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Recipe from Beth Hillson
Serves 16Fourth of July Cake

Here’s a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July.  Layers are colored red and blue with the help of Jell-O. Fresh strawberries and blueberries are a no-fuss decoration and whipped cream makes the cake look luscious. The cake can be stored, well wrapped, for 3 days in the refrigerator. Do not freeze.

Make this easy, decorative dessert for any celebration by varying the Jell-O flavors and colors to match the holiday.  This works with natural gelatin products, too.  If you can’t find the color you want, use unflavored gelatin and color with natural food dye. Add a few drops of a flavor extract of your choice, if desired.

1 recipe (2 layers) baked Perfect Layer Cake (below)
2 cups boiling water, divided
1 (3-ounce) package Jell-O raspberry or strawberry gelatin
1 (3-ounce) package Jell-O berry blue gelatin
1 (8-ounce) container very cold heavy cream, coconut cream or prepared whipped topping, divided
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

Prepare Perfect Layer Cake.  Cool the 2 baked layers in their pans. Pierce each cake with a fork at ½-inch intervals.

Using 2 medium bowls, add 1 cup boiling water to each Jell-O flavor. Stir well to dissolve. Pour raspberry-flavored Jell-O over 1 cake layer and berry blue over other cake layer. Refrigerate several hours until firm.

Make whipped cream by beating heavy cream on medium speed, then high speed until thick. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat until mixture is very thick. Refrigerate until ready to use. (If using prepared dairy-free whipped topping, skip this step.)

To unmold cake layers, place each pan in a sink with hot water touching just the bottom of the pan for 15 to 30 seconds. Unmold one layer by inverting it onto a cake plate. Spread 1 cup whipped cream on top. Unmold other layer and place on top of whipped cream.

Frost top of cake with more whipped cream. If desired, use extra whipped cream to frost sides of the cake. Decorate with berries. Refrigerate about 1 hour before serving.

Perfect Gluten-Free Layer Cake
Makes 2, 9-inch layers

This makes a great layer cake that can be decorated any way you wish.  For other cakes, you’ll want to dust the layer cake pans with white rice flour. For the Fourth of July Cake, do not dust the pans.

2½ cups Cake & Pastry Flour Blend (follows)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1¼ teaspoons xanthan gum
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup milk of choice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans that are 2 inches deep.  Do not dust with flour if making Fourth of July Cake.

Combine flour blend, baking powder, xanthan gum, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk until well blended. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat on medium speed 2 minutes or until batter is smooth. Mix in dry ingredients. Add milk and beat until smooth.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and smooth tops. Place in preheated oven and bake 23 to 25 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool in the pans. Follow directions above to make Fourth of July Cake or let cool 10 minutes in pans and turn layers out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Baker’s Tip:  Use this recipe to make 24 cupcakes.  To make cupcakes, spoon batter evenly into cups, filling about 2/3 full, and bake in preheated oven 15 to 18 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pans before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Frost when cool.

Cake & Pastry Flour Blend

MAKES 2½ CUPS

1 cup white rice flour
¾ cup sorghum flour
¾ cup cornstarch, tapioca starch/flour or potato starch (not potato flour)

Whisk ingredients together. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.

 

No one has ever mistaken me for a shrinking violet.  I’m not subdued and I’ve never been one to turn my back on a challenge.  You get the picture.

So when a friend who was recently diagnosed with celiac disease asked me if I had done a spritz cookie makeover, I said, “yes.”  Truthfully, I hadn’t made spritz cookies in years.  I wasn’t even sure I could find my cookie press, the one I inherited from my grandmother a while back.  What was I thinking?

But my friend, who I will call Debbie, is still in the pity phase of the gluten-free diet, a place I rarely go.  I don’t recall feeling badly even when I was diagnosed with celiac disease more than thirty years ago.  Frankly, I didn’t know another soul with this disease back then.  So who would have listened, if I did complain?

But Debbie was diagnosed this year.  “I miss pizza.  I can’t find a beer I like.  “And I wish I could bake up a batch of the spritz cookies my family makes for the holidays,” she said.

After thirty-something years of living and baking gluten-free, I have a hard time accepting her glass-nearly-empty outlook.   “Look what you can have,” I countered.  This is when the stubborn in me goes from simmer to full boil.  There is no need to miss out.  Today, we have so many choices.  And after writing my cookbook, Gluten-Free Makeovers, I am convinced that everything can be made over.

So, when Debbie asked if I had a gluten-free spritz cookie recipe, I didn’t tell her I had no idea what I had done with the recipe or if I ever had one.  Nor did I mention that my cookie press had disappeared.  I was out to prove a point – – we can eat everything, just gluten free.  So what if I had no idea what I was doing?  I’d figure it out.  After all, isn’t that part of a no-shrinking-violet philosophy? I went to the basement where I store all the gadgets I rarely use.  I rummaged in storage closets where they are well wrapped and piled in a heap.  Under the back-up coffee maker, the spice grinder, the antique food mill, I found the gold metallic cylinder of a cookie press.  I dug deeper and found the levered top.  Two piles over, were the discs and finally, in with an old food processor, was the ring that holds the discs in place.  I was ready to try my hand at making press cookies.

I did not realize there was more of a challenge ahead.  On the surface, spritz cookies look pretty simple – – flour, butter, eggs and sugar. I could replace the flour and create my own cookie press cookies, I reasoned.  And, at first, that’s exactly what I did.  Little did I realize that these delicate cookies hold their shapes because of the wheat and gluten.  Every shape I pushed through the metal cylinder produced the same non-descript blob of dough.  I was ready to throw in the kitchen towel, give up the whisk, put my grandma’s cookie press in the tag sale box.

A one-for-one conversion was not doing the trick.  How was I going to create a dough that would hold its shape when pressed through the cookie press but still tasted delicate with a pleasant crumb?  Little by little I increased the flour, adjusted the xanthan gum.  And soon I had reached the exact balance, the ratio of butter to flour that produced the right amount of texture but preserved the delicate crumb.  So dust off your cookie press and enjoy!

Spritz Cookies
Makes 60 cookies
These rich, buttery treats are fun to make and decorate.

1 cup white rice flour + 2 tablespoons
¾ cup sorghum flour
½ cup cornstarch
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line 3 to 4 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine rice flour, sorghum flour, cornstarch, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, and salt.  Whisk to combine.  Sift and set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream the butter until light yellow.  Add the sugar and beat about 3 minutes or until fluffy.  Add the egg yolks and extracts and beat to combine.  Add the
flour ingredients, a little at a time, beating briefly after each addition.  Chill 30 minutes.  Scoop into a cookie press and press out cookies, one at a time.  If they do not release from the tube, loosen with a dull kitchen knife.  Set 1 ½ inches apart.

Decorate with sprinkles or colored sugar and chill on trays for at least 10 and up to 30 minutes so that cookies hold their shape.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes.  Cool completely before storing.

TIP:  Add food color to the dough and beat or divide dough and color each portion with a different color.
For best luck, use cookie press forms with the widest openings and avoid those with small holes in the designs.

As a child, my biggest worries this time of year were whether Mrs. Lord was making caramel corn balls for Halloween and if Mrs. Oakes would have any candy coated apples left by the time I came to her house to trick or treat.

I spent the entire month of October anticipating the Candy Corn, the Tootsie Rolls, and the Mars Bars that would fill my shopping bag – several bags, if I was lucky.  As I counted the days until the end of the month, I brooded about the ever cooling weather pattern.  Would there be snow in the tiny Maine town I called home?  Would I need mittens – something that made it very difficult to eat Mrs. Oakes’ sticky candy apples. Most of all, I wondered how many layers of clothing I would need to wear under my costume.  Would the ubiquitous black cat costume still fit or would I have to opt for my brother’s red devil number?

In school, I sketched faces I might want to carve into my jack-’o-lantern.  I practiced drawing angry faces, funny ones, sad ones.   In the end, the pumpkin always looked the same, owing to my lack of dexterity and the ever-dull knife that was the only one my mother allowed me to use.  Each year I promised myself that next year’s pumpkin would be much better.  It never
was.

But not once did I realize that all the pumpkins I carved or stole from people’s porches and smashed in the middle of the road were edible, that pumpkin was food.  I missed the connection, that these orange orbs were essential to my grandmother’s Thanksgiving pumpkin pie and my mother’s pumpkin quick breads.  Pumpkin – – duh?!

I can’t say when the light went off, when I began using pumpkin in baking rather than carving.  But one day, it did.  And, now it’s the orange flesh that pleases me.  Low in calories and high in fiber and vitamins, pumpkin is my friend.  And it’s particularly great for gluten-free baking, adding moisture and texture to muffins and quick breads.   Warm spices – – cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg – – pair nicely with pumpkin puree.  Although you can bake a pumpkin and remove the flesh, you can also buy canned pumpkin puree.  It’s so much easier and just as good.

So, say “Hello” to pumpkin and its many uses, and to this flavorful, moist pumpkin bread with crumb topping I made in honor of the season .

Pumpkin Bread with Crumb Topping
Makes 2 Medium Loaves

½ cup white rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 ½ tablespoons tapioca starch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½  teaspoon
ground cinnamon
¹⁄8 teaspoon
ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ cups pumpkin puree (most of a 15-ounce can)
1 cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped pecans or other nuts, optional
1 cup Crumb Topping (below)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil two 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pans.

Combine the flours, cornstarch, tapioca starch, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Add to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in the pecans, if using.

Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Sprinkle ½ cup of the crumb topping over each loaf. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes away clean. Set on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Turn the breads out onto the rack and let cool completely. Wrap with plastic and let sit overnight before slicing.

Crumb Topping
Makes 3½ Cups or 3 Cups If Nuts Are Omitted

Store remaining topping in the refrigerator for 3 weeks or freezer for 3 months. 

¾ cup rice flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼  teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup ground pecans, walnuts, or almonds, optional
6 tablespoons unsalted butter or non-dairy buttery spread, at room temperature, cut into pieces

Combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pecans, if using, in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the butter and use your fingertips to mix just until crumbly.