During the early years of gluten free baking experimentation I was frequently curtailed by lack of funding. By choosing to go to university I’d cut our household income in half, and it seemed a bit like taking the piss to spend too large a proportion of the tiny amount left over on cake ingredients. For cakes that might not even work out that well.
I was also curtailed by time. I set myself the target of a First, and I’m proud to say I earned it. However, that involved sacrificing just about everything else in my life in order to study. When I signed up it was 22 years since I’d last been in the education system…I had to work for those marks! So, that meant that most of the baking done during the study years was within the confines of the summer break.
All of this meant that progress was a bit stop/start but whenever I could I was being brave and getting stuck in – trying out new things, learning and improving techniques.
Getting chocolate cake right was high on the list of priorities. This Black Forest Gateau was for Barn’s 2011 birthday. Given that my husband’s such a fan of the 70s (I know! Bizarre or what?!), I decided to do a 70s style menu…prawn cocktail, steak ‘n’ chips plus the gateau.
There’s some whacking great bubble holes in that beast, but I was really getting there with the general flavour and texture.
I found it worked just as well with fresh cream and strawberries 😉
As well as working towards perfection in larger chocolate cakes I was also working on creating a really good basic vanilla sponge cake recipe. At the same time I was starting to play around with cupcakes, all of which resulted in frequent hosting of tea parties. No objections were raised by the regular
guinea pigs guests.
At this time I was still trying very hard to find or create a recipe for gluten free pastry that actually worked. I had long since given up on the quest to make gluten free bread (life’s too short) and, where I feel bread is a must, I just buy it in. I got to the same stage with the pastry in the end.
This is the lemon meringue pie made with the gluten free pastry that convinced me to just buy it ready made.
These were some of my ‘learning to pipe and fill’ cakes…the nearly, but not quite there vanilla sponge made into two mini Victoria sandwich cakes (filled with strawberry jam and fresh cream) and one vanilla sponge cupcake with a strawberry jam centre, piped cream and fresh strawberry. The one with the chocolate star is chocolate sponge cupcake piped with Chantilly cream.
More pipe ‘n’ fill. These Black Forest cupcakes are still reminisced about by my family. The perfected chocolate sponge cake, filled with a fresh cherry compote, piped with a swirl of fresh cream, topped with a cherry and crowned with chocolate filigree. They were very good. I should make some more.
Of course, 2012 was Jubilee year. This was my cake offering to the celebrations – chocolate tray bake with vanilla cream cheese frosting and fresh fruit to decorate.
2012 was also the year that I used fondant for the very first time, choosing to make these mini gift cakes for Barn’s birthday. The cakes was three layers – chocolate, fresh strawberry and vanilla sponges – filled and frosted with vanilla buttercream.
I nicked the decorating idea, thinking it looked easy. It wasn’t really. I made the classic mistake of mistaking simple for easy. However, I think, for a first go, with very little research into how to do go about things, it wasn’t too bad.
The fondant was way, way too thick, and at the time I had not yet discovered the delights of Italian meringue buttercream, so was still using the standard American version. As a result the finished cakes were far too sweet to eat in their entirety. However, picked apart it was clear that the sponges were pretty tasty.
A giant jaffa cake, made because I wanted to. The jelly topping was too thick but apart from that it was just like eating a giant jaffa cake! (The flavour secret is to add finely shredded marmalade to orange jelly for the topping).
An awful lot was learned during this first year of gluten free baking, and the flame of a passion for cakes continued to be fanned. It was a lot of fun.