No wheat and no dairy need not mean no cake.
No wheat and no dairy need not even mean abandoning classic baking techniques: there have always been rich, delicate sponges based on eggs and almonds and sugar. And no matter what weird allergies I develop, no birthday shall ever be without cake!
Here are two recipes, one orange and one chocolate, to please the indiscriminate non-allergic glutton and the food-sensitive-soul alike:
ORANGE ALMOND CAKE
adapted from a recipe by Norma MacMillan found on allrecipes.co.uk
-Grease a spring form pan with something you are not allergic to: oil, lard, shortening etc.
-Finely chop 2 oranges, rind and all (but remove the pips) and put into a small saucepan with just enough water to cover. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until all the extra fluid has evaporated. Set aside.
-Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
-Separate 5 eggs. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat the whites with 80 grams sugar until the form stiff peaks. In a larger bowl, beat the yolks with another 80 grams sugar until they froth slightly. To the yolk mixture add the oranges and 225 ground almonds.*
-Gently fold in egg whites to the yolk/almond/orange mixture a spoonful at a time until the yolk/almond/orange mixture feels a bit lighter as your spoon folds through it. Then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites, handling the batter as little as possible to prevent air from escaping.
-Pour batter into the prepare pan. Scatter flaked almonds across the top if you like, and if you have them. (I didn’t on the day I took these pictures. Though I did do it the next time I baked the cake, and it does look pretty.)
-Slide into the oven and bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
IMPORTANT: If you are using flaked almonds, check the cake after 20 minutes to make sure they are not browning too quickly. (They tend to.) If they are, place a sheet of aluminium foil over the top of the cake. Try to minimise time with the oven door open while you do this, but don’t panic about fallen centres either.
-Once your toothpick comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely in the pan. Then run a knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan, unspring the spring form, dust the cake with icing sugar and serve!
*If you grind your own almonds in a blender, the texture will be somewhat coarser, like it is in this picture. I find it quite pleasant. But it’s not always what I want. If you buy ground almonds, they are likely to be much finer–like flour–and the cake will have the texture of a traditional sponge. This is better if you are planning on serving it with berries or (for the non-allergic) layered with whipped cream. The coarser texture is especially nice if you eat a slice in the late afternoon with an espresso and a glass of sweet sherry.
COCOA OLIVE OIL ALMOND CAKE
adapted from Nigella Lawson
Cocoa is a good flour-textured replacement in wheat-free cakes. I like how the slight bitterness of the olive oil plays against the cocoa. I’d like to try it with a really bitter olive oil.
-Preheat oven to 170°C and grease a springform pan with olive oil.
-In a small bowl, mix 60 grams cocoa powder with 125 ml. boiling water to make a paste. Set aside.
-In another small bowl, mix 150 grams finely ground almonds (for this recipe, it is better to buy ground almonds or almond flour unless you have a really excellent blender) with 1/2 tsp. baking soda and a pinch of salt.
-In a large mixing bowl, beat together 180 grams sugar, 3 large eggs, and 150 ml. olive oil with an electric mixer until it is slightly fluffy. (It will never be as fluffy as beaten egg whites.)
-Continue beating at a low speed as you add the cocoa mixture until it is fully incorporated. Then fold in the almond mixture with a spatula.
-Pour this batter into the spring form, sprinkle with flaked almonds, and slide into the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes, until the edges are dry but the centre still looks slightly damp. If you do a toothpick test, a little bit of the batter will cling to the pick, but nothing should appear actually liquid.
-Let it cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. You can then slide a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it form the pan, unspring the pan and serve warm slices. Alternatively, and for neater cutting, allow the cake to cool completely in the pan.
***TIP: This cake is excellent with fresh berries and blackberry vinegar syrup.***