Urgent help needed - vegan gluten free cake recipe
July 27, 2014 1:25 AM   Subscribe

Google is being horribly unhelpful on this one. I have volunteered to make a fruit cake for a friend's wedding. It must be dairy-free, gluten-free, soya-free and wheat-free. Difficult part: I live in Belgium, which doesn't seem to cater for dietary requirements like this, plus there's a language barrier. Actually, given that list of dietary requirements, the Belgian bit might be the easy part. Oh well. Calling MeFi bakers anyway!

So, when I search for vegan gluten-free fruit cake recipes, google is absolutely terrible. So far I've found:
- Many hits which contain egg despite having 'vegan' on the page
- Even more hits which contain normal flour
- Hits which specify 'gluten-free self raising flour' which as far as I can tell, does not exist in this country
- Pages that are not fruit cakes (at least, not dried fruit recipes - I don't want to make an apple cake or a pear cake)

I've tried looking for almond flour recipes and the only one I've found that fit all the other criteria had a bunch of weird ingredients that it'll be a nightmare to find in this country.

Please help me, askmefi, I'm running out of time.
posted by fearnothing to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I live in Belgium, which doesn't seem to cater for dietary requirements like this

Have you tried calling local health food stores?
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:54 AM on July 27, 2014

Can you get gluten free flour at all? And then add the raising agent? You should then be able to use it the same way as self raising flour.

I don't know what's available in Belgium, but in the UK we use baking powder or a mix of cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:04 AM on July 27, 2014

Something like this Christmas cake might work. In France I've found the hardest thing is the dried peel, but it's not impossible. Where in Belgium are you? Try googling "American food store in Brussels" and there are some addresses, including an organic store. Maybe you can order online? Good luck.
posted by bwonder2 at 2:12 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

OK, other people are covering the gluten-free flour aspect, but I have a different suggestion.

Fruitcake is basically a quickbread, stuffed full of delicious candied peels and nuts. So what if you did something like made this bread, using whatever nuts you'd usually use in fruitcake for the hazelnuts. You'd have to add more sweetener or sugar, and more binder, so I'd add probably 2T flax seeds blended with 2T water, plus the dried fruits that you usually use.

The only hard to find thing, I think, would by psyllium seed husks, but they're not that uncommon, I don't think, and I bet a natural/health food store would have them as fiber supplements.

Obviously you'd have to experiment a bit, but if you have the time, I bet it could be amazing.
posted by MeghanC at 2:20 AM on July 27, 2014

I'm in Mons, near the French border. Brussels is nearly an hour's drive. Dried peel I can get relatively easily. Rice flour... not easy, the major stores don't have it and I haven't so far found any health food stores in town, same goes for Xantham gum which I assume is the binder? Flax seeds - whole seeds or flour? Whole seeds I can get I think but by 2T do you mean 2 tablespoons?
posted by fearnothing at 2:29 AM on July 27, 2014

> Rice flour... not easy, the major stores don't have it

Try an Asian store for that.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:53 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whole seeds--if you blend flax seeds in a 1:1 ratio with water, they become a binder that can be substituted for egg. I suspect that the addition of fruit to the recipe I linked would cause things to fall apart a little, but adding some blended flax and water would (probably) counter it.

And I meant 2 Tablespoons, yes, sorry.
posted by MeghanC at 3:06 AM on July 27, 2014

I also have no blender. (I know, how do I even maintain the will to live?)
posted by fearnothing at 3:46 AM on July 27, 2014

Mentioning this because it will make the task so much easier if eggs are OK... You've used "dairy-free" above the fold and "vegan" below; if the dairy-free requirement is because of lactose intolerance rather than veganism, eggs should be fine. Worth checking?

Also, are all those dietary requirements for the same person? Could you make this easier on yourself by making two cakes, one gluten-free and the other vegan?
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:53 AM on July 27, 2014

I believe the bride is lactose and gluten intolerant and the groom is vegan. There will be several guests with similar requirements. The list given was a direct quote from the bride's request to me.
posted by fearnothing at 4:53 AM on July 27, 2014

Couldn't you just make something like this one and buy the gluten-free flour on Amazon?
posted by dontjumplarry at 4:59 AM on July 27, 2014

Actually this one just requires chickpea flour (besan), which you will be able to get in an Indian grocer, if there's one near.
posted by dontjumplarry at 5:02 AM on July 27, 2014

I'm vegan; making a vegan cake is easy (butter = margarine, milk = soy or almond milk, eggs = either omit, use egg replacer, or use mashed banana/zucchini/pumpkin depending on the recipe). But adding the constraint that the cake should also be gluten-free makes things complicated as it is the gluten which binds most cakes together and cakes which don't have gluten often use egg as the binder. If it is at all acceptable, you should make two cakes.
posted by beerbajay at 5:18 AM on July 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Uh, given how strong the flavor of chickpeas is in besan, I'd be skeptical that a cake made from it would taste very good, but I've never tried.

