Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Still Amazing Angel Food Cake

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We’ve made this cake before. Many times. But I thought I’d make it again for a dual birthday celebration we had a few weeks ago. This cake was for the Pie’s grandmother, who recently turned NINETY. The next cake on our list I made for Papa John, her son, who turned SEVENTY at the same time. The Pie’s grandmother is a celiac and she’s also lactose-intolerant, so making her a special treat for her birthday was going to be a challenge I looked forward to.

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And why not actually go through the old traditional way where you make an angel food cake the same day as a devil’s food cake, so that you can use up all the yolks? So the devil’s food cake will be in my next post – stay tuned!

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Begin with your egg whites. Separate 12 eggs, saving the yolks for the chocolate cake coming up (you can freeze them), and bring them to room temperature. Normally I do this by leaving the bowl in a patch of sun on my counter but if you’re in a hurry, you can set the bowl in warm water and that’ll do the trick too. Don’t try to use pasteurized egg whites from a carton: they will not whip at all. I’ve tried.

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Plop your 12 egg whites in the bowl of your electric mixer with 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 2 teaspoons vanilla (or however much a generous dollop is. I never measure vanilla).

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Beat that with the whisk attachment until it’s nice and thick and foamy, and then slowly tip in 1 cup granulated sugar while you beat it some more. It’s the sugar that makes the meringue here stiff and solid, so don’t skimp on it!

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The meringue should be stiff enough to support the weight of the beater if you took it off the armature and set it on top.

Once that’s ready you can set it aside for the moment and whisk together your “flour.” In this case, our tried-and-true combination for gluten-free gorgeousness is 1 1/3 cups icing sugar, 1/2 cup tapioca flour/starch, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/4 cup rice flour, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum, and 1/4 teaspoon (a pinch) fine salt.

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Fold that flour mixture into the meringue mixture very carefully. You have to be gentle enough that you don’t smush the bubbles in the egg white, but thorough enough that you’re not leaving pockets of flour in the batter.

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Good enough.

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Smooth the batter into an UNGREASED angel food pan (can’t stress that enough, never grease your angel food pan or it will fall out on you).

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Pop that in the oven for 35 minutes, until the top is golden-brown and dry to the touch. If you see cracks, that’s good.

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Fantastic. Now take it out of the oven and invert it over a bottle or if it has feet, stand it on the feet. This keeps the cake from collapsing under its own weight as it cools. Once it cools it’s a lot more firm. The gluten-free version is always way squishier than the gluten-y one so this is very important.

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Here’s my issue: my angel food pan is actually NON-STICK. So as I was inverting it, the bottom segment shifted away from the sides and I bobbled the whole thing, dropping it with a clatter. KABOOM.

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At precisely that moment and not ten feet away, the Pie had just put his elbow down on LongJohn’s plate, spectacularly spattering his lunch all over the floor and wall. Windows too. That’s the kind of day we were having.

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So I made another one. Which meant that we had not just 12, but 24 egg yolks. And a busted cake. “I guess that means we’re having trifle for dessert tonight,” said the Pie as he scrubbed hummus off the wall.

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So that’s what we did. But that’s neither here nor there. I made the other cake. And it turned out even better than the previous one.

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You can see that the pan is trying its best to screw me over by separating. Jerk.

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Once the cake has cooled you can decant it from the pan and decorate it as you see fit. I usually whip up some cream and slather it all over with some fresh berries, but the Pie’s grandmother is also lactose intolerant, so I decided to try whipping coconut cream instead.

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Coconut cream is a bit harder to find in Ottawa than regular coconut milk, but I eventually tracked some down in the local health food store. I was told by the cashier that the trick in getting it good and whippy is to make sure the cream, beaters, and bowl are all extremely cold. So the 2 cans coconut cream went into the fridge overnight and the beaters and the bowl went into the freezer.

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I tipped the cream into the ice cold mixer bowl together with a few tablespoons icing sugar and a dobble or two of vanilla bean paste and gave it a whirl with the whisk attachment.

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It takes a while, and it doesn’t get as stiff as whipped dairy cream, but it sure tastes good.

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Slather that all over the cake. It’s a bit slippery so make sure to keep it in the fridge until you’re serving. Does anyone know if there’s some kind of stiffening agent you could add to make it stay put?

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Pop some berries on top and in the hole in the middle and we are good to go!

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Cloud Cake

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I made this Martha Stewart recipe for one of our two Mother’s Day celebrations earlier this month, and it was easy to prepare all the pieces the day before and then assemble it with a flourish on the day of. The original recipe is not gluten-free but we had Fussellette staying with us and made one simple adjustment to make it that way – you can do it whichever way you would like.

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Start with the meringue: preheat your oven to 275°F and grab three 8″ round cake pans. I happened to have 2 8″ round cake pans and one 9″, so that’s what I used.

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Butter the pans and then line the bottom and sides with parchment. This is easier said than done as the pans are round and parchment is straight. Get creative with the folding. It’ll just add to the allure of the finished product, I promise. Now butter the parchment as well to make sure it sticks.

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Crack open 6 large eggs and separate the whites from the yolks. Put the yolks in the fridge for now and leave the whites to come to room temperature.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt until smooth and powdery and when you open the lid it kind of wafts out like smoke. Don’t inhale that. You will cough.

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Now grab your 6 egg whites and beat them with a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form.

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Slowly, a little bit at a time, tip in the sugar mixture and keep beating until you get lovely stiff peaks.

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Smooth the meringue amid your three pans and bake for 1 hour.

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Then turn off the oven and wedge the oven door open with a wooden spoon for another hour. Then move the pans to a wire rack to cool completely. If you’re going to assemble the cake the next day, slip each layer of cooled meringue into a separate sealed bag and suck the air out of it.

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Next, let’s work on the custard cream. In a bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and a pinch of coarse salt. We made a gluten-free version of the flour by combining coconut flour, xanthan gum, and corn starch.

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In a small saucepan, combine your leftover 6 egg yolks (original recipe calls for 3 but why waste them?) with 1 1/2 cups buttermilk and a split vanilla bean pod with the seeds scraped out. Stir that over medium heat and slowly add in the flour mixture.

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With ours, because of the nontraditional ingredients, I found the buttermilk reacted with either the cornstarch or the xanthan gum and I pretty much had instant custard. So I stirred it until I was sure the yolks had a chance to cook and then took it off the heat. If you’re using regular flour you may have to work harder at it, so stir until it just comes to a boil and then strain through a fine meshed sieve.

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Pour the custard cream into a bowl, lay a piece of plastic wrap over the surface so it’s completely sealed, and chuck it in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

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Now there’s caramel to make too. In the original, Martha used the microwave but we moved ours into the basement and that was too far away. I did this in a small saucepan on the stove. First, spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with parchment.

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Then over medium heat, stir together 1/3 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons corn syrup.

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Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is bubbling and turns a light brown.

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Remove that from the heat and drizzle it over the baking sheet.

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Leave that to cool then chop it up with a knife into little tiny jagged pieces. If you’re assembling the next day, shove the pieces into a resealable bag and squeeze the air out.

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To assemble, start by whipping up some heavy cream to your taste and amount (this is going on the top as garnish so use as much as you like – I think we whipped up about a cup of it). Cream whips better if your bowl and mixers are cold, so chuck them in the freezer for a while if you can.

Plop one of the meringues on a nice plate and smother it with about half the custard cream.

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Sprinkle that with about 1/3 of your caramel pieces.

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Let some fall off artistically to the side. It’s decorative.

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Plop another meringue on and smear with the rest of the custard cream and another 1/3 of the caramel bits. Add the final layer and top that with your whipped cream and the last of the caramel. Serve immediately!

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The Molly Cake

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Mrs. Nice’s birthday was back in November and the Pie and I wanted to make her birthday cake a little more personal this year. Papa John and Mrs. Nice now live next to a farm and so their backyard faces a huge field full of very curious cows. At a craft fair recently, Mrs. Nice picked up this gorgeous painting of a cow named Molly, and so the Pie and I tried to re-create at least the sentiment of it as best we could, considering our utter lack of artistic skill.

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My frame of reference. NAILED IT.

Start at the beginning first. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Bring 3 egg whites to room temperature in a decent-sized bowl. You can drop in 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar too, while you’re at it. Leave that alone for a while.

