Gluten-Free German Chocolate Cake

When I started this site, I set out to make dishes that were not just “good….for being gluten-free/vegan/sugar-free,” but also good in their own right. However clear this mission was, it was never so imperative as it was on Friday night, when I set out to bake a cake that was to be auctioned off for charity among a group of church members I would have to face again. The perfectionist in me (or should I say the perfectionist that I am) could never live with someone having purchased a mediocre cake. Which meant I spent a little bit longer than usual conceptualizing, writing, and ultimately executing this recipe, my show-offiest of cake recipes to date.

By the time the final layer was set — the coconut-pecan mixture lightly pressed on top — I had spent a good portion of my night and the next morning baking. I baked off a small cupcake-sized amount to taste-test, which confirmed that it was worth the extra effort. I decided it was.

That said, the lucky winner of this oh-so painstakingly created cake ended up being none other than my mom. Something about the “gluten-free,” “vegan,” “sugar-free” description just didn’t get the crowd too eager with their bids. Which is just as well, because really, nothing excites me more than shaking people of their notions that this type of eating is synonymous with deprivation. So when I started doling out slices to the diabetic at one table, the newfound celiac at another, I was delighted to watch their expressions shift from aprehension to pleasant surprise. I began to imagine this cake as not just a cake, but as a glimpse into a delicious world of possibilities, even  without the gluten, sugar, dairy or eggs.

Of course, this is a special occassion type of production, as it is a bit of an ordeal to make. This is the kind of dessert you look to when you want to be a show-off (and show your friends that you’re not missing out in the dessert world). But that doesn’t mean a modified version can’t be tackled on a smaller scale. German chocolate cupcakes, anyone?

The cake itself is quite moist; the frosting light and fluffly. It doesn’t have the exact makeup of a traditional German chocolate cake (not like you haven’t probably figured that out already), but the spirit is most definitely there.

Serves: 10-15

Chocolate Cake:

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat flour

6 tablespoons coconut flour

1 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (non-alkalized)

1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1 tablespoon baking soda

1 1/2 tablespoons Ener-G egg replacer

2 1/4 cups light agave nectar

3/4 cup coconut oil (liquified)

1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups light coconut milk

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Agave-Sweetened, Vegan “Buttercream”

1/2 cup soy-free Earth Balance buttery spread

5 tablespoons Spectrum Organic Shortening

6 tablespoons agave nectar

3 tablespoons liquified coconut oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5 tablespoons coconut flour

5 tablespoons cocoa powder

Toasted Pecan-Coconut Mixture:

1 1/2 cups pecans, finely chopped

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

4 tablespoons agave nectar, divided

2 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread, melted

Directions:

1. For Cake: Lightly grease three 8-inch, round cake pans with some melted coconut oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt and egg replacer until combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together coconut oil, agave and vanilla extract until smooth. Slowly, on low speed, add in dry ingredients until incorporated. Beat in coconut milk and applesauce until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Pour equal amount of batter into each pre-greased pan, using a spatula to spread evenly and smooth out the top. Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for about 1/2 hour. Gently flip to remove from pan and allow to cool completely on rack.

2. For frosting: Beat together first 5 ingredients with electric mixer fitted with a wire beater on high speed until smooth. Add in remaining ingredients and beat until incorporated. Refrigerate to set for about an hour, or until a bit more firm but still spreadable.

3. For coconut-pecan mixture: toss coconut and pecan with melted buttery spread and 2 tablespoons of agave. Lay flat on a baking sheet and bake in preheated, 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until golden. Let cool to crisp, then toss with remaining agave.

4. To assemble: Place bottom layer of cake on a large plate or tray. Spread about 1/3 of frosting (doens’t need to be a very thick layer) evenly over top. Sprinkle with coconut-pecan mixture, leaving some frosting showing so that the next layer will stick. Repeat with the second layer. To top: spread with remaining frosting just enought coconut and pecan so that the top is evenly covered, pressing down lightly into the top. If frosting seems a little loose, return cake to refrigerator so that the frosting can reset, about 30 minutes (it shouldn’t melt after this).

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Pumpkin Mousse Frosting

So, the other day I made my chocolate-banana cupcakes with sour cream frosting. I left about half of the cupcakes unfrosted in a ziplock bag for Gennaro to snack on throughout the week. In the meantime, I was working on a candida-friendly pumpkin mousse. I had some chilling in the fridge, and I was anxious to “test it,” (i.e. eat at least half of it). I opened the fridge for a peek at my mousse’s progress, and as I lifted the lid slightly, my eyes caught the cupcakes. Then they shifted back to the mousse. Cupcakes. Mousse. Mousse. Cupcakes.

