Posts tagged ‘dairy-free cake’

Meringue web feature
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There’s something magical about meringues. I love the idea that these airy, featherweight glossy blobs are made of only two ingredients (egg whites and sugar). I love their purity: they are naturally fat-free, gluten-free and dairy-free. And I love that this purity and simplicity requires some precision: meringues are all about sticking to a few rules.

If unicorns exist, their horn is not made of ivory: it’s made of meringue.

In essence, meringues are made beating sugar into egg whites. These two ingredients can be combined in several different ways to make the classic piped, dry meringue; the toppings of lemon meringue pie or baked Alaska; or the “islands” of île flottante (floating island). In the French method, the simpler one, the mixture is then baked. In the Swiss meringue method, egg whites and sugar are whisked over a bain-marie. The Italian meringue method uses boiling sugar syrup instead of caster sugar.

Do it like a pro: equipment

Copper bowls are best for whipping egg whites, because the chemical reaction between the copper and the egg whites makes the foam more stable. Alternatively, you can use any large glass or stainless steel bowl. A ceramic bowl will do, but please don’t use a plastic bowl – they tend to collect grease, no matter how well they are washed, and you risk compromising your egg foam.

Rule number one of making meringues: keep the egg whites far from any fat. Even small amounts of fat can causes the beaten egg whites to collapse.

Even a little water or fat can ruin the whole meringue, so make sure that the bowl and beaters are perfectly clean and dry to obtain maximum volume. Wiping the bowl with a wedge of lemon to remove any traces of grease can often help the process.

Finally, you will need an electric whisk; whisking the eggs with a manual balloon whisk is best left to those with action hero-sized biceps.

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Eggs and sugar

French meringue has only two ingredients: whipped egg whites and sugar.

Caster sugar is better than granulated sugar because it is easier to dissolve in the egg foam. I follow Laduree and BBC Good Food and use half caster (during the whisking stage) and half icing sugar (during the folding stage). As icing sugar dissolves quicker in the stiff egg mixture, it reduces the risks of over-mixing and of leaving sugar grains undissolved. Whichever sugar you use, steer clear of sugar substitutes: the sugar stiffens the foam and is necessary to the structure.

Both egg whites and sugar chemically attract water. For this reason, Martha Stewart recommends avoiding making meringues on a rainy or really humid day. Now, this seems like sensible advice for those lucky human beings who live in California, Southern Spain or other similarly blessed sunny places. If, like me, you live in London (or other similarly less-blessed rainy places), waiting for a perfectly dry day would become quite unpractical. So, do as the British have done for centuries, lift your collar and ignore the weather!

Although not necessary, cream of tartar (potassium tartrate) if often used to help increase the volume and stability of whisked egg whites.

Meringues can be flavoured with cocoa powder, cinnamon or almonds. These must be mixed in at the end, delicately folding from the bottom up.

Separating the eggs

Separating the eggsCold eggs separate more easily because the whites hold together better, so make sure to separate the eggs when they are fridge-cold. Crack the egg in half and hold the shell halves over a bowl. Transfer the yolk back and forth between the halves, letting the white drop into the bowl. Alternatively, you can use an egg separator (my friend Linda gave me one as a present and it works pretty well). Transfer the yolk to another bowl.

When separating eggs, be careful not to cut the yolk, as whites containing any yolk will not beat properly. If a speck of egg yolk falls into the egg whites, lift it out with an empty eggshell half or a clean teaspoon. Do not try to fish it out with your fingers; even the oil on your skin will prevent the egg whites from expanding!

Whisking the eggs

While eggs separate better when they are cold, egg whites whip better when they are at room temperature. After separating, bring the egg whites to room temperature by letting them stand for 15-30 minutes.

Whisking makes the egg whites foam glossier and thicker. You can check the progression of the egg whites looking at the peaks they form when the beater is lifted: the first stage is soft peaks; the second stage is firm peaks; and the last stage is stiff peaks. Soft peaks have tips that curl over and disappear when the beaters are lifted. Stiff peaks have tips that stand straight and hold their shape when the beaters are lifted.

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To test that the meringue is done, you should be able to hold the bowl upside-down over your head without it sliding out. Less dramatically, you should be able to hold a spoonful of it upside down and none of it drops off.

