Baking a Gluten-Free Pound Cake

Our Sweet Science correspondent, Eileen Gray, expanded the flour trials from her March/April 2016 column to include a gluten-free variety. She shares the results of her experiment with us here.

With the rising interest in gluten-free baking, I thought I should try baking the pound cake recipe with a commercially prepared gluten-free flour. Although a lot of our efforts with the pound cake recipe have been to avoid forming too much gluten in the batter, some gluten is needed to give the cake its structure. Gluten-free recipes use non-wheat flours that don’t contain gluten. When using gluten-free flour, a binding agent must be added to the batter to replace the elasticity lost without the presence of the wheat flour protein.”

“The flour I used contains rice flour, potato starch, pea fiber, tapioca starch and xanthan gum. The xanthan gum acts as a binder to replace the structure provided by wheat gluten.”

“First I made our pound cake recipe using the reverse creaming method. The cake made with the gluten-free flour was significantly flatter than the cakes baked with the wheat flours. This was not surprising since gluten helps the cake keep it’s shape while it rises in the oven. Without gluten the structure is weaker so the gluten-free cake can’t rise as high as a cake made with wheat flour. The reverse creaming method is great for keeping the gluten formation at bay, but there is some loss of air bubble formation.”

“Since I didn’t have to worry about gluten toughening the cake crumb, I tried mixing the cake using the creaming method to incorporate more air bubbles and, hopefully, get some extra rise on the cake. The second test was more successful. The gluten-free cake made with the creaming method baked up a little higher and lighter than the cake made with the reverse creaming method. Once again showing that technique does matter for successful baking.”

Thanks so much for your insight, Eileen!

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