Holiday baking-converting your confection to gluten free


It is once again that time of year when people dust off their baking pans to make holiday treats.   But what do you do with grandma’s recipe for fruitcake if you or a family member can no longer eat gluten?  Fear not, there is help out there.  As you can see in the above chart, you can convert your gluten filled recipe to gluten free by adjusting your flour measurements, depending on the flour.  But, there is more to it than that.

A few months ago, I tried a gluten free recipe that someone posted online that they had “converted”.  I don’t think the poster actually tried the recipe, because the cake was dry as a bone.  It had that gritty texture that anyone who has used rice flour knows all too well.  I found a post by King Arthur flour that explains the how and why of converting recipes.

Making a standard recipe gluten-free – easy as 1-2-3.
First, replace the flour in the recipe with an equal amount of King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour.
Next, substitute 1 large egg for 1/4 cup of the recipe’s liquid: milk, water, or oil. The protein in egg helps add the structure gluten-free baked goods lack, resulting in better texture.
Finally, add 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum for each cup of flour – again, for help with structure and texture.

The above chart shows how to substitute flour and add xantham gum, but doesn’t mention adding an egg as a replacement for liquid.  This depends on the recipe.  In this recipe for gluten free pumpkin applesauce cake this is not necessary because the pumpkin and applesauce add moisture. This is a very dense batter, and the cake is out of this world.  Add chocolate syrup and cool whip, and it just goes over the edge.

I posted the King Arthur link and there was a lot of debate about adding the egg.  Others were glad I posted it since they had no idea how to convert recipes.  I have successfully used almond and coconut milk and dairy free butter substitute in all of my baking so that is not an issue for me.

I have a few tips on how to successfully convert a cake recipe (this does not work on cookies) to gluten free:

  • use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment if possible-this will thoroughly mix your batter and save your arms
  • add moisture by using apple sauce or pumpkin in place of some of the oil in the recipe
  • use a gluten free flour blend instead of one type of gluten free flour-I love GF bisquick and King Arthur baking mixes
  • if you can’t use xantham gum, use flax or chia seeds instead in equal amounts
  • measure flour properly-The correct way to measure dry ingredients such as flour is to scoop the flour with a smaller cup and pour it into the measuring cup you are using. Don’t use the latter cup and just scoop it into the flour bag as it might compress the flour leading to an inaccurate measurement. Scooping will result in using too much flour which will lead to dry baked goods. Level off the measuring cup by sliding a flat edge such as a butter knife over it, removing any excess flour
  • sift your flour before measuring
  • increase sugar and spices to add flavor
  • resist the urge to add more flour, gluten free batters are usually thin-but not always!  Again it depends on the recipe.  If you are using dense ingredients, the batter will be dense, if not, it will be thin
  • Keep an eye on your cake in the oven-gluten free baked goods tend to bake faster and will get dry very quickly.  Better to have it slightly underdone than overdone
  • Don’t give up!  I have had numerous baking fails but I am determined to keep trying

Finding premade cakes that are both gluten and dairy free is nearly impossible.  It is up to me to bake when I want a great cake.  I tend to stick to recipes already converted, but have tried a few that were not.  Success was mixed.  I am hoping that in the near future I will be able to walk into any bakery or grocery store and buy a gluten and dairy free cake that reminds me of the wonderful cakes I used to buy in my local bakery.  But until that day, I will continue to don my flour covered apron and keep on baking.

I would love to hear about your baking adventures!  Please feel free to contact me and let me know how your cakes turned out.

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