly into the 2 cake tins and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean and the top springs back to the touch. 
  10. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before sandwiching together with your chosen filling and decorating.

One - An Orange Cake for Tea

............filled with everyday butter icing and can be kept in the cake tin…… Add a delicious orange curd dimension to the filling for extra texture, tang and yumminess.

Orange Butter Icing (for filling and topping)

400g icing sugar (approx.)

120g unsalted butter (room temperature)

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon orange extract

Juice of 1 orange

+ orange curd to layer the cake  


  1. Beat the butter until smooth.   
  2. Gradually add and beat in the icing sugar, salt and orange extract until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the orange juice a little at a time to achieve desired flavour and consistency.
  4. If the icing appears too stiff, add a little extra juice to achieve the desired spreading consistency, or beat in a little extra icing sugar if too soft.
  5. Spread a layer of butter icing on the bottom sponge and a layer of orange curd (now available in Tesco stores or from local farm shops) on the inner side of the other sponge. Turn over the curd sponge to assemble the cake. It is important to use the butter icing underneath the curd layer as this is less ‘slippy’ and helps prevent the curd from soaking into the sponge.
  6. Use the remaining icing to decorate the top layer of the cake and add sprinkles, chocolate buttons or zested orange peel for decoration.

Two - An Orange-Chocolate Celebration Cake

........add a filling of decadent fresh orange cream and top with a rich chocolate ganache…… delicious!

Whipped Orange Cream (boozy or not)

300ml double cream (very cold)
3 tablespoons orange curd
1 tablespoon Cointreau (optional)


  1. Beat the double cream with an electric whisk in a medium sized bowl (which has preferably been cooled in the fridge before use).
  2. When the cream just begins to thicken, add the orange curd (and Cointreau if using) and continue to beat until soft peaks form but the cream is stiff enough to hold its shape.
  3. Spread onto the base layer of the cake and sandwich together with the top layer.
  4. Top with rich chocolate ganache (recipe below) and decorate with orange zest, sprinkles or any other way you choose.

Rich Chocolate Ganache (adapted from Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes (Kelli & Peter Bronski (2011) - p164 : 'Spread Chocolate Ganache') 

120g good quality dark chocolate
95 ml double cream


  1. Break the chocolate into small pieces in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it is just simmering.
  3. Remove the cream from the heat and pour over the chocolate.
  4. Let the mixture sit for a minute and then stir the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy.
  5. Leave the ganache to cool at room temperature, stirring vigorously from time to time to ensure it remains smooth.
  6. When the ganache has cooled and thickened enough to spread on the cake, spread smoothly and evenly over the top.
  7. Decorate as you wish.

Three - Little Orange Cupcakes

Mini bites of moist orange deliciousness to decorate as you choose. I topped mine with rich chocolate ganache as above and orange zest.

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013 unless otherwise indicated.