Coconut Chocolate Chip Cake- An Easy Gluten-Free Recipe

Use a gluten-free pancake and baking mix to make cake!

This is one of my most popular gluten-free cake recipes- a divinely simple gluten-free coconut cake studded with chocolate chips. And so easy to make if you keep Pamela's Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix on hand. We are leaving for Los Angeles on Friday and Yours Truly in Gluten-Free Goodness will be off-line for a bit. I thought I might leave you with something sweet to nosh as I prepare for our much anticipated sojourn into Hollyweird.

A simple recipe. No fuss. No frosting. Cake for those of us who aren't gifted with ganache. The kind of cake you can grab on the go (how very un-Zen!) or nibble politely over coffee and a hot flash inducing debate with friends about why naturally beautiful, smart and talented women inject military grade toxins into their foreheads and goddess-knows-what into their lips and bursting apple cheeks until all you can do, Dearest Reader, is stare in frozen horror wondering, What the Tap-dancing Hades have you done to your face?

Please, women. I beg you. Stop.

Your once expressive faces (your numero uno tool of the trade in theater and film) now look like masks or worse. You look like a sky-diving plastic blow-up doll. You do not look younger, I'm sorry to tell you. You look weird. Vacuous. If not desperate. There's an uncanny vinyl aura oozing from a visage that's had "work done" (I guess the new phrase is "been refreshed").

Trust me. Be strong. Be authentic. Think: What would Frances McDormand do?

And go eat some cake.

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Pomegranate Glazed Green Beans & Portobellos

Gluten Free Recipe - Green Beans

The days may be getting longer but for this casita-bound goddess (I'm not one to strap on skis or skates or hurtle downhill on a toboggan, Darling) each successive chilly day invades my bookworm bones a little deeper. I get restless. I get itchy. Don't you? So after a leg stretching day in Santa Fe doing errands and getting a total pick-me-up shake-me-loose hair cut, Steve and I headed back to our quiet casita by the mesa with a bag of fresh green beans and portobellos and a bottle of Trader Joe's Pomegranate Glaze. Something new to try.

Just for fun.

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Roasted Red, Gold & Blue Potatoes

Roasting three colors of potato wedges makes for a tasty side dish.

Mornings have been bone-chilling frigid. The distant mountain peaks are snow capped, almost mystical against the deep-sea sky. The mesa behind us is still frosted white on the shadow side. Coyote tracks zigzag through the junipers. Yesterday, I watched a jackrabbit sprint across the western slope below our casita, his desert brown camouflage useless against the snow. I shivered and hustled to the kitchen to slice up potatoes.

Trader Joe's in Santa Fe had some of those trendy heirloom tri-colored potatoes this week, the sweetest little gems in purple-blue, red and gold. So, of course, Darling, we had to snag a bag to bring back home. We were both craving comfort food. 

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Cooking & Baking Gluten-Free: Tips from Karina

Gluten-free baking made easy with tips from Karina.

Cooking and Baking Gluten-Free
Tips from a Gluten-Free Goddess
by Karina Allrich

New to this whole gluten-free thing? Not sure how to substitute the wheat flour in a favorite recipe? Need to cook without additional problematic ingredients– such as milk or soy? This article is for you, Babycakes. And check out my post The Morning After [diagnosis, that is] for some smart and supportive start-up tips, from shopping strategies to easy dinner ideas [not to mention, how to recognize and solve those pesky contamination issues].

Cooking and Baking Gluten-Free

After six seven eight nine almost ten years of living gluten-free, cooking safely is second nature. It is (honestly, I swear!) no big deal. The key‐ for me- is to keep things simple. 

One option? Use a basic, neutral tasting gluten-free baking and pancake mix in your recipes. Keep it on hand and you have a pre-mixed flour blend for basics- quick breads, muffins, and cakes (see my easy pumpkin cake recipe here). It's fab in flourless quiches, omelets, and yes, pancakes. 

