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glutenfree lemon ginger blondies by frannycakes

The curious incident of music in the summertime

What do you do when life hands you a whole bag of lemons? (Really, this is not some thinly veiled metaphor for bad days, horrible dates or other woes, it is truly about an excess of lemons). You bake.

When it hands you the metaphorical sort, you stop, gather up some friends and look towards your center.

gluten-free lemon blondies

The second city is my center. My happy refuge. Home.

You see, Chicago is a magic sort of place. The air here is always humming with energy to a bluesy tune. Moving forward at a pace just this side of hectic.

Summer in this city is special. I fill my weekends with neighborhood festivals and nights just a little too late on a friend’s patio. And it is the time of year when you can gather up some friends and head to the park for a concert.

You have to make sure that you come armed with wine, plastic cups and munchies (like the blondies at the bottom of this post – they travel well). And maybe some SPF 80 to keep your pale skin safe from the setting sun.

You’ve gotta roll with the rhythm of the season.

music in millenium park

Chicago has quite the rhythm.

I gathered up some new friends (the metaphorical lemonade from last year’s life-lemons), and dragged them out to play on a school night. We listened while my friend Pete and his band played music that hung on the breeze. We giggled while catching up on the unending exploits from lives that fall somewhere on the spectrum of bonkers and ridiculous.

There was talk of boys and work. New beginnings and broken hearts. And most importantly, shoes.

If I can give you some life advice, it would be to talk about shoes with the girls you don’t know when at a spy-themed birthday party for the guy you are sort of seeing and don’t know any of his friends. While it will probably never work with you and that dude (he will dump you over a pair of shoes), you might just find someone you can talk into splitting a bottle of wine with while soaking up a concert in the park.

That is some excellent metaphorical lemonade.

Now back to that bag of actual lemons. Since you have leftovers hanging out from the bag of lemons you bought to make gluten-free lemon raspberry cupcakes, you need to make something that is equal parts lemon and summer delight.

Enter some chewy lemon bars dotted with crystallized ginger. Oh yes, I think that you will win the next party you bring these to (and yes, there is such a thing as winning a party and these will help you do exactly that)


glutenfree lemon ginger blondies by frannycakes

The curious incident of music in the summertime

Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 35 mins
Serves: 18
These lemon bars are chewy, tart and have a kick of spice from the ginger.
  • 210 grams (1 1/2 cups) gluten-free all-purpose flour*
  • 1/4 tsp xantham gum**
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 stick (4oz / 113g) butter, softened300 g (1 1/2 cups) sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh (60 mL) lemon juice
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp lemon zest
  • 75 g (1/2 cup) ginger chips (chopped crystalized ginger)
  • Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius).
  2. Grease & flour a 9×13″ pan.
  3. Whisk together the gluten-free flour, xantham gum (if using), salt and baking powder.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
  5. Scrape down the sides and add the lemon juice and one egg. Beat until combined. Scrape down the sides and add 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and eggs until you have incorporated all of it.
  6. Scrape down the sides and stir in the lemon zest and ginger chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  7. Let cool. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
*I tested this recipe using Cup4Cup gluten-free all purpose flour. Other brands that I am confident would work well are Jules Nearly Normal and Better Batter. Baking mixes such as Pamela’s will not. **If you are using a blend that includes xantham gum, there is no need to add it again.


gluten-free lemon raspberry cupcakes

The three best cures for anything

There is an Irish proverb that says “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.”

My ancestors got that mostly right.

Sure, there is nothing like curling up in your bed, wrapped in a comforter with squishy pillows to make you feel better. Bed is a great place to recover from colds, surgeries and broken hearts.

As for laughter, it is a scientific fact that laughter is good for you and might even cure what ails you. There is nothing like a good, belly-punching laugh. You know the kind. You get them when you are talking to your girl friends about that night in college. You get them from I Love Lucy. And they make you feel better. Each and every time.

But they forgot something very important.


How could they forget cupcakes? Cupcakes cure a good deal of things.

Three Gluten-Free Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

They are effective treatment for the times you get dumped because you bought a pair of designer shoes. They can also be used to help ease the regrets you have for kissing someone you shouldn’t have. Conversely, they are an excellent way for you to take time and over-analyze your interactions with that guy you like.