Adding the sugar

Add one third of the sugar at the soft peaks stage; another third at the firm peaks stage; and the last third at the stiff peaks stage. Don’t add any sugar before the whites have been whipped to soft peaks, as this can double the time you have to whip the egg whites to get a foam.

Add the sugar one spoonful at a time and keep beating the whole time. Adding the sugar gradually to the egg whites ensures that the sugar dissolves completely. To tell if the sugar is dissolved, rub a bit of the foam between your fingers: it should feel completely smooth. If it feels gritty, the sugar is not dissolved, so keep beating.


Hard meringues are not really cooked; they are dried out in a very low oven to allow the water in them to evaporate. The result should be white, crisp and dry.

Rule number two of making meringues: bake at very low temperature (60-70 ºC) for a very long time (4-6 hours, ideally overnight).

If you make meringues on a rainy or humid day, you will probably have to bake the meringues longer than on a dry day.

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  • 3 large eggs
  • Caster sugar, same weight as the egg whites (depending on the size of the eggs, this should be between 90g-120g)
  • Icing sugar, same weight as the egg whites (depending on the size of the eggs, this should be between 90g-120g)
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)

How to make them (French method)

  1. Preheat the oven to fan 60ºC (conventional 70ºC). Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. Take three large eggs out of the fridge and separate them, tipping the egg whites into a large clean mixing bowl (preferably glass or metal, not plastic). Weight the egg whites (if your scale does not take away the tare automatically, weight the egg withes together with the bowl and subtract the weight of the empty bowl). Weight the caster sugar and the icing sugar (each should be the same weight as the egg whites).
  3. Add half a teaspoon cream of tartar.
  4. Once the egg whites have reached room temperature, whisk them with an electric hand whisk or mixer on a medium speed until frothy.
  5. Increase the speed to high and continue whisking until soft peaks form. Slowly sprinkle in one-third of the caster sugar, sieved, one spoonful at a time. Adding the sugar slowly helps prevent the meringue from weeping later. Whisk.
  6. Slowly sprinkle in the remaining two-thirds of the caster sugar, sieved, one spoonful at a time. Whisk until stiff but not dry. The mixture should be thick and glossy.
  7. Sieve the icing sugar. Sprinkle it over the mixture, one third at the time. Gently fold in with a rubber spatula or a big metal spoon, keeping as much air in the mixture as possible.
  8. Once the icing sugar is fully incorporated, pour the mixture into a piping bag and pipe on to the baking sheet in round or square shapes.
  9. Bake for as long as you can: ideally overnight, but at least two hours. The meringues should stay white but they should sound crisp when tapped underneath. Switch the oven off and leave the meringues to cool inside it.
  10. Enjoy!


If your meringue starts to brown: the oven temperature is too high causing the sugar to caramelize.

If the inside of the meringue is chewy and sticky instead of dry, crisp and crunchy and/or the outside of the meringue separates from the inside: the oven temperature is too high, causing the outside of the meringue to dry and set too quickly.

If your meringue starts “weeping” or “sweating” (that is, beads of moisture form on its surface) the sugar has not properly dissolved in the egg whites. To prevent this, add the sugar slowly during mixing.

Meringues will keep for at least a week if stored in an airtight container, but they don’t like to be in the fridge.


Angel cake 1 web
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This traditional American recipe is truly heavenly! Super-fluffy and feather-light, it’s made with whisked egg whites, sugar and flour – basically, a floury meringue. It doesn’t contain any butter or milk, which makes it perfect for a dairy-free diet, and it’s very low in fats (no oil or other fat in the batter).

The cake’s rise comes from whipping the egg whites. To whisk up the perfect meringue, clean the inside of the bowl with some lemon juice to make sure that it’s not greasy and whip the eggs at room temperature. A low-protein type of flour, such as US (unbleached) cake flour, Italian grade 00 flour or similar, will give the best results. Superfine / caster sugar will mix better than granulated sugar.

Angel food cake tin

Angel food cake tin

For the cake to rise properly, the cake tin must be ungreased. For this reason, not all cake tins will do. If you can, get hold of an angel food cake tin (I borrowed it from my cousin Enrica, but they are easily available online). The shape of this tin, like a truncated cone, is designed to ensure that the cake bakes evenly and rises as high as possible. Cooling the cake upside down on the pan’s legs prevents the top from sinking (if your tin does not have “feet”, balance it on the neck of a glass bottle).

