Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Coconut Cake (gluten and dairy free sponge) with Lime Butter Frosting & Marshmallow Flowers

This week I am celebrating 2 anniversaries............ my birthday and (more importantly) my 1st blogiversary. I cannot believe that my blog is a year old already (well officially it will be on Sunday, anyway). Where did the time go?

In the last year I have learnt a lot (with a lot still to learn), become more inventive,  enjoyed developing a whole load of tasty new treats and loved the opportunity to share my kitchen creations with the world. My primary reason for blogging remains the need to record recipes for my daughter's future, but I know from experience that cooking (and particularly baking) gluten free can be a tricky learning curve, so it is great to be able to offer my thoughts and recipes to others who are in the same boat. I am also very aware that much of what we eat at home does not come out of recipe books, or is so far removed from the original recipe that if it is not written down, will be quickly lost and forgotten.......... Blogging is my motivation for writing it down!

To celebrate my two special dates, I decided to make a new cake......... Coconut sponge with a lime frosting, decorated with marshmallow flowers........... vibrant, colourful and absolutely made for Spring. The pastel shades and fresh flavours would be perfect for Easter and Mother's Day too.

The sponge for the cake is completely gluten and dairy free, although I did make the frosting with butter, as I didn't feel confident with revamping the recipe for coconut oil and didn't have any dairy-free spread in the fridge. It would be very easy to substitute the spread if you want to do so.......

I have definitely had a bit of an experimental time with coconut this month and made this sponge using four different elements of this amazing wonder food........ Coconut oil (as a dairy-free healthier substitute for the butter), coconut flour, coconut cream (to enrich the sponge) and shredded coconut (for the distinctive coconut bite).

It is actually the first time that I have used Coconut oil in place of butter, but it certainly won't be the last. Having looked at the research, eating it is amazingly good for you, with suggested benefits ranging from decreasing the risk of heart disease and potentially improving brain function in Alzheimer's patients, to helping to reduce body fat. Once I had got my head around how to use the stuff, it was amazingly straight forward and I think, ensured the moistness of the cake without adding an oily texture.

I did consider adding coconut palm sugar as well, in place of the caster and brown sugar, but I wanted the cake to have a paler appearance and decided that the darkness of the coconut palm sugar would probably also over-caramelise the flavour.

The recipe posted here is my second attempt (my first 'experiment' resulting in a stodgy brick!), but I have now tested it twice and it has come out amazingly both times.

I confess the marshmallow flowers are not my own idea and were found in the Australian Women's Weekly book 'Kids' Party Cakes' (2005) that I bought when my daughter was very small.....  I have used the flowers before on cupcakes (for which they were originally designed), but wanted to see how they worked on a large cake. I think they look fab........... but did have to search around for the 'right' brightly coloured marshmallows, eventually finding some in the local farm shop made by a company called Fairco. And beware, 'Smarties' are NOT gluten free, so you need to find alternative safe chocolate beans if you cannot eat wheat or gluten.

The end bake for this cake is deliciously coconutty throughout, with a slightly chewy edge from the pieces of coconut contained within. It is beautifully moist and tastes very natural. Although it is quite dense, it has a lightness which is quite unexpected, alongside a depth of flavour and richness which exudes tropical indulgence. The smooth sweetness of the sponge is contrasted by the lime-citrus tang of the frosting which perfectly compliments the coconut. The marshmallows add a touch of sugar-sweetness and a wonderful extra soft, squishy texture (that only marshmallows can give)............ like eating little sweet pillows.............. a delightful treat on the side!

I am entering my celebratory cake into this month's Tea Time Treats challenge, being hosted by Janie at The Hedge Combers (alongside Karen at Lavender & Lovage). March's theme is 'Decorative Cakes'............. I think this pretty much fits the bill!

I am also entering it into March's Love Cake, the theme of which is 'Giving Up'. Hosted by Ness at Jibber Jabber, we have this month been challenged to bake without at least one of the four basic ingredients (wheat flour, butter, eggs or sugar). I feel a little bit cheeky entering this one on account of using butter in the frosting, but as the bake is entirely gluten and dairy free (and using coconut oil was definitely a new and experimental process for me), I have decided to push my luck! Hope that's okay Ness...............

