It’s tempting to think that gluten-free flours will behave similarly to wheat flour because they look the same. But it’s just not true. In many ways their properties quite different and therefore we can’t really expect recipes developed for wheat flour to give good results with gluten-free flour. Manufacturers would like us to think that we can – but this is why they end up loading their products with additives of one sort and other (gums, like xanthan gum, are an example).
If you’d prefer to avoid additives when you can, then I totally sympathise. But is it possible? Well, yes. I spent hours and hours developing new methods for my book, Gloriously Gluten Free, which included making non-gritty, non-crumbly cakes that contained no additives whatsoever. All that was needed was a new method. Most gluten-free flour blends contain rice flour as a major component, but it tends to give a gritty feel when baked and can be very crumbly. But cooked rice is not gritty and it gets really claggy! Using this flash of inspiration, I just pre-cooked some of my cake batter. Ta-da! The results I wanted…
This cake is based on the cover star of Gloriously Gluten Free, a delicious strawberry sponge. Here I’ve adapted it to a more autumnal theme, using mixed spice and apples. If you want it dairy free or egg free, just see my adaptations at the end. I think it’s great served with some Coyo Vanilla dairy-free yogurt, or crème fraiche.
150g unsalted butter
150g light brown soft sugar
200g gluten-free plain white flour blend (choose one with no additives, eg Doves Farm)
70g ground almonds
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
½ tsp mixed spice
pinch of fine salt
300g peeled cooked apples, thinly sliced
1 tbsp flaked almonds
2 tsp Demerara sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Sunflower oil for oiling the tin
Melt the butter with the sugar and water in a saucepan on a medium-high heat. Add the flour blend and then whisk constantly. The mixture will thicken – keep whisking to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan. Don’t worry about small lumps.
Once you have a thick paste, remove the pan from the heat. Keep whisking for a further 20 seconds or so. Now set the mixture to one side.
Preheat the oven to 150C. Lightly oil a deep 20cm/8” cake tin with some sunflower oil.
In a large bowl, measure out the ground almonds, baking powder, mixed spice and salt. Pour the mixture in the pan into the bowl and add the eggs. Whisk everything for a minute (use an electric whisk if you have one).
Spoon out half the mixture into the cake tin and gently smooth it out to make an even layer across the tin using a spatula. Arrange half the apple slices across the top. Spread the remaining cake mixture on top, smoothing it gently with the spatula as before. Arrange the rest of the apple slices across the top, then scatter the flaked almonds, Demerara sugar and cinnamon to finish.
Bake the cake for about 40 minutes until it has risen and the apple slices have started to brown. An inserted skewer should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the tin before serving.
MAKE IT DAIRY FREE: Use dairy-free margarine in place of the butter
MAKE IT EGG FREE: Stir 4tsp Orgran No Egg egg replacer into 125ml water. Use in place of the eggs.