Baking at high altitude is challenging; cakes fall randomly, cookies can be extremely dry and things like brownies, that should be pretty easy, can sometimes turn into giant hockey pucks. But for my Have the Cake challenge this month, I didn't think that altitude was challenging enough.
Instead, I thought it would be even more challenging to make this month's carrot cake challenge wheat and gluten-free. Several years ago my sister was diagnosed with a wheat allergy and the world of baked items, as well as most foods, changed dramatically for her. Wheat is in amazing amount of things where you wouldn't think it would be: soy sauce, pudding, hard candies, etc. Anything that says it contains "modified food starch" has wheat as an ingredient.
So as a treat to my sister I thought I would make this month's carrot cake for her, using my "Gluten-free Baking Classics" cookbook, by Annalise Roberts.
The recipe, which I'll spare you, involves a few key ingredients, which turn out to be real pain-in-the-butt to procure. The flour replacement in the recipe involves mixing three ingredients: extra finely ground brown rice flour, potato starch (which is different than potato flour) and tapioca flour. Plus, the recipe also requires Xanthum Gum, also a pain to find.
None of these ingredients were available at my local grocery store, so I hiked off to a local natural grocers to find them. Fortunately, they had all the weird ingredients, plus organic carrots and an organic lemon that was so green I almost mistook it for a lime. As a side note, I found it incredibly amusing that upon exiting the natural grocers I was bombarded with the mouth-watering smell of cooking bacon - there's an IHOP across the parking lot - if I were a vegetarian I would have to reconsider after smelling that bacon!
Here is a picture of my main wheat-free ingredients:
After the flour substitutes and the Xanthum gum (which is described on the package as "the outer layer of an inactive bacterium..." yummy!), the rest of the ingredients are the usual ones for a carrot cake. The cookbook does not include any high altitude instructions and I figured I should just follow the recipe and see what happens. After a lifetime of baking at this altitude I did feel a little squeamish adding 1 1/2 cups of canola oil and four eggs since this seems like a bit too much moisture for 6000 feet, but I pushed forward.
After mixing all of the flour and liquid ingredients I folded in the grated carrots, coconut and chopped pecans (I substituted pecans for walnuts since both my sister and I are allergic to walnuts). It looks like normal cake batter, doesn't it?:
After that I threw it into two of my very special cake pans:
If you ever see these and you bake a lot, buy them! They have a lovely sliding cutter that circles around the pan making it so easy to get the cake out...
And just so Ellebee doesn't think that she's the only one who can make a mess of a kitchen, here's my proof that I can do it too:
At the end of the allotted baking time, I retrieved the cake layers from the oven to find, well, this:
Those cakes sunk like the Titanic, and honestly, it's my own fault for not cutting down on the oil and eggs. I hate that when I'm wrong!
I thought maybe the cream cheese frosting would help, but I was wrong again:
And then I thought that I would see a difference once I added the toasted coconut:
Don't worry, no need to adjust your monitor; I didn't see a difference either. It's still an ugly, concave carrot cake...
It didn't look much better sliced and on a plate either:
Instead, it reminds me of those weird monsters in the desert scene in Beetle Juice.
Despite it's fearsome looks however, it tasted quite good and I think could easily fool a non-wheat allergic person that they were eating normal carrot cake.
I took the whole ugly thing over to my sister's, and while she refused to let me take a picture of her enjoying her first carrot cake in 10 years, she did love the cake. My nephew Brendan liked the frosting and consented to a picture:
All in all, I had fun making the cake, my sister really enjoyed eating the cake and it tasted like real carrot cake, without any wheat in sight. Next time though, I'll cut down on the eggs and the oil and hope that I can make a pretty cake, instead of the concave monster that came out of my oven...