40th Birthday Cake - with challenges, of course!
March 19, 2017 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Good friend is turning 40 and I'd like to make her a special dessert. A cake would be great, but she can't have dairy, eggs and really shouldn't have wheat, but will occasionally. Tree nuts are also off the table because of my own allergy. I am a decent baker, but have never had to mess around with subs or this set of restrictions. Looking for tasty cake ideas or if that is unrealistic, other options for a special dessert. Thanks all!
posted by MandaSayGrr to Food & Drink (23 answers total)
Can you add why your friend can't have wheat? Is it gluten sensitivity, or a full-on wheat allergy? If it's the former, there are lots of good gluten-free flour substitutes available, and a vegan cake would be easy to do. If it's the latter, you might have a harder time but can find things with rice flour, flourless cakes, etc.
posted by stillmoving at 2:30 PM on March 19

Vegan GF baking can have a much longer troubleshooting and trial/error phase. And, the ingredients can be pricey. If you live in an area that has a bakery that specializes in vegan GF baked items, you might be happier special ordering a cake instead.
posted by quince at 2:55 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]

Here's a recipe for a nut-free, gluten free, vegan pie crust. Here's a recipe for cookie dough bars (nut free option). I've been discovering with these allergen free recipes, though, you really need to test them ahead of time because sometimes they just don't work as advertised.
posted by bluebelle at 2:57 PM on March 19

I really feel that if you can't have eggs, wheat, nuts or dairy you can have a dessert but it won't be a cake. I know a vegan would argue but the trick to successful desserts of these types is to look for something that NEVER had those ingredient, rather than trying to swap out or use unusual ingredients.

I think what you might want to make something very berry focused. Or grilled peaches with a sugared top. Perhaps homemade marshmallows.
posted by Saminal at 2:59 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

If she is full blown celiac or allergic to wheat I just want to say as a Celiac sometimes people want to make us food and there's kind of a stigma for norms to follow making from scratch = true sign of love and store bought = rudeness from just buying something at the store like you would a stranger. So just want to assure you that at least most people I know with severe allergies or celiac understand this but really really honestly feel loved when you provide us with a dessert that we don't have to worry about. We don't have to wonder if the flour got contaminated by the mixer you use or the wee bit of crumb stuck in your favourite cake pan. It is an act of more love to some of us that you think so much of us you want to give us something we can eat worry free. So maybe some decadent dessert from the GF bakery if one is nearby. Or even one of the cakes sold in the freezer of groceries stores are darn good when you haven't had a cake in a long while. A lot of people don't realise the emotions and rituals behind food unless you are the one constantly turning it down and feeling horrible about it.
posted by kanata at 3:12 PM on March 19 [9 favorites]

Ok you can do this! I was on a similar diet for my son when we were breastfeeding because of his food sensitivities. I had decent success with Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Here Are the modifications I made to make it work out for me. I tried batches with Oat Flour, but they were still a little gooey in the middle.

I also have an amazing vegan, gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipe I perfected if you want.

Good luck!
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 3:13 PM on March 19

One other idea: you might be able to find a store-bought cookie that meets your restrictions (like these). You can make a cookie crumb tart base with coconut oil and cookies, and top with fresh fruit and whipped coconut cream. Sort of a fruit tart type thing.
posted by bluebelle at 3:21 PM on March 19

I'm sorry I don't have a specific recipe for you, but I have had several vegan, gluten free chocolate cakes - both homemade and from bakeries - that were amazing. (And I'm neither vegan nor gluten free.) Other kinds of cakes (white and carrot, specifically) have never been as good. Chocolate cakes are okay being denser, so I think they lend themselves well to these restrictions. I see a few recipes online with good reviews - wish I could recommend one for you.
posted by umwhat at 4:18 PM on March 19

I've made this babycakes brownie recipe before to great success. A couple of substitutions though, I subbed all of the various flours for bobs red mill all purpose gluten free flour, and only used two teaspoons of vanilla. I also find that in brownies and cookies you can comepletely leave out xantham gum with no ill effect, but you can also find single purpose packets of xantham gum a la instant yeast. Backup dessert idea,
An ice cream cake made with coconut based ice cream (like coconut bliss) topped with "magic shell" (equal parts coconut oil and dark chocolate melted together).
posted by Champagne Supernova at 4:56 PM on March 19

This cake recipe from the Jamie Oliver website is really nice, and very birthdayish. I made it for a friend's birthday a couple of years ago and it came out perfectly on the first try.
posted by Acheman at 5:01 PM on March 19

Can you acquire a gelato "cake"? Many of the fruity gelato flavours are dairy-free.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:29 PM on March 19

I made a delicious vegan lemon polenta cake a couple of years ago and it was dyn-o-mite. It was made with a wee bit of crush almond powder/flour, but if you are allergic, I imagine you might be aware of an easy replacement? FYI, for the egg replacement in the vegan lemon polenta cake, use applesauce. SO decadent. :)
posted by Halo in reverse at 5:53 PM on March 19

Ah, found the recipe:


Other recipes seem to reverse the ratio of polenta to ground almond; but as I said, you may already be aware of an easy replacement for the almond in any case? If not, I found this website which discusses possibilities. Good luck.
posted by Halo in reverse at 6:01 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

In addition to the comments above, there was a discussion recently here on AskMe about vegan and gluten-free baking (albeit without the tree nut component) that may have good resources as well:
posted by Mr Yak at 6:59 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]

If you're set on baking yourself, do a few test runs. Gluten free flours are very difficult to work with and take the right mixing. Though you can generally find cake mix that is gluten free in health food sections or stores.

