I recently faced the challenge of making a gluten and dairy-free cake for a good friend’s birthday. I found the experience very satisfying and decided to document it.
As time goes by, I bump into more people that don’t want to eat gluten or dairy, not because of food allergies or celiac disease, but for health reasons. For example, some studies show that gluten causes inflammation in some people. Also, dairy consumption is not environmentally friendly, and our ability to process lactose diminishes over time. While I try to keep my dairy consumption to a minimum, I never hold back on any ingredient, so this seemed an excellent opportunity to take on a different challenge.
The list of ingredients for this cake is not long, but technique-wise is not that simple. In the baking world, gluten-free equals dense texture; this is because the gasses produced by leavening agents will escape with ease. To solve this problem, I used two techniques. First, I added a bit of baking soda. Second, I whipped the egg whites to stiff peaks and folded in the batter. In this recipe, it is best to use baking powder because it won’t react to the orange’s citric acid; luckily, I didn’t see any reaction in either of my two attempts.
There was, however, one problem left to solve: I wanted the cake to be moist inside, which is why we put butter in cake batters. However, since my cake was dairy-free, I replaced butter with olive oil. Finally, I made the chocolate ganache with almond milk.
I created the recipe thinking of satisfying one or two people. As a single, I’m used to cooking small-scale to avoid tons of leftovers, and on this occasion, it was going to be only two enjoying the cake. From it, you can get two substantial servings, three normal-sized servings, or four tasters.
Mini Gluten & Dairy-Free Chocolate and Orange Cake
Small cake to remain healthy but satisfy your sweet tooth.
- 6 tbsp almond flour
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- Sea salt
- 3 eggs
- 3 tbsp sugar (I used brown)
- Zest of 1 orange
- Juice of ⅓ of the orange
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp of Cointreau (I used rum)
- ½ cup almond milk
- 40g of dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC), and oil a small cake pan. I used a large cookie cutter. Make a circle with parchment paper and line the bottom of your baking vessel with it.
- In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients: almond flour, baking soda, and 1 pinch of sea salt.
- I two bowls, separate the egg whites and the egg yolks, making sure the bowl with the whites is completely dry, and there are absolutely no traces of the yolk when separating.
- Mix the remaining wet ingredients (NOTE: Make sure to reserve the specified quantities of sugar, orange zest, and Cointreau) 1 tbsp sugar, zest of 1 orange reserving ½ tsp, orange juice, vanilla extract, olive oil, and 1 tbsp Cointreau (reserving one for the ganache).
- Beat the egg whites to soft peaks (a hand blender is handy, but I did it with my humble whisk), incorporate the rest of the sugar, and beat until you get stiff peaks.
- In a small saucepan, warm up the almond milk to about 160ºF (60ºC) and incorporate the chocolate pieces, continuously stirring to make a ganache. Do not let the temperature rise too high, or the chocolate might separate. Stir until the ganache is uniform. Stir in the remaining Cointreau.
- Mix 4 tsp of the ganache with the wet ingredients. Incorporate also the dry ingredients and mix until uniform.
- Little by little, combine the egg whites with the rest of the cake batter, folding gently and trying to lose as little volume as possible. This last step is tricky, so be patient with it.
- Place your cake batter into the baking pan and bake for 30min or until the cake tester comes clean.
- While the cake is baking, mix into the chocolate ganache the remaining Cointreau, a pinch of sea salt, and orange zest.
- Once your cake is ready, let it cool off for about 1 hour, then decorate it by pouring the rest of the ganache on top and evening out with an offset spatula. I made a two-layer cake with toasted almonds and chocolate ganache inside.
- Refrigerate for at least two hours and enjoy!