This autumn sees The Great British Bake Off return to our TV screens and has us all in the mood for baking. Since none of us are being pushed to get that summer body anymore (and thank God for that, I must say) it means we can all enjoy a delightful sweet treat. And I mean that, even us gluten free folks can enjoy a show stopping sponge any time! It’s super easy if you know how.
I’ve been baking since I was a kid, I mean, I’m counting those ready to bake Tom and Jerry cupcake making kits from Greens as baking. And I’ve loved making cakes look pretty and trying new ways to decorate cakes. My late mother used to bake and decorate incredible celebration cakes, and had some great technical skills that she could pass on to both me and my sister.
Since I became gluten free, I have had so many ups and downs with baking, and my confidence hit rock bottom first of all, as I struggled to figure out where I was going wrong with converting a non gluten free recipe to a gluten free. I didn’t want to bake at all after then. And then The Great British Bake Off graced our screens and I so much wanted to try and try and try.
Anyway, I fear that I’m losing my point here. Fast forward almost 4 years later and I’m very confident with baking celebration cakes, and alway want to create kooky and awesome personalised cakes when it’s somebody’s birthday. I love everything about it, even the stress when something happens and you have to create a back up plan for decorating.
So here are my top tips to creating an amazing gluten free showstopper cake!
Find a gluten free cake recipe that you know works. If all else fails, buy a pre-made cake mix, there’s no harm in that!
I use a recipe from the Coeliac UK website, and I always use Doves Farm gluten free self raising flour and Xanthan Gum, because it gives a light fluffy sponge, and has a great crumb structure and texture. GlutenFreegan have some lovely gluten free and vegan cake mixes, and Chef’s Promise do huge 1kg tubs of sponge cake mix that you only add eggs and margarine to. But if you’re in a last minute hurry, a lot of supermarkets do gluten free cake mixes that you just add eggs and water to. You can easily pimp up a cake mix by adding extra things like chocolate chips, gluten free sprinkles etc… You don’t just have to go with plain vanilla, but it’s a decent crowd pleaser, for sure.
Figure out what you’re baking and plan what you need and when you need it by.
I always find it’s best to draw out what I’m making and try to figure out what size baking tin I need, what decorations I can use, and what can make it easier for me to make. I made a gin bottle cake for my boyfriends mum, and it was so easy to make once I knew exactly how I was going to do it. I purchased the bottle labels online and all I had to do was cut them out and stick them on.
With a gin bottle to hand for reference, I drew a bottle sized template on some paper and used that to cut the shape of the cake out from that. I made it two layers and sandwiched it together with jam. It was easy to decorate and get the label on, the roll out fondant was just a plain white one that I’d worked blue food colouring into, and the label was bought online.
Note, if you are shopping for decorations, try to find the ingredients and any required allergy information before purchasing.
I also did the same with a wrestling ring cake I made, and bought the edible logos online, but this time I went to my local cake shop to ask for help on what I could use to create the actual wrestling ring ropes. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Take inspiration from the web.
Unless it’s your own recipe, you’ll be fine just having a quick search on Pinterest or Google for a cake of a specific theme that you want to bake. From unicorn cakes, to drippy cakes and seasonal themed ones, if it exists in real life, it will exist on the internet, in cake form.
Research a little if you’re trying a technique you haven’t used before.
I made my boyfriend a foot shaped cake with a spike through it to reference the iconic scene in the Alan Partridge TV series, and do you think there was a foot shaped tutorial? No there wasn’t. But I found a shoe shaped cake tutorial online which helped me with the start of layering it up, and chiseling it out.
Freezing a sponge cake for a little bit, especially a gluten free one helps a LOT with carving a shape out of a cake. As we all know, gluten free cake is a little more crumbly than usual, so this really helps, and helps with the tricky task of crumb coating something in buttercream if you’re doing that.
Wing it and keep it simple. Less is more.
Be creative, you don’t need to buy lots of expensive cake tools and decorations, just an imagination. Do your best with what you’ve got. Some of the most enjoyed cakes I’ve made have been the ones where I’ve had less stuff to hand, and thought “How can I get my message across without all this fancy equipment.” It’s not worth losing sleep over, because the cake will be gone in seconds, it’s what’s inside that counts. People will know you’ve tried and care more about how it tastes.
Don’t expect it to be perfect the first time. Or any time.
Baking gluten free cakes is a huge learning curve, and everyone has different experiences. You can learn a lot by making mistakes and trying to figure out what you could have done better, it’s nothing to be upset or embarrassed about. My first proper gluten free cake was a Liverpool shirt, and decorating it was going well, up until I put the stripes on it with piping icing, when I realised afterwards that I could have simply cut out white fondant stripes and stuck them on, and it would have been a lot easier and kinder to my hands. Nevertheless, it was a huge learning curve and I know now for the next time I make a football shirt cake. There will always be tips and solutions available online if you just google them. Don’t make it difficult for yourself.
Have fun with it.
The most important thing is to have fun with your gluten free baking. Turn the radio up in the kitchen, sing, and don’t be worried about trying something completely different. It’s just a cake, after all.
So there are my top tips to making brilliant show stopping cakes. Have you made one recently? What tips would you suggest? I would LOVE to hear from you.
Thank you for reading!
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