On July 22nd, 2014, my mother-in-law, Pat, turned 75 years old. To commemorate her reaching such a milestone in life, Phillip’s four sisters threw Pat a birthday party to which her six children from all over various locations in the U.S. came to Texas to attend. Because Pat loves Christmas (she has a large Santa Clause collection, with Santas in her curio cabinet as well as placed in and around her dining and living rooms, and keeps Christmas ornaments out all year long), my sisters-in-law decided to make the party a Christmas-in-July theme. My sister-in-law Carol and her husband hosted the event; their house was aglow with the colors and glitter of Christmas. Christmas music flowed through the air continuously through the evening, and we even had a gift exchange (white elephant gifts, naturally). As his sisters were planning the party, they asked me to bake the cake. I had a while to plan the cake, but I knew right away I would bake something with a Christmas-y flavor. My idea came together when I purchased a couple of Wilton mini fluted cake pans for another baking project.
I decided to make individual peppermint bark cakes. Peppermint bark IS Christmas, and Pat loves the peppermint / chocolate flavor combination.
To bake the cake, I used this chocolate pound cake recipe as an inspiration. I am generally more inspired by gluten-containing recipes than gluten-free recipes (ironic, actually, since I blog my gluten-free recipes for others to use!). Recipes written to be gluten-free nearly always have a burdensome list of ingredients, some of which seem unnecessary – to me, anyway. When I deglutenize a cake recipe, I use the suggestion I found in Gluten-Free Cooking For Dummies, and just make sure the blend of gluten-free flours I use weighs out to the amount of wheat flour for which the recipe calls. One cup of wheat flour weighs about 125 g, so a recipe that calls for three cups of wheat flour actually calls for 375 g of wheat flour. Whatever blend of gluten-free flours I use for that recipe needs to weigh 375 g total. I then make the adjustments necessary for gluten-free baking. This formula works for me every single time. To deglutenize this cake, I changed the following:
-Substituted 4 oz of coconut oil for half the butter
Explanation: Although I like the dense, rich texture butter adds to a recipe, gluten-free baked items already tend to be more dense than their gluten-containing cousins. I was baking these cakes for people who are not used to eating gluten-free and thus are unfamiliar with the texture of gluten-free foods. I wanted to make the texture as much like that of gluten-containing cake as possible; coconut oil makes a lighter baked product than butter, so substituting coconut for half the butter gave the cakes a lighter texture.
-Substituted 1 ½ cups of water for the 8 oz of sour cream
Explanation: The sour cream would have made the cakes heavier in texture, and the fat in the sour cream would have reduced the intensity of the chocolate flavor. In her work Bitter Sweet, chocolatier Alice Medrich explains that less fat and less sugar enhances the flavor of the chocolate in a recipe (8). By using water I enhanced the flavor of the cocoa I used. By increasing the amount of the water substitution by 50%, I added the extra liquid necessary for to properly moisten the gluten-free flours and cocoa in the cake: all of which are naturally thirstier than wheat flour and thus require more liquid.
-Added two egg yolks in addition to the required six eggs
Explanation: Egg yolks contain lecithin, a rising agent; extra egg yolks aid gluten-free baked goods in rising. Additionally, I no longer use guar gum or xanthan gums in my baking. Extra egg yolks help to bind the cake, to hold it together.
-Added two teaspoons of Star Kay White chocolate extract
Explanation: Because David Lebovitz said I should! Well, he wasn’t actually talking to me personally, but I read his blog faithfully and by doing so I found out that when cocoa beans are ground into chocolate, some of the top notes of flavor are lost. A good quality chocolate extract is made in such a way that it preserves the full flavor of the cocoa beans. By adding chocolate extract to chocolate baked goods, the baked product has a more full chocolate flavor. I now use Star Kay White chocolate extract in all my chocolate desserts.
-Used three times the amount of baking powder
Explanation: Hardly any explanation needed, here: more baking powder, more rise to the cake.
-Reduced the amount of cocoa
Explanation: cocoa is very thirsty and since gluten-free flours are thirsty as well, I feared my cakes would be too dry if I used the amount of cocoa for which this recipe I used calls. Even though I reduced the amount of cocoa, the cakes were dark and richly chocolate. I don’t think more cocoa would be necessary even in the original gluten-containing recipe.
I needed to use white chocolate somehow, to make the cake like peppermint bark. Using El Rey white chocolate, the only white chocolate I ever use, I made a white chocolate peppermint glaze to drizzle over the cakes. Unlike other white chocolates, El Rey white chocolate is not deodorized; it retains its natural flavor. For this reason, the chocolate is more yellow than white, and it has a pleasantly earthly flavor.
The recipe actually turned out really well. Several people at Pat’s party told me the cake even tasted like Christmas! The cakes were light, tender, and moist, with a texture just like the gluten-containing cakes the party’s guests are used to eating.The chocolate flavor had the perfect intensity; the peppermint flavor in the glaze was perfectly balanced.
Makes 30 – 34 individual cakes
4 oz organic butter, softened
4 oz virgin coconut oil
600 g raw sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp Star Kay White pure chocolate extract (or other excellent quality brand pure chocolate extract
187.5 Authentic Foods Superfine Brown Rice Flour
62.5 g Authentic Foods Superfine Sorghum Flour
62.5 g Tapioca starch
62.5 g Valrhona (or other excellent quality brand) Dutched cocoa powder
3 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1 ½ cups water
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Spray Wilton mini fluted pans with coconut or other healthy cooking oil
-In a large bowl, cream together the butter, coconut oil, and sugar until light and fluffy.
-Add eggs, two at a time, and beat well after each addition.
-Add the two egg yolks, and beat well.
-Add the extract, beat well.
-In another bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients until well blended.
-Add a third of the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, and a third of the water, beating after each addition and alternating between dry ingredients and water.
-Let the batter rest for twenty minutes, to allow the flours to absorb the moisture.
– Pour evenly into prepared fluted cups, filling each about 2/3 full.
-Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into a cake.
-Remove from pans and cool on wire cooling racks.
White Chocolate Peppermint Glaze
1 cup heavy whipped cream
8 oz El Rey white chocolate discs or other quality white chocolate(NOT white chocolate baking pieces or
3 tsp (or to taste) pure peppermint extract
2 – 3 tbls sifted powdered sugar (or enough to make the glaze the right consistency for drizzling over the cakes)
Finely crushed peppermint candy (I used Mini Twists Crushed Peppermint Candy, found on the baking
aisles of most stores.)
-In a heavy pan, bring the whipped cream nearly to a boil.
-Remove from heat and add the white chocolate. Let the chocolate sit in the hot cream to soften, then whisk or stir mixture until smooth. Add peppermint extract. Stir until smooth.
-Add enough sifted powdered sugar to make the glaze the right consistency for drizzling.
-Place parchment paper under the cooling racks on which the cakes sit, to catch the glaze that drips down from the cakes.
-Using a spoon, drizzle the white chocolate peppermint glaze over the tops of the cakes.
-Immediately lightly sprinkle the crushed peppermint candy over the tops of the cakes.
*The amount of peppermint extract you add depends really upon your taste. If you use El Ray white chocolate, you’ll need to add a bit more peppermint extract to overcome the chocolate’s natural earthy flavor. I used three teaspoons, tasting after the addition of each teaspoon, to get the intensity of peppermint I wanted: noticeable but not overwhelming.