5 Tips for Gluten-Free Birthday Cake from Crave Bake Shop

Expert Interview

Is there anything that says "Birthday" more than a thick wedge of chocolate cake? For me, it's always triple-threat chocolate, devil's food cake with chocolate ganache and maybe a layer of chocolate fudge frosting for good measure. All this changed when strolling at my local farmer's market, whereupon I fell for a delicious "Mexican Hot Chocolate" cupcake made by Crave Bake Shop.

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There was a subtlety to the warm cinnamon, chipotle chili notes, balanced by a smear of chocolate butter cream and mini marshmallows. It was sublime! Clearly, I had met my match. And the treat was gluten free?! Kyra, the owner and baker of Crave Bake Shop, shares her secrets to spinning gluten free magic, perfect for your next Birthday cake.

Kyra, a classically-trained pastry chef, has been gluten free for several years due to an auto-immune disorder. She's been refining her assortment of desserts, cupcakes, scones, and cinnamon rolls since 2008, selling at local farmer's markets in and around Portland, Oregon. Her bakery, Crave Bake Shop, just opened it's doors this past Friday. I happened upon her sweetly-decorated cupcakes a few summers ago, and was instantly smitten with her inventive flavors--lavender outrageous, snickerdoodle, lemon bar and of course, the Mexican hot chocolate! The crumb is delicate and the balance between sweetness and flavor is fabulous. I didn't realize her baked goods were gluten-free until my forth or fifth item! I just loved the taste and texture, gluten-free or not. So, I'm grateful to have Kyra's informative and specific tips on how to achieve that perfect birthday cake, those with and without food allergies can enjoy.

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Five Ways to Improve Your Gluten Free Birthday Cake

Preheat the oven (and try baking your cake a bit hotter than you normally would.) I have a chocolate cake that is delicious and moist and rich but it needs to bake in an oven that is set 25 degrees hotter than if I were using regular flour with gluten. The hot oven means that the butter releases its water as steam and helps the cake rise immediately. 

Buy a good baking scale, preferably digital.
 Baking by weight is far more accurate than baking by volume (like with measuring cups). Different gluten-free flours and different starches have differing weights and the last thing you want to do when converting a standard recipe to be gluten free is put way too much sorghum flour, for example, relative to your other ingredients. Doing so would mean that you would end up with a dry, gritty cake with a funky aftertaste. Baking by weight also allows you to know how much of which gluten free flour you want to use. You can find decent scales at Target or Bed Bath and Beyond.  

Eggs and butter at room temperature are much easier to work with.
If you forgot to leave them out on the counter to warm up, you can cheat by microwaving the butter for 7-12 seconds. You don't want it to be melted, just pliable. Dip the cold eggs into a bowl of very warm water for 3-5 seconds to warm them (but not cook them). If creaming butter and sugar together, make sure they have enough time to get really soft and light and fluffy before you add your next ingredients. This will yield a lighter, fluffier cake!

Take your time. Like most baking, using gluten-free products is a science and can be tricky. If you take your time and allow the ingredients to fully develop, the better your cake will be. With our Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, we have to let the dough rest for 24 hours before we can roll it out. This allows the flour blend to fully hydrate (and become as pliant as possible to roll out) and allows the flavor of the yeast to develop, so the finished rolls are yeasty and somewhere between bready and cakey. 

Set the timer a few minutes earlier than you think the cake will need. Ovens vary, some bake hot, some have cool spots, and you’d rather pull out a perfectly baked cake 7 minutes before you think it should be finished than let it bake the full time and have a dry, burnt cake. Check the cake by lightly touching the surface with your ring finger. If the cake springs back, it is probably ready. You can always double-test the doneness by also sticking a toothpick or wooden skewer into the cake to make sure no batter is clinging to the toothpick. If the skewer comes out clean, pull the cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to experiment! Our flaky piecrust came about as we were attempting to make a really good shortbread dough (which we eventually nailed). What you think is a bad recipe or mistake can actually be something else fantastic! Just re-label it and serve it with a smile!

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Thanks Kyra for helping us achieve the perfect gluten-free birthday cake!

Visit Kyra's Bakery: Crave Bake Shop

More Gluten-Free Cakes on The Kitchn:
Gluten-Free Breakfast Recipe: Apple-Cinnamon Toastie
Rejoice! Gluten-Free Cake Pops from Elana's Pantry
Gluten-Free Lemon Cake with a Secret Ingredient

(Images: Leela Cyd Ross, diptich of Kyra and her cupcake, provided by Kyra)

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