Serious Eats: Recipes

Gluten-Free Tuesday: Mini-Coffee Cakes

[Photograph: Elizabeth Barbone]

For years, before going gluten-free, I enjoyed a secret coffee cake ritual. Whenever I hopped on the train, I'd buy myself a Drake's cake. (I probably resembled Newman when ripping into that package.) I also bought a cup of tea but, let's be honest, that wasn't what got me excited.

Those little cellophane-wrapped cakes were my favorite. Unlike most coffee cakes, which have a dense, heavy crumb, Drake's is light; the texture similar to a moist sponge cake. And that delicate texture proved the hardest part of creating a gluten-free version of these cakes.

My early recipe attempts were delicious but not Drake's delicious. At first I made the batter with butter. The result? Coffee cake with a tight crumb. I tried creaming the butter until very light. I tried sour cream. I tinkered with the flours and increased the amount of baking powder. Nothing. The cakes were still too dense. Then I made one easy but critical tweak to the recipe: I got rid of the butter. By replacing the butter with oil, I finally had the result I wanted: the crumb was moist and tender.

With the cake problem solved, there was still one small hurdle to clear. The topping.

Thankfully this was easy to solve. At first I rubbed together brown sugar with a little white rice flour and some softened butter. The "crumbs" melted all over the coffee cakes. By increasing the amount of flour and using half granulated sugar, half brown sugar, and melted butter instead of softened butter, the crumbs didn't melt during baking.

Tips for Success


Corn-Free: To make this recipe corn-free, replace the cornstarch with potato starch.

Dairy-Free: Use a dairy-free milk replacement (gluten-free rice milk or soy milk) instead of the milk.

Egg-Free: This batter relies on the structure and lift the eggs provide. When made egg-free, the cakes didn't rise well and had a heavy, dense texture. I don't recommend making this recipe egg-free.

About the author: Elizabeth Barbone of joins us every Tuesday with a new gluten-free recipe. Elizabeth is an alumna of the Culinary Institute of America. She is the author of Easy Gluten-Free Baking. and the forthcoming How to Cook Gluten-Free: Over 150 Recipes That Really Work.

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