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Sunday, March 15, 2009

An Irish girl's cake, celebrating the start of her Gluten-free life

My mom gives me a lot of happy feelings. Once, when I was in first grade, I made a leprechaun mask. When I came home from school, I showed my mom the mask. She put it on and began dancing around the kitchen, singing, ‘I’m a little leprechaun.’ It was so funny it made me happy.


St. Patrick ’s Day has always had a special place in my heart. No matter where I am or what is going on in my life, I somehow mark the day – whether it’s going out with friends, simply making “Irish” food at home, wearing green clothing, or some combination thereof. I look forward to it probably more than any more-traditional holiday. I am a red-headed Irish girl, after all.


Growing up, my mom would bake what we called “green cake” for our St. Paddy’s day dessert. This wasn’t just any green cake – this was pudding-filled, pistachio-mint, chocolate-frosted green cake. Often, she would also bake mini chocolate chips into the cake batter, so not only was the cake frosted with delicious chocolate frosting, but there would be a layer of mini chocolate chips floating around near the bottom of each slice (the chips usually fell to the bottom of the cake instead of being distributed throughout, but we liked them anyway). Oh, how we always looked forward to that cake.


The quote above is from me, at ten years old, and it was published in the Minneapolis paper. It was in response to a question the paper posed to readers, asking them when they have been happiest and what makes them happy. I remember that moment to this day - my mom had THE green cake baking while she danced around the kitchen with my leprechaun mask. I stood there in the kitchen, giggling, with the fading spring evening light coming in through the living room windows and the smell of peppermint mingling with a faint pistachio scent warming the kitchen. I remember feeling so good; even at that age, I somehow understood how fortunate I was to have a mother who paid attention to the hundreds of random art projects I brought home.


I remember calling my mom from my apartment in college, asking her for the recipe. In the years since, I have almost always baked the green cake in my own home. At least nine years later, I still have the piece of scratch paper where I wrote down the ingredients and instructions she relayed over the phone (on the back of a psychology club officers' meeting agenda!). Pulling it out of my mess of cookbooks and hand-scribbled recipes yesterday, I used it as a guide for making a gluten-free version.


This cake, this green cake, is not only the cake that brings up all kinds of happy childhood memories, it is not only a St.Patrick’s Day tradition for my family, it is not only amazingly delicious, it’s also the last thing I knowingly ate that contained gluten – one year ago.


Now, St. Patrick’s day holds even more meaning for me - it’s forever marked as the beginning of my new life. And this green cake? A birth-day cake of sorts.


This year, I made it gluten free. And this is how I will make it, years from now, for my own children.



St. Patrick’s day green cake:

This cake calls for a package of instant pistachio pudding, but don’t be turned off by that – the flavor really blends nicely with the peppermint extract and makes the cake’s texture incredibly dense and moist.


1 ¾ cups Brown rice flour
½ cup potato starch
¼ cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups raw sugar
4 eggs
13 Tablespoons butter, melted until mostly liquid
1 cup hazelnut milk (or your favorite milk)
½-1 teaspoon peppermint extract (if you want it really minty, go with the full teaspoon)
1 package instant pistachio pudding (Jell-O brand)

6-8 drops green food coloring

Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans with butter and rice flour (or use non-stick) and preheat oven to 350F. In a medium-sized bowl, combine flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and pudding mix and mix well. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer (or in your stand mixer) until slightly frothy. Add sugar, butter, milk, peppermint, and food coloring and blend at medium speed until well blended. Add the flour mixture and beat at medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth.


Pour the batter into the two prepared cake pans.


Bake on the center rack for 35 minutes. To check doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake; if it comes out clean, it is done. You can certainly bake this in a 9x12 cake pan (this is actually how mom always used to do it) - just bake it for a bit longer, about 40-45 minutes.

Remove cake from pans and cool completely on wire racks.


To frost the cake:

1 cup butter, slightly soft
2 3/4 cups powdered sugar

½ cup cocoa powder

1-2 tablespoons milk (hazelnut, soy, etc.) as needed

Mix cocoa powder with sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar/cocoa mix and blend. Add the remaining sugar/cocoa 1 cup at a time and blend until smooth.

Spread over the top of one of the layers. Place the second cake layer on top and frost top and sides.

Enjoy - and dance an Irish jig!

1 comment:

Steph said...

This cake sounds delicious! I love chocolate, and I love pistachios, and I love mint! I'm sure they work together very nicely. What a cute memory to have of your mom. Happy 1-year-gluten-free!