Safe grains for baking include brown rice flour,  white rice flour, sorghum flour, buckwheat flour, millet, teff and quinoa flour. Starches include potato starch, cornstarch, arrowroot and tapioca starch.

Soybean, chick pea, almond, hazelnut, and peanut flours are high protein non-grain options.

Rolled oats? Oats are a sticky issue for those with celiac disease because widely available oats are problematic due to cross contamination with wheat crops. The good news is that a few small, independent farmers are now growing and milling certified gluten-free oats. Because whole grain oats are high in fiber, protein and iron, this is great news for those living gluten-free. Just be 100% sure the oats or oatmeal you are purchasing are "Certified Gluten-Free". Bob's Red Mill has recently added certified gluten-free oats to its line of gluten-free products milled in a dedicated facility.

On a side note- the high fiber in oats may take some getting used to for those with touchy tummies. Start slow. Try 1/2 cup of oatmeal twice in one week and see how you handle them. Gradually, you can add more into your weekly menu as your body grows used to the fiber. (Drink plenty of water!)

Karina’s Gluten-Free Baking Tips

Numero Uno: Keep your sense of humor handy. It helps in gluten-free baking, Darling. Hockey pucks and doorstops are inevitable. We’ve all been there. We've all tossed failures into the compost.

Remember the crumb trick- you can always zap failures in the food processor and use the crumbs in other recipes. I freeze crumbs in a zip-lock bag.

For those of you interested in mixing your own gluten-free flour mix from scratch, here is a basic guideline- tweak it to your preference.

Karina's Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix

1 cup sorghum flour (aka jowar flour) or brown rice flour
1 cup tapioca starch or potato starch (not potato flour)
1/3 to 1/2 cup almond meal, buckwheat flour, or millet flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum


You'll notice I don't white rice flour- the old school stand-by. I just think it's rather blah- and gummy.
Sorghum flour, aka jowar flour, is soft, slightly sweet - and lovely in baking.

Brown rice flour is a whole grain and has more nutrition and fiber than starchy white rice flour. It has a lovely sweet, nutty undertone.
Almond flour is a dream in gluten-free recipes. It adds protein, fiber,  and essential minerals- not to mention a delicious almond taste- to recipes. 

Buckwheat flour- a favorite, along with millet flour- is high in protein and fiber and has a lovely nut-like taste. (And no, buckwheat is not related to wheat- it's actually a fruit in the rhubarb family).

Quinoa flour is packed with vegan protein but it needs to be used sparingly, as it has an assertive taste, and will make a baked goodie crumbly if used as a main flour. Blend it with other flours for best results. 

Coconut flour is sweet and fabulous. It's high in fiber. It soaks up moisture like crazy, though, so be careful using too much of it in a recipe. Start with a half cup in a gluten-free flour blend for best results. Eggs help coconut flour work best.
Subbing denser flours such as almond, buckwheat, coconut, or quinoa  flour will result in a heavier, denser product if you add too much. Start with a third to a half cup in your flour blend. Experiment and find the formula and texture you like best.

Sweet rice flour is very starchy and moist and you should add it  sparingly as a moisture boost to your baking- start with 2 tablespoons. Too much can make for a gummy product. It's also a fab gravy thickener.

To Create a Self-Rising Flour Mix

1 cup unleavened gluten-free flour mix (see above)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Adding Moistness and Flavor to Gluten-Free Baked Goods

Choose a recipe wisely. Recipes containing pureed fruit, shredded veggies, yogurt, or sour cream translate beautifully to gluten-free. Think: banana muffins, carrot or pumpkin cake, sour cream apple cake or blueberry muffins made with yogurt.

Adding applesauce, pureed fruit or yogurt to recipes helps gluten-free cakes, muffins and quick breads stay moist.

Adding shredded or desiccated coconut, chopped nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate chips also goes a long way to improving texture and flavor. Start with adding one half cup to your favorite recipe. Experiment and have fun.

Use organic light brown sugar instead of refined white sugar. It boosts moistness and flavor.

