Birthday cakes go gluten free |

Birthday cakes go gluten free

Susan Hart
For the Nevada Appeal
Mark Mathewson/For the Nevada Appeal

January is birthday month at my house. My “children” Jay and Audrey, who both have celiac disease, also both have their birthdays this month, and within two days of each other.

Jay is two years older than Audrey, but her birthday falls two days earlier in the year. When Jay was about to turn 3 years old, he asked me the day after Audrey’s first birthday, “Mom, I’m older than Audrey, right?” “Yes, you sure are!” I answered. “Well then,” he said, “Why is her birthday BEFORE mine?”

Jay’s favorite cake is a luscious lemon bundt cake with pound-cake lineage. I’ve converted it to a gluten-free and dairy-free recipe that produces a moist and flavorful cake. Audrey loved a yellow layer cake with whipped cream and strawberries, but has since changed her preference to the trendier cupcake configuration, with a butter cream icing. This is a little harder to make dairy-free, but it can be done.

DuBois Health Foods carries gluten-free flours and xanthan gum.

I’ll be preparing these cakes for each of them this year, although we won’t all be together at once. Time and place change rapidly for young adults, and I’ll be more than content to spend time with them individually.

Happy birthday to January babies everywhere. I hope these gluten-free recipes help you create wonderful celebrations and memories. Bon appetit!

Jay’s Lemon Cake

This recipe is best baked in a bundt pan, but can be baked in two 8-inch cake pans.

For the cake:

1 cup (2 sticks) canola-based margarine, and extra for the pan

2 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

11⁄2 cups brown rice flour

3⁄4 cup potato starch

1⁄2 cup tapioca flour

1⁄4 cup sweet rice flour (in the Asian foods section of grocery stores)

11⁄2 teaspoons xanthan gum

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup milk, or milk substitute such as almond milk

1⁄2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 tightly-packed tablespoons grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan with margarine. Dust the margarine with any gluten-free flour.

In a large bowl, cream together the canola margarine and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until the mixture is foamy.

In a medium bowl, sift the flours, xanthan gum and salt together. In a third bowl, mix the milk, vinegar and baking soda together. Add the dry and wet mixtures alternately into the margarine/sugar/egg mixture in alternating thirds, beating well after each addition.

Pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake it on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour, or until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then invert it onto the serving platter and spread the icing while the cake is still warm.

For the icing:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1⁄4 cup canola-based margarine

2 tightly-packed tablespoons grated lemon zest

1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice

Cream the sugar and margarine together. Mix in the lemon zest and juice and spread the icing on the warm cake. A food processor mixes this up quickly.

Serves 12 to 16

Audrey’s Cupcakes

12 cupcakes

1 cup brown rice flour

1⁄2 cup potato starch

1⁄4 cup tapioca flour

1⁄2 teaspoon xanthan gum

11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup creme fraiche, or milk substitute mixed with 1⁄2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1⁄2 cup unsalted butter or canola-based margarine at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with baking liners.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, xanthan gum, salt and baking powder. In a medium bowl, mix the creme fraiche, baking soda, and vanilla, OR if you are using the almond milk, mix that together with the apple cider vinegar, vanilla and baking soda. Set aside.

Place the butter or margarine in a large mixer bowl with the granulated sugar and mix together for 3 to 4 minutes (6 to 8 minutes if using a handheld mixer). Mix the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the liquid ingredients. The batter will be fairly thick. Spoon the batter into the baking cups; fill about 2⁄3 full. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the centers of the cupcakes spring back to the touch.

Let the cupcakes cool thoroughly before icing.

Buttercream Frosting

For 12 cupcakes

2 large eggs

1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 pounds (2 sticks) unsalted butter or 3⁄4 cup margarine

Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a stainless-steel mixing bowl and heat them, stirring, over, not in, hot water. When they reach 160 degrees, take the bowl off of the pan and beat with a flat beater at high speed for 5 minutes. The sides of the bowl should be cool before you cut the butter into 12 pieces and beat each piece into the egg mixture, on low speed, until all the butter is absorbed. The mixture may be lumpy at this point. Beat at medium-high speed until the mixture is smooth and silky.

• Susan Hart has been cooking gluten-free for 15 years. She teaches continuing education classes in gluten-free baking at Truckee Meadows Community College and can be reached at

Celiac disease is an auto-immune condition triggered by ingesting the gluten found in wheat, barley and rye.

An estimated 3 million people – 1 in 135 – in the U.S. have celiac disease. Only 5 percent of this population has been diagnosed.

Symptoms of celiac disease can be severe and can be difficult to diagnose, as many are similar to symptoms of other intestinal diseases.

Sometimes there are no apparent symptoms at all in the short term.

Over the long term, if uncorrected, celiac disease can increase the likelihood of occurrence of depression, diabetes, lymphoma, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and colon cancer.

There is presently no medical cure for celiac disease. The symptoms can only be corrected by eliminating gluten from the diet.

A simple blood test can help determine whether a person has celiac disease.

For more information, visit the National Institutes of Health website on digestive diseases: