When I set out to make a gluten-free version of my pretty Plum Semolina Cake I did not expect to like it more than the original. It is very light and fluffy, with an amazing melt-in-the-mouth texture and a fine crumb. Achieving that with simple, widely available ingredients made me extremely happy.
It took some experimenting to reach this perfect version, for which I used a half-and-half combination of fine cornmeal and rice flour. Too much cornmeal and I had myself a sweet polenta cake, too much rice flour and I could barely lift a square from the pan, for being so crumbly. This one is just right and I absolutely love the delicate flavour that cornmeal imparts to the cake.
What really takes this cake over the top is the fruit - the tartness of the plums against the sweetness of the cake and the beautiful colour contrast make it one of my favourite.
Here's what I learnt about gluten-free baking with fruit: baking powder causes the batter to rise at a slow rate, that way it soon forms a crust and the fruit is nicely sealed in place; it also adds density to the cake. Adding baking soda is what makes it so airy and light. It makes the batter rise rapidly and that causes the fruit to sink before a crust is formed.
The first time I made this gluten-free cake (last 3 images) I used one full teaspoon of baking soda and the fruit got completely covered with batter, but that cake was also the most amazing. It turned out just as light as the Swiss roll my mom and I used to make - that cloud-like texture relied entirely on properly beaten egg whites, so it was a huge surprise to have achieved the same without eggs and with much less sugar. To see if I could prevent the plums from sinking completely, the second time I made the cake I halved the amount of baking soda and quartered the plums, and it worked!
If you don't care much about appearance, I strongly recommend you try the lightest version (scroll down to the pink plum pictures).
Gluten-free Plum Cake
Makes 16 squares
- 1/2 cup fine cornmeal (not the white cornflour/starch) - 1/2 cup = 125 ml
- 1/2 cup fine rice flour
- 1/2 cup demerara sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder (make sure it's gluten-free)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup minus 1 Tb creamy coconut milk (75% coconut extract) - 1 cup = 250 ml
- 1/2 cup applesauce (I used Bramley applesauce)
Chill the can of coconut milk overnight and discard the transparent liquid before using the cream (see the No-churn Coconut Chocolate Ice Cream post for pictures). I later made a Gluten-free Strawberry Cake in which I used creamy coconut milk with only 60% coconut extract, straight from the can without separating and discarding the liquid. The texture was even lighter, though more crumbly, and the combination with strawberry was the best.
If the applesauce has bits of apple in it, remove them if you can or mash them with a fork, otherwise they will cause the cake to break.
Whisk all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the coconut milk and applesauce and mix well. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes during which it will thicken a little, as the cornmeal and rice flour absorb moisture.
After the initial 5 minutes, preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and prepare the fruit. Wash and pat dry 4 medium purple plums. Cut them into quarters.
Lightly grease the bottom and about an inch up the sides of a 23 cm (9") square pan with non-dairy margarine or butter. Pour the batter in the pan and even out the surface with the back of a spoon. Arrange without pressing the quartered plums cut side down, 4 in a row (to fit, I alternated the direction of each row).
Bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. I switched the top heat off for the last 10 minutes and kept only the bottom heat, so that the cake remains yellow-golden on top.
Place the pan on a wire rack and let the cake cool completely in it, at least one hour.
Cut into squares, cleaning the knife each time if crumbs stick to it. Use a small offset spatula to remove the squares from the pan without breaking.
For the lightest texture I used 1 tsp baking soda and 1 full cup of creamy coconut milk. The plums I used then were dark pink.
Since I used more baking soda and only halved the plums, their weight and the airy texture of the batter caused them to sink. It didn't really matter, because the cake was sensational!
If you have used cornmeal and/or rice flour in gluten-free baking, please share your experience.
Enjoy and spread the magic!:)
If you've tried this cake I would greatly appreciate your feedback. Thank you!