*Photo credit to Robbie!
Hello, hello, hello!
I’ve come back to Canberra after being up at the coast, visiting my parents. And so I haven’t had a chance to cook something new to post about. In fact I’m taking full advantage of the fact that I have frozen pasta, pesto sauce, and two portions of sauce with vegetables leftover from the chicken cacciatore I made with Andrew to avoid cooking anything more than another roast chicken so I had some meat to pair with both dishes. I’m pleased I decided to save the leftover chicken cacciatore sauce now!
But in the meantime, I have been working on some large projects for a friend and so wanted to post about that instead for this Fiesta Friday. The first, which I’ll be writing about in this post, was baking a cake for her mother’s 60th birthday. The request was for a gluten and lactose free Black Forest Cake, able to feed up to 12, which could also withstand the weight of a custom cake topper. Well, challenge accepted.
Now, I know people have polarising opinions about packet mix cakes vs from scratch cakes. But I don’t have a strong preference for either to be honest. I think that choice is up to whoever has requested the cake, or whoever is making it if there was no request. For this cake the requester didn’t care what I used so long as the end result was delicious and met expectations. So I decided with the first cake to go for a packet mix, as the testing and final budget was a primary concern, and this would also give me a chance to investigate something people have long been asking me for advice on – what gluten-free packet mixes are the best?
I tried two different packet mixes for the black forest cake – Madame Loulou’s Moist Cake mix and the Coles Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake mix. I was so pleased with the Coles cake mix I didn’t bother doing more testing!
Madame Loulou’s was pricey, about $11.95 from the store where I first found it, to so I cringed at purchasing it. But it was also gluten and lactose free. So I gave it a go! All you needed for this recipe was vegetable oil/butter for the non-lactose-free version and 200g of eggs. But I found this batter far too dry and thick, and it was very hard to mix. I added up to 30-60ml extra vegetable oil to one, then lactose free milk with another, but next time I would suggest also adding some cocoa powder/coffee powder dissolved into lactose free milk or hot water as the flavour of the packet mix was also too mild. I baked two packets in four 18cm tins for about 20mins, thinking they were my 20cm tins. Texture wise the cakes were nice, but a tiny bit too delicate to be cut and sliced for layers even when chilled. Hence why I baked them in several separate tins. Overall this packet mix was nice enough, but not spectacular enough to justify the price. It also didn’t come with icing.
The next mix I tried was the Coles Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix, which at the time didn’t have any ingredients containing milk and had no warnings for it either for further confirmation. Sadly they have since changed the recipe, and it now does contain milk. It was only about $3, and was the most tasty and versatile of the cake mixes that I tried. It didn’t require extra moisture, extra flavour, and had a nice crumb too that wasn’t too dry. It worked best when chilled in terms of trimming and halving, but that’s how I prefer to do things now as a rule of thumb. The cakes themselves also froze and thawed perfectly, wrapped in two layers of tight cling wrap, popped into ziplock bags, and then stacked on cake boards for extra support. This cake did come with icing, but I didn’t use it.
Overall the Coles cake mix was definitely the winner. It was the best value, the most versatile, and worked the best for making layer cakes. It was also a huge hit with the birthday girl and all the other party goers. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to take a full photo of the various stages prior to it heading off, but this was all being done while we were still in the process of moving, and time was limited. Not to mention, the whipped cream needed to set! So luckily Robbie, my friend’s dad, took a photo!
Now, people have asked me how I made the cake lactose free. Simple!
I stumbled across the Zymil lactose free regular thickened cream at my local supermarket one day, after having only ever seen the “light”, not suitable for whipping version prior to this. I was so excited, as this would mean not having to prepare several batches of coconut cream for testing. I immediately bought several and brought them home.
This cream, like most lactose free products, is slightly sweeter than the non-lactose free version. It also has a few other additives, like gelatine. So be sure to read the ingredients list if there is anything else in there that might bother you. However, it in all other respects it was exactly like dealing with regular cream. It whipped wonderfully, and it held its shape very well during piping despite my hot hands causing it all sorts of trouble. It was lovely, and light, and only cost about $3.10 per 300ml tub. The customer service was also excellent. The first batch I bought had lumps of undissolved gelatine in all four tubs, and so I called the company to ask for a possible refund. They apologised for the trouble, reported the issue with the batch to the factory, and sent me vouchers so I could go and buy more! And I can happily report this problem has not occurred since.