Honey is a humectant and adds moistness (use less liquid in the recipe if you use honey).

Agave adds moisture, too. But if it's humid on the day you are baking, use less agave (or honey).

Use more vanilla. Gluten-Free flours can taste strong and unfamiliar, and a little extra vanilla helps soften their flavor. Don't be afraid to use a whole tablespoon- I do. And buy the good stuff. Bourbon vanilla is killer. Cheaper brands with fillers (like corn syrup!) are a pale imitation of true vanilla flavor.

Add warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to deepen flavor complexity (cinnamon and chocolate is a favorite secret combo of mine).

Baking Times and More Tips
Baking and rising times vary depending upon many factors:

Where do you live ‐ high altitude or sea level? High altitude gluten-free baking usually requires a little less liquid [start with 2 tablespoons less] and a higher oven temperature [increase oven temp by 25 degrees F] or a longer baking time. Often the only change I made for high altitude baking was to add 25 degrees F to my oven temperature (but I've never baked above 7,000 feet). The higher you get, the more problematic GF baking can be. Check your local library for high altitude baking tips.

Humid or dry? Flours grab moisture and become damp - this can affect the outcome. Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons less liquid (and less agave/honey) if you suspect your flours are dampish from humidity.

Ice cold ingredients or room temperature? 

I find baking with room temperature ingredients works best when baking gluten-free. When making gluten-free bread, eggs at room temperature are a must (place eggs in a cup of warmish water briefly until they reach room temperature). 

Yeast needs a warm environment to rise properly - a temperature of 100 to 110 degrees F is ideal.

Frozen fruit will chill down batters. Thaw to room temp and drain well, or add extra baking time- start with ten minutes.

Thick glass pan or thin dark metal? Baking pans may require more or less baking times - see your pan manufacturer's advice.

Oven temperatures vary slightly from oven to oven. Tune in to yours and notice if recipes tend to take longer - or shorter - to bake. Adjust baking times accordingly. Better yet- get an oven thermometer. You might be surprised how *off* your oven is!

Place pans in the center of a pre-heated oven ‐ not too close to the top or bottom ‐ for even baking.

Gluten-free batters are a little weird. Cake batter is thicker than you remember. Bread batter is looser than standard bread dough. Cookie dough is almost the same, but sometimes spreads faster during baking [try chilling cookie dough and baking on parchment].

Egg sizes vary. This affects the liquid to dry ratio in a recipe. My recipes are based on large organic free-range eggs or Ener-G Egg Replacer.

Until you get the hang of baking gluten-free, I suggest keeping a sharp eye on what’s in the oven. When it looks done, make sure the batter is firm and set in the center [jiggle the pan a tiny bit or lightly touch the top]. A wooden pick inserted in the center can tell you if the batter is still wet [but chocolate chips can melt and make this method sometimes unreliable; if the tester comes out chocolatty, try another spot].

I find‐ with brownies and cookie bars, especially‐ that it is easy to over-bake gluten-free treats. The center may appear too soft while the outside edges are browned just right; turn down the oven heat by 25 degrees; and if necessary, take it out if you prefer a softer center; the dessert will continue to "bake" for a minute or two before it begins to cool.

Freezing gluten-free baked goods often improves texture. Think your cookies or brownies are a dud? Try cutting, wrapping and freezing them. Eat slightly chilled or at room temperature, as you prefer.

Gluten-free baked goods and breads get soggy if they stay too long in their cozy pans. Remove loaves and cakes and muffins from the pan as SOON AS possible. The longer a gluten-free baked good remains in a hot pan, the soggier it gets.

If your end product is gummy in the center- or it falls in the middle- the problem is most likely too much liquid. Use 2-4 tablespoons less when you mix the batter or dough next time. Add only a little liquid at a time to achieve the consistency you need. If it happens often, your flours may be damp or your oven too cool. Or you may be taking the baked good out of the oven too soon; if so, bake it longer.

Remember - it's an intuitive thing, this gluten-free baking deal. There is really no substitute for experience. The trial and error method is your best teacher in Gluten-Freeland. Practice. Practice. Practice.