I think you know where this is going. Now, this last-minute change-of-plans was not strictly my recipe ADD at work. There were actually very practical reasons for me to pair these two treats, one being the appropriate seasonal colors. Orange and black in October is always a welcome combination. The other reason also had to do with color. My dear husband, fan extraordinaire of the San Francisco Giants, is currently enjoying his first year of postseason baseball since 2003. The Giants’ colors? Orange and black.

Of course, this frosting doesn’t have to top off a chocolate-flavored cupcake. Gingerbread cupcakes with pumpkin frosting, anyone? Banana cupcakes would also would be good (banana sans the chocolate, that is). Heck, even pumpkin-on-pumpkin is a good option. But if you’re looking for a gluten-free, agave-sweetened, vegan cupcake recipe to go with this frosting, I can tell you that the chocolate-banana cupcakes with pumpkin frosting combo is pretty darn delicious. And yes, you can eat this “frosting” as a plain mousse, but what fun would that be? (Actually, I did eat a lot of this mousse by itself, and I have to say it was quite good).

Pumpkin Mousse Frosting:

I used some pumpkin pie-esque spices in the mousse, which made for a unique but yummy combination with the cupcakes. If you would like a more mild accompaniment, omit the spices. I made this mousse with yacon to make this a good option for an anti-candida diet, but you can definitely use agave, which would be a fine alternative. While I used coconut butter here, coconut oil would most likely work as well (I’ve used it before in mousses with good results — just make sure you let it chill sufficiently).

1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree

1 12-oz. package Mori-Nu extra firm silken tofu

1/3 cup coconut butter

1 1/2 teaspoons NuNaturals liquid vanilla stevia

1/4 cup yacon syrup or agave nectar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

1/4 teaspoon allspice (optional)

Directions:

Blend all ingredients well in blender or food processor. Chill in a covered container in refrigerator for 2-3 hours before using.

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Applesauce Cake with “Cream Cheese” Frosting

Two newly-discovered products inspired this super easy cake. First, I was recently asked to do a review of Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour for Allergy Sense (which is a great resource if you have allergies or kids with allergies, by the way). I was interested in doing so because 1) I think it’s important, given the many allergy-friendly products that are available these days, that people are able to make informed choices before spending time and money in their cooking endeavors, and 2) well, I’ve personally been slow to accept gluten-free all-purpose flours in my diet, so I thought it was about time to explore baking with one.

How did I like it? Well, remember the days when you needed only one flour in your recipes? Remember when baking didn’t require added starches and gums? Jules got me reminiscing, which made me miss the one-type-of-flour-days myself. Why don’t I bake with all-purpose GF flours more often, I thought? For one thing, I’ve always thought it a bit of a cop-out — sort of the the gluten-free equivalent of cake mix. I know that’s not really the case, but the control-freak in me has always wanted a part in making my own flour mix, for whatever reason. After spending less than 15 minutes in the kitchen to bake, though, I started seeing the light. Second, I do actually like being able to control what types of flours I’m using to a certain extent, as I’m partial to the higher fiber — sometimes higher protein — varieties. That said, there’s definitely an appeal to shortening your list of ingredients, shorting your time in the kitchen, and shortening your grocery list once in awhile. So for my last trip to Whole Foods, I only bought one flour. I didn’t see Jules’ flour available there (hint, hint Jules, wherever you are!), so I went with Bob’s Red Mill for this particular recipe.

Then there was Xagave, the second prong of this cake’s inspiration. Now, I know certain food bloggers decline offers to try new products, but as I mentioned above, I think it’s important — especially in the allergy-free world, which is a new one to many who are living in it — for people to be able to make informed decisions about the products they’re purchasing. I know my grocery bills went up since I changed my diet, and a large part of that is due to the fact that not everything is a cheap as white flour and sugar. And not everything is as familiar, which is why I’m happy to give guidance where and when I can, and why I welcomed a sample of this agave nectar into my “test” kitchen.