And at long last we come to the recipe!
Adapted from Taste.com.au’s
Serves: 10-12, Prep: 40-45 mins, or stretched out over several days, Cook: 1hr +
- 2 x gluten-free chocolate cake mixes (Or a double batch of your favourite gluten-free chocolate cake recipe)
- 2 x 670g jars morello cherries, pitted (you will end up with spares)
- 4 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 1/3 cups/330ml reserved cherry juice
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 1200ml thickened cream (I used Zymil’s lactose free thickened cream)
- 1 tsp/5ml vanilla bean paste (optional)
- Up to 7 tbsp icing sugar, gluten-free
- 60ml kirsch, or reserved juice from the cherries
- 2 tbsp/40ml boiling water
- 2 tbsp caster sugar, extra
- For the cake, you’ll want to bake them as per the packet instructions. But try to cook them in a minimum of two 20cm cake tins. You can spread them across multiple cake tins, up to four even, if your cake is too delicate to slice and trim. But be aware cooking in multiple tins will mean multiple tops to potentially neaten.
- But don’t worry about trimming yet, get those cakes cooked first!
- Set the cakes aside to cool completely as per the packet instructions. Once cool, wrap in two layers of gladwrap, then tie into individual plastic bags or ziplock bags, and pop in the freezer. If possible sit them on a cake board for added support. This will make trimming and cutting easier.
- While they’re chilling, prepare the filling.
- Strain the cherries, reserving the 330ml of juice, plus another 60ml if not using kirsch later.
- Place the cherries, the 330ml of juice, the cornflour and caster sugar into a saucepan.
- Stir the mixture over medium-low heat until it boils and starts to thicken. Once thick, remove from the heat. Transfer to a large bowl, cover with gladwrap, and place in the fridge to chill.
- Then combine the cream, vanilla bean paste if using, and at least 3 tbsp of the icing sugar and start whipping until stiff peaks form! Add extra tablespoons of icing sugar as you go, if needed for extra stiffness/sweetness. How much I used depends largely on how hot or cold the day is, it seems, and the lactose free cream also has it’s own stabilisers which assist with that. But start at three and work your way up. Cover and place in the fridge.
- Place the kirsch/juice, water and extra caster sugar in a jug and stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Now is the time to start preparing your cake. Remove the cake layers from the freezer, and trim as necessary.
- NOTE: You don’t have to do four layers, you can do three. Three easily feeds 12 people, and I keep the fourth layer of cake aside as a spare just in-case.
- Separate out about a cup and a half of the whipped cream. You’ll be using this for your crumb coat, as you don’t want crumbs in the rest of your cream. But if you need more you can always get it out.
- Get out your cake board, and put a little cream in the centre to help fix the cake to it, and place one cake, bottom-side down, onto the board. Drizzle it with a little of the kirsch mixture, then gently spread a thin layer of cream over the top. Top with some of the cherries.
- Repeat this with the remaining layers, checking each is aligned as you go, until you get to the top.
- NOTEL You can be pedantic like me and get out your tiny spirit level to make sure the cake is even once you reach the top layer, or eyeball it.
- On the top, drizzle with kirsch and spread with a thin layer of cream. But don’t add cherries. We’re still doing a crumb coat now!
- Spread a thin layer of cream all over the assembled cake layers, ensuring all the sides and gaps are covered with cream. It doesn’t have to be perfect, this layer is to keep in the crumbs and give the next layer of cream and any cream decorations something to stick to.
- Once you’ve covered the cake in this crumb coat, pop it into the fridge for about 20-30 mins to get nice and firm.
- Once that’s done, pull the cake out. You’ll now want to apply a thicker layer of cream all over the cake. I find it easier to start on the top, and then apply to the sides. Don’t worry about making it smooth yet, just make sure there’s plenty of cream there.
- Once the cake is fully covered in cream, either use your spatula, or knife, or scraper, to gently run along the sides of the cake at an angle and remove the excess cream. You really don’t want a dramatic angle. This is just to help tidy it up, and remove a small amount of cream as you make it smooth.
- To smooth the top of the cake, scrape inwards, very, very gently, at a slight angle.
- With the remaining cream, you can either pipe a ring of stars or shapes around the top of the cake, and fill that empty centre with cherries. Or you can now decorate the sides! Do what feels right!
- Once done, pop the cake back into the fridge for at least half an hour, to firm up again, and then serve!