sticky toffee date cake

Amys Gluten Free Pantry

This is the first time that a dish I’ve prepared and tested was gobbled up faster than I could take a picture. I’ve tested it three times and each time I asked my family to please leave me a decent slice to photograph. Everyone claimed innocence and ignorance, finger pointing at each other as they wiped toffee from their chins. So…finally, here it is.

This is crazy good. I watched this cake disappear as one by one, members of my family cut thin slices throughout the day.  When my son told me he was hungry, I offered him a wrap or a sandwich. “I’m cake hungry,” he said. Taste this and you’ll totally get it.

Pastry chef of the The Living Room Restaurant in East Hampton, Laura Donnelly developed this amazing date toffee cake that is beyond delicious. It will be the moistest cake you’ve ever tasted. Of course, I have no idea how delicious the  original recipe tastes, but I can only imagine as this de-glutenized, slightly altered version is heaven. (Thank you, Ina Garten for featuring Ms. Donnelly on one of your Barefoot Contessa shows).

My husband and kids have begged me to put it on the Thanksgiving dessert table. The fact that is was delicious after being in the fridge for three days is a bonus. I love desserts I can make ahead of time.

A note: You should always read a recipe the entire way through before attempting it. This is especially true. Good luck and let me know how you like it.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
Yield:: 1 single layer cake that serves up to 12
Special equipment: 1 9″ round cake pan

1/2 lb. pitted dates, finely chopped
1 3/4 c. water
1 tsp. baking soda
4 ounces softened butter (room temp)
1/3 c. agave
4 small eggs or 3 large
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. almond flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 T baking powder

8 ounces butter (1 cube)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Whipped cream for serving
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly grease a 9″ round cake pan.
  2. Place chopped dates in a large sauce pan with 1 3/4 c. water and bring to a boil, stirring a little to break up the dates. Simmer for 1 minute then remove from heat. Stir in baking soda which will cause mixture to bubble up. Set aside
  3. Cream the butter and agave together in a stand mixer until pale and creamy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time.
  5. Add vanilla, then almond flour and salt and mix until combined.
  6. Add the dates, water and all, in two batches, scraping the bowl down and mixing in between. The dough will be extremely watery, but don’t worry.
  7. Finally add the baking powder, mixing it in with a hand whisk, which will cause the batter to thicken.
  8. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake 30-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. While the cake is still quite warm, run a blunt knife around the inner edges of the cake pan and invert onto a serving dish.
  10. For the sauce, combine the butter, brown sugar, heavy cream and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil while whisking, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer gently for a minute or two until thickened and well blended, whisking a few times to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  11. With a toothpick or skewer in both hands, poke little holes into the cake – all over – to ensure the sauce is more fully absorbed. Pour the toffee sauce over over the cake while they are both still warm. This can be served warm, room temp, or days later straight out of the fridge. Top with a dollop of whipped cream.
  12. To whip cream: Whisk cream on high for 30 seconds, add sugar and whisk until soft peaks form, about 1 minute with a stand mixer.

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trader joe’s gluten-free stuffing

Amys Gluten Free Pantry

If you can have grains, such as rice and potato and can tolerate a tiny bit of dairy and soy, here’s a super quick alternative to a more involved gluten-free stuffing.

We gave this a try a few weeks ago and everyone loved it. The flavor is wonderful and the aroma is pure Thanksgiving. The only change I would make is to add a bit of texture in the form of sautéd celery and onion. A bit of sausage would work well too. We did the super moist stovetop method only because I know that both my ovens will be spoken for with a Holiday Roast Turkey and Sweet Potato Casserole. It took about 15 minutes, a bit more if you decide to add sautéed celery and onion.

The Trader Joe’s website shows nutritional information, but not ingredients, so here they are:

Croutons (rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, egg whites, non fat milk powder, brown sugar, canola oil, eggs, potato flour, yeast, salt, guar gum)
dehydrated onion
dehydrated celery
dehydrated button mushrooms
chicken fat (chicken fat, chicken broth, natural flavor {extract of rosemary})
onion powder
spices (oregano, sage, celery seeds, black pepper), parsley
soybean oil
garlic powder

Contains: eggs, milk and soy




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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

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

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

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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