Sunday, May 15, 2011

gluten-free chocolate spider-web cake recipe for my little man...

This Friday just gone we celebrated my little mans third birthday. Without getting too sappy… for us mums, this is huge. It really does feel like just yesterday that I was pregnant with him, and I know I will never forget the look on Ada’s cute little face as she awoke (at 2am) to find a new addition to our family. Thankfully for me she had managed to sleep through the whole birth, blissfully asleep in her bed only 20 feet away, as I pushed and heaved and yelled from the birthing pool we had set up on the kitchen floor.

It still amazes me how much someone who has only been around for 3 years can know. And it astounds me to think of how many more years I have been around, but still he sometimes out-smarts me.

We just had a low-key party at home with Si, the kids and I. Nothing major, but just the way I like it. When we had talked about what kind of cake he might like, Kye mentioned he would love a bright red spider-man cake. I said no way. He got a (brown) spider-web cake topped with his favourite toy of the moment. He still loves me.

This cake has become my go-to kid’s birthday cake recipe, adapted from my first ever blog posts, chocolate pear cake. It's super easy, uses readily available ingredients and nothing too expensive (if you choose to use a regular icing-sugar based icing, that is). It can be dressed up or down, iced in what ever icing you want. If you are after a fully gluten and dairy-free cake, simply replace my ganache icing with a regular icing-sugar based one. And best of all, this cake is not so overly sweet that you don’t feel like going back for seconds, which of course is just expected when it’s a birthday, right? 

gluten-free chocolate spider-web cake
Here I have adapted my original chocolate pear cake recipe, back to it's original apple/chocolate cake combo. I find it really confusing to explain, but what the rest of the world knows as potato starch, we kiwis know it as potato flour. In the U.S they have both. Here I have used what is most commonly known around the world as potato starch. Kiwi's use "potato flour". Confused? Brown or even better, muscovado sugar works a treat in this particular cake too. If you are after a fully dairy-free cake, simply ice with your favourite dairy-free chocolate icing.
Serves 8-10 at a guess.

  • 4 medium apples (600g)
  • 3/4 cup (110g) potato starch *see head note
  • 3/4 cup (100g) fine brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup (25g) cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (220g) organic raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup (30g) ground linseeds
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (250ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon natural vanilla essence

  • 200g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped roughly
  • 200ml cream 
  • a few tablespoons pure icing sugar, sifted

Pre-heat oven to 180 C/350 F. Grease and line a 8 or 9 inch round cake tin (it will fit in either).

Peel the apples and grate onto a plate to collect any juices. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, add the sugar and using a metal whisk throughly mix together. Add grated apple (and any juice on the plate), ground linseed, eggs, oil and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon mix to form a smooth batter. Pour into prepared cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.

Remove from the oven and set aside for 5 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. (If I am wanting a sooth flat-top for my cake, I turn the cake up-side-down when cooling. Then I ice the what was actually the bottom of the cake).

To make the chocolate ganache icing; heat the cream in a small pan over medium heat. When it just comes to the boil, remove from the heat, add the chopped chocolate and set aside for 1-2 minutes. Whisk until you have a velvety smooth chocolate icing. Set aside to cool and thicken slightly, before pouring over your cake to ice. If you forget about it and it gets too thick to ice the cake, simply re-heat very gently and start again.

To make the white spider-web icing; mix a few tablespoons of sifted pure icing sugar with just enough boiling water to make a smooth, runny icing. You want it to be easy to pipe, but not so runny that is will "bleed" out into the chocolate icing. When you are ready to ice your cake, pour the white icing into a small zip-lock plastic bag. Snip just the very end off one corner to allow a little bit of icing to run out. Set aside while you ice with the chocolate ganache icing first, then quickly, pipe a spiral of white icing around your cake, starting from the centre. Grab a metal or wooden skewer and make lines from the centre-point out. This make slight feathering patterns which is good for the whole spider-web look we are going for. Place your little beasty spider toy on top and enjoy with a generous dollop of softly whipped unsweetened cream.


  1. One beautifully, moist and chocolatey looking cake!

  2. Snap! It's was my son's 3rd birthday on Friday too. He was born at 8:30am Perth time - which makes your boy about 2.5 hours older than mine I think. Wonder if they're very similar? This cakes had a couple of rounds in our kitchen now. It's a winner.

  3. Mairi~ I can add, three days later this cake is still as moist as the day it was baked! A rare treat in gluten-free baking.

    Leigh~ Hey wow, how cool is that? That was a popular day to birth I think. Kye's cousin was born that same night too, just before midnight though, so on the 12th.Is your son a show man who loves to make everyone laugh, is a mumma's boy and fearless? Mine is. Glad you like this cake as much as we do. Happy belated to your little man Xxx

  4. My other half just wandered up behind me and asked when are we having this cake... and he's got another number after the three! Love the pairing of apples/pears with chocolate - sounds like my kind of cake. :-) xo

  5. Beautiful looking cake - sounds scrumptious too! Are linseeds the same thing as flax seeds? I must check it out. Love the icing!

  6. I love the 'no way' to spiderman (so get that!)and the creative (& original) solution that followed - well done : )

  7. Ina~ yes flax seeds/linseeds are the same thing. You can buy them whole and grind your own, or find them pre-ground in health food stores and some supermarkets. I like to store them in the fridge if whole and in the freezer if pre-ground to keep them fresh.

  8. The cake looks luscious, even with the big-nasty spider on top! Happy Birthday little dude.

  9. love the spiderweb !! my smallest pea just turned 2 and had a dog cake, also got away without any bright coloured icing with that one !!

  10. What a cool birthday treat, seriously good icing job! I love cakes like this where the dairy is replaced by oil (not by margarine) and where the gluten-free components are fairly easy to get hold of. It sounds gorgeous - chocolate and apple are so good together.

  11. I have a spider phobia and when I scrolled down on my iPad to read this post, I saw the spider and my whole body reacted, hot and cold, heart jumped, etc!
    Great web icing.

  12. That spider freaked me out too, but I'll have to get used to the crawlies I suppose. Who knows what Oliver will want on his birthday cakes? At the moment he's showing an inordinate interest in soil, so maybe it will be a centipede cake first up? uuhghhghhhh...
    I love the icing, and the complete lack of food colouring. You're my sort of mum!

  13. Yep!- total mumma's boy, fearless (but so capable that he has the right to be) and a performer for sure (although it usually involves hurting himself in a slapstick humour kind of way.!)

    Happy belated to your boy too.

  14. Looks devine - I am defiantly making this one soon !

  15. This looks amazing! I will have to try this out soon. :)

  16. Hi there ~ AMAZING LOOKING CAKE! I was just wondering if the first picture is black & white? The cake looks really black in that one but then second it looks quite brown... Thanks

  17. Hi Chloe, yes that top photo is in black & white. The bottom photo is the actual colour of it :-)

  18. Can I substitute tapioca or another flour for the potato flour, I live in Rotorua and haven't found potato flour anywhere.
    Thanks, Carol j

  19. Have you tried an Indian grocery store to find the potato flour? They are great for gf flours. Failing that I would use cornflour (know as cornstarch to the rest of the world) instead of tapioca. I find tapioca flour tends to dry things out :-)


Thanks so much for stopping by, arohanui xx Emm

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