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Grab yourself some frozen strawberries. This is from a 1kg package frozen strawberries, which is about 5 cups’ worth.

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Plop those in a pot with 1/2 cup granulated sugar and stew them over medium heat until they’re all melted and gooey and lovely.

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You can purée them at this point if you wish but I wanted some strawberry chunks in the cake batter so I mashed the goo with a potato masher instead.

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Now you can turn your oven on to 350°F and butter and parchment up your cake pan(s). I used my trusty 17″ round cake pan but there is enough batter here if you wanted to use 3-8″ round pans instead and create a layer cake.

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Sift together 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 2 teaspoons baking soda and set that aside for a minute.

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In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat together 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup vegetable shortening until fluffy and amazing.

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Next, beat in 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar until it’s also fluffy and amazing. Then you can add in 2 teaspoons vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste, my new favourite thing).

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Now scrape down the sides of the bowl and plop in 1 egg. Just one. It looks so lonely. Beat it up. Show it who’s boss.

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Okay now we put all this jazz together. Take your strawberry goo. And your flour.

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Starting with the flour, add about a third of it to your mix and stir to combine.

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Add half the strawberries, then another third of the flour (mixing it all in), then the final half of the strawberries, and the last of the flour.

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I decided to disobey my normal rules about colouring food and added a bit of red gel paste colouring to the batter to make the strawberries pop.

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Then stir in 1 cup sour cream.

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Look at that gorgeousness.

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Beat your room temperature egg whites until stiff peaks form. Yay, meringue!

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Ever so gently fold those fluffy whites into your batter. This batter is pretty dense and produces a pretty thin cake so you need all the fluff you can get.

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Smooth the batter into your cake pan(s) and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the pan comes out clean.

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Set the whole shebang on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Now, if you’re not making a giant cow out of your cake, you can skip this whole segment. If you are making a giant cow out of your cake, then I hope yours turns out better than mine because you are less terrible at art.

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So with the giant cake laid out on a board, I cut out the shape of the cow’s head, and then from what was left I cut out the horns and the ears. It’s all symmetrical.

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Then I laid it out.

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I had to move everything around on the board to get it to fit, and the cake was so sticky it was a hard job to do it without disaster. And now it looks like the Chicago Bulls logo (GREAT GIFT IDEA FOR BULLS FANS FOLKS!).

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The Pie thought we should add a bit of extra cake at the snout. Now we need some frosting.

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I needed two colours of icing, so in two double boilers I melted 4 oz dark chocolate and 4 oz white chocolate, respectively. If you’re just doing one colour then obviously just use one double boiler and 8 oz chocolate. When that’s all melty and smooth, set it aside to become less horribly hot.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 2-250g packages plain cream cheese (room temperature) until they’re silky smooth. Remember, the warmer your cream cheese is, the less lumpy the frosting will be.

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Beat in as well 1 tablespoon vanilla (again I used the paste because I love it), 3/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream, and 3/4 cup icing sugar.

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Then I split the frosting between two bowls. Hello, beautiful. Look at those little flecks of vanilla seeds.

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Then I poured the now-cooler white chocolate into one bowl, and the now-cooler dark chocolate into the other and stirred them up.

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Ready to decorate!

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I started with the white, because … well, I just did.

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Then I filled it in with the dark chocolate. The nostrils are wonky because I dropped a huge gob of icing accidentally and so that’s just how it had to be. TADA! Not fine art, but highly tasty, and Mrs. Nice loved it.

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Krystopf’s Chocolate Chiffon Birthday Cake

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Because we were running around on my birthday, the Pie and I broke with our tradition of making each other birthday cakes from scratch and bought one from a local bakery.  It was lemon chiffon, and we liked it so much we immediately vowed that it would be on our list of things to learn.  It was Krystopf’s birthday on Saturday (my biggest brother is 37, how scary is that?), and he requested something chocolatey for his cake.  So instead of lemon chiffon, we’re making the Joy of Baking’s chocolate chiffon cake.  While the cake has multiple steps, they’re all pretty easy.  It’s also a good cake to make the day before and store in the fridge overnight.

Start by separating 6 eggs (add an extra white to the whites pile so you have 6 egg yolks and 7 egg whites) and let those come to room temperature.