Living gluten-free is tough. It really is. And in this Gluten-Free Goddess’ humble opinion, a truly tasty gluten-free treat is worth a thousand words- or a thousand smiles. Eliminating wheat from recipes is huge and problematic; you know, you lose that whole stretchy elasticity and tender crumb mouth feel thing. To create a gluten-free treat that really is a treat is a challenge. Taking sugar out of the equation diminishes the texture and mouth feel of traditional recipes even more.
Sugar adds not only sweetness to baked goods, but structure. I’ve tried baking without it. I’ve used date sugar, processed raisins, agave syrup, stevia. The end results too often screamed Health Food. They were a tad, shall we say, cardboard-esque. And they usually ended up getting tossed in the garbage after a six month stint in the depths of the freezer.

My compromise? 

I usually bake with organic brown sugar and cane sugar. I have one treat a day. It satisfies my sweet tooth, and I don’t feel deprived. 

But if you really must avoid sugar, Darling, here’s one possible sub if you're not a vegan: 3/4 cup honey (reduce liquid in recipe by 1/4 cup) can be substituted for 1 cup granulated or brown sugar. Not recommended for cookies. Flavor and density will be affected.

If you are a vegan, try using maple syrup or gluten-free brown rice syrup, or agave syrup. I'm experimenting with maple syrup lately, and find it delicious.

If it is humid out, you may have to adjust your recipe, as both agave and honey are humectant, and attract moisture to baked goods.

Brown sugar adds a little extra moistness to gluten-free baked goods; cane sugar makes cookies crisp.

Read more about sugar substitutes in baking here.

Fruit, Flavor and Dairy Subs

I am often asked, Can I sub pumpkin for the sweet potato in a recipe? Or, dried cranberries for raisins? Yes. And yes. I find that most fruit purees are interchangeable, according to taste. If you don’t care for banana, try subbing pureed pumpkin. Hate walnuts? Use pecans. Love dried cherries and dislike raisins? Go with cherries. Experiment and have fun. Be creative with recipes. Some of my favorite combos were accidental pairings. Think: fruity with spice, sweet with sour, creamy with crunchy, chocolate with anything!

The Dairy Question

Yes, Babycakes, I know. I feel your pain. Many gluten-intolerant folks develop a lactose intolerance or casein allergy as a result of celiac damage. I sympathize. I’m one of the fifty per cent of celiacs who are saddled with gluten and casein intolerance. You're not alone.

Cooking Dairy-Free Tips

My favorite dairy free substitute in gluten-free cooking is organic light coconut milk. I use it in sauces, soups, curries and stir-fries. It’s fabulous in whipped sweet potatoes, pumpkin and winter squashes. Check and compare labels as too much guar gum, a common additive in coconut milk, can act as a laxative for sensitive individuals. I also love unsweetened soy milk (non-GMO and no carageenan), if soy is not an issue for your family.


There are some great tasting vegan butter substitutes out there now. Some feature olive oil or flax oil. One is soy-free (with pea protein). Check labels.
For baking and frosting I sometimes use Spectrum Organic Shortening, made from palm oil. It basically acts like Crisco (I feel unctuous just typing that word).

My new fave in gluten-free dairy-free baking is raw organic coconut oil. Lovely aroma, taste and texture.

I also love using olive oil in muffins, quick breads,  and bread. When one half to one cup butter is called for in a recipe, oil will work (but in general, use a tad less oil than the butter called for)

In the case of a flourless chocolate cake recipe calling for two sticks of butter, though, nothing truly substitutes. When butter is the star, oil will only be oily.

Another vegan alternative to baking with butter is silken tofu- it works in many recipes.


Some experts suspect that half of all celiacs (yup, 50% of us) are allergic to casein- the protein in dairy- did you know that? This is not a lactose (milk sugar) issue. It's a protein allergy issue. So if you still have symptoms, cut out milk and dairy products- it's often the final piece of the puzzle.

