Did somebody say cake?! Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Maybe you have figured this out by now, but baking + making desserts in general is not my thing. I feel terrible about it really. Almost two months old and no dessert recipe yet! I’m not a huge sweets eater, but to be honest I’m really not very good at baking. I don’t have the patience for it nor the talent. I find more comfort experimenting with types of beer + meat than flour.
But you’ll be glad to hear that I successfully crafted not one, but TWO delicious desserts. I was inspired by this recipe. First, because it sounded so simple and looked delicious. And second, because I thought it could provide a good base for a gluten-free cake. And then I had an excuse to make two cakes instead of one. :)
Gluten free baking. Most of cringe at the thought of it. And rightfully so, because it’s incredibly difficult to get anything gluten free to behave like gluten. Gluten is found in wheat (among numerous other things) and this molecule is what makes raised breads possible. Gluten is a mix of complex proteins (amino acids) that form bonds and with water molecules and each other, allowing them to reshape. These proteins form an intricate coiled network that gives bread it’s shape, but only in the presence of an oxidizing agent (i.e. yeast, or in this recipe soda) because the gluten bonds trap the gas bubbles. Gluten in bread is both elastic and plastic – oh boy here’s some chemistry. This means that it will change it’s shape under pressure (i.e. when you’re kneeding dough) but it go back to it’s original shape when that pressure is removed (i.e. when you’re done kneeding the dough). This means that if gluten is left unaltered, it will be really tough and sticky and not tasty. Bakers attempt to control the amount that the amino acids bind to one another, because this increases the toughness of the dough. This is done by adding ingredients that limit the gluten bonds, such as fat/oil, sugar, water, acid, salt and through kneading. Hence, this fluffy cake calls for 3 sticks of butter and 3 cups of sugar. This is why I don’t bake. I don’t wanna know.
However, throw away gluten and your lose all these complex properties that make your bread rise and taste fluffy and delicious. Yes those are the scientific terms for the process. GF flours that are often used include rice flour + oat flour, but these flours do not capture the gas bubbles and react with other ingredients like gluten does, so your breads are normally dense and crumbly. Xanthan gum, eggs, and butter are often used to try to get GF flours to bind to one another, although it doesn’t always work and often it doesn’t taste good.
I attempted it anyway. This recipe uses soda as it’s oxidizing agent. I hypothesized that since the gas bubbles don’t need to react with anything to form (they’re already there in the soda), that they would raise the GF flour on it’s own. Which in fact it did! I won’t lie, the gluten version was met with more praise. But the GF one wasn’t bad! I’d call that a success.
Orange Soda Cake – two ways
1 1/2c unsalted butter at room temp (yes this is 3 sticks)
3c white flour (GF version I used 1 cup of each – rice, oat, and quinoa flour. You can use a coffee grinder or blender to make these flours at home)
3/4c Hansen’s orange-mango soda
2T orange extract
Preheat oven to 325*F. Grease + lightly dust with flour (I used corn meal for the GF version) your baking pans. This will allow the cakes to release from the pan. Toss any flour out that doesn’t stick to the pan. Cream sugar + butter in bowl until fluffy. Stir in 1 egg at a time. Mix in flour slowly. Mix in soda + orange extract until batter is smooth. Pour batter into pan and smooth until evenly distributed. Batter will be thick. Bake for 1hr 10m (normal version) – 1hr 20min (GF version). Let cool + dust with powdered sugar.
So eat your gluten-free heart out.