Gluten-free Chocolate Cake (and some dairy-free baking mistakes!)

Allergy friendly baking is always a learning process. I’ve been lucky to have mostly good experiences and good results in the kitchen, but last night I almost had a catastrophe (or cake-tastrophy, as I’m calling it).

I was trying to make a chocolate cake that was dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and with coconut sugar to boot (and no nut flour substitutes so I can keep my kitchen nut-free!).

The Camino baking chocolate is a blessing, because it’s guaranteed free of nuts, wheat, dairy, and soy (among other things, I believe they are free of all priority allergens). I used unsweetened for this recipe, and swapped the sugar 1:1 with coconut sugar. I also chose coconut oil in place of regular oil, as I like the texture my cakes get with coconut oil. At this point, the batter looked pretty fantastic:


Things started going downhill as soon as I put my layers in the oven. I used springform pans lined with parchment paper and greased with coconut oil. What I didn’t consider is that spring form pans don’t give you a 100% seal, and when coconut oil gets even slightly above room temperature, it melts. I noticed first when there was a slight sizzling sound, then I saw the smoke – the coconut oil was dripping out the bottom of my pans and smoking when it hit the bottom of the oven!

I didn’t get the pans out right away, so there was a bit of a mess once I got them out. I stored them in the fridge while the oven cooled, which was a bit nerve-racking; normally, cake batter doesn’t refrigerate well when it relies on beaten eggs for its volume. But luckily, once the oven was clean and the pans were wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, they did bake up OK. Unfortunately, they weren’t as suitable as a full cake, as the cake separated a bit into layers – if I’d leveled it, I would have ended up with two tiny cake layers, and no one wants to skimp on cake!

I had to make a bit of a compromise to fill everyone’s dietary needs; I cut this cake into cake brownies (Cakies? Crownies?) for the guest who could not eat any dairy or regular sugar. I then used a second gluten-free cake (which I had on hand because I didn’t initially know all of the dietary concerns) for the rest of the guests. This one had butter in it, since the other party goer who couldn’t have most dairy was fine with butter.

For this cake, I paired the rich, chocolate cake with a chocolate caramel icing. For this I needed a partially dairy-free caramel (butter was ok but cream just would not do), so I used this recipe with coconut cream. It made an absolutely delicious caramel! Next time I might stick to coconut milk over coconut cream to have it stay a little softer, but I’ve had previous dairy-free caramels just refuse to set so I wanted to reduce the liquid to be safe here.

Cupcake Jemma makes a fantastic chocolate buttercream, so I stuck with her recipe, only I used dairy-free chocolate, coconut milk, and added about 1/4 cup of the caramel.

I had a request for a rosette pattern, which I’m really loving right now. It’s so simple but so beautiful! And it gives you a super thick frosting layer, which is never a bad thing.


The final touch was the message on top – Slainte Catherine – for a fellow dancer who will be moving to Australia soon. Slainte (pronounced slahn-cha, I believe) means ‘to your good health’ in Gaelic. This was piped on in the same icing, with a little Americolour Chocolate Brown to set it apart from the rest of the icing.


My one regret with the design of this cake is that the angle of the writing is a little off – if I did this again, I’d be more careful to keep the writing on ‘Catherine’ slanted upward.

Luckily, I was able to meet all of the dietary concerns for this party, albeit not all in one cake. I received a few compliments afterward on the cake (though it was quite rich and dense, so not everyone could finish a full slice!) so I’m glad it was all worth it in the end!




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