gluten-free carrot cake

Amys Gluten Free Pantry

This is my husband’s and my favorite cake. So much so that we had it for our wedding cake. If you want to go right to the recipe, then skip down a bit. If you want to hear a funny wedding story, then read on.

We fell in love with a carrot cake served at the bookstore/coffee shop Upstart Crow in downtown San Diego’s Seaport Village. When we decided to get married, we contacted the baker and made arrangements for him to make our wedding cake. The one caveat, however, was that he was a devout Jew who strictly observed the rules of Shabbat. He, therefore, was delighted to be our baker but would have to deliver the cake to us Friday before sundown, which was the day before our wedding.

He delivered a beautiful sheet cake and two large rounds with the most delicious cream cheese frosting…in the world. I may, at times, be accused of hyperbole, but not in this particular case. The two rounds fit nicely in our refrigerator, but the sheet was too large. With his blessing, we set it on a low coffee table in the coolest area of our new house, the living room.

After the rehearsal and dinner, we returned home, exhausted, knowing we needed lots of sleep for the day to follow. On a whim, I walked into the living room and lifted the telltale pink box cover housing our cake. I was quite tired, but suddenly very puzzled. The edges of our cakes seemed to be moving. I blinked a couple of times and took another look. My voice literally caught in my throat.

Marching around the very outer edge of our lovely wedding cake was a quarter inch thick band of the most highly organized brigade of ants I’d ever seen. My soon to be husband came running when he couldn’t make sense of the incoherence coming out of my mouth.

“Holy S*@#!” His words, not mine, although I couldn’t have said it better.

He pulled the cake from it’s pink paper box and set it onto the dining room table. He took a spoon and banged in on the side of the table as to induce fear and panic. Oddly, it seemed to work and a few confused ants fell out of line and made a run for it. He whacked them with the back of the spoon, two among thousands. I looked at him like he was a crazy person and then did the most sensible thing I could think of. I called my mom.

“Honey, don’t worry about it. Every one of us will go to every bakery in the morning and we’ll buy gorgeous smaller rounds. It’ll be beautiful.” She soothed and comforted me and I hung up feeling only a bit better.

It had been a very long day. I, the youngest of nine children was marrying the youngest of nine. Our entire families met earlier that evening for the first time and mingled together amicably, but it had been a logistic feat getting everyone in the same place on the same day from every corner of this country and Europe.

I walked into our tiny kitchen and pulled an enormous butcher knife from the block. “Little bastards,” I muttered under my breath. I was not in the mood for ants on my damn wedding cake. With a steady hand, and in total silence, I cut two inch margins from each sides of the disaster before me, stuffing the pieces and the accompanying ant army into air tight plastic bags. With sharp kitchen shears, I cut the cardboard upon which the cake rested, whereupon it fit perfectly in the refrigerator. It took less than five minutes.

The following morning, we brought our beleaguered cake to Hugh’s, our neighborhood baker who refrosted the entire thing. The pink and purple flowers they’d proudly piped on top were not exactly what I’d asked for, but I smiled with gratitude.

At the reception, whispers went through the Waczek family to “eat the round cakes.” Almost no one was the wiser. When I think back to my wedding day, many things come to mind, however, only one thing comes to mind each time I bake a carrot cake.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours including cooling time
Yield: 2 single layered cakes or 1 double layered cake – serves 12-16
Special equipment: 2 9″ round cake pans
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3 1/2 c. almond flour
2/3 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. coconut sugar
1 T cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs (or egg substitute for vegan)
1/2 c. grapeseed oil
3 c. grated carrots
1 1/2 c. shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 c. crushed pineapple, strained
1 c. raisins
1 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
*Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Mix almond flour, brown sugar, coconut sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together.
  3. Mix oil and eggs together and add to dry ingredients.
  4. Add carrots, coconut, pineapple, raisins and nuts and mix thoroughly.
  5. Grease 2 9″ round cake pans and divide batter among them.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely before frosting.
  8. For a double layer, spread a thick layer of frosting onto bottom cake, then top with the second layer. Frost entirely.
  9. To serve in a single layer, half the frosting recipe and freeze the other layer for another time.

*omit frosting to keep the cake vegan.


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caesar dressing II

Amys Gluten Free Pantry

One of my favorite restaurants in San Diego is the long-time family owned Brigantine. And one of my favorite dishes is their chicken caesar salad in part because of the vinegary dressing. On the off-chance I could find a recipe, I did an on-line search and lo and behold, I found the recipe. If you want a nice evening out, give the Brig a try at multiple San Diego locations including my favorite in Coronado.

