Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gluten-free Banana Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting

I got a cupcake book for Christmas, and one of the best things about the book is that it includes cupcake recipes from scratch that make it a lot easier to adjust them to make them gluten-free. While I still have some work to do on the recipes, this one worked out well enough for me to post here. I assumed that a banana cupcake would work well, and it did, with minor modifications.

1 cup Featherlight mix
2/3 cup GF mix
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 medium ripe bananas
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 dozen muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mash the bananas with the buttermilk and set aside. In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture alternately with the banana mixture in batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating just until blended. Stir in the vanilla. Then, with the mixer on low, add the boiling water to thin down your batter. If adding nuts, stir them in. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, to 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden and tops spring back when touched.

Let these cool, and then start to make the quick caramel frosting. This frosting recipe comes from the Cake Doctor, and really tastes great with a banana cake. The recipe is for 3 cups, which is enough to frost a double layer cake, and more than enough for 24 cupcakes, I had plenty leftover.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
2 cups sifted powdered sugar (and this is an instance where the sifting is a must)

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter and sugars. Stir and cook until mixture comes to a boil, about 2 minutes. Add milk. Stir, and bring mixture bakc to boil. Revmoe from heat, add powdered sugar and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, mix until smooth (this might take a while, I also had to replace the frosting on low heat to make it easier, and I still had a few lumps). Use immediately while still warm or it will harden. If it hardens before you're done with it, then place pan on low heat and mix till it softens, and continue.

I toasted a handful of pecan halves and placed one on each cupcake.

So, I decided that they looked a little too boring with just a single pecan, so I chopped finely the extra toasted nuts, then reapplied some soft frosting to the edges of a few cupcakes, and rolled the soft frosting in the chopped nuts. I'm sure this adds plenty of extra calories, but it certainly looks beautiful, and I'm sure it tastes delicious.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Meringue is a beautiful thing, literally. And it tastes heavenly. Throughout the holiday baking at my mother's house, we ended up with some leftovers that lent themselves perfectly to making a pavlova, and I've wanted to post one on the blog for a while, so this was the perfect opportunity. We had extra egg whites, and we also had some chocolate flavored whipping cream that would go bad if we didn't use it up quickly. We wanted berries to go on the top, and had a hard time finding them in winter in Utah, but we got these beautiful blackberries that I thought would go well with the chocolate cream.
The truth is that this was my first time making a Pavlova, although I have admired pictures in recipe books, and enjoyed store bought ones before. It's a beautiful, and tasty dessert from New Zealand (or Australia, there is some debate on its origin) that works wonderfully for the gluten-free set. The only thing I had to adjust was the vinegar because John seems to have trouble with distilled vinegar. I chose to use the recipe from because I feel that their recipes work out wonderfully whenever I use them. I've copied it over here and have adjusted it to exactly how I did it. It was truly delicious.
One of the best things about a Pavlova is the diversity. Cream doesn't just have to be whipped and sweetened, but can very easily be flavored as well, as I did here, simply adding Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (about 1/3 cup to 1 cup of whipping cream). Think of whatever kind of fruit you like, and what flavored cream would be good with it.
The meringue cake might seem a bit daunting, but it's actually quite simple to make. The joy of baking also had some good tips. If you are just using regular granulated sugar, as I was, run it through your food processor for 30-60 seconds prior to mixing it into the egg whites, so that it's a finer grain, and your cake will be smoother. One of the most important things to know about making a successful meringue is to use a clean, dry glass or stainless steel bowl. Honestly, I've tried to make a meringue before in a plastic mixing bowl and it just won't work. You need to be able to beat the eggs well, and so there can't be any "give" in the sides of your bowl. It is also important to add the sugar slowly, so that it incorporates and dissolves it all, and you don't have a gritty texture.

Meringue Cake:

4 large (120 grams) egg whites

1 cup (200 grams) superfine (castor) sugar

1 teaspoon white vinegar (I used white balsamic vinegar, but any gluten-free white vinegar would do)

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch


1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 tablespoons (20 grams) granulated white sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Fresh fruit - kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, passion fruit, peaches, pineapple, or other fruit of your choice

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (130 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7 inch (18 cm) circle on the paper.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. (Test to see if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers). Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula

, fold in.

Gently spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)

The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days.

Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Whip the cream in your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Sweeten with the sugar and vanilla and then mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the fruit randomly, or in a decorative pattern, on top of the cream. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.

Serves 6 to 8.