Thursday, September 25, 2008

Julie and Noah's Wedding Cake, Part Two: GF White Cake

Thanks for everybody's encouraging comments following Wedding Cake: Part One! It is nice to know you've all got my back, in a baking, internetty kind of way.

As I mentioned in Part One I was really only afraid of the top tier, the gluten free, agave sweetened white cake. And after my first baking attempt, the fear only intensified.

September 24, 2008
Name of Cake: Top Tier of Julie and Noah's Wedding Cake
Occasion: A Wedding!
Constituents: a 6-inch Gluten Free, agave sweetened White Cake

Oh people. At first I did what I usually do when I bake a GF cake. I take RLB's butter recipe and just use GF flours plus some Xanthan gum. I still use all the other ingredients: butter, granulated sugar, eggs, milk, etc and still put the cake together the same way.

However, this time I was not only replacing the gluten flour with non glutinous flours, I was also substituting water for milk and agave syrup for granulated sugar. As you may guess, my prototype cake was a sad, sad excuse for a cake.

The poor little thing fell down into a lumpy little heap as it cooled, and the inside was chewy and slightly rubbery, as well not really tasting much like a white cake. I looked at that sad little mass and thought, "oh HELL no."

(It was so bad, I have no photographic evidence of how bad it was.)

That is when I really started to worry.

I bought a book called Baking with Agave, which said that when replacing sugar with agave you need to decrease the amount of liquid by a third and you'll need 25% less agave than sugar (for example 3/4 cup agave instead of 1 cup sugar). However helpful this was, and despite having lots of good looking recipes in the book (including many GF ones) there was no white cake recipe.

I looked at Baking 911 and found online a Good Eats episode about cake (I love Alton Brown, even though he uses butter flavored shortening--WTF is that about, Alton?) and discovered from both sites that not only does gluten contribute to the structure of a cake, but sugar does too. So basically, I had taken away all the structure of my cake. This made me sad. It made the problem seem insurmountable.

I thought of other ways to create structure in a cake and knew my salvation lay in well beaten eggs. However, baking is chemistry, people, and how was I going to make sure that all that watery agave and butter and useless flour were going to harmonize??

I googled GF agave sweetened white cake and discovered many amazing GF bloggers out there. I learned about coconut flour, which I had to order online and ship 2 day air (hasn't arrived yet). Many people baked GF but still used sugar. Others baked with agave but still used wheat flour. Very few baked both GF and with agave, and the closest I got was a recipe for yellow cupcakes from Elana's Pantry and Sheltie Girl's GF Perfect Party Cake from a Daring Baker's Challenge. Not quite good enough, but good to know!

I realised more than finding a good GF recipe, I needed to find a good cake recipe that deals with liquidy sweeteners--honey, maple syurp, molasses, or agave. I needed somebody else to figure out how the heck to bake a cake when you can't rely on creaming butter and sugar to moisten, stabilise, sweeten, and aerate. I knew that my favorite GF carrot cake rises nice and has good texture and stability despite being made with honey and maple syrup, GF flours and NO EGGS. ???How the heck does that cake do it???

So to my baking books I did retreat, and lo and behold! There in Fannie Farmer's Baking Book that I often find useless, was a recipe for a RICE FLOUR, HONEY SWEETENED CAKE. SERIOUSLY. I couldn't believe it. Replacing honey with agave would require no thought. Awesome!

I made a test cake this afternoon, and I can breathe a sigh of relief. It was quick, easy, and would you look at that cake!

GF, agave sweetened white cake

It even tastes good!

Holy crap, that's awesome!!

And to celebrate, here's the recipe!!

GF, agave sweetened white cake

adapted from the White Lemon Cake in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup light agave syrup
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup GF flour mix
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp GF, non aluminum baking powder
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp GF vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325. Grease and flour a 6 inch round cake pan.

Beat the eggs and agave in a mixing bowl on med speed (I assume you are using a stand mixer).

Meanwhile, melt the butter being careful not to brown it, and add it to the eggs slowly.

Let the mixer continue to beat the egg mixture while, in a medium bowl, you measure out and combine the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder). Turn down the mixer to the lowest speed and slowly add the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer back up to medium speed once the dry ingredients are moistened and continue to beat, while measuring and adding the water and vanilla extract. Beat until well combined; it will look like thinned out mayonnaise, kind of.

Pour the batter into your pan; pan should be about half full. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn cake out of pan, and let cool completely. Do a little jig of happiness.


  1. Yeah, for finding a recipe that works! You are one tenacious bulldog with a bone!
    I'll probably never make this cake recipe. But I know where to find one if that sad day ever comes, when I can no longer eat sugar or flour.
    Oh please, no!

  2. Wow, I am so impressed! That looks really yummy, despite the fact that I am afraid of GF cake (we always fear the unknown, you know.)Good job!

    Just out of curiosity, why could you use butter but no milk?

  3. Melinda, never fear if that day comes! This cake is one of those cakes where you can't tell the difference. Those are the cakes I strive to make.
    A tenacious bulldog huh? I think I like it!

    Raiuchka, the bride has some serious food allergies, including gluten and milky products. She's fine with eggs and butter, however. She is also really sensitive to sugar, including honey and other alternatives. Agave seems to do her okay so we went with that.
    If you ever want to try a GF cake, let me know. Most of the ones out there being sold aren't very good. At all. In my opinion.

  4. That's the BEST looking GF cake I've ever seen. I've been baking with agave nectar for about 2 years, and have learned the secret about coconut flour. It really does a great job of soaking up liquid, although there's definitely a balance that needs to be achieved there.
    Good job!

  5. Deb, I just got my coconut flour today! Too late for the wedding cakes, but I am looking forward to trying it out.
    I have to admit, I was pretty shocked when I pulled the cake out of the oven. I had never made a GF cake like that in my life!
    Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I am extremely impressed that 1) you were brave enough to try a GF SF wedding cake layer, and 2) that you pulled it off successfully! I would never have thought that such a thing could be tasty. You have some serious trouble-shooting and cake baking skills!

  7. This cake looks delicious! I was thinking about making it, but wondering if the gf flour mix you used had xanthan gum in it or not?

  8. Iris, The GF flour mix doesn't have xanthan gum in it, and I guess I didn't use any at all. I hope you do make the cake and then come back and let me know how it went (and if you used XG).

    (Sorry it took me so long to approve your comment btw.)

  9. I know I'm leaving this comment like a hundred years after you first put it up, but I just have to tell you how much I love this recipe! It is beautiful and delicious, and has restored some food happiness in our home. :)

  10. Oh, and because of dairy allergy I can't use butter, so I just use olive oil in its place.

  11. Queen Heidi, when I read your comment, I cheered! I am so happy that you and your family are enjoying the cake, and I bet olive oil would give the cake a nice flavor. Thank you for commenting--it made my day!