Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

I made four cakes for my daughter's 4th birthday party. Sounds a little extreme, I realize, but I had fun doing it, and wanted to be sure that everyone had cake. We had 12 kids and 20 adults. There were several allergies to accommodate - my daughter's cow dairy and strawberry allergy and a sweet friend's gluten, cow dairy and chicken egg allergy. Cake can absolutely still be delicious without any of those ingredients! 

I consulted Jenny Rosenstrach's new book How to Celebrate Everything and found her chocolate cake recipe and adapted for our needs. This was a hit! It's a deep, cocoa flavor with the right amount of sweetness. It's a two layer cake and I added blueberry jam in between the layers (hers calls for mint chocolate chip ice cream), plus a dairy free frosting and gluten free gummy bears on top. 

gluten free chocolate cake

Gluten Free Chocolate Layer Cake with Blueberry Jam
1 1/4 gluten free flour (I used King Arthur brand) 
2 cups of granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs (I used duck eggs to accommodate a chicken egg allergy)
3/4 cup room temperature of brewed, strong black coffee
1 cup of goat milk (original recipe calls for buttermilk, but I avoided cow dairy here)
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used avocado oil) 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup blueberry jam

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with vegetable oil. Pour the goat milk into a bowl and add the lemon juice. Let this sit for about 10 minutes. The milk will look like it's a bit curdled - it's a great way to make your own buttermilk substitute! 
In a separate bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. Add eggs, coffee, goat/lemon mixture, oil and vanilla and stir until everything is well combined. 
Pour into the pan and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. 
Allow the cake to cool completely. Using a sharp, long knife, split the cake in half and use a plate to remove the top half from the bottom. Smear the bottom half with blueberry jam and place the top half back on. 

Dairy Free Blueberry Frosting
1 cup coconut yogurt (I used Anita's) 
5 tablespoons confectioners sugar
2/3 cup blueberry jam
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Be sure to keep refrigerated, as this is a thin frosting. Spread evenly on top of the cake. 

Gluten Free Wacky Cake

gluten free wacky cake

Wacky Cake has long been a favorite in my house. It's super easy to whip up when friends come over and you want something sweet. It's great for those occasions when you need a cake but don't have enough eggs or milk. Admittedly this has happened to me more often than I am comfortable with, but frankly, with the Wacky Cake recipe practically committed to memory, I don't stress about this anymore. 

It's been the cake of choice at some of our birthday parties too. This year, I've altered the recipe slightly to accommodate some allergies and it's still a no-fail dessert! 

Wacky cake ingredients for gluten free cake

Gluten Free Wacky Cake

1 1/2 cups gluten free flour (I prefer the King Arthur brand, but also tested a recipe with Enjoy Life brand) 
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
1 cup of water
6 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup dairy free mini chocolate chips (optional. I used Enjoy Life brand)


Preheat the oven to 350. Mix all of the dry ingredients together and sift them to prevent the cocoa from getting clumpy. Add vinegar, water, oil and vanilla extract and stir until thoroughly combined.  Add chocolate chips. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper or grease with more of the vegetable oil. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. 



Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Roll

chocolate roll with confectioners sugar

When in doubt, call Mom. 

This applies to so many things in my life but especially things having to do with food. I asked my mom for chocolate cake recipes that didn't call for flour or dairy and just like that, she pulled up a recipe. But not just any recipe... this turned out to be the favorite of all the gluten free cakes that I tested in advance of my 4 year old's birthday party. 

ingredients for gluten free chocolate roll

The recipe was based on this one, which calls for strawberries, but my daughter is allergic to strawberries so initially I planned to substitute with blueberries. The first test of this chocolate roll proved that the blueberries, in all their succulent glory, were just too big and juicy to include so for the final cake, I eliminated them and went just with the blueberry jam. 

This cake was a huge hit. It's creamy and sweetly satisfying, easy to make and a crowd pleaser. I made two for my daughter's birthday party and they flew off the plates! 

Chocolate Roll with Blueberry Jam

1 cup of dairy free chocolate chips

3 tablespoons cold, strong coffee or orange juice

5 large eggs (I used duck eggs to accommodate a chicken egg allergy and used just 4)

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2/3 cup blueberry jam

confectioners' sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet (with sides) with parchment paper, leaving several inches hanging over each of the short edges. Lightly grease the portion of the paper that fits inside the pan with vegetable oil. Melt the chocolate and coffee together in the top part of a double boiler (or a bowl that fits into a saucepan) set over barely simmering water. Mix the ingredients well and remove the top part of the pan from the heat. Let cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed (or use a hand mixer), beat the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla extract together for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and blend it in thoroughly.

egg yolks and chocolate mixture

In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they stand in stiff peaks.

beat the egg whites to stiff peaks

Mix about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold the remaining whites into the chocolate mixture until the mixture has an even color. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it to make it even. Bake for 11 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven. Cover it with a slightly dampened paper towel or kitchen towel. Let cool. 

Spread the jam evenly over the top of the cake.

spread jam onto chocolate roll

Roll the cake starting on the long side using the parchment paper to help roll it along and keep the cake intact. I rolled it like sushi. Place on a serving platter, seam side down. Dust (using a strainer) with confectioner’s sugar. Makes 8-10 servings.

