Friday, 5 December 2014

Raspberry-Lemon Drizzle Cake - gluten free

Sometimes, the inspiration to bake new things comes from unexpected places. This Raspberry-Lemon Drizzle Cake is one of those bakes. It came simply from the need to bake 'pink'.

Last week, a colleague of mine left the team. Rather than the usual 'leaving do' goodbyes and gifts, she asked for a Pink Tea to raise money for breast cancer research. Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in the UK with around 50,000 women diagnosed each year. It will directly affect one woman in eight during her lifetime, which is a phenomenal figure. Thanks to research and a determination to find ever better ways to treat it, the survival rate for breast cancer is much improved, but it is still nowhere near curable, with 12,000 women and 80 men continuing to die every year (source).

I have had some very close friends die from the awfulness of breast cancer and I have also seen friends survive. Some of those friends, only in their thirties, have had very young children. Some have been older, but nonetheless full of enthusiasm for a future of promise, before they were diagnosed. But breast cancer is a lottery of the worst kind. Who it affects, who dies, who survives seems random and harsh. The colleague who was leaving the team is a survivor.

So Pink Tea it was! It was held on Pink Friday............ no frenzied shopping expeditions for us, just a sedate but joyful session of nibbling pink delights. I needed to make something special!

I was already making some strawberry heart biscuits for the event, but needed cake to take too. Everybody loves cake!

As often happens in my head, the idea of pink drizzle cake came to me in the middle of the night. I wanted it to be naturally 'pink' flavoured, so settled on using freeze-dried raspberries to marry with the lemon in the sponge. As both are quite tart, they worked well alongside each other, giving a fabulous twist to the usual straight lemon drizzle. Although the raspberry gives a natural pinkness to the sponge, I did add a little pink colouring as well, to be absolutely sure that it met the colour criteria. The icing however is totally natural, with no extra 'paint' added.

I know I have said this so many times before, but I love using freeze-dried fruit and fruit powders. Not only are they totally natural, but the flavours locked into them are intense and powerful. Raspberry powder packs a hefty berry punch and is one of my favourites. I don't bother with the piddly little pots you usually find in the supermarket any more, but buy in much larger quantities from Healthy Supplies, which works out way better value if you are baking with it.

I will be honest, I made a couple of drizzly disasters before I settled on the final recipe below, but the end result is amazing. This cake is dense, yet beautifully moist and syrupy. It is sharp and tangy, yet shot through with a wonderful sweetness from the sugar. The crisp coat of the icing contrasts and enhances the softness of the sponge. It is a perfect balance of flavours and textures which leaves you wanting at least another slice.

The disasters have not been wasted either..... trifle is very forgiving!

I am sharing this amazing pink drizzle cake with a couple of challenges :

Cook Blog Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes.

Recipe of the Week with Emily at A Mummy Too.

Bake of the Week with Casa Costello.

I am also going to  offer it to this month's Alphabakes Challenge hosted by Caroline Makes (with Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker). December's letter is 'X', to make it easy for 'Xmas'.

I know this cake isn't a Christmas bake specifically (although it would be enjoyed at any foodie celebration I am sure), but it does contain xanthan gum, which happily begins with 'X'. My disasters were disasters because they were too crumbly and one of the critical alterations that I made with the final recipe was to re-balance by adding a little more xanthan gum. For those of you less familiar with gluten free baking, the lack of gluten means lesser binding properties which can leave you with bakes that disintegrate before your eyes. There are a number of additions that you can make to gluten free flour to replace the gluten and support the structure, xanthan gum being one of the most popular and available. Thus I am offering this cake as a legitimate 'X'-rated entry.

