Sunday, January 13, 2013

January lemon cake, gluten free

I have been sceptical about the potential of gluten-free flour to produce a decent sponge cake. You need a bit of gluten, I reasoned, to give a cakey texture. Wouldn’t a gluten-free version, in spite of the egg and the butter, fall to bits? But a good friend (and excellent cook), whose mother is coeliac, insists that sponges made with a straight swap of gluten-free flour for wheat flour are excellent. So I gave this one a go, again using a recipe from Geraldine Holt’s Cakes (Prospect Books).

Doves Farm’s own recipe specifies plain flour and baking powder (you’d have to buy a gluten-free version). I don’t know what difference using Doves’ self-raising flour makes, but I note that it includes xanthan gum, the binding agent.

The butter/sugar/flour mixture may be thicker than it would be if it contained wheat flour. If the lemon juice does not produce a dropping consistency, add a little milk.

I did not top my icing with strips of lemon zest; and, as you can see, I used all the icing as sandwich filling, rather than saving half of it to put on top.

175g butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
1 lemon
3 eggs
175g Doves Farm gluten-free, self-raising flour

90g butter
1 lemon
230g icing sugar

Place two 18cm, loose-bottomed cake tins on a piece of greaseproof paper, draw round the bases, and cut along the pencil mark. Smear a little butter on the base of each tin, stick the round piece of paper on top, and smear a little oil on the surface of the paper and round the sides of the tin.

Cream the butter and sugar, with the zest of the lemon. I do this by hand, and may not be thorough enough. I see in the comments on the Doves recipe someone says that her cake did not rise, adding that she used butter straight from the fridge. Her butter/sugar mixture may not have been light enough.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding some flour as you go to stabilise the mixture. Fold in the flour, with the juice of half of the lemon. If the mixture is still too stiff, add a little milk.

Divide the mixture between the two lined tins, and bake in the centre of a gas mark 4/180C oven for about 30 minutes, or until an inserted skewer emerges clean.

Give the cakes about three minutes, pass a knife round the outside of them, and remove the bases. Cool the cakes, bottom sides up, on a wire rack (the bottoms would stick to the rack, but the crusty upper sides should not do so).

Remove strands of peel from the second lemon. Zest the rest. Squeeze and strain the juice, adding it to the juice from the half left over when you made the sponge mixture.

In a small pan, melt the butter with 3tbsp lemon juice. Bring to a simmer, and allow to bubble for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, and stir in the icing sugar until smooth. Stand the pan in cold water to hasten the cooling of the mixture.

Allow the mixture to thicken. Spread half of it on to the top of one of the cakes, and put the other cake on top. Pour the other half of the icing mixture on top of the sandwich, and decorate with the strands of peel.

The result has a grainier texture that a wheat-flour version, but it also has the lightness that you want in a sponge. I’m perfectly happy to use gluten-free flour in cakes from now on, though I'm sure I'll want to revert to wheat-flour versions from time to time.

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