I added lemon zest to the traditional recipe, but you can substitute it with vanilla seeds. Serve alone, sprinkled with icing sugar or topped with whipped cream or fresh berries.

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  • Angel cake ingredients web10 large free-range egg whites, at room temperature
  • superfine / caster sugar, same weight as the egg whites minus 50g/1.8oz (for example, if your egg whites weight 300g/10½oz, then you need 250g/8.8oz caster sugar)
  • unbleached cake flour, grade “00” flour or other low-protein flour, 1/3 of the weight of the egg whites (for example, if your egg whites weight 300g/10½oz, then you need 100g/3½oz flour)
  • the grated zest of 2 untreated, un-waxed lemons
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • icing sugar (for dusting)

How to make it

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4 (160ºC if you have a fan oven) and arrange an oven shelf in the bottom third of the oven.

2. In a large bowl, whisk 10 egg whites with an electric hand whisk or mixer on a medium speed for one minute until frothy. The egg whites will whisk better if they are at room temperature.

3. Add the zest of two lemons and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar and continue whisking until soft peaks form.

4. Increase the speed to high and sprinkle in two-thirds of the caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Whisk until stiff but not dry.

5. With a fine sieve, sift together the flour and the remaining caster sugar in a bowl. In six additions, sift and sprinkle the dry ingredients over the egg mixture, folding in quickly but gently to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.

6. Pour batter into an ungreased 25cm/10in angel food cake pan or other tube pan with a removable bottom. Gently smooth the top with a spatula.

7. Bake for 45-50 min or until golden brown and springy to touch.

8. Remove from the oven and immediately turn upside down onto the tin’s cooling legs or over the neck of a glass bottle. Leave to cool completely, for at least one hour.

9. Carefully run a knife around the inner and outer edges of the pan to release the cake. Place on a plate, bottom side up. Sprinkle icing sugar on the top.



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Step 9

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Choc Spelt Courf feat
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Christmas can be delicious without being over-indulgent. This chocolate cake recipe, by Linzi Barrow of Clandestine Cake Club Lancaster for the Goovy Food Company, includes courgette and spelt flour for a great yet not-too-sweet taste. What is more, it is dairy-free. A star-shaped tin (I used Ikea’s Drommar) and some sparkly decoration will make it extra-special. This is how I like my Christmas nights: starry and chocolate-y!

Ingredients (for 8 people)

225g courgettes
200g spelt flour
175ml light agave nectar
75ml olive oil
2 eggs
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
Edible gold spray, golden sugar, white chocolate stars and icing sugar to decorate

How to make it

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Oil and line a star-shaped cake tin.
2. Sift 200g spelt flour, 4 tbsp cocoa powder, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, and 1/2 tsp salt into a bowl.
3. Add 175 ml light agave nectar, 75 ml olive oil and 2 eggs and mix well.
4. Grate 225g courgettes and add to the mix.
5. Pour your batter into your prepared tin. Bake for approx 45 minutes until well risen and until a skewer comes out cleanly from the middle. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes and then on a wire rack.
6. Decorate with edible gold spray, golden sugar, icing sugar and white chocolate stars. Enjoy!


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Walnut cake feature
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This recipe is inspired by the coffee, cardamom and walnut cake in Fiona Cairn’s beautiful book Seasonal Baking (which I wholeheartedly recommend). I love baking with seasonal ingredients and the caramel and walnut decoration reminds me of golden autumn leaves. This is the perfect cake to have with a warming coffee after a brisk walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon!

In addition to making it dairy-free (of course!) I substituted the buttercream with a soya-based coffee and cardamom cream, which is lighter and less sugar-heavy.

The round and warm scent of cardamom makes a good addition to autumn and winter bakes (have a look at my Swedish cardamom and cinnamon buns). For this recipe you will need the dark brown seeds inside the cardamom pods. Although supermarkets generally sells the green pods, rather than the seeds, there is no need to go through the fastidious process of de-seeding the pods, as the seeds are easily available online, including via Amazon. It is important to ground the seeds immediately before use, to keep their flavour intact.

