Food is love, right? Especially when you have to eat gluten-free.
Cooking your own “safe” food gets the job done, and there’s a certain amount of pride one can draw from self-sufficiency. But when others make gluten-free things for you? When they and everyone else can eat gluten, and gluten-free flours are expensive and intimidating? That’s love. Today’s post is in honor of the first gluten-free cake anyone made for me: the “cloud cake.”This gluten free chiffon cake comes from the kitchen of a dear friend’s mother. Since the fifth grade, I’ve spent countless hours sitting at her kitchen table, drinking tea and watching her buzz around the kitchen.
She’s the quintessential “Type A” personality–the first one awake and the last to go to bed, always doing at least three things at once, and making it all look effortless. (Did I mention she has a family of eight?) Her insistence that everything look “professional” has become my mantra.
Now, most of us have a go-to recipe that takes one bowl and three minutes to whip up. Not her. The household specialty involves beating egg whites to just the right loft, folding them gently yet efficiently into the yolks, and a secret trick for cooling the cake. When she gave me the recipe, she said,
“Use eight eggs. Sometimes I can make it with only six, but I want to make sure it works for you.”
“Mom’s just being modest,” my friend interjected, “She’s a whiz. Us mere mortals need eight eggs.”
And she is a whiz. My mother and I took a shot at the recipe and our cake flopped, dense and two inches tall by the time it had cooled. (To date, my mother has made so many flat chiffon cakes she claims to prefer it that way.) I watched the master make it a few more times, asked questions, and took the results home to tinker in my own kitchen. It turns out our main issue wasn’t the eggs, as would seem obvious, but rather how we oiled the pan and cooled the cake. It turns out you must oil only the bottom of the pan, and tip it upside down over a wine bottle to cool. These tricks are essential.
When I went gluten-free, these beautiful friends bought a bag of Bob’s all-purpose gluten-free flour and used it in place of AP flour in a chiffon cake. They didn’t suffer months of anxiety reading labels, trawl the web for step-by-step instructions for substitutions, or call me nine times with questions during the process. I showed up in their kitchen and, surprise!, the cake was waiting, fluffy and golden as ever. These women are amazing.
Their only concern was “It smells like beans.” (Bob’s uses garbanzo flour.) We cut into it to taste test, and the cake was barely discernible from the original. We cut into it, and each of them turned a bite over carefully in her mouth, smacked her lips a bit in conclusion, and declared it edible.
I’ve been making this cake gluten-free ever since. If you want something simple for tea, make this cake. If you’ve never made anything gluten-free, and are scared of wasting three-quarters of a carton of eggs, take a whack at it anyways. It may not look professional, but it will still taste good. You’ll blow a gluten-free friend’s mind, guaranteed.
- 8 eggs, separated
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used 1/2 c. tapioca starch, 1/4 c. white rice flour, 1/4 c. sorghum flour)
- 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum, if your flour mix doesn’t already contain it
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 3/4 c. milk (I use soy)
- 1/2 c. oil
- Preheat oven to 350F. Using a paper towel and some oil, grease only the bottom of an angel food ring. Set aside.
- Whip egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Remove whites to a separate bowl and set aside.
- Pour yolks and sugar into mixing bowl, and beat on high for two minutes, until yolks turn a pale yellow and sugar dissolves a bit. Beat in flour mix, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and milk. Add oil, and mix briefly until just combined.
- Dump beaten whites into batter, and using a large metal spoon or a rubber spatula, fold whites gently into batter until incorporated. (To fold, chop down the center of the bowl with your spoon, scooping the batter on the bottom up and over the whites on top. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and repeat until there are no remaining blobs of egg white.) Do your best not to deflate the whites.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 50-55 minutes, until puffed and golden on top. Remove from oven and flip cake over to cool on top of a wine bottle.
- Once completely cooled, use a sharp serrated knife with a thin blade to gently cut the cake from the pan. Flip right side up onto a serving plate, and slice with serrated blade to serve. Cake will last 3-4 days covered loosely with cling wrap.