Gluten-Free Very Vanilla Cake from Let Us All Eat Cake

October 3, 2014

Gluten-free baking can be challenging and intimidating when you are just starting out. Let Us All Eat Cake by Catherine Ruehle demystifies gluten-free baking by using cake as the prime example. This celebratory food makes an appearance at all the important events in your life and those of your loved ones therefore wheat-free eaters shouldn’t skip dessert. Ruehle shares sixty gluten-free cake recipes with vegan, dairy free and nut-free alternatives. Delectable, beater-licking recipes include pumpkin spice cake with creamy cinnamon glaze; triple lemon cake; very vanilla cake with fudgy frosting (recipe below); strawberry shortcake cupcakes; molten chocolate truffle cake and many more. This book also provides home bakers with tips and tricks on how to frost and decorate cakes like a pastry chef. With these wonderful gluten-free cake recipes handy, you will be confidant baking outstanding wheatless desserts.

Very Vanilla Cake with Fudgy Frosting
Makes two 8-inch diameter layers (12 to 16 servings)

Here’s everyone’s favorite old-fashioned layer cake—vanilla cake with a rich chocolate filling and icing—now blissfully gluten free. To punch up the intensity of the flavors, I’ve suggested doubling up on the vanilla in the cake and using both chocolate chips and cocoa in the frosting. If you like a sweeter frosting, substitute milk chocolate chips. To finish the frosted cake with pretty swoops and swirls, see the instructions on page 180. All you need is a spoon!

Very Vanilla Cake:
3 cups Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend (page 191)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup milk or unsweetened coconut milk (from a carton), at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste* 
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter or Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
3/4 cup egg whites (about 6 large whites), at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil two 8-inch-diameter cake pans with nonstick cooking spray or coconut oil.

To make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour blend, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. In a small bowl, mix the milk with the vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste. Set both bowls aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl. While beating on low, add the egg whites. When all the whites have been added, increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl.

Add one-fourth of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low until almost fully incorporated. Add one-third of the milk mixture and beat on low until almost fully incorporated. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk mixtures, starting and ending with the flour. When all the ingredients have been added, scrape down the bowl and beat on medium for 15 seconds.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the tops are light golden and a toothpick inserted into the center tests clean. Cool the cakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then invert the cakes onto the rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the frosting.

To assemble a two-layer cake, spread 3/ 4 cup frosting between the layers and on the top of the cake, and then generously frost the sides, referring to the instructions on page 173 for guidance. To create a four-layer cake, split each cake layer in half horizontally, following the procedure on page 173. Use 1/ 2 cup frosting between each layer and on top of the cake, and then generously frost the sides.

You can store the frosted cake in an airtight container (or tented in plastic wrap) at room temperature for 1 to 2 days or in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. Or the cake layers can be frozen prior to filling and icing; wrap tightly in a double layer of plastic wrap and freeze up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature before removing the plastic and filling and icing the cake. The frosting can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 5 days or frozen for 1 month. Bring to room temperature and beat in the bowl of a stand mixer to restore proper texture before using.

*Vanilla Bean Paste: I have only recently begun to use this beautiful product in my baking—and I highly recommend that you order some right now! It combines the tiny seeds from the vanilla pod with pure vanilla extract to create a paste with a wonderful flavor and aroma; the seeds contribute lovely little brown specks to your crème anglaise or buttercream. Thanks to its thick consistency, which is similar to molasses, you can use this paste to add vanilla flavor to cake batters or sauces without thinning them out.

Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend:

I use this blend whenever I would typically use all-purpose flour—only this one is 100 percent gluten free! For the best flavor and texture, I use Arrowhead Mills organic rice flour and tapioca and all-natural potato starch from Bob’s Red Mill.

2 cups white rice flour
1 cup tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour)
1 cup potato starch (not flour)

In a large bowl, whisk the rice flour with the tapioca and potato starches until well combined. Store in an airtight container in your pantry or another cool, dark place up to 1 month.

For longer-term storage, keep in the refrigerator up to 6 months or in the freezer up to 1 year. Before using, bring to room temperature. Just before measuring, whisk the flour blend to aerate it in case it has settled. Sifting is not necessary if you whisk. 

Fudgy Frosting:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter or Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks 
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
3/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk (shake can before opening)
3 teaspoons instant espresso powder* 
6 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
2/3 cup dark or semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar 

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, sugar, coconut milk, and espresso powder, stirring until the butter melts and the sugar and espresso have dissolved. Bring to a simmer, and then remove from the heat and add the baking chocolate and chocolate chips. Let the mixture sit with the chocolate fully submerged for 2 minutes, and then whisk until smooth. If the baking chocolate hasn’t fully melted after whisking, return the saucepan to the stove top and heat over medium heat, whisking until the chocolate is fully incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla.

Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl. Sift the confectioners’ sugar over the chocolate in three batches, whisking after each addition. Place plastic wrap over the frosting and refrigerate for about 40 minutes, or until thick enough to frost the cake, stirring after 20 minutes and again at the end of chilling. The frosting will be dense and firm. If you prefer a lighter texture and color, whip the chilled frosting in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until lightened. Use immediately after whipping, as the frosting will firm up again if you allow it to sit. I

*Instant Espresso Powder: Not to be confused with ground espresso beans, espresso powder is a very dark, strong instant coffee. I use Medaglia d’Oro brand, which can be found in the coffee aisle of some supermarkets or purchased online (see Sources, page 204). It’s crucial in my Mocha Latte Cupcakes (page 80), which feature an espresso buttercream. And, in my Mocha Coffee Cake (page 18), it infuses all the components (espresso, streusel, and glaze) with rich coffee flavor.

Reprinted with permission from Let Us All Eat Cake: Gluten-Free Recipes for Everyone’s FavoriteCakes by Catherine Ruehle with Sarah Scheffel (Ten Speed Press, © 2014). Photo Credit: Erin Kunkel.

Image Sources: