Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cook Book Review: Gluten Free Cakes from Around the World

Title: Gluten Free Cakes from Around the World: Traditional and Time Tested
Author: Patricia J. Browne
Format: ebook
Price: $9.97
Buy it HERE at the Gluten Free Around the World website

Disclaimer:  The author of this book provided me with a free copy  in return for my review.  I did not receive any payment, and I do not make any money from book sales.  My review is an honest personal assessment of the cook book based on the results I had baking some of the recipes.

Review:  Gluten Free Cakes From Around the World is a collection of cakes that are naturally gluten free.  No complicated flour substitutions required.  The book is divided into sections by cake type, not geographical location, and includes nut and nut free cakes, cakes with grains, seeds, roots and tubers, chocolate and chocolate free.  The author provides substitution ideas for those who are dairy free, like my son.  She also includes a section of toppings and fillings, categorized into dairy and non-dairy sections. 

I was impressed to see that the table of contents included cakes from a wide cross-section of countries, including Spain, Mexico, Italy, Czech Republic, Martinique, Russia and Morocco among others.  I even found a cake in there from the closest city in Italy to where my Dad was born, Pescara.   I'm looking forward to trying that cake out! 

I chose two cakes to make, and I intentionally chose two of the simplest cakes that did not require any complicated equipment or tricky procedures.  I'm not a particularly skilled baker, and I didn't want my results skewed by my lack of baking prowess!  The first cake I tried was the Easy Orange Garbanzo (Chickpea) Cake from Mexico, which used cooked chickpeas as the base.  I whipped it together quickly while dinner was cooking for my taste testers, and it baked while we ate.

Easy Orange Garbanzo Cake

The result was a lightly flavoured cake that reminded me of a coffee cake, although denser.  The recipe called for dusting the top with powdered sugar, but I didn't have any so I just sprinkled some regular sugar on top.  Not nearly as fancy, but it did the trick.  The flavour was a nice mixture of cinnamon and orange, and it passed the taste test of my two year old.  The recipe states that it serves 6-8, and we definitely got that many slices out of it, but that's without anyone wanting seconds.  I would suggest baking two of them or slicing the cake into squares, rather than traditional slices. 
Slice of Easy Orange Garbanzo Cake

We were in a bit of a hurry to taste it, so you can see from the photo that we didn't let it cool properly and the bottom is still a bit moist.  Entirely my fault, not the fault of the recipe.

The second cake I made was the Simple Walnut Cake from Italy, and I prepared it for Easter.  The cake was simple to make and only needed 4 ingredients: eggs, walnuts, sugar, and lemon juice.  It sounded too good to be true!  My toddler helped me prepare this cake and it was almost as easy to make as a cake from a mix.  This cake had a springy, almost angel food cake quality to it.  I would recommend making two and layering them with a cream-cheese style icing if dairy isn't a problem, or to use a glaze on top.  The cook book recommends dusting with icing sugar, which would be nice too.
Simple Walnut Cake
Simple Walnut Cake

I was encouraged enough by the results of the two cakes I made to want to try more of the recipes.  I love that so many of the cakes don't need any flour at all, and are so simple to prepare.  The two cakes I made had a wonderful texture and flavour, and were well received by my taste testers aged two to sixty two.

My one wish for the cook book would be the addition of photographs alongside the recipes, mainly since many of the cakes are unfamiliar and it would be nice to have the reassurance of the photos to compare with my final results.  Other than that, I was pleased with what this cook book had to offer.

Verdict:  I recommend this recipe book.  The cake recipes are unique and interesting, and are a nice change from the typical commercial mixes available for gluten free cakes.  Several recipes have short ingredient lists, with inexpensive items.  I really appreciated the international selection of cakes I otherwise would not have known about, and I particularly enjoy the fact that these cakes are naturally gluten free.  It reminds me that not EVERYTHING has to be made with white flour, and expanded my taste buds at the same time.

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