Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cake Taste Test

In the past 7 years since I've been gluten free, the market has seen a tremendous increase in the number of gluten-free items on the store shelves.  Cookies, pretzels, cereals, breads, corn dogs, chicken nuggets, muffins, crackers...you name it!  Carb-y good ness now comes in all different gluten free shapes and sizes.  It seems like every brand -- from King Arthur Flour to Betty Crocker -- is coming up with a gluten free variation.  I've tried a lot of these products, but if you were to ask me for recommendations, I don't feel super passionate about one over the other.  I tend to grab what is available and have not developed a preference one way or the other.  I would feel OK about this indifference if the items were really the same, but they're not.  Everyone has their own take on gluten free and the blend of flours used typically differ.

I made the assumption that the category with the greatest variety in composition and the one where having an opinion probably does matter, is all-purpose flour.  In order to develop my own opinion, I pledge to have a gluten-free flour taste test.

3 different flours.
1 recipe.
In the end, 1 winner.
(maybe.)

A classic vanilla "birthday" cake seemed to be the best option for bringing out the true flavor of these flours.  I scoured the web for a cake recipe that did not use cake meal, because I didn't want to introduce another potentially complicated ingredient/gfree substitution.  I landed on The Kitchn's Basic Yellow Butter Cake and proceeded forward.  The three flours I used were, Domata Gluten Free Recipe Ready Flour (with Xanthan gum), Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour, and Pamela's Artisan Flour Blend.  I've used Bob's and Pamela's before, so I was expecting those to produce a great cake.

Prepping with all of the ingredients
The recipe was extremely easy to follow.  The first cake I made was with the Domata flour and I was a bit concerned about the consistency.  The dough what thick and sticky and it made using my handheld electric mixer a bit difficult.





The Bob's Red Mill flour created a much "soupier" dough that was very easily poured into the pan.

Pamela's was the most non-gluten free like dough of the three, but still maintained a thick consistency.



All three cakes needed to be cooked longer than the 25-30 minutes recommended in the recipe.  The pans I used we slightly smaller than the recommended size, so that may be the reason why.  The problem this caused was that the edges of the cakes became more well done and altered the consistency.

For the frosting, I used Food Network's Best Chocolate Frosting Recipe which was really really REALLY good.  Depending on the amount of milk added, you can make this a super fluffy light frosting.

We took samples from the middle to get even cooking consistency

The taste test was double-blind test and I had my friend assign the cakes 1-3 and give all 6 tasters a small piece of each.  It was unanimous that cake #1 was too dense and did not have great flavor.  The votes were split between cake #2 and #3.  I voted for cake #3 because I liked the fluffiness and crumbly cake texture.  I also felt that there was a smidge of a gluten-free aftertaste to #2.  But today, 24 hours after the baking and tasting, they are both delicious.



Cake #1 - Bob's Red Mill
Cake #2 - Domata
Cake #3 - Pamela's

Obviously a different recipe, a different pan, a different day could yield different results.  For now, I will stick to Pamela's and give Domata another try.