The people at Xagave, it’s clear, were looking to make an agave product that goes beyond the mere “better-for-you-than-sugar” label. It would seem they sought to create a product that had actual health benefits to boot. For example, Xagave, unlike other brands, contains added inulin (a prebiotic fiber), along with calcium, iron, vitamins and minerals. Now, I’m no doctor, but I’m guessing that this can’t be a bad thing. I was particularly excited because now that I’m no longer eating dairy, I’ll take my calcium where I can get it; 17%  of the daily value in a tablespoon of Xagave ain’t  bad. Perhaps even more noteworthy for some of you out there is that Xagave is processed at 117 degrees, which they say makes it a raw food, though I’d have to do some fact-checking to make sure. This was at least interesting to me because I had literally just read an article denouncing agave nectar as “not really” a raw food (even those labeled as “raw”), since most are processed at 140 degrees, exceeding the general 104-115 degree range allowed for raw cuisine (if you ask Wikipedia). While still on the high end of this range, those following a raw regimine might certainly welcome an agave that’s heated at temperatures below those of most other brands.

So how, exactly, did an agave product inspire this cake? It was actually Xagave’s companion cookbook, Delicious Meets Nutritious, that did that. While all of the dessert recipes looked great to me, I realized that I could eat about zero of them, due to the fact that most call for eggs. But I did notice a cream cheese frosting recipe that piqued my interest. I decided to veganize the original recipe, as well as reduce the amount of agave called for, since I like mine to have a bit of tanginess to it.

My overall impression of Xagave? It’s a good bet, if you can find it. When I used the company’s store locator, I realized that exactly one store in Manhattan carries it. Plus, as far as taste and texture go, I didn’t notice any difference from other brands of agave nectars, despite claims that the taste and cooking qualities were superior. To me this means that if you’re not an agave fan to start, don’t count on Xagave being the product that changes your mind. Now, that could just be me; some of you with more discerning palates might say otherwise. I did try this cake recipe with both Xagave and another type to find that it made no apparent difference, which is why no particular brand is designated for the recipe. But overall, I would say this agave is worth looking into if  you’re interested in any of the above-mentioned health benefits — who doesn’t want a little calcium boost with their piece of cake? — and might be particularly worth checking out if you’re diabetic (re: the inulin) or following a raw regimen.

Applesauce Spice Cake:

2 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose flour

1/4 cup flax seed meal

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup agave nectar

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

1/2 cup hot water

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Whisk in agave, oil, hot water, vanilla and applesauce and stir until incorporated.

3. Pour batter into a pre-greased, 9-13″ baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes (check after 25), or until a toothpick comes out clean. Top with vegan cream cheese frosting.

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting (adapted from Delicious to Nutritious, by Stephen Richards): In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together 8-oz. vegan cream cheese (I use Follow Your Heart brand), 3 tablespoons Spectrum Organic Shortening, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/4 cup agave nectar (increase to taste). Beat until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with “Sour Cream” Frosting

Frosting is one of the most difficult feats to pull off when cooking for a dairy and sugar-free diet. When it’s done right, though, it can be just as satisfying as the powdered sugar kind. But the first time I tried a cupcake with the unique addition of a sour cream frosting, I was hooked, and I didn’t know if a dairy-free sour cream frosting of the same caliber could ever be pulled off.

Well, this frosting is not an exact match, but it’s pretty darn close. The spirit of sour cream is completely there. It’s tart and sweet, and a great fit with the fluffy chocolate banana combination beneath it. To create a thick and fluffy texture for the frosting, I used coconut butter. It has great coconut flavor and hardens up really nicely in the refrigerator. One potential problem with this product, however, is that it is not available everywhere. A very good alternative would be coconut cream, which is inexpensive and somewhat more upiquitous. Can’t find coconut cream, either? Well, you could try coconut oil, but I would reduce the amount of coconut milk in the frosting. Play around with it, and make sure the final product is really well chilled. Notice how the sweetness of the coconut and agave go surprisingly well with the secret “sour” ingredient — apple cider vinegar.

Yield: 12 large or 14 regular sized cupcakes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup light coconut milk, shaken

3/4 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup mashed ripe banana

Frosting:

1/4 cup coconut butter

1/3 cup coconut cream from the top of a full-fat can of coconut milk (do not shake or stir)*

1/3 cup agave nectar

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Prepare frosting by blending all ingredients in a blender or food processor (blender is preferable). Chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 350.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, beat coconut milk, agave, oil and vanilla until combined. Add banana and beat until smooth. Slowly add dry ingredients to mixture and beat slowly until everything is smooth.

4. Add cupcake liners to cupcake tin. Fill cups with batter about 3/4 of the way up. Bake for 22 minutes. Let cupcakes cool on a wire wrack.

