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I have this thing about wanting life to be fair. You know, if someone throws their rubbish out the car window, it’s only fair that later that afternoon they should slip on a banana peel that someone else has dropped and bruise their right butt cheek, y’know?
So on the flipside, to me, it’s really only fair that people who can’t eat most cakes should be able to have a cake that they can, in fact, eat. And darn well enjoy. And in this particular instance by ‘people’, I mean Coeliacs and those who are sensitive to gluten.
There aren’t too many things that annoy me more than people (and in this case by ‘people’ I mean idiots) who say “well if you can’t eat regular cake, then why even bother? Just go eat a watermelon instead.”
But who really wants to eat fruit instead of cake?
Making a gluten-free cake isn’t hard, even making a GOOD gluten-free cake isn’t that hard. Not when you have a good recipe. And I’ve got one for you. Well actually I have a few, but we’re starting with this one – gluten free dark chocolate mud cake.
I know when a lot of people think “gluten-free cake” they think of a sorry excuse for a slice of cake, 2″ tall and basically just a bunch of crumbs held together by a drunk cake fairy’s last wish before she passes out.
But they don’t have to be, and they don’t have to be plain and undecorated either.
I thought since I’m sharing these gluten-free cakes for decorating that I would start off with one of the ‘classics’ of the cake decorating world, the chocolate mud cake. A rich, dense and sturdy cake that forms a perfect base to almost any kind of decorating you want to do. It works for:
- Covering in fondant
- Tiered cakes
- Carved cakes
- Decorating using the three-day timeline
As I mentioned in my gluten-free cakes for decorating post I mix my own flours as I prefer the control I can have over the final texture, but in the recipe below I have given the total flour amount so you can try using a pre-mixed flour blend if you want to.
Remember that the particular flours you use will have an effect on the final outcome of your cake, so if you need to carve it, make sure you bake a trial version first to check out the texture you will be working with.
The same rules apply as carving any cake – if it seems a bit crumbly try chilling it first, and for optimum stability (sounding like a car advertisement much?!) use chocolate ganache rather than buttercream, and make sure to dowel the cake where necessary.
Mud cakes are ridiculously easy to make, melting butter and chocolate into milk…
…dissolving in the sugar, then whisking in the dry ingredients and eggs.
Then trying not to be tempted to drink the batter through a straw. Or maybe that’s a special instruction just for me.
I highly suggest making baking strips for your cake tin to help it rise evenly and avoid a really tough dry crust. (If you didn’t just gag at the words ‘tough dry crust’ and run off to make some baking strips, then we may have to rethink our friendship. Well I’ll still hang out with you, but let’s just say if you invite me over for a homemade afternoon tea, I will probably be busy playing Scrabble with my cat that day.)
Now if you look at my cake, you will see that even with the baking strips and foil lid, the top is cracked. Not the end of the world, but still not ideal. I totally decided that showing is the best way to teach, so I purposely had the oven too hot to make the top crack, just for you. *cough*
Ok maybe it wasn’t on purpose, but at least we can talk about why it happened and how to avoid it next time. Short answer – lower the oven temperature. I know, I know, you’ve already got the oven on for three hours and lowering the temperature will make the cake take even longer to cook. But if you’re looking for a cake with a flat top, it’s the way to go.
You really can’t go past filling and covering a mud cake in chocolate ganache, I mean really, look at the stuff…
I could seriously dive into that. Well, belly flop, I never did learn how to dive properly. But belly flopping does sound appropriate.
And I know the whole point of this is you can decorate it any way you want, but sometimes you just can’t go past some smooth ganache and a ribbon.
Who says gluten free cakes have to be dry, crumbly and nasty?
Make sure you check out my gluten-free cakes for decorating post before you start!
- 330g gluten free flour - *see note
- 60g cocoa (Dutch or regular)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 440ml milk
- 330g salted butter, cut into cubes
- 200g dark chocolate (50-70% cocoa solids), chopped
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder, optional
- 450g sugar (caster sugar if you have it)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F). Line the base and sides of a 7” round (at least 3” high) cake pan, and make a baking strip and foil lid.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and xanthan gum. Whisk to combine well.
- In a large, heavy-based saucepan, heat the milk and butter over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the butter is melted. Add the chocolate and coffee powder, and stir until the chocolate has melted. Add in the sugar and stir again until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. The liquid mixture now needs to sit until it's cool enough that you can comfortably hold your finger in it. You can either transfer the mixture to a large heatproof bowl to cool it faster, or you can leave it in the pot and wait a bit longer for it to cool.
- When cool, add the dry ingredients in three additions. Mix with a whisk, but use a folding rather than whipping motion to avoid excess air bubbles forming. Whisk the eggs together with a fork and add to the batter, folding again with the whisk until combined. Leave the batter to sit for a minute to allow bubbles to come to the surface. Swizzle the whisk around the top of the batter to pop them.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, place the foil lid over the top and bake for 2.5 – 3 hours. To test if the cake is done, use a thin skewer. When the skewer comes out clean, insert a thin-bladed knife into the middle of the cake. When that comes out clean or with only a few crumbs attached, the cake is done. If you have an instant-read probe thermometer, the centre of the cake should be at least 99°C.
- Remove the foil lid and allow the cake to cool in the cake pan for half an hour or so, then cover the top with foil (either unfold the edges of the foil lid and use that or use a fresh piece of foil), securing around the edge of the pan. Leave the cake overnight to cool completely before removing from the pan.
I use my Gluten-Free Flour Blend for Baking in this recipe, but you can use your own favourite gluten-free flour blend. Keep in mind that if you use different flours than I have, your results may vary from mine. Check out my gluten free cake post for more information. If using a pre-made gluten-free flour blend that contains a gum ingredient, omit the Xanthan gum from the recipe.
To fill and cover a cake this size with dark chocolate ganache you will need 1.5kgs of ganache (1kg dark chocolate to 500g cream.) If you're new to ganache, you may want to check out my ganache tutorial for more info.
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