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16 October 2010

baking a chocolate cake, in real time.

We are just starting to bake a cake. To be specific, we're baking Dorie Greenspan's devil's food white-out cake, gluten-free.

And our little friend H, who lives in San Diego, is making the cake too. It's her first baking project.

We're doing it together. Want to join us? We'll be updating this post as we go.

First, we threw together a big batch of
our gluten-free all-purpose flour mix. We haven't been home in awhile (and we'll be telling you about our travels in the next couple of days), so we were out of our AP mix.

For new recipes, I play with individual flours, to see what textures and personalities I can bring together in a baked good. But when I'm working with a steadfast recipe I know works well — and Dorie Greenspan's recipes always work — I just use our AP mix.

The recipe calls for 1 1/3 cup flour. In this case, we're using 182 grams of AP flour.

We sifted the flours together in the original mix, then sifted 182 grams of it into a large mixing bowl. And then we added 2 grams each of xanthan and guar gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. That's the dry ingredients.

After we mixed all the dry ingredients together, we sifted in the cocoa powder.

You know, that verb isn't even accurate! I was aerating and incorporating. I don't have a sifter. I hold a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl and slowly tumble the flours or cocoa powder over the sieve and shift it from side to side, over the bowl, slowly. You could also do this with a whisk.

Aerating and incorporating the flours for baking is particularly important for gluten-free baking. After all, we're using more than one flour. Blending them together well, aerating them and incorporating them together, makes a huge difference in the final baked good.

Some people seem afraid of sifting. No need! Read this post by the incredible Gail Dosik (also known as One Tough Cookie) about the semantics of sifting and you'll soon be over your silly fears of sifting too.

Aerate! Incorporate!

It's always good to know where you are going.

If you don't already own Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, you must buy a copy now. If you are serious about baking, that is.

(Also, you should buy her new book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. It looks fantastic. We'll be cooking out of it soon.)

What I love so much about Dorie Greenspan's recipes is that the writing makes you feel as though she is standing beside you, encouraging you and nudging a little bit when something might go wrong. There's a sense of a real person, a wise person who will make you laugh and help you eat the cake when it's done. Those are my favorite kind of recipes.

It's how we tried to write the recipes in our book, as well.

So, when we were making the batter, and looked down in the bowl to see that it looked a bit as if it as separating, it was a comfort to look at the recipe and see that Dorie had written: "Don't worry if the mixture looks curdled."

You want a good guide when you are baking.

Butter. It's hard to make a good cake without butter.

Or at least, that's what I used to think. Those of you who cannot eat dairy, can you pitch in here? What is your favorite butter substitute? We're fans of the Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks when we're baking dairy free. Honestly, I have never been able to tell a difference in cakes made with these instead of butter. I'd use them all the time.

I do know they contain soy, however, so those of you with soy allergies have said you need to find something else.

That might look like a lot of butter. (In fact, it's more than the recipe requires. We softened two sticks and the recipe calls for 10 tablespoons.) But remember that no one should be eating an entire cake by herself anyway.

Danny pulled two sticks of butter out of the refrigerator this morning when we awoke, then cut them up into little chunks immediately. This seems to help the butter to soften more quickly.

I've told you, many times, how much I love my Kitchen Aid. This one has been whirling for me since 1995. Please keep going.

Creaming the butter and sugars together is one of my favorite parts of baking. I love watching something appearing, becoming something else, under the steady beat of the stand mixer paddle.

Or, in this case, the whisk attachment. It has been a crazy morning. The kitchen is a nightmare and we woke up to bake instead of cleaning first. Lu had a mottled night of sleep because of her molars. My parents came over to play with her and she wanted only to bake at my side. We couldn't find the chocolate -- Lu had hidden it somewhere. Danny had taken all the cake pans to his restaurant, because he is baking gluten-free desserts there, and he had forgotten to bring them home. And we couldn't find the paddle attachment.

C'est la vie. I'd never let a little chaos stop me from baking.

Because of the chaos, I didn't take photos of the rest of this process. You'll have to follow along with the recipe. Dorie makes it easy.

The batter at first is as thick as frosting. You pour a little boiling hot water into it to thin it out. Then, you add more chocolate.

More chocolate is never a bad idea.

This batter, just before pouring it into the pans, is pillowy and rich, with a deep chocolate flavor. It begs for fingers to be swiped across the top, then licked.

Of course, we obliged.

There they are, ready to go into the oven.

