January 27, 2014

Happy Birthday little man, I'm baking you a cake


I always feel a little nervous making cakes — there are so many opportunities for disaster. Even if it rises and looks fine, you still don't know what's inside. It's not like making soup, which you can see and taste as you go along.

This often leads me to make the same cake over and over, but when I agreed to make my little grandson's first birthday cake, I had an urge to try something new — something that looked more like a traditional birthday cake, while still being gluten-free. I turned to Chloe's Vegan Desserts (reviewed here) for inspiration, and found a recipe for olive oil lemon cake. It was supposed to be a bundt cake but I used an eight inch round pan. I also used half olive oil and have avocado oil because I was worried my olive oil was too strong-tasting. And, I used orange zest instead of lemon because my oranges were organic and my lemons were not.


Oh yes, and I used flax eggs instead of xanthan gum, and reduced the liquid in the recipe by a few tablespoons to compensate. The cake rose nicely in the pan, but took a lot longer to bake than the directions said, possibly because of the pan shape. Or maybe I still had too much liquid. I used a parchment round in the pan bottom and greased the pan well. After the cake was cool, it released from the pan without a hitch. So far so good.


I frosted the cake with the bittersweet chocolate frosting I wrote about here, because it's delicious and wonderful. (I used cocoa powder, not carob.) And I decorated it with Surf Sweets peach rings and watermelon rings. I admit that as a cake decorator I will never achieve greatness (hahaha), but the cake looked good to the one-year-old's almost six-year-old sister, so, mission accomplished.

Papa lights the candles (one for good luck) while the kiddies look on.

And was the cake good, you might be wondering? I think that if the recipe had been followed exactly, and the cake made with wheat flour instead of Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour Mix, and made as a bundt cake, it would have been perfect. Or if I'd just followed the directions and used xanthan gum, the texture might have been more like the photo in Chloe's book.


That said, I loved the cake. The texture* reminded me of the firmer, eggy texture of a pound cake. I found both the taste and texture extremely pleasing, and I'd love to try the recipe again in a bundt pan, just to compare. I would describe the texture as fine-grained, though it looks a lot denser in the photo than it actually was (see note, below). I really liked the combination of lemon juice and orange zest. So far, Chloe's Vegan Desserts has been a great source of delicious and successful recipes.

As for the surf sweets, which are vegan, non-GMO and contain natural and mostly organic ingredients — they taste a little too bubble-gummy to me. I passed the decoration on my slice to an eager recipient, who was more than happy to acquire an extra candy.

How do you decorate cakes? Do your cakes look beautiful and professional ... or more like mine?

* note: The cake slice was refrigerated, and photographed the next day during 'daylight,' or what passes for daylight in the PNW. The texture of the cake solidified somewhat in the refrigerator and looked a bit more dense then it did the day before. It still tasted great, but it looked a little firmer than it had been.

36 comments:

  1. It looks very dense but the flavors sound good. I am a big fan of pound cake in any case. I'm sure it was delicious and much appreciated.
    I do NOT bake cakes for the most part - partially for the reasons you mention (being wary of how it'll look and taste, if it'll bake the whole way through) and partially because I HATE decorating them! I am no good at it at all, and it's a pain to dirty another dish for frosting after you think you've finally finished cleaning up the mixing bowls etc. Also, so many frostings are just gross, slimy, too sweet grease and sugar that I'd rather do without. It's why I prefer muffins to cupcakes too...

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    1. It looked more dense than it was — it was soft, and like pound cake. I'm less stressed by the whole process if it's the only thing I have to do. I only had to make the cake, not the whole dinner, so I could take my time. But it sure did take a LOT of time. The great thing about the frosting is it's not sweet or greasy — only one tablespoon of coconut oil and very little sugar. It's mostly made from garnet yam (sweetness and texture) but you'd never know that while you eat it.

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  2. I'm glad it turned out and happy first birthday to your grandson! I think it looks just fine. :)

    I decorate cakes like you do- nice & simple. My stepsons always loved what I did, so it worked. One year we had a bundt cake and my oldest yelled "it's a giant donut!". :)

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    1. The decorations on the cake were more elaborate than usual, and I was very proud of it. That tells you something about my decorating skills. :) I wish I'd thought of the 'giant donut' comparison before I baked the cake!

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  3. Happy Birthday to the little man! I hate decorating too. there is no fixing it if something happens. so glad it turned out good. I couldnt eat a sweet thing baked with bob's gf flour mix as yet. the chickpea in there throws me off. but i can bake a mean glutenfree cak efrom scratch without gum

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    1. I use Bob's a lot and don't notice the chickpea flour. Sometimes quinoa flour throws me off when I make my own mix. I'll have to check your blog for cake recipes.

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  4. I love how your cake turned out (especially the fun decorations!). I get nervous about cakes too due to the fact that what is going on in the middle is such a mystery. I have a real, yet irrational, fear that the inside is always going to come out raw and gooey even if I pricked and checked with a toothpick like a zillion times!

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    1. Thank you for thinking the decorations are fun! I think I may have ove-rbaked the cake a bit — and you should have seen all the holes I poked into the top!