Ingredients (for 6-8 people)

275g caster sugar
275g icing sugar
175g margarine, plus more for the tin
125g flour
100g walnuts halves
100g ground almonds
3 eggs
6 tsp (about 30 g) freshly ground cardamom
4 tbsp (about 50ml) decaf coffee
3 tbsp (about 40ml) whipped soy single cream
1tsp vanilla extract
1 bag (7gr) baking powder

How to make it

1. Prepare the ingredients: cut 175g margarine in pieces and leave it out to soften; roughly chop 50g walnuts; sieve together 125g flour and 1 bag (7gr) baking powder. Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with baking parchment.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C / fan 160°C / gas mark 4. Keeping them separate, place both the 50g walnut halves and the 50g chopped walnuts on baking trays and roast for six minutes. Cool.

3. Using a food mixed or an electric whisk, cream together 175g margarine, 175g caster sugar and 1 tablespoon decaf coffee until very light and fluffy. Lightly beat 3 eggs, then add them to the mixture. Gradually add 50g ground almonds and 3 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom. Gently fold in the flour-baking powder mix and 50g chopped walnuts; don’t over-mix.

4. Pour into the tin and bake at 160°C (fan) for 60 min, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

5. Prepare the caramelised walnuts: lay 50g walnut halves on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Put 100g of caster sugar and 100ml of cold water in a saucepan and dissolve the sugar over a gentle heat, stirring with a metal spoon. Increase the heat to a boil, stop stirring and occasionally brush the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, to prevent crystals forming. Boil until the mixture turns a beautiful caramel gold and has thickened.

6. Have a sink or washing-up bowl of cold water to hand. Plunge the base of the pan into the cold water, then, using a teaspoon, drizzle the caramel over the walnuts on the tray and leave to set.

7. For the coffee and cardamom cream, mix 275g icing sugar (sifted), 50g ground almonds and 3 teaspoons ground cardamom. Using a food mixed or an electric whisk, add 3 tablespoons decaf coffee and 3 tablespoons whipped soy cream. If it is too runny, add more icing sugar. If it is too stiff, add more whipped soy cream, until it reaches the desired texture.

8. When the cake is completely cool, cut it in half horizontally. Spread half of the coffee and cardamom cream over the bottom half, then place one half over the other. Spread the other half of the coffee and cardamom cream on top.

9. Decorate with the caramelised walnuts and the caramel shards. Enjoy!

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Enrica feature

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Today is my cousin Enrica’s birthday and this is her celebration cake! Trained as a lawyer, Enrica is a fine patissière at heart and the best cake-maker in the family (sorry other family members, but you know it’s true…). This recipe is based on her signature breakfast yogurt cake (having cake for breakfast is one of the many wonderful things about food in Italy), which I made berry-loaded and dairy-free. The lavender-infused sugar and the grated lemon zest give it a fragrant, lovely scent.

Happy birthday Enrica!

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Ingredients (for 6-8 people)

450 gr blackberries

300 gr cake flour

150 gr lavender-infused sugar (or white granulated sugar)

200 gr dairy-free soya yogurt

100 gr sunflower oil (or other vegetable flavourless oil)

3 whole eggs

Two tablespoons of blackberry jam

The zest of one untreated lemon, grated

1 bag (7gr) baking powder

A pinch of salt

Icing sugar for dusting

How to make it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Using a food mixer, whisk the whole eggs with the lemon zest and a pinch of salt.

2. When the eggs are starting becoming firm, but are not making peaks yet, sprinkle the lavender-infused sugar a little at a time. Keep whisking until you have a light and frothy mixture. All in all, the whisking should take you at least 10 minutes.

3. Working by hand, delicately add the oil and the yogurt to the egg mixture, folding from bottom to top.

4. Mix the flour and the baking powder. Still working by hand, gently fold the flour mix into the egg mixture.

5. With a food processor, blend 150 gr of blackberries. Add half of the blend to the mixture. Pour the mixture into a tall cake tin, about 18 cm across, previously coated in oil and flour.

6. Bake at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes. Once the cake is ready, leave it on a wire rack to cool down.

7. While the cake cools down, prepare the cake filling by mixing two tablespoons of blackberry jam, two tablespoons of dairy-free soya yogurt and the remaining half of the blackberry blend.

8. Cut the cake in half horizontally.

9. Spread half the blackberry filling on the bottom half of the cake. Place the remaining blackberries on top and cover with the rest of the blackberry filling.

10. Cover with the upper half of the cake and dust with icing sugar. Enjoy!

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