Finding something delicious to eat when you live with a food intolerance can sometimes be a truly disheartening affair which can all too often end with ‘oh, I don’t know, I give up’.
I know the situation well from having to live for 2 years dairy and soya free when my second daughter was born. Her first few weeks were a fraught time, punctuated by extended screaming periods after feeds and some interesting nappies! After researching her symptoms tirelessly my partner and I narrowed the cause down to 2 things (1) she was not happy ‘on the outside’ and her nappies were part of the protest or (2) she was dairy intolerant. We went with 2. So started the quest to clear dairy from my diet (I later learned that soya had to go too) as I was exclusively breast feeding. In less than a week her symptoms had lessened and within two weeks we had a happy baby who was gaining weight nicely. This made us happy too as you would imagine but it meant the introduction to a new way of cooking and eating in our house.
I have always cooked from scratch as much as possible so that made life a little easier but it also introduced me to the ‘freefrom’ aisles in supermarkets. It’s great that an effort is being made to create goodies to cater for the many aspects of food intolerance but the range available made me sad. What if I wanted something luxurious and pretty to eat instead of a lonely little bakewell finger in cellophane? What if someone needed to get a celebration cake that was both dairy and wheat free? Where did they go? What on earth did they do??
I had already changed many of my cakes to be dairy free using oil based recipes and substituting butter for my new found friend, Trex but I also started to experiment with different flours and attempting egg free too. There were some disasters (the brownies that just boiled instead of baking stand out here) and successes (cupcakes, celebration cakes, breads, entire afternoon teas) -some of the recipes have become mainstays and I am still experimenting now when I get time between bakes for customers.
As my food intolerance journey continued and I started toying with setting up Cakey Weller, it was then that more and more people came out to me with their food ‘issues’ and when they learnt that I could help there were smiles all round. Gluten, wheat, dairy, soya, almond, nut, potato, sunflower, coconut and egg free as well as a lovely little boy needing sugar free, low carb (type I diabetes) and dairy free to cater for his equally lovely mummy – quite often there are combinations which’up’ the complexity but I am always ready and happily accept the challenge.
I store all ingredients in separate airtight containers to avoid cross contamination and have a strict ‘1 spoon, 1 ingredient’ policy. It means a lot of washing up but it also means the ingredients remain unsullied. In time I am looking to work toward various allergy related certifications including the Gluten Free Catering Accreditation.
I just want everyone to be able to enjoy good cake and I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.
Working with Trex
At first I was reluctant to use Trex, associating it with wartime style cooking but my first Victoria sponge using it was a complete revelation.
I was skeptical about the claim of using 10% less, but I (uncharacteristically) followed orders and bingo, it worked; skyscraper proportions and the lightest, springiest texture. No flavour was lost but the most amazing texture was gained. An instant convert!
Also, the stunning white buttercream with a beautiful light texture (people have described it as being like marshmallows and like whipped cream) is another plus. Also a great base for adding colour, achieving a true and vibrant colour every time.
Needless to say, I order it by the crate-load every week – the grocery deliver man always looks as if it has been a mistake to deliver so much of it. Nope, I’ll be through it all in days.