Monday, March 21, 2011

Orange Zest Cake (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Sugar-Free)

As far back as I can remember, birthdays meant getting a special cake, often one baked by my mom. 

Over the years, my taste in cake has changed. For a couple of years, I wanted Friendly's orange sherbet ice cream cakes. Then there was the year I asked my mom to make a rusk pie, a challenging endeavor because you can no longer buy rusks at the store and have to make them from scratch. My first year in New York, I realized that my new friends would have no clue how much a birthday cake meant to me, so I went out and bought my own cake. Word to the wise? Never buy yourself a birthday cake. It just doesn't taste special when you buy your own! 

On the other hand, baking your own cake can be wonderful. Last year, I made this cake from The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen. I had to fight my little cousins to frost it!

Of course, it's not really the cake that matters so much. It's the idea of cake and what it represents for me. I have so many wonderful memories of being with my family on my birthday, but now that we're scattered, with my sisters in California and my parents in Massachusetts, birthdays take on a different tone. It never feels quite right without my mom singing happy birthday and making sure she gets a "blowing out the candles" shot. Perhaps this is why it's always been so important to me that no matter where I am or who I'm with on my birthday, I have a cake. 

Maybe I can't take my mom with me everywhere I go, but at least I can have a pretty cake to remind me of all the birthday cakes she's made me. 

Now, my birthday is not until June. But once I realized there was no way anyone else was going to be able to make me a cake for my birthday (unless you know someone who can make a gluten-free, peanut and tree nut-free, egg-free, sugar-free, chocolate-free cake), I decided I was going to have to come up with the perfect cake. Something that tastes like birthday cake. Not a "I guess it's good for a  gluten and sugar free" cake, but a "savor every bite and go back for seconds" cake. So how does this benefit you? Not only do you get the final cake recipe once I come up with it, but you also get the recipes for all the cakes along the way that are tasty, but not birthday cake material. 

Case in point? This orange zest cake. This was my first attempt, and while it was more dense than I had hoped, the flavor was delicious, especially with a dollop of coconut cream. The only problem was that this was also my first go at eating eggs in months, and my body did not appreciate it. Within minutes, I had a headache the likes of which I hadn't experienced in a long time, and while my housemates thought it was cute when they found me napping on the couch in the living room, it was really just my attempt to escape feeling so uncomfortable. Now here's the proof that this cake was really good. I ate not one, but two more slices today. Even knowing how bad it was going to make me feel, I did it anyway. When my housemates all raved too, I knew I had to post the recipe. 


Now the challenge will be to replicate this cake without eggs and somehow make it fluffier. Can it be done? Well, according to Debi, who's got her own raw cake challenge going on, I'll find a way. I've already got two egg-free versions I want to attempt, one involving chocolate (which I know I'm not supposed to have), and the other a stronger orange flavor. I'll keep you posted, and any good recipes that come out of it will definitely be yours to enjoy. I wonder how many cakes I can make between now and June?  


Orange Zest Cake (Adapted from this recipe)


  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup sorghum flour 
  • 2/3 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 8 Tbsp. Spectrum Organic Palm Shortening
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp. liquid stevia
  • zest of 1 mandarin orange
  1. Preheat Oven to 350 Degrees. Grease an 8 in round cake pan.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening with a fork. 
  3. In a small bowl, beat egg whites and mandarin zest until stiff white peaks form
  4. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks, soy milk, apple sauce, vanilla extract and stevia on low speed for one minute.
  5. Beat egg yolk mix into the dry mix. Fold in egg whites with a spatula until well combined. 
  6. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool, and frost as desired (coconut cream with vanilla stevia makes a perfect frosting for this cake). 


    gfe--gluten free easily said...

    Orange zest cake does sound perfect. Love all those photos and memories, Iris. I think this is your opportunity to issue a challenge to all your readers to come up with a birthday cake recipe for you. I'm game! You just give us the requirements (as you did) and have an end date and a linky and we all share our recipes. You don't have to do all the hard work ... it's your birthday for heaven's sake. ;-) What do you think?


    Ariana Anderson said...

