How to make gluten free cakes

I have been making gluten free cakes since my schooldays (over 45 years ago) when my whisked sponges were always picked as the best in the class. Light, fluffy, and tasty I never let on what my secret ingredient was. 

In fact even if I had mentioned gluten free flour I would have received a blank look, as almost no-one had heard of it back then. As a Coeliac it was the essential ingredient. Various types of gf flour can be used in cake making. I will go into more detail further down the page.

Although it is now possible to buy gluten free cakes in the supermarket, I still like to make my own at home using many different methods (although the whisked sponge is still my favourite). 

Let's look at these in more detail below...

Cake Making Tips

  • For all cake making weighing your ingredients on a pair of scales is important 
  • Always turn your oven on to warm up before making your cake.
  • Don't open the oven too soon!

Methods for making gluten free cakes

All in one cake

This is perhaps the easiest method, especially if you have a kitchen mixer available. 

As the name suggests, you throw everything into one bowl and combine the ingredients. I often cook these in two round tins to make a sandwich cake, with jam or butter cream in the middle. 

Store in a tin as soon as they are cool to prevent them going stale as they are won't keep as long as other types of cake.

Creamed method

This method is where you first cream together equal amounts of softened (not melted) butter and sugar before adding eggs, flavourings and lastly flour. 

A wide variety of cakes made by this method: Banana cake, Christmas Cake, Madeira, Battenburg, Victoria Sandwich and little Butterfly cakes.  You can also use the all-in-one method, but taking the extra time is well worth it as creamed cakes have a finer texture and they keep better

Rubbed in mixtures

Also often used for biscuits and pastry, rub the fat and flour between your fingers until you get a texture that resembles breadcrumbs. Then add the sugar, followed by milk and sometimes but not always, eggs.  These are economical to bake and can include spices, fruit (fresh, dried or crystalized), nuts, or liquid flavourings. 

If there are no eggs, add alternative raising agents to the flour to enable the cake to rise. Check the packets when using baking powder to make sure it is gluten free. It is easy to make your own from bicarbonate of soda (2 parts) and cream of tartar (1 part) if you can't find any ready-made that is safe to use.

Melted cakes

Another method of incorporating the ingredients in gluten free cakes is to use the melting method. Place the fat and sugar in a saucepan and melt on the stove before adding the other ingredients. Sometimes golden syrup or black treacle replaces the sugar in these recipes. You can also melt chocolate with the butter, then whisk in the sugar for a flourless chocolate cake. My gluten free apple cake is made by the melted method. 

These gluten free cakes keep well, with the flavour improving with age. 

Whisked sponges

A true sponge contains no butter or margarine. Whisk the sugar and eggs together until pale, gently stir in the flour without knocking out the air you have incorporated. Ensure all your ingredients are at room temperature by taking your eggs out of the fridge in advance.

You will need a light hand for this method but it results in the lightest, fluffiest cakes. However, they don't keep well and are best eaten.

An example of a whisked sponge is a Swiss Roll, or Jelly Roll as my American friends would call it. 

Gluten free flours for cake making

When making gluten free cakes I have had a lot of success using commercial gluten free flour mixes. These are normally available in both self raising and plain versions and save storage space in your kitchen cupboards. 

It is also possible to use specific flour combinations, depending on what type of cake you are baking. This can enable you to use those with a higher protein content or fewer carbs if preferred. 

Chocolate or spiced cakes allow you to use the darker, stronger tasting options such as buckwheat, amaranth or chickpea flours along with gluten free cocoa powder.

For lighter white or yellow cakes I stick to almond, coconut, tapioca, rice (brown and white), potato and cornflour. 

Bakeware

I cook  in baking tins although silicone pans are becoming more popular as they are non-stick. This can be helpful as gluten free cakes can stick to the pan if it is not prepared carefully.

You will probably amass a collection of shapes and sizes including

  • deep round tins 
  • shallow sandwich tins 
  • loaf tins
  • muffin pans 
  • and various rectangular and square options

Recipes for cakes will normally stipulate what size tin to cook them in. Following this advice, along with the suggested cooking time, should ensure good results.

If you change the size or shape of the tin, you would likely also need to change the time you leave the cake in the oven and the temperature, to ensure the cake cooks all the way through and isn't still raw in the center. For example a loaf cake may take over an hour, whereas  in 20-25 minutes.

Have a go yourself

Although making gluten free cakes at home may be a challenge, we all deserve a treat occasionally don't we? I will add many cake recipes to the site in the coming weeks so check back regularly. 


  

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