What are the holidays without wheat, dairy, eggs, and refined sugar? Pretty dreary, I imagined — until I came up with this moist, richly flavored gingerbread cake that I will be happily baking for months, if not years, to come.
Since going on an elimination diet, I have been avoiding gluten, soy, dairy, and refined sugar. I'm also a vegetarian who's allergic to chocolate, bananas, and many nuts [insert pity party here]. So I figured holiday baking would be a bust this year, until I found encouragement from friends on similar diets, delved into the gluten-free blogs, and began playing with new-to-me ingredients. What began as a perceived nightmare soon became a fascinating challenge.
Gingerbread has always been one of my favorite fall treats, and I was determined to make a version I could eat. Using the Joy of Cooking's classic applesauce gingerbread recipe as a starting point, I experimented until I came up with a cake containing no gluten, milk, butter, eggs, refined sugar, soy products, xanthan, or guar gums. When my (allergy-free) partner proclaimed that it tasted "like real gingerbread," I felt confident that I could serve it to anyone, not just those of us on crazy diets.
Now let's talk about what the cake does contain: subtly sweet teff and millet flours, nutty flax seeds, creamy coconut oil, and molasses and coconut palm sugar (sugars not to be eaten in excess, but at least unrefined and lower on the Glycemic Index). If you have a favorite GF flour blend, you might give it a try, but I really like the combination of teff flour, millet flour, and potato starch, which work well with the rich sweeteners and spices and keep the cake moist with a lovely crumb.
Serve the cake with dairy-free cream, a fruit compote (or fresh fruit, like the persimmons you see here), or a dusting of stevia, and you'll feel festive, not restricted.
Gluten-Free Vegan Gingerbread
Adapted from Joy of Cooking's Applesauce Gingerbread.
Makes one 8x8 cake.
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
6 tablespoons warm water
5/6 cup (100 grams) millet flour
5/6 cup (100 grams) teff flour
1/3 cup (50 grams) potato starch (not flour)
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8x8-inch pan or line it with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, stir together the flax and warm water until the mixture is thick and creamy. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
Sift the dry ingredients (except the coconut palm sugar) into a large mixing bowl.
In another mixing bowl, combine the coconut palm sugar, molasses, coconut oil, applesauce, and flax mixture; whisk until well blended. Add to the dry ingredients and stir to blend.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until set in the middle and a tester comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool in pan on rack until cake is cool enough to handle, then turn out.
Best eaten the same day. Refrigerate leftovers.
Related: Holiday Cooking and Baking Without Sugar or Flour?
(Images: Emily Ho)