gluten-free strawberry + thyme cake recipe

Families are funny things. The intricate layers of our relationships with those who know us the best always are! Living over here in Western Australia away from my extended family is tough. I know loads of people don't care much for family, or simply move on with their lives without stopping to look back. But I'm not one of them. It's my observation that there is one person in every family who's job it is to document and communicate, and it seems that I'm that one. The one who takes photos when no one else does, who says things when no one else will. It's never been a conscious thing, it's just who I am. My family, although far from perfect, mean more to me than most of them will ever know. Stories from our past and present rattle around in my head, reminding me of both the good and the bad moments. The invisible bonds and ties we share.
This past weekend I flew home to NZ for two days to farewell my Nana. To some it may have seemed crazy to travel such a long way, but to me I knew in my heart it was something I needed to do. And as much as I went home to say my farewells to someone very dear to me, I also went home to spend precious moments with those my Nana has left behind. I stayed up half the night chatting to my mum as I lay on the mattress below her bed. I helped cook dinner for my sister and her family, I drove to the city with my Dad to visit my Grandparents, talked the ears off my two brothers, hugged my little sister, walked the beach with one of my closest friends and her beautiful little man... I reminisced with family about the strong woman we all loved. I laughed. I cried. I said goodbye.

The day before my Nan passed, I celebrated my 34th birthday. With cake. (She would have approved wholeheartidly!). Those of you who have been around here awhile will be all too familiar with my love affair of paring fruits and herbs. The strawberry season starts ridiculously early here in Perth and we've already been buying huge boxes of seconds from the markets for the past month or so. I freeze them all immediately, for use in smoothies and cakes such as these. I know my Northern Hemisphere friends will probably struggle to get their hands on strawberries at the moment, but the cool thing about this recipe is that it's really just a recipe for a beautiful simple gluten-free butter cake. It can be baked plain, or topped with whatever seasonal fruits you have at hand. A few years back I did a summer version using fresh peaches and local mulberries I'd picked in spring.
P.s I shared a few pics from home over on Steller.

gluten-free strawberry + thyme cake
This is a beautiful simple gluten-free butter cake recipe which you can top with whichever seasonal fruits you like. I always blitz my unrefined raw sugar in a blender or processor until powdered to assist in the creaming process. What we know as potato flour here in Australia/NZ is actually called potato starch in the rest of the world, so international friends, please note that potato starch is what you need here. GMO-free cornstarch could also be used in it's place.
Serves 8-10

125g soft butter
1 cup (200g) unrefined raw sugar, blitzed until fine*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
the finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme + extra to sprinkle

2 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (75g) almond meal (ground almonds)
3/4 cup (105g) fine brown rice flour
1/3 cup (55g) potato flour (starch)**see headnotes
1 1/2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
2 tablespoons rice, almond milk or coconut milk
1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen, sliced in half of large

Preheat oven to 170C/340F. Grease and line a 23cm/9 inch cake tin with baking paper.
Cream butter, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest + thyme until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add almond meal, then sift over the flours and baking powder. Add milk and fold through until just incorporated. Transfer to the tin, scatter over berries and some fresh thyme sprigs and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean when cooked. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool. Best eaten on the day of baking, however it can be stored airtight for 2-3 days. 

Adapted from this recipe in the archives.

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  • Jane S
    September 10, 2014 at 2:04 am

    What a gorgeous post Emma. Beautiful words & cake. Those horses on the beach are stunning x

    • emma
      September 10, 2014 at 3:58 am

      Sunday was such a beautiful day on the beach in Raglan and there were loads of people out on horses 🙂

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    September 10, 2014 at 2:14 am

    I absolutely love this flavour combination!! So yummy!

