Pretty as a Package Cake – A Gluten Free Gift-Wrapped Cake

Gluten-Free Has Never Been So Beautiful

LUEC Pretty as a Package Cake image p 129

It looks like a present, but it is indeed a gift wrapped cake. This is one of those showstopping cakes; the one to place in the center of the buffet table on a pedestal or gift to a close friend on their birthday. What makes this one extra special is that it is gluten-free, which means it can be enjoyed by many who often can’t partake of fancier desserts. There are several components to this, but you can make them one at a time and space out the prep; for instance the chocolate modeling pastes can be made a day ahead. This recipe is from Let Us All Eat Cakeby Catherine Ruehle and it is sure to elicit ooh and ahhs – before before eating and especially after.

 Let Us All Eat Cake

Reprinted with permission from Let Us All Eat Cake: Gluten-Free Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Cakesby Catherine Ruehle with Sarah Scheffel (Ten Speed Press, © 2014). Photo Credit: Erin Kunkel.

Instead of giving your loved ones a gift wrapped in a pretty package, give them a pretty cake that’s shaped like a present! The cake is wrapped up in pliable sheets of modeling chocolate, and the ribbons and bow are cut from this delicious material, too. The chocolate paste sheets yield results similar to fondant, but you can easily make them at home with just two ingredients. I love the classic look of a white-chocolate box wrapped with dark chocolate ribbons, but you could also color the white chocolate modeling paste.

Pretty as a Package Cake – A Gluten Free Gift-Wrapped Cake
Makes: Makes one 5 by 5-inch cake; serves 10
Chocolate Modeling Paste:
  • 2⅔ cups dark chocolate chips
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons pure honey or light agave syrup
White Chocolate Modeling Paste:
  • 5⅓ cups white chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup to 1 cup pure honey or light agave syrup
Very Vanilla Cake batter:
  • 3 cups Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend (See Tips below)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder Gluten-Free All-Purpose
  • 1½ teaspoons xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup milk or unsweetened coconut milk (from a carton),at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste(optional)
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter or Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups organic cane sugar
  • ¾ cup egg whites (about 6 large whites), at room temperature
Very Vanilla Buttercream:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 3½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (optional
Special Tools:
  • Rolling pin
  • Pizza wheel or paring knife
  1. Make the chocolate and white chocolate modeling pastes through the kneading step as follows (prepare each one separately):
  2. Prepare a double boiler by adding 1 inch of water to a small saucepan and topping it with a stainless steel bowl that fits comfortably atop the pan without the bottom touching the water. Bring the water to a simmer. Place the chocolate chips in the bowl and let them melt slowly. If the water starts to boil rapidly, remove the entire double boiler from the heat or reduce the heat so the water returns to a simmer. Gently stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula now and then, but do not overwork the chocolate.
  3. When the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the pan and wipe the bottom dry. Place the bowl on the counter and let cool about 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is warm to the touch. Pour 6 tablespoons of the honey into the chocolate and stir with a spatula to combine. If the chocolate thickens or seizes (becomes clumpy), continue to stir vigorously until the honey is fully incorporated. If the mixture does not come together completely, stir in up to 2 tablespoons additional honey.
  4. The chocolate mixture should be thick, like a dough, and it may be a bit sticky at this point. If the mixture is very sticky, place it on a piece of parchment paper and allow it to air-dry for 30 minutes. Transfer the modeling paste to a resealable plastic bag and seal the bag. Let rest for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  5. Place each type of modeling paste in a separate resealable plastic bag and seal the bags. Let rest at cool room temperature at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. If either mixture is very sticky, place it on a piece of parchment paper and allow it to air dry for 30 minutes before placing in the bag to rest.
  6. For the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 13 by 18-inch jelly-roll pan with nonstick cooking spray, line it with parchment paper, and spray again.
  7. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour blend, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt. In a small bowl, mix the milk with the vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste. Set both bowls aside.
  8. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl. While beating on low, add the egg whites. When all the whites have been added, increase the speed to medium and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl.
  9. Add one-fourth of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low until almost fully incorporated. Add one-third of the milk mixture and beat on low until almost fully incorporated. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk mixtures, starting and ending with the flour. When all the ingredients have been added, scrape down the bowl and beat on medium for 15 seconds.
  10. Pour the batter evenly into the pan and bake in the center of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the top is light golden and a toothpick inserted into the center tests clean. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. When the cake has completely cooled, run a knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the sides of the pan. Invert the pan over a cutting board or onto your parchment-lined counter. Using a sharp knife, cut away the outside 1/ 2-inch of cake around all four edges. Discard this crusty edge.
  12. Using a measuring tape or ruler for guidance, cut six 5-inch squares from the sheet of cake. (You will use only five for the cake, but reserve the sixth in case one of your squares breaks.) Wrap the cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and set aside until ready to assemble the cake. The cake layers can be frozen, tightly wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, up to 1 month. Thaw at room temperature before frosting and decorating.
  13. Prepare the buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high for 1 minute or until lightened and whipped. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean paste and cover most of your bowl with a kitchen towel to avoid a dust storm. Beat on low for 1 minute to combine, and then beat on medium for 30 seconds more or until well whipped and smooth. Keep at room temperature until ready to use, or make it ahead and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  14. To assemble the cake, gather together the cake layers, buttercream, modeling paste, and special tools. If you premade the buttercream and stored it in the refrigerator, bring it to room temperature and beat in the bowl of a stand mixer to restore its texture before proceeding.
  15. Place one of the cake layers on a serving platter. Scoop 1/ 4 cup buttercream onto the cake and, using an offset spatula or butter knife, spread the frosting to create a thin, even layer that covers the cake all the way to the edges. You may be tempted to use a larger amount of buttercream between the cake layers, but spreading only a thin layer will make the cake much easier to assemble, frost, decorate, and slice. Repeat with the remaining 4 layers, pressing each layer firmly onto the layer below it, but do not spread any buttercream on the top layer. Using the offset spatula or butter knife, wipe away any excess buttercream that extends beyond the edges of the cake layers. Place the cake (no need to cover or wrap) in the refrigerator for 1 hour or so to firm up the buttercream. Cover the remaining buttercream with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature.
  16. While the cake chills, make the chocolate bows and ribbons. Lightly grease your countertop with nonstick cooking spray. Remove the dark chocolate modeling paste from the plastic bag, place it on the prepared counter, and knead until the chocolate forms a pliable paste, about 1 minute.
  17. Using a rolling pin, roll the paste to 1/ 8-inch thickness. Use a pizza wheel or paring knife to cut four 1-inch-wide ribbons that are 9 inches long; be sure to square off the ends. These will be the ribbons that wrap your cake. Transfer the ribbons to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cover with plastic wrap so they stay pliable.
  18. Cut two more ribbons to form the tails of your bow; these should also be 1 inch wide, but only 4 inches long each. Use a paring knife to cut a V-shape notch in one end of each ribbon. Transfer to the baking sheet and re-cover to keep pliable.
  19. To form the bow, cut another ribbon that measures 2 by 7 inches. Lay the ribbon horizontally in front of you. Lift both ends and fold them toward the center until the ends meet. Press the ends down lightly, but do not deflate the loops you have created with the folds. Using your forefinger and thumb, gently pinch the middle of the ribbon between the loops to create your bow. Cut a small rectangle of modeling chocolate, about 1 by 2 inches, and cover the center of your bow, tucking the ends of the rectangle underneath the bow. Set the bow on another baking sheet, but do not cover it with plastic wrap. You can keep the modeling paste bow and tails at cool room temperature up to 3 days, but the ribbons that crisscross the cake should be made the day you decorate so they drape smoothly over the cake.
  20. When the cake is chilled, gather together the cake and reserved room-temperature buttercream. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the buttercream, paying extra attention to the corners and squaring off the edges as much as possible. Return the cake to the refrigerator to chill about 1 hour; the buttercream must be quite firm before you wrap it with the white chocolate sheet and position the chocolate ribbons and bow.
  21. When the buttercream is firm, remove the chilled cake from the refrigerator. Roll out the white chocolate modeling paste to 1/ 8-inch thickness and immediately use it to cover the cake completely. Remove the plastic wrap from the decor. Begin with the 1 by 9-inch ribbons that will crisscross your gift box. Use an offset spatula or paring knife to lift up the ribbon, if necessary; working with your hands, position one end of one ribbon where the cake meets the plate. Gently press the ribbon against the cake while lifting it up and over the top of the cake, just as you would wrap a ribbon around a package. If your ribbons do not want to adhere to the cake, use a very slightly dampened fingertip to moisten the bottoms of the ribbons. The top end should be centered on the top of the cake. If you have some extra ribbon, cut it away with your knife. Repeat with the remaining three ribbons so that they crisscross the box, trimming off any excess so the ribbons all meet in the center of the cake (see Tips).
  22. Slightly wet your finger with water and just barely dampen the area where all of the ribbons meet. Next, you’ll add the two 1 by 4-inch bow tails: Working with one tail at a time, affix the squared ends of the tails to the dampened spot at the center of the cake and allow the notched ends to trail over the cake and down the sides. Do not press the tails of the ribbons into the cake; you want them to look loose and flowing. Again, dampen the spot at the center of the cake where the ribbons crisscross, and gently lift and place the bow atop the cake so it covers the tops of the tails.
  23. Keep the decorated cake at cool room temperature until ready to serve, up to 1 day. To make the cake up to 2 days in advance, fill and frost the cake and refrigerate it, uncovered, but reserve the modeling chocolate wrap, ribbons, and bow, applying them the day you plan to serve the cake. Modeling chocolate decor should not be refrigerated as it may suffer from condensation, bleed, or turn soft.
  24. To serve, cut the cake in half through the center, where the ribbons crisscross at the top, and then cut the cake at a right angle to this first cut to make ten 1-inch-thick slices. Transfer to serving plates. The cake will taste best at room temperature.
Author’s Tips:

  • To make the blend, whisk together 2 cups white rice flour, 1 cup tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) and 1 cup potato starch (not flour) in a large bowl until well combined. Store in an airtight container in your pantry or another cool, dark place up to 1 month. For longer-term storage, keep in the refrigerator up to 6 months or in the freezer up to 1 year. Before using, bring to room temperature. Just before measuring, whisk the flour blend to aerate it in case it has settled. Sifting is not necessary if you whisk. 
  • If your cake is very cold when you apply the chocolate wrap and decor, you may find that the modeling paste develops tiny beads of condensation. Don’t panic and don’t touch the condensation or try to wipe it dry. Let it sit and it will dry out on its own.
  • For Wrapped Tiers (round or square): Wrapping your cake tier in modeling chocolate has an effect similar to fondant, but tastes infinitely better. Start with a smoothly frosted, very well-chilled buttercream cake. To get a good estimate of how large a sheet of modeling paste you’ll need to wrap your cake, measure across the top of your cake with a measuring tape, and then measure the height of the cake. Multiply the height by two and add the measurement across the top plus 2 inches for a buffer. (For example, an 8-inch-diameter cake that is 4 inches tall will require a piece of paste that’s 18 inches in diameter.) It’s better to roll out a larger piece of paste than you think you’ll need rather than come up short.

Once you know approximately what size you need, roll out the paste on a lightly oiled countertop to ¼ inch thick, rolling the paste evenly and smoothly and stopping occasionally to check that the paste is not sticking to your counter. Add more oil to the counter if needed. When your sheet of paste reaches the desired size, bring your cake to the counter, next to the sheet. Slide your hands, palms facing up, under the paste, and using soft palms and straight fingers, lift the paste up and over the cake. Center the paste on top of the cake. Beginning with the top of the cake, smooth out any air bubbles, and then gently smooth the paste onto the sides of the cake, working from the top down and removing any air bubbles as you go, all the way down to the bottom edge of the cake. (Use soft hands, your palms primarily, and if you have long nails, keep your fingers flexed out so that your nails don’t poke into the paste.) Once the paste is wrapped around the cake, use your palms to gently buff the paste smooth. Any trapped air bubbles can be pricked with a straight pin. Use a paring knife or pizza cutter to trim excess paste from the bottom edge of the cake. Repeat with any remaining cake tiers.


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