“A party without cake is just a meeting.”
Cakes have the power to elevate an otherwise ordinary moment into something truly extraordinary. They are at the center of life’s celebrations, from birthdays and weddings to graduations, anniversaries, and baby showers. We cheer up our friends by baking cakes, reward ourselves with cupcakes, and invite our children to lick frosting off the beaters. So what happens when you or your child can’t enjoy that slice of cake because you can’t eat gluten? I can tell you from firsthand experience.
When a Pastry Chef Has to Give Up Gluten
For the past twenty years working as a professional pastry chef and cake artist, I’ve piped enough buttercream to stretch from Washington, D.C., to my hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, drizzled enough chocolate ganache to float a boat, and sifted a mountain of flour that would be a challenge for even a seasoned climber to scale. My first restaurant boss and mentor, Chef Michel Nischan, gave me the big break that turned a self-taught baker into a bona fide pastry chef. Creating cakes and pastries under Chef Nischan’s direction was exhilarating, and it was clear at age twenty-five that I had found my calling; the New York Times raved about my desserts, calling them “breathtaking in both artistry and taste.”
From there, I worked in turn as a caterer, restaurant manager, and cake designer, creating custom cakes for weddings, birthdays, and other gala events, and opened Sublime Bakery, a retail bakery and cake studio in Fort Worth. From its inception, Sublime stood at the forefront of custom cakes, incorporating organic ingredients before they were mainstream and championing gluten-free, vegan, and sugar-free baked goods before they became trendy. It came to be known as the place to turn to if your kiddo had a laundry list of allergies; we would always find a way to make a cake or cupcakes for them.
My dearest Sublime memory is of a sweet little boy named Jack; he was four when he first came in with his mom and his big brother, Pete. Pete explained that Jack had never had a “real” cupcake from a bakery because of his numerous food allergies and intolerances. Jack’s mom had heard that we baked cupcakes that were gluten free and vegan, so they had come to check it out. Jack’s eyes grew huge when I handed him a chocolate cupcake straight from our pastry case. This was a totally new experience for him; in the past, he’d always had to do without when the family got treats at a bakery. But he didn’t hesitate for a second—he just dived right in, face first. His joy was as pure as anything I’ve ever witnessed.
Little did I know that I, too, would soon need to eliminate all gluten from my diet. It happened when I was a con-testant on the Food Network Challenge, where I quickly became known as the contestant who always goes big: on the wedding cake show, I created one of the tallest cakes in Food Network Challenge history—seven feet three inches tall, to be exact. But during my fourth appearance, in the midst of preparing yet another big cake—a five-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus rex cake—I experienced a painful tingling and paralysis in my hands. I was simply unable to complete my cake before the competition buzzer went off. The diagnosis: rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors prescribed a lifelong regime of toxic medications and painkillers, but I did my own research and, through trial and error, created a program for myself to heal my body and control the debilitating symptoms—which included eliminating food triggers like dairy, refined sugar, and, yes, gluten from my diet. Soon after, I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I became certified as a wellness coach so I could help others suffering from chronic illnesses.
My diagnosis—and the miraculous relief that the elimination of gluten and dairy provided—inspired me to develop gluten-free (and dairy-free) versions of all my favorite cakes. My goal was to create cakes and cupcakes that would be every bit as good as the originals.
So I invite you, and everyone you know with gluten sensitivities or food allergies, to grab a fork and a slice of cake and dig in with gusto. Because we all deserve to have our cake—and eat it, too! I hope you’ll enjoy baking, decorating, and eating my gluten-free cakes as much as I’ve enjoyed creating them.
This beautiful Bundt was the first cake I hoped to make deliciously gluten free.
I began by layering in the lemon flavor, using fresh juice and zest in both the batter and the glaze. Don’t even think about using bottled juice here: the fresh flavor, aroma, and oils of fresh lemon are crucial to the success of this cake.
Lemon Blueberry Bundt
with Glistening Lemon Glaze
Lemony Blueberry Bundt
3 cups Gluten-Free Whole Grain Flour Blend (page 191)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup milk or unsweetened coconut milk (from a carton),
at room temperature
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon organic lemon zest
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, at room temperature
2 cups organic cane sugar
2 eggs or Flax Egg Replacer (page 194), at room temperature
1 cup frozen organic blueberries
Glistening Lemon Glaze
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped organic lemon zest
4 to 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (to make your own, see page 192)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 10-inch-diameter Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray or coconut oil.
To make the cake: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour blend, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. In a small bowl, mix the milk with the lemon juice and zest. Set both bowls aside.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat again for 15 seconds. Add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat for 15 seconds. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 20 seconds and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the milk mixture to the batter and mix on low for 30 seconds, and then on medium for 30 seconds. The batter will look separated at this point.
With the mixer running on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, about 1 cup at a time. Scrape down the bowl after the second and third additions. When all the flour has been added, mix on medium speed for 30 seconds.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the blueberries using a rubber spatula.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the cake is light golden brown and set to the touch. (Don’t use a toothpick test: this cake is very moist, and the blueberries may make the toothpick appear wet when the cake is actually done.) Transfer the cake in its pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, and confectioners’ sugar. Use the smaller amount of sugar for a thinner glaze, and the larger amount if you want it thicker.
When the cake is cool to the touch, remove the cake from the pan to cool on a wire rack set over a parchment-lined baking sheet, referring to page 172 for guidance if necessary. When completely cool, pour the glaze over the top of the cake.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 days or in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. Or you can freeze it, tightly wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, up to 2 months; thaw at room temperature before removing the plastic and serving.