Coconut Cake with Lime Butter Frosting


Coconut Sponge (gluten & dairy free) (makes 1 x 9 inch sandwich cake)

360g gluten free plain flour mix (I used Mix A from this post)
40g coconut flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2½ teaspoons GF baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
50g shredded coconut
150g golden caster sugar
150g light soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
finely grated zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons lime juice
5 tablespoons coconut cream
280 ml almond milk / rice milk
130g coconut oil


  1. Base line two 9 inch/23 cm round cake tins with baking paper.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  3. Weigh and mix together the flours, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum, and shredded coconut, making sure they are fully combined. Set aside.
  4. Melt the coconut oil by gently heating on low in a microwave on 20 second bursts, stirring between each (or in a bowl over a pan of warm water).  Set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the sugars with the eggs and then add the vanilla, lime zest, lime juice, coconut cream and milk. Beat thoroughly until completely combined, light and frothy.
  6. Add the melted coconut oil and beat again until combined.
  7. Add the dry ingredients and fold into the liquid, allowing to stand for a couple of minutes about half way through the process to enable the liquid to be absorbed. Be careful not to over-mix. The batter should be a soft dropping consistency.
  8. Spoon the batter into the cake tins and smooth the tops so that they are level.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the top is springy to the touch.
  10. Turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Place a clean dry tea-cloth over the top whilst cooling.


Lime Butter Frosting

210g unsalted butter - softened at room temperature (or an alternative vegetable spread/margarine for dairy free)
4 tablespoons coconut cream
500g icing sugar - sifted
finely grated zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt

Large bag of marshmallows and a handful of chocolate beans for decoration (NOTE : Smarties are NOT gluten free, so check the ingredients of your chosen product carefully)


  1. Beat the butter with the coconut cream, 100g of the icing sugar, lime zest, lime juice, vanilla extract and salt using either a whisk or a wooden/silicone spoon.
  2. Gradually add the rest of the icing sugar until you have a smooth, but spreadable butter icing. If it is too wet, add a little more icing sugar.
  3. Carefully spread the icing on the base layer of the cake and sandwich together with the top layer. 
  4. Spread the rest of the icing onto the cake covering the top and the sides and using a palate knife or icing spreader to smooth.
  5. Make flowers with the marshmallows by cutting each marshmallow in half horizontally through the middle. Squeeze together the 'ends' of each piece holding it cut side up, so that it forms a petal shape. Arrange the petals into flowers on the cake and place a chocolate bean in the centre of each. 

Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated


  1. Happy birthday! This cake is absolutely gorgeous and the decoration is so clever =)

    1. Thanks Laura. Simple but amazingly effective........

  2. First of all - wow! at the decorating of this cake. and I love all the ingredients you've used, I hope to see more coconut oil recipes soon... and happy birthday / blogiversary! I always love your recipes and I am annoyed that I still haven't tried a few of them that I have bookmarked. I will celebrate your blogiversary this weekend by remedying that :-)

    1. Well thank you Aimee. I really appreciate that you like what I am doing. I will definitely be using more coconut oil. I think it is just a matter of experimenting and getting confidence about how to use it. Let me know if you do try any recipes. It would be reassuring to know if they still work when other people make them!

  3. Such a pretty cake! I've never used coconut oil before and I'm amazed how you put the combinations together. A very worthy entry into this month's Love Cake. Thanks for linking up.

    1. Thank you! It's amazing what you can do with a few marshmallows...... And the coconut oil was definitely a revelation. I will certainly be using it more often in future!

  4. Wow! That looks awesome, and those flowers are so clever! Thanks so much for sharing with this months Tea Time Treats!
    Janie x

  5. How delicious! I love coconut and lime, and your flowers are beautiful. I've been eyeing the jars of coconut oil on the supermarket shelves lately and wondering how they would work as a substitute for butter in baking. You've given me the courage to try it sometime!

    1. Thank you Alexandra. All the research I did suggested substituting butter with coconut oil is relatively straight forward. I will definitely be using it again. I always think the best way to get confidence is to experiment, so give it a go!

    2. Does the coconut oil have a fairly neutral flavour? Of course, even if it didn't, the oil would still work in a coconut cake, but how about in a vanilla or other mild-flavoured cake?

    3. Yes it does. There is a slight coconut background if you eat it off the spoon, but I don't think so strong that it masks other flavours alongside it. And when melted (at low temperature) it is completely clear. Interesting stuff!

  6. Neat! It's so white in the jars that I wouldn't have expected it to be clear when melted.


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