Recipe: Gluten-free torta de galletas (biscuit cake)

My aunties didn’t bake a lot, so when it was time for cake they often made torta de galletas, a layered biscuit “cake”. I have vivid memories of me helping make the icing in their vintage stand mixer and, most importantly, licking the icing off the beaters. Of course, I also helped assemble the cake and waited patiently until the next day, when the biscuits had absorbed all the moisture and the cake had a much better structure.

My auntie Sumi passed away a few weeks ago. She was a great cook and she was a very kind, loving auntie. It was hard to think of a particular dish that reminds me of her because I’m pretty sure she cooked the bulk of the food my sisters and I ate growing up. Then I remembered I had copied one recipe from her notebook before moving to Australia, the recipe for torta de galletas.

The original recipe uses margarine and 1kg (!) of icing sugar for the icing. It also uses regular caramel (made by boiling a can of condensed milk), which I figured would be way too sweet. I used butter and a more reasonable amount of coconut sugar for the icing, and made the caramel with coconut milk and pitted dates. I also used gluten-free vanilla biscuits, which I found out crumble a lot more than regular biscuits, making the assembly process a bit more fiddly. The end result wasn’t as good as my auntie’s but it did remind me of her.

Gluten-free torta de galletas (biscuit cake)
Yield: about 16 servings

Torta de galletas

Icing:

  • 250g butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp cacao powder (or coffee or liquor) diluted in boiling water
  • 1 egg

Caramel:

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3/4 to 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Layers:

  • 150g shredded or dessicated coconut
  • 250g chopped walnuts
  • 1 kg vanilla biscuits
  • 2 cups of milk (any type)

Directions

Icing:

  1. Whisk all ingredients together (you can use a mixer, food processor or do it by hand).

Caramel:

  1. Soak the dates in boiling water for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain well and blend with coconut milk and vanilla.
  3. Heat in a saucepan until thickened to a spreadable consistence.

Layers:

  1. Count the biscuits and divide the total by 6 or 8. The result will be how many biscuits you will use per layer.
  2. Form a layer of biscuits soaked in milk.
  3. Spread caramel on top of the biscuits, topped with walnuts and coconut.
  4. Add a layer of biscuits soaked in milk.
  5. Spread icing, topped with walnuts and coconut.
  6. Continue until you have 6 to 8 layers of biscuits (should end with icing).
  7. Refrigerate overnight to allow the biscuits to absorb the moisture.

Recipe: Paleo tres leches cake

I don’t know where tres leches (three milks) cake came from but it’s very popular in several Latin American countries. It’s basically a sponge cake soaked in a mix of evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream (hence the name). Peruvian dessert queen Sandra Plevisani has a cinco leches version that uses coconut milk and dulce de leche (caramel) in addition. Needless to say, both versions are unbelievably sweet and not Paleo at all.

While it’s not my favourite cake (I prefer chocolate over anything else), I realise it’s a crowd pleaser. My version is, of course, Paleo, so you won’t need to drink a litre of water while eating it (nor a nap afterwards).

Paleo tres leches cake
Yield: 6 – 8 servings

Paleo tres leches

Ingredients

Sponge cake (recipe from Yoginibear’s blog):

  • 1 1/4 cups almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping:

  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup coconut cream
  • 1 cup almond milk (preferrably homemade*)
  • ground cinnamon, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Line a loaf pan with baking (wax) paper.
  3. Mix almond meal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs. Add honey and vanilla whisk with an electric mixer (or by hand, if you’re game) until pale and fluffy.
  5. Using a spatula, carefully fold the dry ingredients into the wet mix.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until completely cooked.
  7. While cake cools down a bit, mix the milks in a bowl.
  8. Place cake in a suitable container (I use a Pyrex dish) and pour the milks on top. Cover with the container’s lid or cling wrap and refrigerate overnight to allow the cake to soak.
  9. When ready to serve, take the cake out of the fridge, cut in slices, pour the milk that’s sitting on the container on top of each slice and sprinkle with ground cinnamon.

* To make the almond milk: soak 1/2 cup of almonds in water overnight, the next day drain and rinse them and blend them with 1 cup of fresh water. Drain in a fine mesh strainer. Use the milk for this recipe, and reserve the solids for later use (for example: nut porridge or pancakes, or as facial scrub).

