Though I am able to eat gluten, many of my favourite, tried-and-true cakes are gluten free. This is because I love ground nuts and I love a moist crumb. In chocolate cakes and brownies you can very often get away without traditional flour, using ground nuts and/or eggs to replace the structure flour provides. In swiss rolls, using no flour or very little flour is essential to avoid cracks in the roll. Cakes also often keep better, if made with ground nuts – sometimes they’re better the next day and still good a few days after they’re made.
P.S. If you’d like, I can make another gluten free cake episode in the future, I’ve got plenty more ideas and good recipes to test and share! Perhaps with different flours or nuts. Email me if you’d like to see this – email@example.com
Quick note: If using baking powder, make sure it’s gluten free (if needed), because not all of them are – but it should be fairly easy to find one.
Emiko Davies’ Torta Caprese
I covered this in the Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Cake episode, but it is honestly a fantastic cake. Simple to make and delicious.
Crumbs & Doilies’ Chocolate Swiss Roll
I covered this recipe from Crumbs and Doilies ages ago. It was delicious, but were I make it again I would add another element: brandy cherries, a curd, a tart jam, maybe spicing. Sometimes simplicity is good, but sometimes it’s a bit boring. However, a fantastic base recipe. It also doesn’t have to be Christmassy – it could be filled or decorated differently.
Claudia Roden’s Whole Orange Cake
I covered this in the whole orange cakes episode (of course we needed a whole episode on whole orange cakes!). The crumb is absolutely incredible and is actually better the day after it’s made. Don’t just take my word for it – lots of food writers have called this cake ‘legendary.’
Raspberry and Pistachio Meringue Cake
I have made this for very special celebrations (including a friend’s micro lockdown wedding!) and it’s wonderful. I adapted it from a hazelnut macaron torte recipe from Deb Perelman, who adapted it from somewhere else. But I really love the combination of pistachios, raspberries and mascarpone cream. Grown-up but also people-pleasing.
Nigella’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake
Nigella’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake is wheat and dairy free, and all the better for it. The olive oil brings out different flavours in the chocolate than butter. The crumb is incredible. This is my go-to cake for people who can’t eat dairy. Stupendous.
Valeria Necchio’s Torta di Nocciole with Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream
This cake comes from Piedmont, where hazelnuts are abundant. Piedmont is well worth a visit if you ever plan a trip to Italy – especially in autumn when hazelnuts and truffles are in season. We stayed in Turin which we really enjoyed: not too touristy, church history and great food. But Alba is where the Slow Food festival is held.
Adapted barely, just to make it even easier and to include conversions, from here.
For the cake:
- 3 UK/EU medium or US large eggs (c. 57g each), separated
- 150g caster (superfine) / granulated sugar
- 250g skinned, toasted hazelnuts (Note: If they aren’t pre-toasted, put them on a baking tray and go low and slow in the oven for 10-15 minutes. If they aren’t skinned, you can skin them after this by rubbing them together in a tea towel or shaking between two sieves. Don’t worry if you don’t get 100% of the skin off, it’s perfectly edible. Cool before using.)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1/4 tsp salt
- A pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
- Icing sugar, to dust (optional)
- Preheat oven to 170C / 150C fan/ 325F. Grease a 26cm / 10 inch tin with butter.
- Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks in a very clean bowl, with a pinch of cream of tartar for extra stability, if you wish. In a separate bowl (but you can use the same whisk if you do things this way round!), whisk the yolks with 75g of the sugar until pale yellow and airy.
- Blitz the hazelnuts with the remaining sugar to a fine flour – don’t go too far or you’ll have hazelnut butter. Add this, the baking powder and the salt to the egg yolks and combine. Stir in the melted butter. Gently fold in the whites.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes to moist crumbs.
To make the lemon swiss meringue buttercream:
- 75g egg whites (c. 2 large)
- 100g caster/ granulated sugar
- 113g butter, softened but not too warm
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Whisk (by hand is fine) the egg whites and sugar in a mixer bowl or large bowl over a pan of steaming water – you don’t want it too hot – until the sugar has dissolved. If you rub a little between your finger and thumb you shouldn’t feel any sugar granules.
- Whisk the egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks. A stand mixer is ideal here. It takes up to 8 minutes.
- Change the attachment to the beater, if using a stand mixer. Beat in the butter gradually, around a tablespoon at a time, until smooth and well-incorporated. Beat in the lemon zest.
Rukmini Iyer’s Tarta de Santiago
This Tarta de Santiago – or St James’s cake! – is so light and delicious. The subtle lemon and cinnamon flavours are fragrant and sophisticated as well as just delicious. Did I mention it’s easy to make? The recipe is via The Sweet Roasting Tin by Rukmini Iyer, but this cake is traditional in Galicia, Spain.
- 250g caster/ superfine/ granulated sugar
- 250g ground almonds
- 200g eggs (which is about 4 US large or UK medium)
- 1 lemon, zest only
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- A pinch of cream of tartar (this just helps stabilise the whisked egg mixture, but it isn’t essential nor is it in the original recipe)
- Grease and line a 23cm/ 9 in springform cake tin. Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C / 160C fan/ gas 4.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar (and pinch of cream of tartar, if using) until the mixture reaches the ribbon stage (where when it falls on to the mixture from the whisk, it leaves a ribbon-like trail for a couple of seconds before sinking in).
- Fold in the dry ingredients.
- Bake for about 40 minutes until moist crumbs. I found I could just look at this one and tell it was done.