    • emma
      September 10, 2014 at 3:58 am

      Strawberries, lemon and thyme is one of my all-time favourite combos 🙂

  • Ashlae
    September 10, 2014 at 3:19 am

    So happy you got to say your goodbyes and spend time with those your Nana adored most. This cake (and the accompanying photos) are stunning, lady. Love to you. <3

    • emma
      September 10, 2014 at 3:59 am

      Thanks so much love! It really was so lovely to go home. xx

  • Liz @ Floating Kitchen
    September 10, 2014 at 3:19 am

    What wonderful words, Emma. Beautiful sentiments. And this cake is gorgeous too!

    • emma
      September 10, 2014 at 3:59 am

      Thanks love! xx

  • Rustic Tarts
    September 10, 2014 at 3:31 am

    We have had to return to NZ twice recently to farewell my husband's parents. Its a beautiful place.
    I'm looking forward to trying your recipe but I was wondering if you have any tips for freezing strawberries?

    • emma
      September 10, 2014 at 3:57 am

      If you have room in your freezer, I find the best way to go when freezing strawberries (or any berries/fruit for that matter) is to hull them and cut in half. Lay them out flat on a tray in a single layer and freeze. Once frozen transfer to a zip-lock bag. I don't have room in my freezer to freeze them this way at the moment, so I instead just pop them all into bags and then swear my head off when they've all frozen into one big hard un-breakable lump! Haha. xx

    • Rustic Tarts
      September 10, 2014 at 6:07 am


  • tammi | recipe junkie
    September 10, 2014 at 5:36 am

    I think, being the oldest grandchild/child, that I held this position in our family that was until moving so far away. In the last eight years I feel like there are so many gaps in my memory bank of my immediate/extended whanau that I feel a desperate urge to rectify that and every year that goes by with us living here in Aussie is getting harder and harder. I tell you, us moving home can't come soon enough!

    It was a good thing you going back Emm. My dad's mum passed away four weeks to the day of us arriving in OZ to live and it was without question that we travelled home for her tangi but when my mum's mum passed four weeks after that and having my hubby in hospital after a nasty motor accident, it just wasn't feasible for me or the kids to be so far away from him when things were still touch and go. I've gradually come to accept that I couldn't be there to say my goodbyes but it still stings a little.

    We've got a few birthdays coming up in the next few months and look forward to baking this cake for at least one of them 🙂

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 6:41 am

      That must have been so hard to not go home, but I reckon your Nan and the rest of your family would have totally understood. I really wanted to take our kids home, but just couldn't justify the cost. Lotsa love to ya
      xx Emm

  • Cheryl
    September 10, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Looks gorgeous! Could we use rice flour instead of brown rice flour? (I can't seem to find brown rice flour). Thanks!

    • emma
      September 10, 2014 at 11:57 am

      Yes that should be fine. White rice flour weighs a little less than brown rice flour, so if possible I'd recommend weighing the flour instead of using cups xx

  • Kalinda
    September 10, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I'm sorry for your loss. Sometimes life takes you far away, but you still keep your family close to your heart.

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:07 am

      Thanks so much Kalinda xx

  • J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats
    September 10, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Thyme pairs beautifully with so many fruits, I think its my top choice for strawberries, figs, peaches…among others.

    Beautiful post:)

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:07 am

      Thyme + fruit = awesome eh! xx

  • Tessa
    September 11, 2014 at 3:02 am

    This looks like such a wonderful recipe, and I have an abundance of thyme growing in my yard that needs to be used!

    Bramble & Thorn

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:08 am

      Thanks Tessa! My thyme is going crazy at the moment too xx

  • Nicola Galloway
    September 11, 2014 at 8:15 am

    What beautiful words Emm. Family is so important and I know how hard it must be for you to be so far away. At least it is not forever. And you bonds are so strong. I have never been to Raglan and those beach landscapes make me want to visit one day.
    I will be trying this recipe in the weekend for a friends 34th birthday too with the last of our homegrown frozen blackberries. Looks absolutely stunning!

