30 April 2011


I have been trying to figure out how to bake with gluten-free flours. I have quite a collection: brown rice, white rice, corn (fine and coarse), buckwheat, almond, oat. But wait, there's more! Teff, millet, quinoa, chestnut, chickpea, coconut. I keep thinking that I have to 'know' each one before I know how to combine them. I've been a little discouraged, to be honest.

As I read more and more about gluten- and wheat- free baking, I see similar recipes with different flours and I don't understand why they used one as opposed to another. I don't like it when I don't understand...

Last week I decided to make a tea cake. Oh, dear. Which flour to use? In the end I decided to throw caution to the wind and just go for it. I used five of them. I'm starting to suspect that it doesn't matter, since they don't add the elasticity of gluten. I'm starting to suspect that you choose them for their texture and their flavor rather than for any mysterious 'raising' properties. I'm still doing research, though. I'll keep you posted.

I used brown sugar for this because I wanted the caramel flavor it brings. I added cardamom because I love it (no surprise there), and lime because I wanted the tartness of it and the perfume of the zest to go with the cardamom. What I didn't expect was that this cake would have the most gorgeous soft crumb. It was really special. It stayed fresh for several days as well—not what I'd expect from something as soft as this.

This cake was good enough that I'd recommend it even if you can eat wheat and gluten. Really! You can substitute a soft wheat flour for the flours, but I think that they gave it a wonderful flavor that you couldn't get with only wheat flour. I've used weights as measures because if you bake with gluten-free flours you probably already have a kitchen scale. If you use wheat flour you can substitute 2 cups less 2 Tablespoons.

I will consider that I've conquered gluten-free baking when I can make good old-fashioned Southern biscuits. (American biscuits, not British ones!) While this will be a challenge, I do have one advantage: you don't have to worry about over-working these flours. They won't get tough—there's no gluten!

Cardamom Lime Tea Cake

230 g gluten-free flour (I used teff, coconut, oat, whole grain rice and almond)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 lime, juice and zest
2 eggs
230 g / 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
140 g / ½ cup + 2 Tablespoons flavorless oil
125 g / ½ cup milk
2-3 Tablespoons white sugar

  • Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F
  • Line a loaf pan with baking paper, and grease and flour the ends of the pan.
  • Mix the flours, baking powder, lime zest, cardamom and salt.
  • Beat the eggs and the brown sugar until they are light and fluffy. With the brown sugar it's harder to tell when they're done, but they'll be lightER and fluffiER than when you started. It took me about five minutes.
  • Add the oil slo-ow-ly, little by little, pausing between additions. You don't want to lose the air you've beat into the eggs and sugar.
  • Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat well. Add half the milk and beat well. Then ½ of the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the milk, then the rest of the flour mixture. Beat well after each addition.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake 50-60 minutes. It is done when it's browned well and springs back in the center when you press it.
  • Remove from the oven and cool in the pan.
  • When it's cool, mix the lime juice with the white sugar to make a syrup. Poke holes all over the cake and slowly pour the syrup over. 
 Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don't.


  • You can also make a thicker glaze for the cake by mixing the lime juice with powdered sugar. If you do this, I'd probably still drizzle the thinner syrup over the cake to let the lime flavor penetrate the cake.
  • This is wonderful with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream. And a cup of tea, of course! 


Kate said...

Cardamom and lime! That sounds like a wonderful combination. I am so glad that you had success with your baking.

La Table De Nana said...

You are doing well..What are the items you can eat on a gluten free diet without thinking about it?
Apparentlly gluten may be affecting more of us than we think..are you feeling much better?

Susan Lindquist said...

That cake looks absolutely stellar! Don't you just love it when you hit on a great GF cake. roll, or bread recipe? Are you working with xanthan gum at all? I've had more success with the crumb and loft of cakes and muffins with a small amount added to the batter and doughs. I'm still look ing for a really good bread recipe though!

Enjoy that tea cake! I am going to try making it! Thanks, Kate!

Hungry Dog said...

Sign me up for anything involving cardamom--it's one of my favorites. This really looks and sounds delicious.

Barbara said...

I confess I know nothing about gluten-free baking. I use almond flour a lot, but not for the same reasons as you, Kate. The tea cake looks wonderful. Very moist and I love the deeper color.

grace said...

that's quite a blend of flours! good for you--there's no reason that those with a gluten sensitivity shouldn't enjoy a tasty tea cake. :)

Heather Jacobsen said...

I love cardamom and bet this bread tastes divine!

do you follow gluten-free girl's blog at all? she has done a lot of experimenting with baking and can explain the properties of flours pretty well, in addition to what other ingredients are good for consistency. I think she might use chia seed? i know she does not like gums, and there is a bit of a backlash among some to xanthum gum (its a black mold that grows on broccoli).

unfortunately i don't have the time in my current situation to devote to the learning curve of gluten free baking. but i love watching what you are all up to.

This bread sounds so simple and tasty, i might just try it!