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Now go ahead and preheat your oven to 325°F and grab your favourite tube pan.  Resist the urge to put any grease of any form into it.

Next, seize your sifter and, in a large bowl, sift together 2 cups cake flour with 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together 6 egg yolks, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup room temperature coffee, and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

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Make a well in your flour mixture and add the egg stuff to it.

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Mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until you get this lovely glossiness.

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Now we can start beating up those 7 egg whites.  Add in 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and use an electric mixer to whip them to soft peaks.

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While still beating, slowly add in 3/4 cup granulated sugar and keep whipping those up until you get nice stiff peaks that stand on their own.

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Gently fold the meringue into the rest of the cake batter in three separate additions.

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I found it a bit tricky to get it all properly mixed, so mine is a little marbled.

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Pour the batter into your tube pan and smooth it down.  If you think there are large air bubbles in there, cut through it a few times with a knife to break them.

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Bake the cake for 55-60 minutes, and then immediately invert your tube pan to allow the cake to cool completely without collapsing under its own weight (this is why you don’t grease the pan).

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Use a bottle to prop it up if your pan doesn’t have feet.

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Now that the cake is cool we can work on the glaze and filling.  Chuck a bowl and the wire whisk from your electric mixer into the freezer for about 30 minutes.

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Chop up 6oz semisweet chocolate and heave that into a heatproof bowl (or double boiler) with 1/4 cup butter and 2 tablespoons light corn syrup.

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Heat that over a pot of barely simmering water until it’s all melted and lovely, and then set it aside to cool slightly.

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While it’s cooling down, you can decant your cake.  Use a sharp knife around the edges and tip it upside down onto a plate.

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Use the knife again to remove the bottom part.

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Then cut the whole thing in half horizontally.

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Haul your frozen whisk and bowl out of the freezer and throw 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons cocoa, and 1 teaspoon instant coffee into the bowl.

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Pour out 1 cup cold whipping cream and add a few drops of that to the mix in the bowl.  Give it a good stirring, then beat in the rest of the whipping cream until it’s a frothy mocha masterpiece.

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Take about 3/4 cup of the mocha cream and spread it on the cut side of the bottom half of the cake.

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Put the top half back on and then drizzle the glaze over the top so it runs down the sides.  Spread it smooth with a spatula.

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Pipe the remaining mocha filling on top.

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I let the cake chill for a bit to set the glaze.

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Oh man it was good!

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Sponge Toffee

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I’ve discovered recently that there is no ambivalence regarding sponge toffee*.  Either you love it or you hate it.  There’s no in-between.  Well, I love it.  And so does Mags.  So I decided to include it in my holiday candy-making endeavours.

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While it’s a little terrifying to make (as is anything involving melted sugar), it’s actually pretty quick and easy to do (though you should read about Joy the Baker’s emotional journey through candy making, for a laugh).  Just make sure everything is just so and ready to go before you start.

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First, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.  Put that near your sink.

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Then, grab a whisk and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and put that next to your sink as well, but closer than the baking sheet.  Squash the baking soda around to make sure there are no lumps.

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Fill your sink with a couple inches of cold water.

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Plop a large, thick-bottomed pot on your stove.  Stir in 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, 6 tablespoons water, 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar, and 1 teaspoon cider vinegar. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and heat that on medium until it starts to boil.  You don’t really need to stir it, but I like to give it a whirl every once in a while, to feel like I’m doing something.  You want the foamy stuff to reach 300°F.  I found that mine kind of stopped when it hit 225°F, so I slowly increased the heat and kept an eye on it.

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When the temperature of your sugar reaches 300°F, take the pot off the heat and gently place it in your sink full of cold water.  The pot will likely yell.  You will likely yell as your pot makes weird noises.

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Add the baking soda and start whisking like crazy.  SCIENCE WILL HAPPEN.  IT MAY BE SLIGHTLY TERRIFYING.  Keep whisking like a maniac.

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When the mixture turns slightly golden, quickly spread the stuff into your baking sheet. It’s going to set before it spreads too far, don’t fret.

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I didn’t work fast enough, so there was a lot of sugar that set in my pot, but that goes away with good soak in hot water.

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The candy will cool and set within 20 minutes.

