One of the things that made me first love being in the kitchen was baking. I love baking! Warm bread from the oven, juicy pies, sweet cakes, healthy muffins, pizza, bagels ¬– I love it all. I especially loved making baked good for my family and friends. I still have my love of baking, but I don’t always have the time or energy now to spend as much time baking as I’d like. In fact, as we have been in survival mode as I go through treatment for a chronic health issue, I’ve hardly been baking at all.
For us this last year, if we were in the kitchen it was making the most basic of basic things while we tried to figure out my health issues (things like super easy skillet dinners). Dinner was a priority. Making cookies weren’t.
However, when there was a special occasion (such as a birthday), I really needed to make sure I made something special for the girls. To them, it’s not a birthday unless we have cake. A couple of years ago they were horrified that I didn’t have a cake on my birthday. It was like having Christmas without a Christmas tree to them!
So while this addition to my series, The Low Energy Guide to Healthy Cooking, isn’t exactly centered on a healthy main dish, I think it’s important for those of us who need a relatively healthy option for gluten-free cake making for our family.
My youngest has a birthday coming up, and we had two fall birthdays, all during a time of ill health for me. I’ve never found baking to be tiring until recently when I’ve found most kitchen tasks to be tiresome and have had to keep things as simple as possible.
As I was scrambling to make the all important birthday cake, I figured out a method that kept sugar content lower and made things super easy and fast for me. Win-win!
My New “Secret” GF Cake Trick
You all know that I am a make-it-by-scratch all the time type person. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and with the girl’s birthdays coming up, I knew that having a homemade cake for them was really important to them. I was feeling extreme fatigue at that time, though, so I knew my usual soaked gluten-free cakes were not going to be an option. I also knew that all of the gluten-free cake mixes were extremely sweet – something we didn’t enjoy.
In a moment of inspiration, I found a gluten-free muffin mix that was more lightly sweetened and had good (not perfect, but good) ingredients in it. When I compared it to some of the gluten-free cake mixes, the muffin mix was only about half of the sugar content per serving!
We made it into a lemon cake for my ten-year-old’s birthday by simply adding lemon zest to the mix with homemade lemon frosting once it was baked. For my six-year-old, we added vanilla and sprinkles for a fun cake that she adored.
It wasn’t too sweet, they were super easy to make (even for me with my fatigue), and my girls felt loved and happy with their cakes. When I served this cake to guests at their birthday party, I was gratified to see that everyone liked the cake, and even a hard-to-please family member complimented me on the cake. Great news for a gluten-free cake made out of a muffin mix! With a frosting, the sweetness it just right for a birthday cake.
For their joint, Pokemon party, we did the same trick and made it into a Pokemon ball cake.
Tips for Success
This is the gluten free muffin mix we used.
Instead of using muffin tins, I just greased two cake pans. It took roughly the same amount of time to cook as the muffins on the package instructions. Since this will make thin layers, check for doneness a couple of minutes early. You can also make just one cake layer (just add more time to the cooking time).
I added lemon zest to both the cake and a simple frosting for the lemon cake (one lemon for each).
For the sprinkle cake, I added vanilla to the batter along with a generous amount of sprinkles. For the frosting, I used freeze dried raspberries and blended them into a powder in my blender. I added that to a simple butter frosting, and then lightly sprinkled with sprinkles.
For the Pokemon cake, I kept it a simple vanilla cake by adding 2 teaspoons of vanilla and then decorated with dark chocolate chips and red sprinkles on top of a plain butter frosting.
I was in survival mode, so I didn’t think of it in time, but you can order naturally dyed sprinkles! (Examples:This one or this one. )
Other ideas: Chocolate chip cake – add chocolate chips, Orange cake – use orange zest, Lemon Poppyseed: Zest of one lemon and 1 tablespoon of poppyseeds.
Two other bonuses? This is a very inexpensive cake to make. I thought about buying a cake from a gluten-free local bakery, but it would have been at least 6- 10 times the price. Plus, it’s so easy to put together even a beginner baker can easily make it (like one of your children!).
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I totally agree with you. I am a from scratch Baker with a glluten free child too…. And we live at altitude. I can’t bake anything other than a muffin here… Though I keep trying. Gluten free cakes are SO expensive and so sweet… I did the same thing. First I tried the mix from Pamela’s where you add your own sugar and then I tried Lilibees. This one is from Boulder CO so it may already be high altitude friendly. The Pamela’s was good, but kind of “tough” texture. The Lilibees was fantastic.
I added a strawberry reduction for strawberry flavor and made a “healthy” version of buttercream. It was very good!
Incidentally it was a Pokemon party so we made natural jelled “jello” + pannacotta balls that looked like poke balls. Super fun.
I did not know you were diagnosed with Lyme disease and I am so sorry to hear that. I have both your Fresh Nourishing Salads recipe book as well as your ladeled soups, and I use them both regularly.
I wish you the best on your journey to recovery.
Hey, great idea!! 🙂
Question- do you think it would work well with an egg substitute? :/
We added eggs in baked goods and we seem to handle that okay, so I haven’t tried these mixes without eggs yet. But I don’t see why it wouldn’t work fine with an egg substitute. 🙂 let me know if you try it!