Monday, June 27, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake...

Gluten-Free Orange Almond Polenta Cake with Vegan Avocado Frosting

Most people who know me will be able to tell you that I'm not much of a sweets person. Well, nowadays I'm not. I think that maybe in my younger years I probably over-indulged my sweet-tooth to the point that it rotted out of my mouth and I just don't have it anymore. Which actually works out great, because I don't miss all those desserts or baked treats that can be the bane of the gluten intolerant existence. But since becoming gluten-free, I've actually started baking a lot more cakes, cookies, and muffins.

If you don't like desserts, why do you keep baking them, Jonathan?

Simple. So others can have them. I may not have an affinity for sweet things, but I'm fairly sure that most people I know are not like me. And plus, it's a challenge. Gluten-free baking is by no means easy. Adapting recipes requires so much more than just switching out the wheat flour for a gf flour or grain substitute. Ratios are different, cooking temperatures and times will vary, and other ingredients may be necessary to make up for the absence of gluten. And in my baking adventures, I've had my fair share of "oops," "oh no!" and [insert expletive] moments. But when it works, it works, and you get this smirk-inducing, satisfyingly addictive "success high."

And that was the case with this cake. I was inspired by a recipe for lemon polenta cake, and my first trial ended with moist-free lemony cornbread that was nothing like a cake. Going back to the drawing board, I tweaked a few ratios, switched out some ingredients, and lo and behold, I produced a cake that would have even me coming back for seconds. It reminded me a lot of namoura, a classic Lebanese pastry made from semolina soaked in buttery syrup. The icing was inspired by an episode of Alton Brown's "Good Eats" centered around avocados from a few years ago.

At first, I wasn't sure if they would go together. But when all was said and done, I felt like Cupid making a match.

He shoots...he scores. :)

Gluten-Free Orange Almond Polenta Cake (GF, DF, rSF, SF)

1/3 c softened vegan butter
1/2 c agave
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c fresh orange juice
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1/8 c GF cornmeal
zest from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon GF baking powder
1/2 c ground almonds
1/4 c brown rice flour
1/2 c GF AP flour

1. Preheat oven to 385 degrees.
2. Cream vegan butter (I used soy-free Earth Balance) and agave together in a mixing bowl. Then add eggs, orange juice, and lemon juice to mixture. Once combined, add cornmeal, lemon zest, baking soda, salt, and GF baking powder.
3. In another bowl, sift brown rice flour and GF all-purpose baking flour (I used Bob's Red Mill). Add ground almonds to dry mixture.
4. Begin to gradually add dry mixture to wet ingredients. Your final batter will be very fluid, which is the way it should be.
5. Grease a cake pan and lightly flour. You may also want to consider lining your pan with parchment paper as this cake will have a tendency towards separation anxiety.
6. Bake for 15-25 minutes. The length of time will depend on the depth and size of your cake pan. Look for a deep golden color on top and a lack of movement when you jiggle the pan. I also pay attention with my nose, knowing that once I start to smell the cake that it is close to being finished.
7. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Let it cool for at least 45 minutes. It will be very delicate, so avoid the temptation to release the cake too early (and it will be tempting....).
8. Makes 6-8 servings.

Meet your ingredients

I loooove zesting

Don't add more flour! I'm just right!

Moist, light, and full of flavor

Avocado Icing (GF, DF, V, rSF, SF)

1 medium avocado
1 tablespoon agave
1 tablespoon lime zest

juice of 1 small lime
1/8 c melted coconut oil
1/8 - 1/2 c fresh orange juice

1. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into a food processor (or blender).
2. Add agave, lime zest, and lime juice. Pulse until combined.
3. Turn the food processor on and start to slowly drizzle the melted coconut oil into the avocado mixture until it is smooth and creamy. You may need to scrape down the sides periodically to avoid any lumps in your icing.
4. You can add the orange juice to the icing while still in the food processor, but I prefer to transfer the icing to a jar and then use a small whisk to blend in the orange juice. It allows me to have more control over the consistency. If you want a thicker, more spreadable texture, simply use less juice.
5. Chill your icing and allow the flavors to come together. Make sure your container has a nice tight seal on it. Remember that once chilled, your icing will thicken a little more. And there's no need to worry about your icing turning brown - the acid from the orange and lime juice will prevent that. Your icing should stay a wonderful pastel green for at least 2 days.

Green gold

Whisking in the OJ

When's St. Patrick's Day?

And there you have it. The cake and icing are a great pairing, but separate they continue to shine. Why just this morning I took some of the leftover icing, dolloped it onto some warm blueberry buckwheat waffles, finished it off with some juicy blackberries and I had a heavenly breakfast. What I love is that neither is too sweet, so the flavors of the ingredients come through loud and clear. I find that the cake and the icing are at their best when lightly chilled, making it a perfect summer cake for all you Geminis, Cancers, and Leos.

And speaking of birthdays, I want to take this opportunity to thank Iris, author of The Daily Dietribe, for motivating me to come up with this recipe. Necessity can be the mother of invention, so despite burning the candle at all ends this past month, I was grateful for her Birthday Cake Challenge. I'm really proud of this recipe and I'm looking forward to sharing it with my guests come next month when my own birthday rolls around.

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do. Share it with family, friends, and those who are special in your life.

Sweetness isn't always about sugar. :)

Happy Birthday to you...


  1. Like you, I never baked that often until I became gluten-free. On the other hand, I have a huge sweet tooth! :) This looks amazing, and it's definitely the kind of cake I will be likely to try.

  2. Thank you, Iris. :) Happy Birthday!

  3. Cake exchange? You will need to ship the cake overnight in a box with dry ice in it. ;p I think it's funny that we both used almonds in our cakes. I will try your cake out when it gets a bit cooler.

    I wonder which cakes Iris, baked out of all the entries?


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