Raspberry-Lemon Drizzle Cake (makes 1x 9 inch/23 cm tray bake)


200g plain gluten free flour mix - I used blend A from this post
50g fine ground polenta
120g ground almonds
1½ teaspoons xanthan gum
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
15g freeze-dried raspberry powder
300g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter - room temperature
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
sieved juice 1 lemon
finely grated zest 1 lemon
red food colouring paste (optional)

Drizzle Syrup & Icing
sieved juice 1 lemon
½ tablespoon water
10g freeze-dried raspberry powder
200g icing sugar (see instructions below)


  1. Sponge : Preheat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3. Base line a 9 inch/23 cm square loose-bottomed cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Weigh and mix together the flour, polenta, almonds, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt and raspberry powder, making sure any lumps are completely broken down. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy.
  4. Beat the eggs in one at a time until smooth. 
  5. Add and beat in the vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest and food colouring if using.
  6. Fold in the flour mix until evenly combined.
  7. Spoon the batter into the cake tin and smooth the top.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes until the top springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave in the cake tin.
  9. Drizzle syrup & Icing : Whilst the cake is still warm, mix the juice, water and raspberry powder for the syrup in a small microwavable heat-proof bowl or a small saucepan. 
  10. Add 120g icing sugar and stir to blend. 
  11. Heat in the microwave or saucepan, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is liquid.
  12. Use a skewer or chopstick to make holes across the surface of the sponge and then drizzle some of the syrup into the holes (I used a kitchen syringe for accuracy).
  13. Add the rest of the icing sugar to the remaining syrup, stir and reheat to dissolve. This will ensure a thicker icing for the topping.
  14. Spoon and spread the icing over the surface of the cake whilst still in the tin and leave to completely cool and set.
  15. When cold, remove the cake from the tin and serve.
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated


  1. That looks sensational, what a fabulous colour. I love the pink drizzly bits. What a lovely idea for a leaving do. I love dense moist cakes like this.

    1. Thanks Katie. The drizzly pink bits are just lovely aren't they? This was one of the nicest cakes I have had for a while!

  2. well, disasters aside the raspberries looks wonderful, I love how they've striped down the middle.. it looks gorgeous and I bet it had a fab balance of tart and sweet!

    1. Thanks Dom. This cake was totally delicious and I loved the colour of the drizzle as I cut through the sponge. It was well worth the time taken to 'syringe' it!

  3. wow that colour is amazing - esp with no added colouring - I had some beetroot powder but haven't come across much freeze dried fruit - and what a lovely idea for a farewell afternoon tea

    1. Thanks Johanna. It is well worth trying to track down freeze dried fruit if you can!

  4. What a great bake and a great way to raise awareness of breast cancer. I followed the link to your page about flours. Wow!!! I have been researching flour a lot recently and am fiddling around with my own blend but could never be bothered to blog such an amazingly detailed post! When the time comes to revealing my blend I shall be linking to your post for all the details about what the flours do!!!

    1. Thanks Vicki. It was one of those posts which taught me a lot just from researching and writing it. Actually I have been meaning to update it for a while as I have discovered a few new floury delights since then. I must make sure I do it soon!

  5. What a beautiful, moist and delicious bake. I just had a family friend who died of cancer last week and she did not last more than a few months since she was diagnosed. It is so hard to accept that she is not here anymore!
    In the area where I come from (North-Eastern Italy) we had many cancers 10 years after the Chernobyl explosion. When we knew what happened (2 days later!) we were told to stay indoors as much as possible and not to eat vegetables from the garden but it was too late by then. I suppose that didn't help.
    Well done for making this cake for such a good cause! x

    1. I am sorry to hear that Alida. It is always so hard when you lose someone close. My father also died of cancer, so its effects are very close to my heart.
      I had no idea North-East Italy was affected by Chernobyl.... it was clearly a very far-reaching disaster with a huge health impact.

  6. That looks fab - I've never used freeze dried powders so I will have to try them some time. Xanthan gum was a really good idea for Alphabakes and a very unusual entry, thanks!

    1. Thanks Caroline. It was delicious! Definitely try the freeze-dried powders. I love them. I think I was very lucky with the 'X' for xanthan.... it is a bit of a key ingredient for lots of my baking!

  7. Yummy, my favorite...Thanks for sharing this recipe.



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