Let's hope the pie pans work.

They worked!

I prefer my cake pans, but these 9-inch pie pans worked just fine as well.

The cakes themselves came out somewhat flat, but Carrie sent me photographs of the ones that H. made and they were the same, with gluten. That must be the way this cake is made. I'm fine with that.

Next, we have to wait for them to cool.

Time to make some marshmallow frosting.

Danny holding the final cake

And here it is — the final cake.

We're leaving in a few moments, after spending all morning baking and cleaning, playing with Lu and eating good food. I'll come back this evening and fill in the steps between cooling cakes and frosted finale.

Oh, and the recipe. But let me tell you, this cake is a winner. Gluten or not, it doesn't seem to matter.

I just can't wait for dessert tonight.


At 10:57 AM, Blogger Becks said...

I made this cake (gluten free of course) for my son's first birthday, and it was amazing! Really, it was absolutely delicious!

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Jess said...

Hi GFG and Chef! I work at a small organic, local and sustainable bakery in Wisconsin and we whip up GF treats (and Vegan too) in addition to our traditional. They've been so well received! I can't believe how many people are affected by celiac or some other dietary need for GF. I'm humbled every day by their excitement to find that we have treats just for them. :)

At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Paula said...

I can't wait to see it all baked and frosted. The fact that the batter is nice, fluffy and chocolate has me hooked.

P.S. I love your statement for comment posters. Very good!

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Serene said...

Great shots. I especially like the first one!

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

When I lived very sparingly in NYC I actually only ever used pie plates as cake pans. If you need something that will double or triple duty pie plates are great. Now I have space and can have cake pans! Cake looks good, I'll be testing lots of cake recipes for my wedding next year (we're getting married in Mexico and have a bakery that will help us out if we give them a recipe).

At 5:34 PM, Anonymous theceliachusband said...

I can never have enough cake. This one is a dreamer of a cake.

At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Deanna said...

I'm one of those non-dairy eaters, and can't do large amounts of soy either. My go-to options are coconut oil and Spectrum organic palm oil shortening (non-hydrogenated). I've also used the soy-free tub version of earth balance, but I don't prefer it as much.

Jess - which bakery - I'm in Madison.

At 7:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

It was a perfect day for cake! I whipped up a small batch of GF vanilla butter cake for a cupcake decorating demonstration today (only bc I couldn't serve the cupcakes to customers and knew I'd be taking them home with me). After the demo, I ate 3 of the cupcakes before leaving the parking lot to head home. Nothing like a little cupcake with the perfect swirl of buttercream on top and few sprinkles. Mmm..

Can't wait for your chocolate recipe :)

At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Bravetart said...

I've had such great luck with coconut oil, although it's not too forgiving with over baking. I haven't tried to soy sticks, I've been too scared. I've been so pleasantly surprised by my adventures in gluten free that perhaps dairy free will go well too...

At 7:55 PM, Anonymous molly said...

Oh, those dang molars! They are a bear.

Though I can only imagine a little cake will improve things considerably :)

We are not dairy free, and I love butter nearly as much as life itself, but I often sub out oil for butter, simply because the higher fat content makes for a lighter crumb, in my experience.

At 8:45 PM, Anonymous Jeni said...

As far as the soy thing, I've been using vegetable shortening mix with a little bit of butter flavoring. It's not perfect, but it bakes up well.

Fleishman's also makes an unsalted margarine that's casein-free and bakes well (and seriously less expensive), but yeah, lots of soy.

At 1:59 AM, Blogger Shuku said...

Oh this looks -wonderful-. I will attempt to bake this when I get back from Vietnam next week. For the first time I'm not afraid of eating gluten-free overseas. It's...odd, but comforting to know I'm getting used to the research and everything about travelling with this condition.

I'll try to take pictures of some of the food and get some recipes back. 1000 years of Hanoi celebrations! (But honestly? I would rather like to be in the kitchen baking this wonderful cake rather than packing right now.)

At 11:19 AM, Anonymous Dorie said...

Shauna I'm so glad that you and Danny were able to convert my recipe into one you liked. Hooray! And many, many thanks for your very kind words. xoDorie

At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Annah said...

Wow, that looks really promising! I have been the cake-baker in our family for decades, and now three of us are gluten-free, so I've been on the lookout for replacement recipes. I will surely give this one a try well before the next birthday celebration. Like SOON!

