Strawberries and Cream Layer Cake, ACD-Friendly and Allergen-Free

Gluten free, vegan strawberry custard layer cake

As a typical Libra, my baking proclivities tend to vacillate between “Almost-too-simple-to-require-a-recipe” (see LaRaw Bars, Quick Cranberry-Apple Compote, Almond-Crusted Root Vegetable “Fries“) or “So-elaborate-as-to-require-a-week’s-preparation” (see Meaty Spinach Pesto Lasagna, Raw “Linguine” with Bolognese Sauce and Hemp Parmesan, Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Warm Caramel Sauce)–we Libras tend to be “All or Nothing” that way. Somewhere in between resides the bulk of my baking: chocolate chip cookies, brownies, muffins or cakes.

In my 30s (aka the “Decade of the Dinner Party”),  I used to bake a lot of elaborate, very involved recipes.  I mean, a lot.  As I recall, I held a dinner party in my little basement apartment about once a week.  Since most of those soirées featured more or less the same guest list (hey, B & P! Long time no dinner party! Are you guys still in California?), I felt it necessary to bake something entirely different each Saturday.  Actually, I would have felt that way regardless–I just like to try new things in the kitchen.  (No, no, not those kinds of things, silly! I’m talking about cooking and baking).  One of my favorites was a ten-layer meringue-and-buttercream concoction that alternated layers of mocha meringue with either chocolate or coffee buttercream, topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce and little gold dragees.  Needless to say, that one was a huge hit.

Today’s recipe reminded me of that gilded extravaganza, if only because it’s multi-layered, involves a creamy filling, and–most importantly–requires more than one day’s preparation.  (The original recipe, in fact, tells you to take at least 4 days lead time if you wish to serve this beauty, but I’ve cut it down to three.  See, there are some benefits to eating ACD-friendly!)

I guess I must love a challenge more than I realize, because as soon as I saw the original recipe from Fine Cooking, I thought, “I must make this anti-candida friendly.”  Now, that’s no mean feat, given that we ACDers can’t eat sugar, refined flours, gluten, anything too starchy or moldy, and–in my case–eggs or dairy.  Yowzah. Then, a few days later, Iris posted her “Birthday Cake Challenge.”  You see, Iris is about to celebrate a major b-day (the last year of her 20s) at the end of this month, and she’s asking for people to post cakes that would be appropriate.  And wouldn’t you agree that this beauty fits the bill perfectly?

I decided that I wanted to make the cake as allergen-free as possible–more than just gluten-free and refined-sugar free. In other words, no eggs, dairy, gluten, refined sugar, nuts, corn or soy.

For the cake, I adapted the Golden Vanilla Cake recipe from Sweet Freedom by using my all-purpose GF flour mix instead of the spelt and adding xanthan gum; those were the only changes required to the original recipe (and I was amazed at how easy it was to convert to gluten-free!).

The vanilla pastry cream (used in place of the original corn cream) is from my Desserts without Compromise ebook (no real changes necessary, but I did gussy it up with a pinch of turmeric and a touch of coconut sugar).

For the cookie crumbs (to replace the Cap’n Crunch crumbs in the original), I used the Sugar-Free Sugar Cookie recipe from this blog post, also subbing my gluten free AP flour for the spelt and adding xanthan gum; I coated the crumbs in the same “white chocolate” coating as my Raw Gingersnap Cookie Bon Bons.

Finally, to replace the strawberry preserves, I cooked up a simple strawberry compote along with the fresh berries.  And while the preparation was a wee bit (!) time-consuming, it is all, astonishingly, still within the confines of the anti-candida diet (well, the later stages of the diet, anyway).

The original recipe also instructs you to freeze the cake to “set” it, then defrost in the refrigerator for 36 hours.  I decided to forgo the freezing, partly because agar doesn’t freeze well, but also because it didn’t seem necessary–the cake was ready to go as soon as I assembled it.

Having said all that, this is really not a “daily” ACD dessert Now that I’m in the final stages of the diet (Stage 3), I am able to eat a dessert this decadent, perhaps, once a month.  Starch-heavy, high carb and naturally high-sugar foods are generally avoided, even on maintenance, so if you do make this cake, consider it a once-a-month (or less) indulgence, eat only a moderate slice, and consume it only after a day or two of low-glycemic and low-starch eating.

Which will work out perfectly, since you’ll have at least 3 days to think about it while you’re preparing the cake.

[For those of you who think I’m insane to make this  don’t have an extra four days to make cake  want to use the individual aspects of the recipe on their own, the cake is great as cupcakes or in a larger pan; the pastry cream is wonderful in a tart shell, covered with fresh berries, or in a parfait; the cookies (uncoated) are terrific as decorated holiday sugar cookies, or with tea; and the strawberry spread is a perfect stand-in for jam, or served atop pancakes for breakfast.]

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  1. Whoa…Wow! I’m incredibly impressed. I hope you did enjoy a serving of this spectacular creation. You’re amazing Ricki!

  2. this looks beautiful and healthy!!! great recipe ricki!

  3. O.M.G. Ricki, that’s amazing. You are my baking hero. Seriously!

  4. Okay, you were totally NOT kidding about this cake! Unbelievable. It truly looks amazing. Such a beautiful presentation!! And I really love this recipe!

  5. Wow what a triumph. The pastry cream filling sounds especially delicious. Vegan choux buns or eclairs on the horizon perhaps? Another ambitious project for you!

  6. Whoa. I am more than impressed! I have never had the patience for creating art like that (because that is definitely a work of art). Perhaps you could come visit me and bring your fabulous cake?!