For milk substitutes in baking, gluten-free soy, rice and nut milks work very well. Use plain for a neutral flavor, or vanilla/chocolate for a flavor boost. Coconut milk also works.

For milk substitutes in creamy sauces, try using plain gluten-free  soy milk, hemp milk, or unsweetened rice or almond milk. Rice milks usually need a little help in thickening, but they work.


Cheeses can be harder to sub. Gluten-free cheese subs are often soy based, nut based, pea and cashew derived, or rice based. Some are just plain awful. Others, only mostly awful. Most don’t melt well (what's up with that?).

If you're going to use a non-dairy cheese try one with diced jalapeƱos; the peppers help cover up the bland flavor. Add extra spices and seasonings to the dish and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil as well. For those sensitive to milk proteins- read labels carefully. Casein or whey (two dairy proteins) is often added to "Dairy-Free" products. Go figure.
Looking for a tasty creamy sauce for comfort foods like mac and cheese? Try my vegan Cheesy Uncheese Sauce- it's scary good. Seriously. It's all I use now.

More Dairy Free Meal Ideas
Use dairy-free pesto and tapenades for flavorful sauces and spreads. Make homemade basil or cilantro pesto without cheese [add a dash of sea salt instead] and use it as a sauce on pizza and sandwiches, quesadillas and foccacia.

Make black olive, sun-dried tomato or roasted pepper spreads in your food processor for a quick and flavorful schmear on rice or nut crackers, pizza and grilled sandwiches. You won’t miss the cheese.

Try fresh guacamole and salsa as a healthy condiment. Both are dairy-free and huge on flavor.

Enjoy hummus tahini as a protein packed dip or condiment; any flavor of hummus is a tasty sub for cheese. Serve a dollop with your favorite brown rice dish, baked casserole, salad, grilled and roasted vegetables.

Serve a good fruity extra virgin olive oil instead of butter or cheese. Drizzle it on toasted or grilled gluten-free bread, baked potatoes, and gluten-free pizza shells; try drizzling a hot gluten-free pizza shell with extra virgin olive oil and some sea salt, then top it with a crisp baby greens salad with your favorite fixin's.

The classic combo of good olive oil and balsamic vinegar makes a fabulous naturally dairy-free condiment for brown rice, veggies, sandwiches and wraps, and even cooked polenta.

Egg Free

Baking gluten-free and egg-free is certainly a challenge. I'll share some tips based on my growing experience (I baked strictly egg-free for four years).

For the average recipe, Ener-G Egg Replacer is the popular choice. 

You can also make your own egg replacer using milled flax seeds, silken tofu, mashed banana or figs. Or simply add a liquid such as rice milk [two tablespoons equal one egg] and boost the leavening with more baking powder.

I find I do best baking egg-free when I choose recipes that are traditionally egg-free such as fruit crisps and Asian crepes. Waffles work fine  without eggs (try a mashed banana).

If a recipe calls for one egg, I might simply leave it out and add two tablespoons rice milk and an extra teaspoon of baking powder.

For two average eggs, combine:

1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer
4 tablespoons warm water

Whisk together until frothy and foamy. Fold into the recipe and mix well. This mixture won't bind, but it seems to work in baking. 
Note that recipes using tapioca starch often turn out gummy with an egg replacer; and mixes containing tapioca and lots of starches are less likely to turn out using egg replacers. (One popular allergen free brand of mixes called Namaste has not worked without eggs- I've tried the brownie and chocolate cake mix using Ener-G Egg Replacer and both were a disaster at high altitude. I suspect the starch ratio in the mixes is too high. But I'm no chemist.)

Soy Free

Many celiacs find they also have a sensitivity to soy; and many have autoimmune thyroid disease. Whether by necessity or choice, a great many celiacs are also soy-free. 
For a soy sauce sub I use a dab of molasses whisked into a quarter cup of soy-free vegan broth. I add a splash of balsamic or rice vinegar, to taste, and a dash of sea salt, sesame oil, ginger, cumin, curry or red pepper spice, to taste.