Allergy-free birthday parties

When I was growing up, no one had allergies like me. Fish and nuts are common allergens nowadays but decades ago, having anaphylaxis felt as rare and weird as having a third ear. On bad days, kids at school would tease me and say I should live in a bubble -- like John Travolta in this movie. It's funny in retrospect because fish and tree nuts are relatively easy to avoid for me now, but it speaks to how unusual food allergies were in my world. My parents would send a list of the foods that I was allergic to for all of my friends' parents, to make them aware of what I could and couldn't eat when I went to their house to play. It mostly worked. 

allergy friendly birthday parties

When I got a bit older and went to sleepaway camp, I had to choose a friend to eat separately with me every time fish or nuts were served in the dining hall. The social pressure on that was enormous. Some girls fought over who got chosen and others wanted nothing at all to do with me. The other two hundred campers were instructed to wash their hands and brush their teeth after those meals to keep me safe. Over a loud speaker. Twice a week for 8 weeks. Whether or not they all complied, I can't say for sure, but as you can imagine, it was an unwanted spotlight that highlighted the ways that I was different when all I wanted to do was fit in. The world is a tiny place so it shouldn't have surprised me that during my first semester at college, I ran into someone from that camp. But it did. The first thing she said after recognizing my face was "I washed my hands and brushed my teeth for you!" That's how she remembered me. And so it goes for allergic kids, even today when the rate of allergies is so prevalent and supportive communities are everywhere. We're singled out. 

My kids have an increased risk of having food allergies but as of today, only my youngest has allergies. She can't have dairy or berries but neither of those allergies is life-threatening and I'm told she's likely to outgrow them. She's never tried nuts or fish so we're not sure about those. One of her friends, a sweet, smiley darling kid has lots of food allergies - to gluten, chicken eggs, dairy, nuts, and a whole host of other foods including certain fruits and vegetables and black beans. His mom is used to bringing food to birthday parties so that he's safe, as most allergy moms do today, but given my own childhood allergy experiences, I didn't want him to feel singled out at my daughter's birthday party. 

I spent a week testing several recipes for chocolate cake (my daughter's choice) that were free from gluten, nuts, cow dairy and chicken eggs. The first one, made from dates, butter beans, flax meal and cocoa powder was a complete fail. Also it broke my mini Cuisinart. I consulted the child's mom (she's an absolute pro!) and posted on Facebook and Instagram for recipe help. The internet is a wonderful place, and I received great feedback. Ultimately, I made four cakes with three different recipes for the party -- one that was made without flour of any kind and two that were made with gluten free flour. Two of the three were made with duck eggs (which are safe for him) instead of chicken eggs and one of them was made with goat milk in place of cow dairy. One of the cakes was free from both eggs and dairy. 

Below are links to the recipes. I hope they're useful for you. If so, drop us a line

Gluten Free Wacky Cake

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Roll
allergy friendly birthday cake

Polenta: versatile, easy and gluten free

My dearest friend lives on the other side of the country and it sucks. When we are able to get together, we dream about life as neighbors, but of course I picture being able to walk down the hall of an apartment building in New York while she thinks about side by side homes in southern California. Sigh. 

lunch with polenta leftovers

I love her daughter like she was my own, and after she was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, I went on a hunt for approachable gluten free recipes to add to their family rotation (like this one or this one with gluten free pasta or these granola bars). Thankfully, there's a lot out there nowadays for gluten free families (we recently also launched a new gluten free bundle on the LaLa Lunchbox app) and I'm sure they'll find their way but something that immediately came to mind was polenta.

polenta ingredients

Polenta is basically a blank canvas that can take on any number of flavors and that versatility is under appreciated in my humble opinion. Cornmeal, the main squeeze of polenta, is great for a gluten free diet. It has iron, fiber and a bit of protein and while it's not a nutritional powerhouse, there's plenty to celebrate. Polenta is basically boiled cornmeal and when you add milk, butter and cheese to that, you've got something mighty tasty. You can make polenta for breakfast and serve with cinnamon and maple syrup. You can serve it with dinner and top with roasted vegetables, or sauteed greens with garlic. You can serve alongside meat or with a vegetarian meal. You can make fun shapes with it and it instantly becomes a kid-pleaser. It's terrific for lunchboxes too. Polenta is like the little engine that could! 

Here's how we do it around here:  

Ingredients for basic polenta (cheese optional)
1 cup goat milk (you can use any milk; my youngest is allergic to cow dairy so we use goat)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup gluten free corn grits
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional) 

1. Pour the milk and water into a sauce pan, add butter and salt and bring to a boil. 

milk, water and butter

2. Slowly add the cornmeal and whisk continuously. Reduce the heat to medium low. 

add the cornmeal slowly

3. Continue to stir until it becomes creamy. Reduce the heat to low and keep stirring for another several minutes until it becomes creamy. 

creamy polenta!

4. Once it starts to come together and the liquid has all been absorbed, you can be done! But if you want to add cheese, fold it in slowly and stir to combine. 

cheesy polenta

5. Once done, spread it out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and set aside for about 30 minutes to cool. 


6. Now comes the fun part! Get the kids involved, get your cookie cutters and make some shapes! 

polenta cakes

And there you have it. Five ingredients (6 with cheese), and 6 steps to immediate deliciousness! 

polenta cakes