Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gluten Free Birthday Cake

My mother's birthday was this week and it was time to celebrate. My brother had a nice Memorial Day barbecue at his place and it was up to me to bring dessert.

I chose Tres Leches cake. I've been making this cake for years. I first found the recipe years ago in my favorite cookbook, Gooey Desserts. I loved the recipe because it was creamy and sweet and so easy to make. I like to think I started making this cake before it became realy trendy. It became my mother's favorite very quickly.

Since it's Mom's birthday and I haven't made her a tres leches cake in ages. I knew she would appreciate one.

I just had one question. Should I keep the gluten-free thing going? Kevin and I definitely cheated on the gluten thing a few times during our vacation. He was finally tested and the test came up negative, but gluten tests tend to be inconclusive, so his doctor suggested he keep up the gluten-free thing anyway. Tres Leches is such an easy cake. Could I adjust my recipe into a gluten-free one?

I decided to give it a try. The question is, what kind of flours should I buy? I went to the store and started buying gluten-free flours without really consulting any recipes. I came up with these.

Rice flour: Because it shows up in so many gluten-free recipes
Potato starch: Ditto
Almond flour: Because I have successfully baked with it before
Coconut flour: Because it just seemed cool!

Of course after I recklessly went out and bought all of that flour, I actually bothered to Google gluten-free tres leches cake recipes and found that I didn't have all of the right flours. Where was the sorghum and the xanthan gum and the other kind of rice flour? Many recipes relied on masa harina, which makes the most sense for a Latin American cake! It's enough to make one's head spin. How do these gluten-free bloggers do it? How do you know exactly what ratio of all of these flours to use?

I decided to devise a recipe using what I had. Tres leches cake is very forgiving after all. The recipe is all about the eggs in the cake and the milk mixture poured over the top.

My ratio was one cup rice flour, one half cup potato flour, and one half cup almond flour.

The milk mixture is a tasty mix of heavy cream, evaporated milk, and Kahlua warmed with eggs for a lovely custardy texture. It's almost like a really creamy eggnog covering the cake.

Most tres leches cake recipes call for a whipped cream topping. The recipe in Gooey Desserts calls for Italian meringue. I decided to stick with that idea. I feel Elaine Corn was very wise to not put a heavy, creamy topping on a cake already loaded down with milk and cream. The light stickiness of the meringue is a nice foil for the heavy, milky texture.

My substitutions didn't end there. I realized after I started baking that I was very low on corn syrup. I needed a cup and I only had about a quarter of a cup. I was not in the mood to go back out to the store at 9PM on a Friday night. I did some Googling and searched my cabinets and came to the conclusion that I could replace the Karo with agave syrup.

I had to tinker a bit with proportions since agave is super sweet and isn't as tasteless as corn syrup. There was a bit of agave-ishness to the frosting, but it wasn't too aggressive.

In general, the cake was really good. Everyone loved it and they were all impressed with the lack of gluten. The texture was perfect. My flour combination was spot on.

I also made my pickle-y potato salad for the barbecue. I found a brand of low-sodium pickles that are surprisingly good.

If you want the original recipe, email me. Here is my adjusted, gluten-free version.

Gluten Free Tres Leches Cake

Cake Ingredients
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbl baking powder
9 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Milk Filling
3 egg yolks
2 cups cream
5 oz can evaporated milk
14-oz can condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbl Kahlua

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 cup sugar
3 egg whites

Bake cake
Heat oven to 350. Grease a 9"x13" pan.

Whisk together the flours until well blended. Set aside.

Mix milk with baking powder. Set aside.

Beat eggs yolks with sugar until very light in color. Stir in vanilla. Stir in flour mixture and milk mixture alternately.

Whip egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Fold in some of the whites into the yolk to lighten. Then fold in the remaining whites.

Spread into the prepared pan and bake 30-35 minutes.

Make milk filling
Beat eggs well. Bring cream to a boil. Slowly pour the hot cream into the egg yolks and beat well, working quickly so the eggs don't scramble. Beat until foamy and cooled and add remaining milks.

Make Frosting
Heat corn syrup, sugar, water, and agave over medium-high heat until they reach the thread stage (230-234). Whip egg whites to stiff peaks. Continue beating and slowly add the syrup. Continue beating about 5 minutes until glossy and cooled. It should remind you of Marshmallow Fluff.

Remove cake from pan to the biggest, deepest platter you have in your kitchen. Poke holes in the top of the cake with the end of a wooden spoon. Slowly pour the milk filling over the top. Don't rush it as you want the filling in the cake! Don't panic if it spills too much. You can spoon it back on, and the cake is going to keep absorbing it as it cools. Cover with frosting in nice, pretty swirls, and refrigerate several hours or overnight.


bellini valli said...

Good tinkering:D I have made Tres Leche cake in the past but am always open to trying even better recipes.

The Blonde Duck said...

That's really impressive. Every time I try to adapt a baking recipe, I cause chaos.

The Blonde Duck said...

Random thought: you think they have gluten free pie?

The Blonde Duck said...

I should send my SIL a gluten free pie. :)

Lo said...

Congrats! I love it when a bit of tinkering pays off. Haven't experimented much with GF baking, but I know it can be a challenge -- so this is awesome.

The Duo Dishes said...

It's something to watch you maneuver through the gf world. Maybe you'll find a way to make adjustments that stick around in the kitchen. Obviously you can still make a great cake!

Sue said...

You're so amazing to have created that. And I don't think you even needed to tell anyone it was gluten free. It looks yummy.