If you never tasted a bad apple, you would not appreciate a good apple. You have to experience life to understand life. ~Leon Brown
And if you never tasted a bad gluten-free cake, you wouldn’t appreciate a good one.
Words don’t do justice to how much I missed Grandmother’s Fresh Apple Cake. And I was determined to develop a similar cake that I could eat and that others wouldn’t realize was gluten- and dairy-free. (A bad cake is not better than no cake at all.)
A few notes for the cake before you start:
- Use a food processor. It makes short work of chopping the apples, and it helps emulsify the eggs and oil.
- Yes, you need to chop each apple differently. Coarse-chopping one adds texture and identifiable apple flavor to each bite. Pureeing the second helps moisten the entire cake.
- Don’t skip sifting the dry ingredients. Even the finest-ground oat flour can have a few groats that need to be removed.
- Yes, you need both baking powder and baking soda. Powder lifts and soda tenderizes. When combined here, they create a stable cake with a moist, open crumb.
- No, you don’t need to let the incorporated batter rest. The longer bake time helps the GF flours adequately absorb liquid so that the final cake isn’t gritty.
- This recipe is for high altitude — tested at 6,000 to 8,000 feet. If you live lower, you might simply try upping the baking powder to 2 tsp. and the baking soda to 1 tsp.
And a note for the frosting:
Dairy-free cream cheese doesn’t act like regular cream cheese. And because we use maple syrup here instead of powdered sugar (as most cream cheese frostings call for), that makes things even trickier.
I suggest letting your dairy-free cream cheese come to room temp. Then use a hand mixer to make a first pass at blending before adding the syrup, zest, and juice.
Even at that, you face two issues: a frosting that still has bits of unincorporated cream cheese, or a frosting beaten so long to make smooth that it starts to separate (look grainy).
The answer? Make peace with the fact that real dairy cannot be replicated. 😊 The frosting will taste delicious no matter what it looks like.
But I’ve found a happy medium by mixing ingredients together on low for a few minutes, then mashing any obvious little “cream cheese” pieces with a spatula, then mixing again on medium-high for about a minute.
GF/DF Apple Spice Cake
1. Preheat oven to 325°. Grease an 8x8 pan, line bottom with parchment paper, and grease parchment.
2. Sift together:
3 Tbps. arrowroot powder
1/4 c. oat flour
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. coconut flour
2 Tbsp. coconut sugar
1/4 tsp. + 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. + 1/8 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. + 1/8 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. xanthan gum
3. In a food processor fitted with the S-shaped blade, pulse:
1 Granny Smith apple (peeled and cored) into coarse pieces (about 14 short pulses). Scrape into another bowl and set aside.
4. Back in the food processor fitted with the S-shaped blade, puree until smooth (will look frothy):
1 Granny Smith apple (peeled and cored)
1/4 c. oil (I prefer light-tasting olive oil.)
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.
6. Fold in:
coarse-chopped apple from step 3
1/3 c. chopped pecans
7. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 min. (rotate halfway through) until a toothpick comes out completely clean. (The top will be brown, and the edges will have started to pull away from the pan.)
8. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 min.
9. Run a knife around the edges, remove cake from pan, and let finish cooling completely. (The structure is sturdier when no longer hot.)
10. Top with cream cheese frosting.
11. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for three days or the freezer for three months. (Lay individual pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze before transferring to a storage container.)
Orange “Cream Cheese” Frosting
In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to combine:
8 oz. dairy-free cream cheese (I use Daiya.)
1 tsp. orange zest
3-4 Tbsp. orange juice (depends on size of orange and preferred consistency)
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
© 2019 Carol Stillings