The buckwheat flour used for making Breton galettes should be gluten-free as long as it's pure buckwheat. (Which, despite its name, is not a form of wheat. In fact I'm not sure if it's even technically a grain.)

In fact, since galettes are basically pancakes, if you can find or make vegan galettes I wonder if you could just layer a bunch of galettes with icing and decorate the whole stack as a cake.
posted by XMLicious at 5:26 AM on July 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can make the cake using ground almonds instead of wheat or rice flour.

Do you have the time or energy to make a few trial cakes? If you found a workable apple or pear cake recipe, I'd suggest that you make that but fill it with the dried fruit.

The thing about a fruit cake is that you have to bake it for a long time at a very low temperature to make sure that the insides are cooked and the outsides are not turned into concrete.

They also stick to the pan badly so use oiled parchment to keep it from sticking, lining the bottom and the sides and even the uncovered top. I keep a roll of brown paper like people sometimes use for wrapping parcels to use for the parchment. When I was a kid we used to use brown paper grocery bags but alas that is not available any more.

I assume honey is also not allowed? Otherwise it makes a goodish substitute for the binding qualities of the egg. But you're probably down to sugar. In that case you want something that is sticky, like treacle or caramel, rather than un-sticky like powdered sugar. Could you modify this recipe: http://www.elanaspantry.com/paleo-fruitcake/ using syrup in place of the egg? (pardon the lack of proper linking)

Also, I had vegan friends who would happily eat eggs if and only if they knew they came from backyard hens that were properly treated. They wouldn't eat the eggs if they could possibly come from a battery farm. You could always check with the groom if he would make an exception for un-fertilized back-yard eggs.

You might try looking up florentine recipies. Florentines are cookies with peel and other goodness in them. I've had florentines that were rather like miniature fruit cakes.

Also, consider using oatmeal for your flour, or as part of your flour to change the texture, if you are really hard up for the gluten free flour.

Rather than one large fruitcake you might want to make a set of three or four smaller cakes and then stack them with pillars. This could help you work around the tendency of a fruit cake to be hard on the outside and mooshy in the middle, or for eggless cakes to crumble.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:29 AM on July 27, 2014

I have pretty much the same restrictions you're baking for, but live in the US.

If you find something that works but calls for eggs, eggs are very easy to substitute out.

My favorite substitution for eggs is applesauce.

You can also use flax, some kind of non-dairy yogurt, egg replacer, or banana.

DO NOT use chickpea flour, your cake will taste like beans. In a bad way. I love chickpeas and will eat them at pretty much every opportunity, but if you use chickpea flour for a cake it's going to be icky.

Flour recommendations: I don't know what you can get there or how long it will take to mail order, but I like the Arrowhead Mills gluten-free baking mix, and Namaste makes some good mixes, and has a decent "perfect flour" mix that's worked fine for me in the past.

A good general resource for vegan stuff including baking is The Post Punk Kitchen forum, which has an extensive archive and a lot of people who are really excited about vegan cooking and baking.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:15 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I normally hate answers that start with "I don't have any actual information" but...I don't have any actual information that might be helpful, but I wanted to say that since wedding cakes are traditionally stacked anyway I think the suggestion of having two different tiers (which can easily have some kind of barrier between them) is a fantastic idea.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:12 AM on July 27, 2014

I just made this cake (almost as written, just using Arrowhead Mills GF flour mix that includes xanthan gum in place of the homemade flour mix and almond milk in place of the coconut beverage), and it was wonderful. It's obviously not a fruit cake, but may be a good place to start experimenting since it's a reliable base (or just talk them into a mocha cake instead!).

You must special order the flours. A vegan and gluten free cake needs xanthan gum to hold together. I've made great gluten free & vegan blondies and brownies without it, but cakes made with xanthan gum crumble into a million pieces when they come out of the pan. Just an fyi - Cup 4 Cup, which is a popular gf flour mix is not vegan (has milk powder).

Also, order way more gluten free flour than you think you'll need so you can have a couple of tries if necessary.
posted by snaw at 7:42 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Massive typo in my comment above - cakes made WITHOUT xanthan gum crumble.
posted by snaw at 7:58 AM on July 27, 2014

There is a list of online Belgian stores selling gluten free products here.
posted by veids at 7:59 AM on July 27, 2014

A popular website for vegan and allergen-free desserts is Chocolate Covered Katie.
posted by radioamy at 10:09 AM on July 27, 2014

Someone mentioned oats as a gluten free substitute above - if you go this route please check with any guests who are gluten-free first. Some people with coeliac disease can react to very small amounts of gluten cross-contamination in the oats, and some people react to a different (but related) protein found in oats.

I've cooked a lot of gluten free cakes, but I've never done it successfully without eggs (I haven't tried xantham gum). Two layers might be your best bet.

