Recently, I made a wedding cake for my sister-in-law, Hayley and her new husband, as they celebrated their wedding day at the stunning Three Choirs Vineyard in Wickham, Hampshire.
Hayley was keen to keep things simple, with a fresh, buttercream-finished design and the only decorations were some fresh blooms and foliage from Peony Blue Floral Design.
As someone who has to deal with a number of severe dietary allergies, including gluten and dairy, Hayley had to be very careful to avoid any of her allergens during the wedding and I must give huge props to the venue for catering for her needs perfectly – and even better, the rest of us barely noticed the difference.
Similarly, the cake had to be equally allergen-free, so I was faced with the prospect of creating a gluten- and dairy-free cake – with a buttercream finish, no less – that needed to stand up to being stacked and sat out for the majority of the day.
Now, a disclaimer: I am not a specialist allergen-free baker by any means and I don’t think I have ever posted a gluten- or dairy-free cake recipe here before. However, after the wedding cake was posted online, I received a few requests asking me to share the recipe that I used, so I thought I would do that in the hope that it gives others, who find themselves in my position, a bit more confidence when tackling a gluten- and dairy-free celebration cake.
My first consideration when creating my cake was the fact that my kitchen is a regular working kitchen, which means that both gluten and dairy are used almost daily. Hayley is a diagnosed sufferer of coeliac disease which means that she can experience adverse effects from even the faintest trace of gluten and, short of having my kitchen professionally sterilised to remove all traces of contaminants, it clearly wasn’t going to work crafting her cake here.
Instead, I arranged to borrow another kitchen, which was ‘decontaminated’ prior to my use, and I bought a whole new set of baking tools and equipment to ensure that everything would be suitable for my allergen-free baking adventures.
Once again, before we get to the recipe, I must repeat my declaration that I am not a specialist baker, just someone who is sharing my own experience of gluten- and dairy-free baking in the hope that it gives people a starting point if they find themselves in a similar situation to mine in the future.
Hayley’s wedding cake was a combination of three different flavours: a 10” lemon cake, with an elderflower syrup, elderflower buttercream and a lemon curd filling; an 8” vanilla cake, with a plain simple syrup, vanilla buttercream and raspberry compote; and a 6” coffee cake, with a coffee syrup, coffee buttercream and chopped walnuts sprinkled between the layers.
Today, I will be sharing the recipe for the 8” vanilla layer of the cake, which is adapted from the ever-popular Maisie Fantasie sponge cake recipe, but I will touch on some of the different ways that this can be adapted towards the end of the post…
For the cake:
- 360g Stork Original Baking Block
- 400g caster sugar
- 8 large eggs
- Doves Farm Self Raising White Flour
- 2tsps Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste
For the simple sugar syrup:
- 300g caster sugar
- 300ml of water
For the buttercream:
- 250g Stork Original Baking Block
- 450g icing sugar
- 50g royal icing sugar
- 1tsp Sugarflair Superwhite (titanium dioxide icing whitener)
- 1tbsp Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste
For the strawberry compote:
- 500g ripe strawberries – hulled and quartered
- 4tbsp caster sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
Start by preheating your oven to 180°C/150°C fan/gas 3 and grease and line two deep 8″ cake pans.
Cream together the Stork Original Baking Block and the caster sugar until light, smooth and pale in colour.
Beat together the eggs and Vanilla Bean Paste, before adding these to the Stork Original Baking Block and sugar mixture.
Sieve the flour into the bowl and mix until thoroughly combined – one of the bonuses of gluten-free baking is that it is very difficult to over-beat the mixture.
Separate the mixture between the two tins and bake in the oven for around one hour and thirty minutes, until a skewer comes out clean and the mixture has stopped ‘singing’.
TIP: When baking deeper or larger cakes, it is better to bake at a lower temperature for longer, as this will ensure an even bake with little-to-no doming.
When your cakes are ready, take them from the oven and leave them to stand in the tins for about 10 minutes. Then invert on to a wire rack to cool.
Once completely cooled, wrap in cling film and set aside until needed.
To make the simple sugar syrup, place the sugar and water into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over a medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Increase the temperature and bring the solution to a rolling boil, before removing and setting aside to cool completely.
For the dairy-free buttercream, cream the Stork Original Baking Block until light and pale.
Sift in half of the icing sugar and beat on a medium speed until fully combined and smooth
Sift in the remaining icing sugar, royal icing sugar and icing whitener, and continue to mix until light and smooth.
Finally add in the Vanilla Bean Paste and mix until fully incorporated.
For the strawberry compote, place all of the ingredients in a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.
Gently increase the heat, cover the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer until dark and syrupy (around 3-5 minutes). Leave to cool.
When you are ready to assemble your cake, begin by torting* your cakes with a cake leveller.
*Torting a cake is the process of cutting a layer of cake horizontally to split it into two layers.
Use a syrup bottle, spoon or pastry brush to apply a generous amount of sugar syrup to each layer and set aside to allow this to soak in.
Place the first layer of cake on your serving dish and apply a thin layer of buttercream. Pipe a dam of buttercream filling around the edge of the cake and fill this with strawberry compote.
Add the next layer of cake, this time covering with a generous layer of the buttercream filling before applying a third layer. Repeat the first step, applying a thin layer of buttercream, piping a dam and filling with strawberry compote.
Place the final layer of cake and place in the fridge to chill for around 30 minutes, before covering the cake with the remaining buttercream mixture and smoothing with an edge scraper.
The cake can now be served with a buttercream finish (it is important to note that this dairy-free buttercream does not crust as well as regular buttercream and so can be a little trickier to work with) or chill it briefly before covering with sugarpaste.
To adjust the flavour of the cake, you can choose to replace the vanilla bean paste with an alternative flavour extract, with a variety of fresh fruit zests or why not try out one of the many tasty flavoured sugars from Sugar & Crumbs (which are all gluten-free and vegan). Similarly, both your simple sugar syrup and your dairy-free buttercream can also be flavoured in a whole variety of ways, including by adding coffee, flavoured extracts, fruit syrups or more besides.
If you would like some more specific advice on how you can personalise your special gluten- and dairy-free bake, then don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can reach me through my Facebook page, the dedicated Cake Chums – with Mr Baker’s Blog Facebook group, by emailing me directly or why not drop me a line at:
Mr Baker’s Blog
PO Box 752
I hope you enjoyed finding out how I created Hayley’s wedding cake and that this helps at least some of you to have the confidence to start exploring free-from baking for your families and friends. On a final, personal note, please remember to ensure that, if baking for someone with allergies or intolerances, you must ensure that there is no possibility of cross contamination.