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:08 am

      Thanks Nicola! You'll have to come and visit Raglan when we move home again. You'll love it! xx

  • london bakes
    September 11, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I'm so glad that you got to spend some quality time with your family, even if it was in such sad + difficult circumstances. Much love to you <3

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:08 am

      Thanks so much Kathryn! xx

  • molly yeh
    September 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    this post brought tears to my eyes. reading your take on the world and family warmed my heart so much, and i'm so sorry about your nana 🙁

    these photos and this cake are absolutely breathtaking. yay for fruits + herbs!!

    hugs to you, dear!!!

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:09 am

      Thank you sweet Molly. Much love xx

  • cynthia
    September 12, 2014 at 1:42 am

    Such beautiful words, Emma. I'm so sorry for your loss, but glad you got some time with your family to say goodbye. And this birthday cake is just stunning! Beautiful post.

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:09 am

      Thank you Cynthia xx

  • InTolerant Chef
    September 12, 2014 at 7:45 am

    So sorry to hear about your Nan, I'm glad you got to say your goodbyes though. What a lovely cake indeed, the thyme and strawberry would definitely be a great combination- Happy Birthday! Xox

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:09 am

      Thanks love! xx

  • sandwich maker
    September 12, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    I am totally agree with you that family is very important thing in life without it we feel incomplete. It really feels great when we spend time with our parents and grand parents.
    Even me too enjoy more to try some new recipes when we meet all family members and friends.

    Birthday cake recipe is nice will try too!

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:10 am

      I hope you do try this recipe and share it with your loved ones xx

  • Sini | My Blue and White Kitchen
    September 14, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    What a beautiful post, Emma. I'm so so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for sharing.
    This cake looks luscious; a perfect treat to share with my loved ones.

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:10 am

      Thanks Sini xx

  • erin @ she cooks, she gardens
    September 15, 2014 at 4:23 am

    I'm so sorry to hear about your Nan, I lost mine a couple of years ago and it was such a bittersweet time as she'd been sick. I'm glad you got to spend some time remembering her and closing rank with your family, even if only for a few days.

    Gorgeous photos as always, the ones of the beach are breathtaking.

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:11 am

      Thanks so much Erin. xx

  • Bec
    September 15, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Delicious cake with beautful flavours. I am sorry abot Nan, I hope it was as beautiful as it could be. x

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:11 am

      Thanks Bec xx

  • Hannah
    September 16, 2014 at 1:52 am

    I'm so sorry to hear about your Nan, Emma, and am glad you got to spend time with your loved ones. Beautiful, cake, too – we just got a case of pears, so I can't wait to bake this cake with pears on top!

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:11 am

      Thanks Hannah. Pears and thyme would be perfect here! xx

  • Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today
    September 16, 2014 at 6:45 am

    I am so sorry for your Nana. Big hug to you <3
    It was a beautiful post, I could feel your emotions and I loved beautiful words you wrote about your family. I could also picture your walk with a friend as I remember your hometown. All the best dear friend!

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:11 am

      Thank you Marta, much love xx

  • Heidi - Apples Under My Bed
    September 17, 2014 at 4:45 am

    So sorry for your loss, Emm. But what a beautiful time you had with your family. Absolutely gorgeous post. And cake. Happy birthday X

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:12 am

      Thanks heaps Heidi xx

  • swirlingflavors
    September 19, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Strawberries plus thyme mmmmm….i'm definitely making this cake 🙂

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:12 am

      Enjoy! xx

  • Patricia Scarpin
    September 23, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I was away on vacation and had no idea of what had happened to you. I'm sorry for your loss – I love my gradnmother so much, she took care of us when my mother died. I am sure your nan was a wonderful person. xx

    • emma
      September 25, 2014 at 7:12 am

      She really was, thank you xx

  • Val @ Oregaknow
    November 18, 2014 at 9:12 am

    This looks simply amazing! And I love the scenery as well.

  • Analida Braeger
    December 6, 2014 at 1:09 am

    What a wonderful recipe. thank you so much. Your blog is beautiful.

  • StefZero
    January 21, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Such a wonderful recipe. Thanks for sharing this to me. And also your blog is very amazing.