I wouldn't go the route of finding an apple/pear/other fruit cake and adding a lot of dried fruit. Most English-style fruitcake is much more robust than normal sponge in order to hold the quantity of fruit without crumbling, so I'd imagine you would need the xantham gum that people mentioned above.
posted by kadia_a at 11:29 AM on July 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

iherb.com is another online store that sells gluten free products, if you need anything you can't find in veids' links -- it's based in the US, but standard international shipping is $4 (about 10 days to Europe) and DHL is $8 (a few days).
posted by bettafish at 3:35 PM on July 27, 2014

Update for all: I found a health food store selling gluten-free flour. Unfortunately they are not open on Mondays.

Good idea veids, however those stores all seem to be at least 45 minutes' drive away from me and don't take UK cards to order online.
posted by fearnothing at 1:37 AM on July 28, 2014

OK, so let's assume you can't get hold of gluten-free flour or xanthan gum. What I'd do if I were you is try to draw up your own recipe for an almond-flour based cake. Now, I actually think it's going to be to your advantage that this is a wedding cake, because what that means is that it doesn't need to rise. It's pretty difficult to get a gluten-free, eggless cake to rise, because you don't have the right sort of protein to provide an architectural structure.

For a fruit cake, you don't need fluffy pockets of air - it can be quite dense. A rich fruit cake can have a ratio of fruit to flour in the order of 2:7 - see this recipe. I suggest you go for about 3:1 mixed dried fruit (find whatever is available in the shops near you) to almond flour. This is going to be the core of your cake.

You need a binder to stick this together. Flax gel, which is made from whole flax seeds/linseeds, is going to work pretty well here. I'd also try using a mixture of golden syrup and treacle to sweeten the cake, as they will help to 'stick' the cake together as well. If you really can't find either, use the darkest brown sugar you can find. You could use a bit of banana in place of some of the flax gel - it will give a distinct banana taste, but that could be quite nice if paired with the other fruit flavours. Up to you.

Fats - you are going to want to use vegetable oil, and you'll need much less than if you used butter.

Here's a very rough draft of a recipe, completely off the top of my head. The proportions are roughly based on the 9 inch cake from this chart:

1200g mixed dried fruit, mixed
400g of ground almonds
100g vegetable-based oil, neutral flavour, refined (suggestions here, probably canola/rapeseed oil or coconut oil if you can get either)
Gel from 300g of flax seeds (see link above for how to make it, basically you boil the flax seeds in 4250ml of water) (this should make about 18 tablespoons)
100g soft brown sugar
200g golden syrup
50g treacle
150-ish ml nondairy milk (soya or almond or whatever). You can also just use water if nowhere sells this, it's just to help the gel stick stuff.
Rind from one whole lemon
Almond extract - this is optional, but I think it will really amp up the marzipan flavours from the ground almonds.

Take two bowls, bowl A and bowl B.
Mix together the almonds, the fruit and the lemon peel in Bowl A. Add the gel and try to mix it in. Add enough soya milk or water that the mixture can be stirred with a spoon so that the gel disperses through the mixture. Put the veg oil, golden syrup and treacle into bowl B and mix them together. Fold the resultant slurry into the almond/fruit mixture.

Bake at 150C /300F /Gas Mark 2 for, like, forever. Keep testing to see if it's done - the cake will not collapse if you open the oven door because it will not rise so there is nowhere for it to collapse from.

Ice with fondant, no marzipan, as the cake is almondy enough already.

For the love of god, test this with smaller quantities before unleashing it upon the world. I literally just made it up and although it will probably taste nice due to all the fruit, it is possible that even with all the flax seed and syrup it will still fall apart in a crumbly mess. I am actually tempted to try it myself this evening - if I do I'll let you know how it went.
posted by Acheman at 7:43 AM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

This Put the veg oil, golden syrup and treacle into bowl B and mix them together.

Should read: Put the veg oil, sugar, golden syrup and treacle into bowl B and mix them together.
posted by Acheman at 7:58 AM on July 28, 2014

I made the cake, and it worked, so if you have any problems getting the GF flour you might want to consider it as a backup. You'll need about half the flaxseed gel I indicated, and it's liquid enough that you can forget about the soya milk (it was the first time I'd used it). I also take back what I said about marzipan - it would be excellent with a layer of good vegan marzipan. Depending on your tastebuds and the kinds of fruit you use, it could probably stand being sweeter, so perhaps you could add an extra 100g of sugar or golden syrup. It's very rich and I'm considering making one for Christmas even though I'm not gluten free - I really like things with ground almonds in them.
posted by Acheman at 3:43 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Actually, you know what, I just had some more, and don't add more sugar, particularly if you're icing it.
However, I'm going to stop now before this just turns into me liveblogging the eating of my own cake.
posted by Acheman at 11:55 AM on July 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

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