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Break that stuff up into smaller pieces that you won’t feel terrible eating many of and plop them on some waxed paper.

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Here are some wee pieces I deemed too small to do anything with.

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Grab some chocolate (your choice as to the amount and type) and plop it in a double boiler to melt.

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Drizzle over the pieces (or dip them in the chocolate, I don’t care) and sprinkle with sea salt.  Allow the chocolate to harden, and then go to town eating them.

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Or exercise self-restraint and give them away.  It is your choice to make.

*AKA sea foam, honeycomb candy, Crunchie, hokey pokey, etc.

Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake

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I love this cake.  The Pie and I have made it a few times now and it’s always a big hit.  If you like angel food cake, this will be your new favourite incarnation of it.  The gluten-free factor raises this cake to all new levels of melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  I highly recommend it, although you do go through an entire carton of eggs every time you make it.  While you’re trying it, you should also check out the Gluten-Free Homemaker, where I got the recipe.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and grab yourself a nice old tube pan.  The plain aluminum ones are always the best for this kind of stuff.  DO NOT GREASE IT. I’m pretty sure that greasing an angel food cake pan will start the apocalypse, but I’m too afraid to test out that theory.

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Separate 12 eggs.  Save the yolks for something awesome (like custard), and plop the whites into the bowl of an electric mixer.

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Add to that 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar and 2 teaspoons vanilla and leave that to warm up a little.  Room temperature whites will foam up more than cold ones.

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In a small bowl, sift together your flour ingredients.  I adapted mine recipe here a bit just for availability’s sake.  So, put together 1 1/3 cup icing sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/2 cup tapioca starch, and 1/4 cup rice flour.  Add to that 1 teaspoon xanthan gum and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Set that aside for the nonce.

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Start your mixer and begin to froth up your egg whites.  When you get to this level of foaminess, you can start adding in, a little bit at a time, 1 cup granulated sugar.

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Keep going until the egg foam forms stiff peaks and the stuff can support the weight of the mixer attachment.

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Gently fold in the flour mixture a bit at a time. It will not want to mix in. Be patient, and very gentle.

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Smooth your batter into your tube pan.

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Make sure to level the top as best  you can.

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Bake for 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and dry-looking.  You’ll see some cracks, too — that’s good.  Invert the pan on its legs or on the neck of a sturdy bottle and let that cool completely.

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When you’re ready, carefully wiggle the cake out of the pan with the aid of a knife.

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The best way (in my opinion) to top an angel food cake is with some vanilla-flavoured whipped cream and fresh berries, which is what you see here.

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A few berries became a lot of berries, but the more the merrier!

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Make Your Own Playdough!

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We spent Thanksgiving with Kª and Kº downstairs.  Il Principe, the Incredibly Little Hulk, and twin girls were also in attendance.  I wasn’t allowed to bring any food with me, but I thought I’d bring something to keep the kids occupied at least: playdough!

This stuff is so easy to make that you can customize it in a second.

In a decent-sized pot, mix together 2 cups flour, 2 cups warm water, 1 cup salt, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, and 1 tablespoon cream of tartar.

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I replaced a few tablespoons of the warm water with rose water and added a few drops of orange essential oil to the vegetable oil (I actually used almond oil, because it’s a better scent carrier than olive or canola).

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Cook that on low heat, stirring often, and the mixture will begin to form the consistency of mashed potatoes.

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Keep stirring.

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When it starts to smooth out and pull away from the sides in order to clump in the middle, then you’re done. Test it with your fingers to see how sticky it is. If it’s still coming off on your fingers, keep cooking.

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Pull out the dough and plop it on a piece of waxed paper until it’s cool enough to handle, which won’t be very long.

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Then pull on a pair of protective gloves and separate the playdough into balls for colouring.

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Add a few drops of food colouring to each ball and knead it in until the colour is even.

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Once the colour is mixed in you won’t need gloves anymore.  And if you’re not planning on colouring your dough, make sure to knead it for a while anyway, just to get the gluten going.

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I made four different colours.

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Then, obviously, you play with it.

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When you’re ready to store it, seal it in an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap.  If it starts to dry out you can add a few more drops of water and knead that in; conversely, if it starts to get soggy due to humidity, you can always heat it again to get that water out.

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