The other question I have is regarding baking without sugar. I live with a diabetic, and so I often replace half the sugar in recipes with Xylitol, as it handles pretty much the same, and doesn't have much aftertaste. Do any of you have other suggestions about substituting other sweeteners for sugar? (honey, agave, brown sugar - they are all a challenge for diabetics) We don't love Splenda's aftertaste, and I have not tried baking with the Stevia extract, since baking requires the texture from sugar. It's a challenge...GF AND Sugar-free would be ideal...(yep, I'm a dreamer!)

Re: your KitchenAid mixer - I've had mine since 1974, and just found out that the local commercial Hobart dealer can repair them. It's best if (like me) you have an older one, since they are more repairable than the newer solid-state machines.

Happy baking! :)

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Jess said...

@ Deanna- Bloom Bake Shop in Middleton :)

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Tina said...

Rock on, GFG & Chef! My doctor just recommended that I try a GF diet, and my first tiny steps into this daunting world led me straight to a place where there is laughter, love of life and food, kind & understanding support, actual recipes for doughnuts, and now a Dorie Greenspan cake. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

At 2:29 PM, Blogger a kelly said...

A work of art....I want some!

At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks really good! I could do with some chocolate cake right now! Do you ever use millet as a flour? It has a naturally creamy feel when cooked and would be excellent for baked goods.

Kelli C.

At 7:01 AM, Blogger THE Tough Cookie said...

Shauna, the cake looks spectacular. And, I'm beyond flattered and honored to have been noted in the post.
SO generous of you, but you're just that kind of person.

I want to be you when I grow up!

At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Holly Hatam said...

hmmmmm....chocolately goodness!

At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Linda Cramer said...

My daughter is the baker in our family. I can't wait to share this with her after school. This sounds fun to make and eat.

At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Sarah (Running To Slow Things Down) said...

I do not have celiacs, but I've got to say how much I love your blog. So many wonderful recipes, beautiful pictures, and terrific stories.

Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work! :)

At 9:58 PM, Anonymous Heather said...

No Gluten, No Dairy, No Soy. . . I use half spectrum vegetable shortening and half applesauce to sub for butter-- it works great and sometimes adds even more (but not too much) moisture to recipes!

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Jenny said...

That cake looks delicious! : )

At 7:19 PM, Anonymous Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer said...

That cake looks so good and I didn't even know they had gluten free flour but I'm glad I do now since I have a few friends who can only eat gluten free. I love baking too so now they can eat what I make for once. That plate of butter by the way just looked like a heart attack waiting to happen but butter really does make everything it touches taste good.

At 7:50 PM, Anonymous marla {family fresh cooking} said...

I am not much the baker, however I had a large cake to bake the same day you and Carrie were working on these masterpieces. I followed you both on twitter and felt like I had great friends out there doing the same thing I was. Not the same recipe of course, but a similar experience.
I was very excited about the cake because it was for my daughter's 7th b'day. It was a hit in flavor & quite the looker :) Most important was seeing my daughter & guests with grins on their faces when they took bites of the cake I created for them. xo

At 7:50 PM, Anonymous marla {family fresh cooking} said...

Btw: gotta get my hands on Dories book!

At 11:20 AM, Anonymous The Healthy Apple said...

Love the beautiful pictures, Shauna...fabulous cake and I can't wait to try this recipe. Thank you and have a great day!

At 10:13 PM, Anonymous Kristen said...

I will admit that I'm terrified - yes terrified- of baking glutenfree. This might just kick my butt into gear though - it looks wonderful!

At 10:53 PM, Anonymous allergymom said...

Yum! GF and dairy-free chocolate cake has been at the top of my "next up" list for quite a while. We use Earth Balance buttery sticks because soy is not an issue. And I almost always sub half the fat w/ unsweetened applesauce. I'll have to try the Spectrum, though to see if we can get it soy-free, too.
I'd like to make a request, Shauna. Have you and the Chef ever tried to bake good GF challah? I desperately need a recipe. Will you try? I always love the blog and the inspiration!

At 11:19 AM, Anonymous Laura said...

Both my daughters insist on this cake for their birthday parties. At their request, I have made the frosting in pink, green and purple (the elegance of the white frosting doesn't do it for them)and it also looks gorgeous encrusted with jewel-tone jelly beans.

Your version looks spectacular!

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This isn't a comment, but a question - do you need or can you get permission to use someone else's posted recipe and make it gluten free?
This looks like a great holiday recipe but it isn't gluten free and you guys are the geniuses at converting and creating!


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