February 4, 2012

Gluten-free spice cake


Lately I’m making this great little spice cake a lot around here. It really resembles a quick bread more than a cake. I think of it as a snack rather than a dessert, though it’s sweet enough to round off a winter meal nicely too. Though I haven’t tried this (since we still don’t own a toaster after chucking our gluten-filled one ages ago), a slice of this cake would probably be great lightly toasted with a smear of butter and a drizzle of honey to jazz it up.

I like it plain and simple, packed in my lunch at work or just eaten around the house when I’m craving something small and tasty, but also nutritious. J is a big fan of it too, which always counts for a lot in my book. I don’t really enjoy making things if he doesn’t want to eat them too.


The recipe is very adaptable, and I really like the fact that it includes some fruit or vegetable to make it all the more healthful. It’s very easy to throw together, and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. But the most convincing argument to make this cake is that it’s so tasty. It’s moist with a deep flavour thanks to the spices, and I really like the crunchiness of the nuts throughout. The texture is also beautiful: tender but not too crumbly. It doesn’t fall apart as soon as you slice it, but stays together firmly.  I know this is a cliché, but this is one of those baked goods that no one would ever guess is gluten-free.  


After months of procrastinating, I finally did up our new household budget for the next three months. It’s a bit sobering, but also really nice to know exactly where all of our money is going. I’m definitely on a tighter grocery budget than I was before, which means I’m trying to be really creative with the cheapest, yet most wholesome ingredients possible.

Making rather than buying gluten-free snacks is a big part of this. Not only is it cheaper, but they usually taste better, and you know exactly what’s in them. My goal is to start regularly making bread and crackers so we don’t have to buy them anymore. I’ve starting experimenting with homemade crackers, and I think I’ve figured out the perfect recipe. It might need a few more little tweaks, but I promise to share it here soon.

As for sweet baked treats, they’re something I also like to have on hand as often as I can. For that reason I try not to make them too decadent, so we don’t have to feel guilty eating them. I always bake with whole grains and I often use less sugar than a recipe calls for.

This spice cake is based on a recipe from one of my favourite blogs – 101 cookbooks. It’s always a good place to go if you’re looking for cooking inspiration. I really appreciate that Heidi includes weights in her baking recipes, which makes them much easier to convert to gluten-free. This cake converted beautifully, as most quick breads do.

A few notes about the recipe: I used the gluten-free flours listed below because it’s what I had on hand. Feel free to experiment or use your favourite mix. To get the most consistent results, use a scale to make sure you keep the same total weight of flours I used. I prefer a ratio of about 70 percent whole grain flours to 30 percent starches, but it’s up to you.

If you don’t have any garam masala, don’t let it deter you from trying this. This Indian spice blend is usually a mixture of black pepper, cloves, cumin seeds, and cardamom seeds, so you could try it with a bit of each. Maybe not too heavy on the cumin. I ran out of both cinnamon and garam masala the last time I made this, so along with what I had left of those spices, I added some ginger, allspice and cardamom. Still awesome.

And finally, I’ve baked the cake with bananas and sweet potato with delicious results. I haven’t tried it with squash yet, though that’s what the original recipe calls for so I’m sure it would be great too. Depending on how sweet you want it, you could add a little more sugar if you’re using squash since it’s generally not as sweet as bananas or sweet potato.


Gluten-free Spice Cake
adapted from this recipe

1/4 cup / 35 g brown rice flour
1/2 cup / 60 g sorghum flour
3 Tbsp / 25 g millet flour
1/4 cup / 28 g tapioca starch
2.5 Tbsp / 22 g sweet rice flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup  packed + 1 Tbsp. / 115 g brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup / 130 g ripe mashed bananas, cooked mashed sweet potato, or roasted pureed winter squash
1/4 cup / 60 ml milk or water
1/2 cup / 115 g vegetable oil or melted butter
1/3 cup / 30 g chopped almonds or walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan that’s about 9x5x3 inches. (As you can see in the photos above, I’ve used two sizes of loaf pan and they both work fine.)

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the brown sugar, eggs, banana or sweet potato or squash, milk or water, and oil until blended.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold together until there are no floury patches. Mix in most of the nuts. Pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle the rest of the nuts on top.

Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the edges have browned and the centre of the cake is set. You can test for doneness using a skewer or toothpick inserted into the middle – it should come out clean.

This cake keeps well on the counter for a few days, wrapped in plastic wrap or stored in an air-tight container. 


mehr said...

I am so happy to find your blog. By the ingredients in the cake, I know how moist this cake would be. I hope you check out my blog as well.

Isabelle said...

Hey Mehr,

Thanks for the comment, hope you try this cake! Thanks for your blog, I will definitely check it out. In case you're interested, I wrote a post on my GF eats in Winnipeg when I was there last summer: http://thelittleredkitchen.blogspot.ca/2011/07/gluten-free-winnipeg.html

Jen Wick said...

I really enjoyed this cake. I was looking for a molasses spice cake recipe, but I liked the look of yours, so I just added 1/4 cup molasses instead of the milk or water. It turned out great—moist, rich, with just the right amount (not too much) of sweetness.