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  5. What? I think the cake looks awesome! I like how simple and pretty it looks. And if the kids like it, that's all that really matters, right? I'm not a baker but I love how you changes things in the recipe and it still comes out great. :-)

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    1. Why, thank you. I think it looks awesome, too,

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  6. I think your decoration is awesome!

    On another note: An aquaintance of mine recently found out that she is gluten intolerant. She's an old lady and found it pretty overwhelming. She asked me for recipes and I am so glad that there are blogs like yours I can turn to!

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    1. I hope you can help your friend feel more comfortable with her diet. There are lots of blogs dedicated to a GF lifestyle — my dietary change is fairly recent so there are still lots of gluten-filled recipes here.

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  7. What fun to be able to celebrate your grandson's first birthday with him! I think your cake looks lovely. And it sounds like it was well received, which is all that really matters!

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    1. The little man was pretty oblivious to the reason for the celebration, but he did enjoy his cake!

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  8. that looks so delicous! you reminded me I have a cake in the freezer with that frosting...waiting for a rainy day. I think it's raining out!

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    1. The frosting is great, isn't it?

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  9. Well personally I think your cake looks beautiful! In general I think mine tend to look more "rustic" and less professional-quality, but as long as they taste good I'm happy :)

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    1. Rustic is the word I should have used to describe my cake decorating style. Yes, definitely rustic. :)

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  10. I feel like making a bundt cake always gives you a leg up on making sure it cooks evenly all the way through, and I feel it begs for powdered sugar as decoration, which is foolproof!

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    1. I agree that a bundt cake gets a leg up on baking evenly — not to mention how cool they look. I'm very fond of a dripped glaze on a bundt cake, but powdered sugar always looks good.

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  11. I'd have been very pleased with that for my birthday, I can see why it went down so well. My cake decorating style is mainly 'hide the faults with landslides of icing'!

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    1. It sounds like you watched me as I iced the cake. :)

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  12. You can't beat candy on cake for a child's birthday! Olive oil and citrus zest is such a delicious combo. I like your choice of zest and frosting, because chocolate and orange go together so well. I'd love a slice of cake!

    I tend to make cupcakes instead of a big cake for two reasons: cupcakes are more likely to always cook evenly and, most importantly, they cook quicker than a big cake so I can eat them sooner! :)

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    1. I like cupcakes, too, but sometimes I just want a great big birthday-style cake. Maybe I'll try cupcakes next time.

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  13. I get to cook and bake with Chloe and it's the same issues with her standing right there. I always am poking away and she is so laid back about timing on cakes. She also a master decorator (from her millennium days I think) she makes it look effortless. I love making that cake in a super intricate bundt pan, it looks amazing.

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    1. I think Chloe is a cake whisperer, and just knows when her cakes are done. :) I'm going to use a bundt pan next time!

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  14. I love your modesty and self-deprecation! Your cake looks wonderful, I bet it tasted great too. Your grandchildren are lucky to have you.

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    1. The cake did taste great, and the decoration was, in fact, modest. :)

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  15. I <3 Surf Sweets gummies, but they are something I would occassionally eat, for example used as airline snacks or something to snack on on long road trips. The cake looks beautiful.. a bit dense from the photo though…but I imagine it is pretty tasty with the bittersweet chocolate frosting..mmmm! I’ve never made cakes before…seriously! If I have the opportunity to make cakes, I prefer to make them look pretty! :)

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    1. The cake slice was refrigerated overnight so I could photograph it in daylight, and it looked much denser than it had the night before. The texture was like pound cake, and very nice. As for pretty decorations — I'll leave that skill to others! I'll probably never be able to create a pretty cake. Oh well. :)

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  16. Aw, happy first birthday to your grandson!! My friend Kip and I are doing a joint first birthday party for our sons who are 4 days apart, and we have been talking about what cake recipe to use all week! We're planning to make mini cakes, so our kiddos can smash them to bits. I can't waiiiit!

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    1. I'm sure little Darrol will love his birthday experience. I hope you'll take photos and share them, unlike me. I was so caught up in the experience I forgot to preserve it!

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  17. Happy birthday to your grandson! How sweet that you baked a cake for him. In my life, I haven't baked very many cakes... I think I've only baked one since I went vegan actually and that was a batch of cupcakes. Does that count?

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    1. I never used to bake many cakes, either. I bake more now, but still pretty few compared to some people. I don't have a big sweet tooth, and I always worry I'm not making the cake sweet enough. And I don't like using a lot of fat in a recipe. Those two things don't fit well with cake baking. :)

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  18. My 7 year old daughter would especially think your cake was beautiful because she loves "candies" so much. In fact, that looks like her last year cake I still need to post sometime. I always make cupcakes for parties for reasons you mentioned above, but my kids think it's spectacular to have a cake instead so they sometimes request it for family only parties. I find that no matter how "modest" my cake decorating skills are, they think they are fabulous which is all that matters. I also think my cakes sometimes seem like dense pound cake, and I personally like that. Once again, good job, Grandma!

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    1. My cake decorating skills really are modest, but you're right, children are always impressed. I only decorate cakes for children. Cupcakes make me nervous because I'm always afraid they will stick to the cups.

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