    Iris, this looks delicious! I wonder if I could make it into a lemon zest cake instead since I can't have oranges...or just make it a vanilla cake? You said it's kinda dense---like pound cake? :) It looks good. I think I'll be making it soon.
    Sorry to hear about the eggs bothering you! Have you tried free-range eggs? For a while I could only handle those without getting sick and my friend is the same way (still). Just a thought...

    Ricki said...

    I love all the old pics of you at different birthdays! We got a home baked cake every year, but for some reason, my parents never took photos. So I have memories, but no pics.

    And as for your cake challenge, well, it's my cake challenge, too (I can have chocolate, but who wants every single baked good to be chocolate?). Since my own b-day isn't until Ocotber, I think I'm going to join you on this challengge! Sounds like fun. And the first entry in your b-day cake experiment looks great!

    Iris said...

    Shirley, what a wonderful idea! I think I might just do that! Of course, if you recall the last challenge I issued (was it lemon squares?), I completely forgot about it! But perhaps a June birthday cake challenge is in order!

    Ari, You could definitely make this into a lemon zest cake. The flavor is very mild. I haven't had pound cake in a while, but I imagine it's similar. And yep, I always buy organic, free-range eggs. But it's a no-go for now. I'll try reintroducing them again down the line.

    Ricki, I imagine between the two of us, we can come up with an awesome birthday cake!

    Jacqui said...

    I'm really new to gluten-free (just a couple weeks) so I'm really excited for these cake recipes! And egg-free, nut-free?? Awesome as my daughter has those allergies. On top of that.. sugar free?? You are all kinds of awesome!

    Good luck with your experimenting! Can't wait to follow along!

    Iris said...

    Jacqui, thanks so much! I think you'll find the more you experiment with gluten-free baking, the more fun you'll start to have with it!

    hunterslyonesse said...

    I agree with Shirley's idea! In fact, Brittany just tweaked her white cake recipe to be egg-free now, too. :D

    I hit the jackpot on my raw cake today. :D I just needed to go with the chocolate since fruit wasn't working for me. lol

    Good luck with your tweaking! I know what it's like having all those ideas in your head and not being able to get out of the kitchen until they come to fruition. :)

    Brittany @ Real Sustenance said...

    You will get there! This cake still looks delish even despite the fact that its a little dense. I can tell you the reason it is dense is due to the Applesauce you added to sweeten it up. As Im sure you know when it comes to Gluten Free Cake- just the perfect amount of moisture is required in order for the cake to rise properly. Its quite easy to end up with a gummy gluten free cake. Its been my mission the last few months to create Cake recipes that are moist but not gummy. (almost impossible)

    I Actually changed this original recipe just slightly since you made it (changed out the brown rice for sweet rice flour which provided a MAJOR improvement texture wise) and then of course you will have to check out my latest Egg Free version and let me know what you think (took me oh 5 times to get it right :)

    I wish you lived closer I would LOVE to make and bring you a cake! xoxoxo

    Maggie said...

    I am with you! It's not a birthday unless there's a cake! But we do have to make our own, at least that guarantees that they'll be super delicious! Good luck finding yours, though this one looks lovely! If Karina can do it, you can TOO!

    Tasty Eats At Home said...

    I'm in too on this birthday cake challenge! My birthday isn't until November, and last year, I tried to make a cake and nothing really worked, and I eventually gave up (the date came and went). Let's do it!
    Also, as for the dense thing, I think Brittany has some good tips (too much moisture - the applesauce possibly). Otherwise, one would think that those egg whites would have lightened it. You know, Valerie at City Life Eats does duck eggs without issue. Not sure where you get duck eggs, but that might be an option. Otherwise, maybe a chia egg can be used if the overall liquid is reduced.

    Metta said...

    I'm interested in the results of the birthday cake challenge. My birthday is in June too and all I want is to have a slice of cake that isn't weird. Part of me thinks that might be a tall order – gluten free, sugar free, nut free, vegan, vanilla cake. I just don’t like chocolate cakes as much as a nice vanilla cake.

    Iris said...

    Metta, I'm right there with you! I took a break from cake making, but I'm still trying to come up with something by June.


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