* Note: if you get a can of coconut milk that, for some reason, does not have the layer of cream on top, you can thiken your coconut milk with cornstarch or arrowroot in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk 1/3 cup milk with a tablespoon of starch until thick like a paste and add to blender. This will change the texture of the frosting, but should do the trick.

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Gluten Free Vegan Carob Cupcakes

carob cupcakes 3These cupcakes are a new favorite. In the words of The Moosewood Cookbook: “Carob is carob.  Chocolate is chocolate…Let carob be itself — its genuine, sweet, subtle self. You will discover it to have a charm and character of its own.” Since Moosewood has been in my family for years — given to me by my mom, pages curdled and stained from from spills,  others stuck together — I trust that Moosewood is probably right. Carob deserves to stand on its own as a worthy ingredient, and not just as a chocolate substitute. Personally, I love it. And I love chocolate as well. But since this is a site for people with food allergies, if you can’t have chocolate, these are an indulgence worthy of taking the chocolate cupcake’s place — even if carob is carob, and chocolate is chocolate.  

A quick note on coconut cream (used in the frosting): You can find it in the baking aisle of health food stores (I bought mine at Whole Foods), usually next to the shredded coconut. It’s kind of like natural peanut butter in the sense that, at room temperature, the solid separates from the liquid. When it’s cold, it completely hardens. I suggest warming the package in a bowl of warm water before using, if the cream is completely solid. When using in this recipe, you want to use, for the most part, the solid part of the coconut cream. This is what will allow the frosting to harden and form a nice glaze over the cupcakes.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Gluten Free Vegan Carob Cupcakes:

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour

1/4 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon carob powder (not sweetened)

1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 banana, mashed

Sugar Free, Dairy Free Carob Frosting:

1/2 cup light coconut milk

1/3 cup agave nectar

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coconut cream (the solid part)

1/4 cup carob powder (not sweetened)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

3 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

1. Prepare frosting at least an hour or two before using so that frosting can chill and harden. To prepare, blend all ingredients in a blender. Cover and chill in refrigerator.

2. Preheat oven to 325.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat coconut milk, agave, canola oil, vanilla and banana on high. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix on a low speed until incorporated.

4. Fill cupcake tins with liners and add batter a little more than 3/4 of the way to the top of each liner. Bake for 12 minutes, rotate cupcake tin 180 degrees, and bake for another ten minutes. Cupcakes may be a little soft to the touch when you take them out, but they will harden a little more as they cool. Allow to cool five minutes in tins, then on a rack. When cupcakes have completely cooled, frost using about a tablespoon of frosting at first. Add more as needed and spread evenly over the top of the cupcake. This is not a fluffly frosting, but more of a glaze.

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Gluten Free Carrot Orange Cupcakes

006When I was younger, one of my favorite desserts was my grandma’s — which then became my mom’s — famous carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. It was dense and sweet and tasty, yet incredibly loaded with vitamin packed carrots. My take on the dessert is a little less carrot-heavy, but the absence of sugar and butter and the addition of whole grains makes these cupcakes a not-so-guilty pleasure nonetheless.

I know it may seem like a lot of ingredients, but if you already do a lot of gluten-free cooking or baking, you will likely have many of the items already on hand. Plus, many of the ingredients for the cake are used in the frosting as well. As a final note, I really like to use Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour for baking because it tends to produce a less gritty final product. If you are working with what seems like a grittier flour, try throwing it in the food processor for about 30 seconds for a finer texture.

Cake Ingredients:

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour

3/4 cup white rice flour

1/3 cup tapioca flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tbsp flax seed meal

1 tsp xanthan gum

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tsp orange zest

1 cup agave nectar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup hot water

1 medium apple, peeled and grated

1 cup shredded carrot

1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened

Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the orange juice and zest, agave nectar, canola oil and vanilla extract. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Add the hot water. Fold in the apple, carrot and coconut. Do not overmix.

Line muffin tins with baking cups and fill each cup about halfway with the batter. Bake at 325 for about 25 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool. Then top with vanilla orange frosting. Recipe follows.

Vanilla orange frosting:

2/3 cup light coconut milk

1/4 cup white rice flour

2 tbsp orange juice

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup agave nectar

1 tbsp arrowroot

2 tsp orange zest

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp xanthan gum

Whisk rice flour and coconut milk and heat in a small saucepan over medium heat. Slowly stir until milk has thickened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend with remaining ingredients. If using coconut oil and your oil has hardened, place it in a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes until it liquifies before adding to the blender. Chill for at least an hour.

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