Do you have anything like a Whole Foods? Have you searched for gluten free/vegan bakeries? You may be surprised by the options out there! Many places that don't contain gluten are also highly aware of nuts/allergens.

Also, does she like cheesecake? Daiya makes an AMAZING "cheezecake" (also comes in Key Lime, Chocolate, and Strawberry.) It may be in the frozen section near oganic or health foods. You can search on their website for where to buy. It's amazingly delicious. If you buy it frozen it needs a couple hours in the fridge to defrost.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:15 PM on March 19

Ice cream cake with non-dairy ice cream or sorbet? It could have a GF cookie base -- since it's crumbled, the texture won't matter much. You could make a fruit jam to put in the middle and try a Fluff-like marshmallow topping.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:37 PM on March 19

This is delicious and my seriously celiac and lactose intolerant partner loved it:

Vegan Mocha Mousse

Prep time
10 mins
Total time
10 mins

Recipe adapted from the December 2009 issue of Foods Matter.
Author: Foods Matter
Serves: 6 servings
1 Level Tablespoon Cornstarch
1-3/4 Cups Regular Coconut Milk (not light!)
1 x 2 Shot Espresso or ⅜ Cup Very Strong Black Coffee
50g (1-3/4 ounces) Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate, 70-85% cocoa solids
2 Tablespoons Dark Muscovado Sugar, Coconut Palm Sugar, or Dark Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Brandy or Ginger Wine
6 Teaspoons Coconut Cream (can also skim thick cream from top of settled can of regular coconut milk), Nut Cream, Oat Cream, or Soy Cream, divided
18 Fresh Coffee Beans

Mix the cornstarch with some of the coconut milk to make a smooth paste. Gradually add the rest of the coconut milk and the coffee while gently heating the mixture, stirring continuously, until it thickens. Add the sugar and chocolate, in pieces, and continue to stir until both are melted.
Remove from the heat, cool slightly and then add the brandy or ginger wine.
Spoon into individual espresso cups or small glasses, cover and put in the refrigerator to chill.
To serve, gently pour a teaspoon of dairy-free “cream” onto the top of each mousse and place three coffee beans in the middle.
posted by antiquated at 7:55 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

If she can have some wheat though probably shouldn't, there's the dairyless chocolate King Arthur Cake Pan Cake (which you will find all over the web sometimes labeled as Chocolate Wacky Cake). We've made it dozens of times over the last 20 years and it works great. Take their advice and mix it in a bowl and not a pan. If you have time to order special ingredients or know a place well-stocked with gluten-free supplies, King Arthur also has a Gluten-Free Cake Pan Cake recipe.

(We make the Cake Pan Cake with King Arthur White Whole Wheat to make it a little healthier, and if you do that we've found it's better to bake it the day before so the bran can hydrate before serving.)
posted by jocelmeow at 8:07 PM on March 19

And as for frosting: If there's a milk-alternative beverage she can have, use that and dairy-free chocolate to make a ganache. It may take some fiddling with proportions and some chilling to get it to set up before spreading, like any ganache.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:29 PM on March 19

For a non-cake option, I throw together this dessert for friends with dietary restrictions and it's delicious and gorgeous and easy- wash and chop a bunch of fruits- strawberries, cherries, peaches, plums, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples, etc. in a bowl. Add some grated ginger, chopped fennel (optional but fancy), cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and regular or coconut sugar to taste.

You can stop here and let it sit and macerate an hour and then serve this with whipped coconut cream as a trifle in cute wineglasses, or go the crumble route and cut some coconut oil or Earth Balance into a blend of rice flours and sweetener of choice (use this recipe), lay the fruits in a baking dish, sprinkle the crumb mixture on top and bake a fruity crisp! Will still hold candles and look lovely served in a bowl with non-dairy-based ice cream.
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 9:08 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]

Maybe something made with aquafaba? eg vegan lemon meringue?
posted by oceano at 1:55 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

If she doesn't like chocolate, here's my adaption of the famous dairyless, eggless, wacky cake into a spice cake, although it does use flour and it sounds like you might have to sub that out with a gluten-free substitute if operating with maximum strictness. King Arthur also has a Spicy Cake Pan Cake variation, likewise with flour.

King Arthur sells gluten-free mixes, and of course their Measure for Measure gluten-free flour, which you can find on Amazon as well.

Suffocating Kitty mentioned Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I've had success with recipes from that book too, thought I've not tried the gluten-free cupcake recipe in it, which you can find here: Gluten Free Freedom Cupcakes.

What Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World might be most helpful for is frostings, if you want something other than chocolate ganache. The frostings in that book that are vegan and also nut-free are:

Vegan Fluffy Buttercream Frosting
Rich Chocolate Ganache Topping
Orange Buttercream Frosting
Brown Rice Caramel Glaze
Super Natural Agave Icing
Not-Too-Sweet Blueberry Mousse
Chocolate Mousse Topping
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
Raspberry Buttercream Frosting
Quick Melty Ganache
Thick Chocolate Fudgey Frosting

Here's a link to a PDF of the whole book.
posted by jocelmeow at 8:25 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]

Thanks all. This gave me some good ideas I knew the green would come through.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 2:16 PM on March 21

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