Tips for Making Flavorful Gluten-Free Cakes
5 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Gluten-Free Baking Tips and Tricks
You can easily make gluten-free cakes that are flavorful, light and fluffy, and with a soft and tiny crumb. Avoid tough and heavy gluten-free cakes by following these handy baking tips.
Keeping gluten-free cakes tender and moist
Think about the best cake you ever ate. Chances are it was very tender and moist, with an even, almost velvety texture. In cakes, you want a fine crumb, which means very tiny air holes. And the cake should be moist, not dry. You want to add ingredients that attract moisture and hold it in the structure.
Here are several ways of getting a tender, fine crumb in gluten-free cakes:
Add a little extra leavening. Gluten-free flours are heavier and grab more moisture than wheat flours. Adding a little bit more baking soda and baking powder can give the cake batter the extra lift it needs for a fine and tender crumb.
Beat well. You need to aerate these batters. And because you don’t have to worry about gluten, you can beat the batters for a fairly long period of time — usually three to five minutes. This adds air to the batter. The protein and starch in the flour and eggs will form around the air bubbles.
Use flours with a low protein content. A 50-50 split of flours and starches gives the cake enough structure but keeps the texture fine.
Substitute sparkling water or soda pop for some of the liquid. This adds more air to the batter, which helps get the lift you want in any cake.
Add some finely divided solids, such as ground chocolate or cocoa powder. That’s a food science term for ingredients that are chopped very finely.
Use brown sugar. Brown sugar has more moisture than white sugar (which is why you have to pack it into the cup to measure it), so it makes the cake crumb more tender and moist.
Use more sugar. Sugar adds tenderness to cakes, and it’s hygroscopic, which just means that it attracts water. So more sugar means a more tender cake with a finer crumb.
Adding more flavor to gluten-free cakes
Most cake recipes are designed to be full of flavor. Chocolate cakes should taste rich and full of, well, chocolate. Fruit cakes should taste of the fruit and be very moist. Vanilla cakes should have a strong vanilla flavor. You get the idea!
If you find a recipe that has a wonderful texture but the flavor isn’t quite there, try these tricks:
Add fruit purées in place of some of the liquid. Applesauce, pear purées, or any other puréed fruit really helps cakes stay moist and tender.
Bloom cocoa powder in hot water. For cake recipes that use cocoa powder, bloom just means to enhance the flavor in some way. When you mix cocoa with hot water, the flavor is accentuated.
Use another type of liquid instead of milk or water. Coffee adds great depth of flavor to chocolate cakes.
Add more spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are classic cake spices. A tiny bit adds flavor and interest to just about any cake recipe.
Use real extracts. Real vanilla or real almond extract adds more flavor than imitation extracts. And you can add a bit more than the recipe calls for. In fact, double the vanilla extract in any cake recipe for fabulous flavor.