Recipe: Paleo lamingtons (take 1)

Happy Australia Day! Time for a confession: in the 4 years I’ve lived in Australia I have never eaten a lamington. When we were “fresh” in the country I didn’t like coconut. Over time, this aversion disappeared but I just wasn’t too excited about sponge cake with chocolate icing and desiccated coconut. Then I ditched the grains so lamingtons were out of the question.

As an almost citizen of Australia, I felt it was about time to try a lamington. I thought it would be relatively easy to find a gluten-free commercial one, but not a grain-free, crap-free one. So I had to make my own. Luckily, I’m one of those persons who can get a pretty good idea of what something should taste like by knowing what’s in it. Thus, I’m pretty confident my first attempt did not taste or feel like a true lamington. But it was delicious nonetheless. And I accidentally came up with a side recipe that will be posted soon.

For the moment, feel free to give this recipe a go. And yes, by “take 1” I’m taking on the challenge of coming up with a new, improved version every year on Australia Day.

Paleo mini lamingtons
Yield: 12 – 15 mini lamingtons

Paleo mini lamingtons

Ingredients

Sponge cake
Adapted from Diane Sanfilippo’s Practical Paleo.

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons macadamia butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla esence
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Icing

  • 1 can coconut cream (270 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar

Topping

  • 1/3 cup desiccated coconut

Directions

Sponge cake

  1. Preheat oven to 180° and line a small baking tray with wax (baking) paper.
  2. If your coconut oil is solid, heat it up to soften/liquefy it.
  3. Whisk eggs, macadamia butter, coconut oil, maple syrup (I used 1 tablespoon maple syrup but you might want to use 2 if you eat more sweets than me) and vanilla essence until frothy. Don’t freak out if your macadamia butter is not so smooth and there are chunks of nuts in the mix.
  4. Mix coconut flour and baking soda with the rest of ingredients until well combined.
  5. Pour batter on tray and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.
  6. Let cool on a wire rack.

Icing

  1. Do not shake the can. Open it and remove the top layer (i.e. the creamiest part). Refrigerating the can makes this process easier.
  2. Whisk cream, cocoa powder and coconut sugar until well combined.

To serve

  1. Optional: with a sharp knife remove the upper and lower layers of the cake. This helps it absorb the icing better.
  2. Cut the cake in small rectangles.
  3. Dunk them in the icing and coat them with desiccated coconut.

Wein torte (wine cake)

Wein torte (wine cake)

On Wednesday night I baked a cake, just to try my new Microplane zester. No, not really, I baked it for bringing it to Thursday’s meditation, because right after that we had farewell drinks and nibbles for a friend who is leaving Australia after 6 months. She is German, so she likes to drink. A couple of weeks ago I told her I’d bake a cake for her last meditation with us, she told me to bring wine instead, and I remembered having a wine cake recipe in my file. I copied it ages ago from elgourmet.com, the Latin American Food Network Channel (kind of).

The recipe calls for a 26 cm baking tin, which I don’t have, so I three-quartered the recipe to fit in my tin. I haven’t bought an electric mixer yet (I’m waiting until my bank account is healthy enough so it doesn’t care if I get a Kitchenaid), so I whisk everything by hand. My forearm was sore from training, so I failed to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, hence the height of the cake.

The Microplane made its appearance for the orange zest needed for the batter. I must say it’s a fantastic tool that does the job wonderfully. The zest doesn’t stick to it, and it doesn’t reach the white bitter part of the fruit’s skin.

Orange zest with Microplane

As for the wine I used a merlot/cabernet bottle I had closed with a wine saver a few days ago. As per the recipe, I boiled the wine with a cinnamon stick for 5 minutes and let it cool before mixing with the batter.

The wine used for the cake

The other ingredients in the cake are flour, eggs, chocolate and nuts. The cake was baked for 40 minutes in a medium oven (180 degrees), the result was fragant, but as I said before, not too spongy.

Wein torte (wine cake) before the icing

Mental note while looking at the photo: I need to get some skewers to test cake doneness, my Japanese-style chopsticks leave big holes.

While the cake cooled down, I whisked the icing: more wine, orange peel and icing sugar. The Microplane wasn’t needed for this step, because the recipe indicates chopping the orange peel and not grating it, don’t know why. The photo on the top of this post is how the cake looked while the icing slowly covered it.

The cake tasted nice, not great, but it was good for variety. At least people seemed to enjoy it at the party.