However, if you want a taste of the Brig at home, here’s a great recipe. I’ve halved the original recipe and made a few slight changes, but we still go through it rather quickly. It’s great for a crowd and my kids will always eat a salad if they’re starving and “there’s nothing to eat.”

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
Yield: about half a quart (2 cups)
Special equipment: blender, Vitamix or food processor
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1 small or medium egg (if using an extra large egg, scramble it and use half)
2 T Dijon mustard
2 small garlic cloves
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 T anchovy paste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

3/4 c. olive oil
3/4 c. avocado oil or olive oil (not extra virgin)

  1. Put all ingredients into blender or food processor EXCEPT for oils.
  2. Blend at high speed until thoroughly mixed. With the blender running, add the oils slowly in a fine stream until all oil is incorporated. Refrigerate immediately.

This dressing is best made a few hours ahead of serving and even better when made a day ahead.


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sparkling holiday punch

Amys Gluten Free Pantry

This couldn’t be easier! This is the perfect holiday punch because it’s served alcohol free, yet when you mix it 1:1 with white wine, it makes a delicious holiday sangria. Great for kids and adults for brunch or any party or celebration. I got all my ingredients at Trader Joe’s, but any super market will have everything you need.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 5 minutes
Yield: 18 servings
Special equipment: punch bowl or beverage dispenser
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1 cold 12 oz. can thawed orange juice concentrate 
1 cold 42.3 oz. bottle sparkling water
2 cold 25.4 oz. bottles sparkling apple cider 
1 cold 25.4 oz bottle sparking cranberry cider

1 orange sliced
1 apple sliced
1/2 c. fresh cranberries

  1. Pour first four ingredients into a beverage dispenser and stir thoroughly.
  2. Float orange, apple and cranberries atop for garnish.
  3. Serve beside a bucket of ice and a few bottles of white wine for sangria.

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white and dark clusters

Amys Gluten Free Pantry

I think the only reason my children make candy with me is the reward of licking the chocolate drenched spatulas. It’s a good deal for everyone, actually. While making my traditional bark that my husband hands out at work each year, I came up with this little treat. It’s lovely to look at, but the taste is one of those really perfect balances of savory and sweet with the surprise of cinnamon. I’m always encouraging people to mess around with recipes, but really, try this one just the way it is – divine.

The key is using roasted, salted almonds. Odd as it may seem, salt is the perfect counter measure to chocolate. It makes it taste full and balanced. It provides that quality that makes you want another piece. My only advice – make extra!

Prep time: 10 minutes:
Total time: 2 hours
Yield: as much as you want
Special equipment: sheet pan and parchment paper
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I’m giving general measurements here, because you can produce as much as you want, with just a few guidelines:

about 8 ounces dark chocolate (I use the 72% dark chocolate block from Trader Joe’s), chopped
about 12 ounces white chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s white chocolate chips)
about 1 c. roasted, salted almonds

  1. Arrange parchment upon sheet pan.
  2. Place almonds atop pan in groups of four.
  3. Melt white chocolate over double boiler, tempering it.
  4. Using a table spoon measurement, (or a soup spoon), drop white chocolate onto almond cluster and wait until it sets about 45 minutes.
  5. Melt dark chocolate over double boiler, tempering it.
  6. Using a table spoon measurement, (or a soup spoon), drop slightly less amount of dark chocolate onto almond cluster, so that the chocolate drapes over the white chocolate but doesn’t obscure it.
  7. After 10 minutes, dust the clusters with cinnamon. Allow clusters to set further another 45 minutes.

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goat cheese christmas log

Amys Gluten Free Pantry

I was trying to come up with something festive for a client’s holiday party when I spied scallions and fresh cranberries in the fridge. Here’s the result – a luscious goat cheese log with scallions and orange spiced dried cranberries. Delicious and so pretty for Christmas. The creaminess of the cheese pairs perfectly with the crunch of an almond or rice cracker. Wash it down with a Champagne Cosmopolitan Cocktail and you’ve got a party!

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: 1 log that serves 8 as an appetizer
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1 10.5 oz. log of room temperature goat cheese
1/2 c. dried cranberries (Trader Joe’s sells amazing orange flavored ones*)
1/4 c. finely chopped scallions

  1. Soak the cranberries in boiling water for 5 minutes to soften. Drain and finely chop.
  2. Upon a long piece of plastic wrap, spread the cranberries and scallions into a rectangular shape no longer that the log.
  3. Roll log in mixture, pressing so the ingredients adhere.
  4. Roll log tightly in plastic wrap, twisting the ends firmly so that it looks like a fat, little sausage.
  5. Refrigerate until needed. Remove 20 minutes before serving. Goat cheese thats too cold will crumble and you want this creamy.

*If you can’t find orange-infused cranberries, use regular cranberries and 1/2 tsp. orange zest.


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