So I am all for trying new things. I am a big fan of adventure and taking risks. I have sky dived, and even swam with sharks. Nothing though, has prepared me for the risky adventure of baking Gluten Free. The baking recipies in GF cookbooks are filled with crazy ingredients like “arrowroot”, “sorghum flour” and “xanthum gum”. It’s bizarre for a girl who grew up on all things Robin Hood Flour. The problem that one faces with Gluten Free baking is that NOTHING behaves like real flour and you have to mix several different non-wheat flours together to get something that can be treated like a real ingredient. All these components are tremendously expensive and the thought of buying and mixing all that crap together to get a product that is still going to taste like play dough, irritates me. I started looking for a better way. You can buy mixes, although costly as well, they do work. It takes a lot of the glamour and fun out of baking though because you aren’t actually creating something from nothing; adding an egg to a box isn’t the way Grandma would do it. But it works and most people can’t tell the difference.
Therefore, I have no idea what I was thinking on the day that the “Cake Incident” happened.
The day that the “cake incident” happened was a big deal kind of day - a double good day really. You see, my daughter’s 5th birthday fell on Fathers Day this year. My son asks if he and I could make a cake for both my husband and daughter. “Like the way we used to, with ALL the stuff” he adds with a level of nostalgia reminiscent of an 80 year old man talking about the war. Well, who can turn that kind of guilt down? So off we head to the store, now, I admit, I cheated - I cheated hard core but I still don’t think I deserved the outcome I received. I found this stuff that hyped itself as a Gluten Free Flour Mix, “Use instead of regular flour in ALL your baking!” the box touts. And I thought, “its too easy!” And yup, it sure was.
So Ethan and I get home and we make the yellow cake from my “Better Homes New Cook Book”. My old standard, “Better Homes” is the cook book I have used for years. This cake recipe has been in their books for 50 years and it has been made by thousands and thousands of people, all with flawless results. But, the recipe for yellow cake in the “Better Homes New Cook Book” has not met a match like the Gluten Free Flour Mix and when the two came toe to toe, it was a battle to be reckoned with. Someone might as well have lost their ear. It started off fine really, the cake batter behaved, well like cake batter, maybe a little gluey but nothing that would send up a big red flag. My son and I have a grand old time, mix up this cake from scratch and pop it in the oven and bake it. So far, so good, I pat my self on the back for trying some thing original. The cake comes out looking fairly ordinary, it had a bit of a crust on the upper edge but it came out of the pan well so again, everything had to be fine. We even decorated the stupid thing, I made icing from scratch and we decorated one side to say Happy Fathers Day and the other side said Happy Birthday.
Of course Trev and Julia make a big deal over their cake. I personally am thrilled that I even GET to eat cake and I secretly plot that I will just eat the rest of it that night during True Blood. After dinner, we do the big presentation; I couldn’t find candles so we just sang without them, making sure to sing twice of course. As a side note, if the candles had been available, I might have been able to do some damage control but alas, it was not meant to be. When I present the cake, Trev and I smile at each other in that ‘we didn’t fuck it up today’ look that parents give each other. I get shivers, we are making memories, GLUTEN FREE memories I will have you know. I hand the knife to my son to cut the cake he had toiled over and it all went to shit.
The cake had a hard crusty shell that had hardened substantially since it came out of the oven. Ethan had to hack at it slightly, not a good sign. When he finally got through, there was no evidence of cake inside the shell. I heard a small gasp of horror from Julia and peeked over her shoulder at the cake, which was totally and completely raw inside. The batter leaked like volcano lava, seeping all over the serving tray, mixing with the icing creating a river of colored goo that congealed and floated around. The crusty part sank inward releasing more gooey batter until we had nothing more then a purple and blue rimmed crust bowl filled with yellow snot. Trev loses it but is trying to contain himself, his head is down, his shoulders are quivering and a hissing noise is coming from him. Imagine Ernie from sesame street, this was the sound coming from my husband. Ethan doesn’t know what to do so he just stammers, “I didn’t do it” over and over. Julia however, being a young girl of 5 and just watching her birthday cake turn into a crappy science experiment, starts wailing like the diva that she is. There was nothing to do but laugh - so that’s what I did, I laughed until tears came to my eyes. For our little family of four, the best memories are the not so perfect ones. I taught my kids that not everything works out, laugh about it shrug it off and go for ice cream. I threw the piece of crap cake in the garbage and we headed off to marble slab.
Julia got over the incident, I’m sure the Tangled cake I made her for her birthday party helped but I have no doubt I may still be discussing this with a therapist of hers one day. Ethan has not requested to bake since that day. Trev still laughs out loud every once in a while and I am pretty sure he is thinking about it.
There are a few cake mixes that are good - Gluten Free Pantry makes all good mixes. It is available at some Sobeys, some Safeways and at most Superstores. It varies in price from $5.00 or $6.00. I have recently discovered Betty Crocker gluten free mixes and they are by far the best. My dear friend Ashley brought them back for me from
and since I have gotten deliveries from a few friends who traveled down south. I emailed the company and they said that Gluten Free Betty Crocker should be making their way slowly into Canadian markets this summer and fall. I have heard that some are already at Co-op for around $6.00. I rely on Betty from now on; she is after all, a professional. Montana