Another choice is to make an Asian sauce based around peanut butter, sesame tahini or cashew butter stirred into a cup of vegan broth. Add chopped garlic, spices and a squeeze of lime juice as an accent.

New on the market is a soy style sauce called Coconut Aminos- look for it in the condiment and sauces section.

For thickening sauces, soups and gravies, and dredging (coating in flour)
For thickening stir-fry sauces, basic white sauces and soups, I use tapioca starch or arrowroot starch (mix it with a little cool water or rice milk first before adding it to sauces). Arrowroot starch works well for gravies served right away. Cornstarch can also be used but I find it get gluey (as can potato starch).

For a making roux, or paste, for basic white sauce or cheese sauce, my favorite is sweet rice flour; but any basic rice flour or gluten-free flour mix will work -but don't use bean or soy flour - they have too strong a taste.

For dredging veggies, potato cakes or veggie burgers before frying, try your favorite gluten-free flour mix, or simply use rice flour, or tapioca starch, or cornmeal. A lower carb option is almond flour.

For Bread Crumbs

My favorite crumbs- for all kinds of recipes- is a tad unconventional, but really delicious! I haul out my food processor and process several toasted gluten-free waffles into crumbs. Plain gluten-free waffles usually have no sugar. Add some dried Italian herbs or your favorite seasoning, if you wish. Drizzle with olive oil or melted butter and pulse. Very yummy, crunchy and golden when baked. And no, they're not too sweet.

Processing pieces of your favorite toasted gluten-free bread also works. Especially gluten-free cornbread. Cornbread makes lovely crumb topping.

For crunchy toppings try crumbled corn tortilla chips, rice chips, or potato chips. Failed gluten-free breads can be processed into crumbs and frozen for later use. 

Note that adding dried herbs and seasonings give gluten-free bread crumbs a big flavor boost. Some folks advocate processing cornflakes or gluten-free creeal into crumbs but I find it gives the recipe a mealy, breakfast cereal taste.


My last tidbit of advice- let go of old expectations, forget the tried and true of the past and have a little fun playing in the kitchen. Risk new flavor combos. Get inspired by world cuisine and browse cookbooks for ideas. Living gluten-free is a challenge, yes. 

But you know what? It can also be delicious!

Karina Allrich copyrights this original article ©2005-2009. All Rights Reserved. 
No reposting or copying of this article is permitted.


Flourless Chocolate Cake - easy and gluten-free!

Flourless Chocolate Cake - easy and gluten-free!
Readers' hands-down favorite: my flourless chocolate cake.

This is my go-to dessert recipe whenever I'm having guests. Everyone loves it. And the best part is- the recipe is inherently gluten-free. No substitutions. In fact, this is the same flourless cake I've been making for years. It never contained flour. The only thing I've tweaked post-celiac diagnosis is adding more coffee and vanilla.

Dear Vegans-

I'm often asked if this recipe can be veganized- made without eggs and butter. While a butter sub might work- I'm sorry to say that the recipe really relies on the eggs for structure and rise- and no vegan egg substitute is going to replace eight eggs.

That said, the good news is that I have developed a technically flourless vegan chocolate cake recipe that is fudgy, rich and delicious. So if you are craving chocolate scoot on over to my Vegan Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe.

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Snow and Chocolate

Ristras in Snow - Our Portal - New Mexico

Life in New Mexico has been quite the adventure this past week, Dear Reader, with record-breaking snowfall measured in feet rather than the usual sparse and crystalline inch. Alex and [girlfriend] Jess arrived safely at Albuquerque International Sunport in the thick of it [one of the last flights in before flights were grounded left and right].

Driving south on icy highways through blizzard-like visibility to fetch them, we nearly ended up in a ditch south of Santa Fe - one of those out-of-body-holy-shit moments as we skidded and fishtailed in apparent slow motion, high-beams behind us bearing down alarmingly fast. 
How the truck missed us, I still don’t know.

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