What is Fika?

What is Fika?

In Swedish tradition, Fika is a break - a pause - in your day to indulge in the simple pleasures of a good cup of coffee or tea, some sweets or pastries, and time shared with friends and loved ones.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Vanilla Cake with Raspberries

I love Bulk Barn.

But Love is always a fickle mistress. You think everything is going well, the future is bright, and endless opportunities are constantly unfolding and presenting themselves.

This is how it went with the recent spate of gluten-free baking I've been trying. I've been doing gluten-free baking for a while, but these were mostly recipes that avoided flours altogether. Rather than deal with cumbersome substitutes, I just took alternative routes. Potato-crust quiche? Flourless chocolate cake? ... More flourless chocolate cake?

The issue I've always had with trying direct substitutions of non-wheat flour mixtures was that they seem so daunting and intimidating. 4 different flours, plus xanthan gum just to replace 1.5 cups flour? And which types? Rice flour? Bean flour? Pea flour? Potato starch? Millet Flour? Sorghum flour?

When I found that Bulk Barn carried a ready-mix gluten-free all purpose flour, I was excited. I was able to try some recipes without all of that painful mixing, and also at the low prices that I've grown accustomed to at Bulk Barn. Gluten-free baking mixes can be expensive, so I was really hoping that Bulk Barn could be a ready supply.

The various tarts and tartelettes previously featured were all a result of this recent discovery. I made another recent discovery when I shared the apple frangipane tart with a friend who actually is gluten intolerant.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, gluten managed to weasel its way into the final product, making for an unpleasant day for my friend and despondency on my end. I am fully aware of the issues of contamination in my own kitchen, having lived two years with a seriously gluten-intolerant housemate, so I am very careful to prevent any cross-contamination and to enforce dutiful, thorough dish washing.

However, in Bulk Barn, the regular flour bins sit directly across from their gluten-free alternatives. This makes the possibility of cross-contamination too likely to be of any comfort, and so I've aborted my current plans to feed my gluten-free friends with goodies derived from Bulk Barn products. I can't take that chance.

The problem was that I already purchased gluten-free vanilla cake mix to try. Although I couldn't share it with any gluten-intolerant friends, I still decided to give it a go. Just to see what would happen. I also had half a dozen egg whites left over from making those pie crusts, so I thought I would try making a layered cake with raspberries and a meringue frosting.

The cake turned out well enough - the directions from Bulk Barn were simple and easy enough to follow, pretty much the standard procedure for any ready-mix cake. The cake baked and rose well, the texture was light and open, not heavy and dense, and, when sliced, the layers held together well when handled.

The meringue turned out the same. The egg whites were heated with sugar on a double boiler just until the sugar completely dissolved. The warm mixture was removed from the heat and whipped until I could hold the bowl upside down, over my head, and the meringue wouldn't budge an inch. (This is always a good party trick, but don't be impatient unless you want to also impress your friends by ending up like a baked Alaska pie).

The cake layers were filled with the meringue, layered with raspberries, and then covered on all sides with more meringue. I haven't gotten my meringue-patterning technique quite down pat yet. It's difficult to make those peaks and swirls look convincing, graceful, but never over-thought or overwrought.

Mountains and valleys in a mini-meringue landscape.

I was tempted to brown the meringue in the oven, just to give it a touch of gold, but was too concerned about melting the entire cake into an indistinguishable mess over the oven bottom that I didn't bother. I think the snow-white look has a lot going for it. I don't think any icing holds a candle to meringue to getting this pure a look.

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