The Trouble With Cake

My family and I joke how when I was younger, during graduation or confirmation parties at our house, you could find me parked somewhere near the cake table. I love cake. The local grocery store near my childhood home makes amazing cake.  It’s light, fluffy and the frosting is just perfect.  Just the right amount of sweet and a clean finish, not greasy like some buttercream frosting can be.  (Is it bad I talk about cake like a wine lover might describe their favorite vintage?) My favorite cake is probably white cake with white frosting. It is not very exciting but it’s my weakness.

One of the hardest parts of going dairy and soy free has been giving up delicious baked goods like cake.  I’ve been on a quest to find safe recipes but it has been tough.  I’ve tried many different cake recipes, tried creating a few of my own and also made a few box mixes that were dairy and soy free.  Although I would say I am still searching for the PERFECT recipe/mix to make a white cake similar to wedding/birthday cake, I’ve found a few things that will calm my cake cravings.

1.   Chiffon Cake –  If white birthday cake and an angel food cake had a baby, they would name it Chiffon.  This cake, made with both egg yolks and egg whites, is really a mix of the two textures.  Because the recipe actually calls for canola oil, which I can use,  it tastes normal- not like I tried to substitute weird things in to replace butter as often happens with regular cake recipes.  You can easily make it lemon, orange, almond flavored- let your imagination run wild.  Chiffon cake is a bit of work because it requires making a batter and separately whipping egg whites until firm and then incorporating the two.  The key to a good chiffon cake is to almost overbeat the egg whites.  You can break up firm egg whites with your spatula if they resist mixing but underbeaten whites will result in an eggy dense cake.  Also don’t try to grease the pan.  The cake needs to stick to the sides to rise up so removal from the pan can be tricky.   I’ve tried chiffon recipes from cook’s illustrated, Alton Brown, and Taste of Home and all were very good.   I had more success making this in a large bundt pan than in muffin tins for cupcakes.  I think a glaze frosting works best with chiffon since it is so light but I’ve used mock buttercream frostings too.

2. Manischewitz Yellow Cake Mix –  I found this Kosher cake mix in my grocery store right before Passover and originally didn’t purchase because it was almost $6 a box.  It contains a yellow cake mix that is dairy and soy free, a pan and a packet to make fudge frosting.  We still can’t do chocolate here but I was really interested in the cake mix.   When it went on sale I went ahead and purchased it and took it home.  Somehow I missed the carrageenan in the list- whoops- but made it anyway hoping it wouldn’t upset my stomach too badly.   This cake was probably the most moist cake I’ve ever eaten period and was sooo close to the cake I’ve been looking for.  It was really more of a white vanilla cake than the yellow cake I’m used to.   I took a few bites and realized I might start crying.   Thinking about not being able to find any safe dessert on my birthday, passing on dessert at every party, feeling food deprived in general all came bubbling up as I ate this amazing cake.  Maybe it had just been a rough week.  I recently found a box that was just Manischewitz Yellow Cake mix (not Extra Moist) thought I made just for the purpose of being able add it to the list and it was tasty too.  Definitely the most “birthday cake” like mix I’ve tried.  Although delicious, this cake mix is pricey and also contains partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil.  Maybe that is why it is so moist.  Another problem with this cake is finding it.  It is a Passover item so it probably won’t be in your stores but it is for sale here online for $7.96 a box.  It makes a tiny cake so this is definitely for special occasions.  Beware though,  I found a different looking box of Manischewitz yellow cake that wasn’t for Passover but it contained soy, so as always, make sure you are reading your labels!

3.   Angel Food Cakes – I have to add this here because almost all angel food cakes and angel food cake mixes are dairy and soy free.  It will do in a pinch with some nice strawberries when I need a dessert fix,  but it doesn’t go well with frosting.    So there angel food cake, you made the list but I’m moving on.

** Edit- I’m now making homemade angel food cake and find it to be much tastier than box mixes!

4.   See my more recent post about Cherrybrook Kitchen allergy friendly cake mix!

Dairy and Soy Free Cake Failures

1.  Dr. Oetker’s Organic Vanilla Cake Mix  – I find this at Whole Foods and although it is a safe cake mix, the end result is lacking.  The cake tastes like cornbread.  It is so bizarre.  To the people at Dr. Oetker’s credit, I’ve had that happen before with some homemade cake recipes.   Why corn?  There is NO corn in it.  I’ve searched the web trying to find out why this happens, because it isn’t just this mix, but haven’t found any answers yet.   So I covered the Dr. Oetker’s vanilla cake with frosting and we ate it, mostly because I was desperate for dessert.   Another time I bought it and mixed in some dry vanilla pudding (yes it is dairy free!) but that didn’t cover up the cornbread flavor enough.

2.  Trader Joes Cake Mix – same problem- cornbread flavor.  I’ve since found several people  who’ve tried it and reported the same results.

3. Homemade cake recipes- I’ve tried taking regular white cake recipes and using canola oil in place of the butter but nothing I’ve tried has come out decent.  Either the texture, taste or both are way off.  I’ve scoured websites looking for anyone who has success but haven’t found anything yet.  If someone has found a good recipe, please let me know!  Someday I will try a cake recipe using the Earth’s Balance butter replacer but it is so expensive, and until recently, was a bit of work for me to get, I haven’t included it in my experiments as of yet.

So hopefully this post helps those of you out there that are searching for a dairy soy free cake.   Next up: Frosting!

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