  7. I just want to say the cake looks beautiful, wonderful and delicious, and I’m sorry I probably won’t ever get to taste it because I don’t have the stamina to bake one. You are so creative and ambitious!

    • Andrea, that’s probably the most involved recipe I’ve ever made in my entire life, including all baked goods and main dishes. I don’t know what possessed me–I guess I just like a culinary challenge. 😉

  8. Beautiful!! Triple layer cake, love it!

  9. Oh my! This looks divine! Ricki, you are just too amazing lady! 🙂 I can’t believe you made such an amazing cake! I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to pull off the whole thing together but I definitely want to try elements of it if not eventually the whole thing! I am going to try your flour mix soon! I’m dying to try it in your recipes and in old recipes that I used to love!! Do you think the white chocolate could ummmm…harden like white chocolate? Does it taste kinda like it? You are soooooooo amazing!

    • It doesn’t taste *exactly* like white chocolate (it’s made from coconut, so there’s that flavor, of course), but it does harden–just like it. 🙂

  10. Wow this screams out celebration! Looks amazing! However what I really love about it is the way it draws on so much that you have developed over the past few years and brings your ideas together into this spectacular cake. Definitely a cake that has taken some lengthy gestation but looks so worth it (and who wants to freeze a cake and then wait for it to thaw – I prefer ones you can eat straight away)

  11. PS and I love your posh tea set – now I will imagine you eating off these every afternoon tea time

  12. Awe-inspiring, Ricki! I’m very much a one-pot quick-n-easy cook for the majority of the time (cooking just for one person day in day out makes that the most appealing style of cooking) but I do get urges sometimes to create something complicated and hours-involving. You’ve just given me a recipe for the next time that urge hits (and I have the free time… probably in August 😛 )

  13. That looks so great!!! The cake looks really moist, too! Very well done!

  14. Ricki,
    This looks delish! I’m going to try this cake sometime, for sure! I defintely think it’s beautiful enough to have at a fancy dinner party with your beautiful china! ***Smile!***


    • Thanks so much, Jeanie! 🙂 I inherited the china from my mom–and she hardly ever used it, either. But I love looking at it! 🙂

  15. Very impressive! I made strawberries and cream cupcakes yesterday, but they don’t look even half as impressive as your cake. You did a beautiful job.

  16. Oh. My. Word. Ricki, this is ABOVE AND BEYOND gorgeous. What a treat. Since you mentioned you can only have this about once a month, how about I come up and help you finish off the rest? (LOL – as if I am not already up to my elbows in sweet treats I shouldn’t be eating right now, with all of this cookbook recipe testing!) Congrats on a job well done.

    • Alta, you are welcome ANY time! I wish I could share it with you–I know you’re someone who’d appreciate the “allergen-free” aspect. 🙂

  17. Super fancy! Sounds delicious too. Is it horrible that upon first glance I thought the cookie crumbles looked like cheese? 🙂

  18. OMG, Ricki, this cake is beyond stunning! It’s no wonder that Foodgawker picked up that photo–WOW! Now who did you get to help you eat this heavenly delight? Oh, to be your next door neighbor … sigh. I bet Iris is tickled pink (or strawberry red) 😉 with this entry for her challenge!


    • Thanks, Shirley! 🙂 I ended up sharing it with a bunch of people from work and my sister who’s visiting. Still got lots left, though–it does make enough for a crowd! Would love to share with you if you were next door (or even somewhere in the city!) 😀

  19. This is incredibly creative Ricki. Not that I’m surprised! I think what I love about it most is the fact that the cake recipe makes enough for the layers, AND you can bake them all at the same time. That’s convenient!

  20. ooh, you can make this for my 30th this year 😉

  21. Wow, what a decadently lovely dessert!

  22. Hi!
    I have a question about the agar powder? If I process agar flakes into a powder, is that the same thing as agar powder?

    Thank you 🙂

    PS: This recipe looks amazing. I want to make it for my mother’s birthday <3

    • Hi Sophie,
      I’ve used flakes that I processed myself in the past (see this recipe), but I did find that they never got quite as fine as the powder you can buy. If you have a high-powered blender (or coffee grinder) that can do the job, then yes, I’m pretty sure they would be the same. But the ready-made powder is FINE, like talcum powder–I’ve never been able to reproduce that texture at home. You could still use it, but would have to compensate by perhps using a little bit more of the homemade stuff. You might be able to find a conversion chart on the internet, which would help with the amount. Sorry I can’t be more help than that!

      Another–totally different–option would be to cook up a spread using cornstarch to thicken it. The difficulty here is that it needs to be fairly solid. Even with the agar, the spread was so moist that after the cake sat in the fridge for a day, it absorbed a lot of the moisture and we found it was more like eating a trifle than a layer cake (still very delicious, but didn’t hold together as well). 🙂

  23. Wow Ricki, you are a serious baking goddess!!

  24. does any one out there have a recipe for making pudding that has no soy, nuts, gluten, dairy, eggs …. ?

  25. thanks for posting this! i have a child in playgroup that is allergic to dairy, egg, soy, and gluten. another allergic to peanuts, and another with colitis. going to try to make these into cupcakes and garnish with fruit and powdered sugar.

  26. This looks GREAT! but i am allergic to the all purpose flour that you use! is there a sub for it? maybe… almond or coconut flour?

    • Sorry about that, Rachael. You could use any all-purpose flour, though. I know that Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur both make gluten-free AP flours. Almond and/or coconut would not work in this recipe–though you could use any layer cake recipe at all (just sub your own cake for the layers). 🙂

  27. My birthday is coming up in a few days and my mom used to ALWAYS make a berry cake. This year, I’m going to ask her to make this! It looks so delicious!

    Thanks so much 🙂

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