After surgery, cupcakes are an essential part of the recovery process.

They work wonders for friendships. (I bribe people to be my friends with cupcakes. It’s a thing. And I’m ok with it.)

Gluten Free Lemon Cupcakes on a wire rack

Sometimes, cupcakes can even be a force for good and help end childhood hunger.

These particular cupcakes were made for for the Chicago Blogger Bake Sale hosted by My Daily Find Chicago and the 900 Shops on Michigan Avenue. Proceeds from the event went to benefit No Kid Hungry as part of the Great American Bake Sale campaign.

Blogger Bake Sale 2013

 These are some serious gluten-free cupcakes. A lemon vanilla bean cupcake filled with raspberry jam and topped with a lemon merengue buttercream. They manage to be light and decadent at the same time, a balance that is hard to find in cupcakes.

gluten-free lemon raspberry cupcakes

Gluten-Free Lemon Cupcakes

Recipe Type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 40 mins
Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 36
These cupcakes are a little bit sturdier than some white cakes, but that is because you need to make sure they don’t fall apart when you remove the centers.
  • For the cakes
  • 1½ cups (360 ml) milk at room temperature
  • 7 large (210 grams) egg whites (pasteurized are fine), at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste OR 1 vanilla bean scraped OR 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon extract
  • 460 grams ( 3¼ cups) gluten free all purpose flour*
  • 2 teaspoons xantham gum**
  • 450 grams (2¼ cups) granulated sugar
  • 7 grams (1 teaspoon) salt
  • 1½ sticks (170 grams) butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
  • 85 grams (6 tablespoons) vegetable shortening
  • Zest from 1 lemon finely minced
  • To assemble
  • 1 recipe Lemon Merengue Buttercream (recipe follows)
  • approximately 1 cup raspberry jam
Make the cakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 3 cupcake tins with papers, grease the tops of the pans and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together ½ cup of the mil, the egg whites, egg and vanilla
  3. extract.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients including the sugar on low speed for 30 seconds.
  5. Add butter & shortening and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the remaining milk and stir untill just moistened. Increase the speed to medium and mix for a
  6. minute and a half.
  7. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg/milk/extract mixture in 3
  8. groups, scraping down the sides before each addition.
  9. Gently stir in the lemon zest.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop, divide the batter evenly among the cupcake papers,
  11. making sure that none of them are more than ⅔ full (or you could have a little bit of
  12. a mess).
  13. Bake 2 cupcake trays at a time for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the
  14. center comes out clean.
  15. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack.
  1. While the cupcakes bake, make a recipe of Lemon Merengue Buttercream.
  2. Remove the centers from the cupcakes using a cupcake corer or a paring knife, making sure you don’t go all the way to the bottom of the cupcake.
  3. Fill the wells with raspberry jam. I find that it is neatest when you use a pastry bag and a large, plain tip.
  4. You can replace the tops on the jam wells if you only fil them 2/3 full.
  5. Pipe the buttercream on top.
*I use [url href=”http://www.cup4cup.com/”]Cup4Cup gluten-free flour[/url] in almost all of my recipes. I find that it gives me the most consistent results. You can also use Jules’ Nearly Normal flour, Better Batter or the King Arthur gluten-free flour (this one requires the xantham gum). Baking mixes or bean flour based mixes will not work. **If your mix contains xantham gum, guar gum or expandex, leave this out.
Lemon Buttercream

Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Cook time: 45 mins
Total time: 45 mins
  • 8 large egg whites (30g each–total 225g, or 1 cup)**
  • 400 grams (2 cups) granulated sugar
  • The peel of 1 lemon
  • 560 grams (5 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Yellow Gel Coloring
  1. Combine the egg whites, sugar and lemon peel in a small pot until they reach 140 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Strain your sugar syrup into a clean stand mixer bowl, you want to make sure that the lemon peel doesn’t make it into the bowl. Using the whisk attachment, beat until light and fluffy (soft peaks) and the temperature is neutral – the bowl should not be warm to the touch.
  3. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter one chunk at a time until it is all combined.
  4. It might look like it is starting to curdle, don’t panic! It should all smooth out by the time you add the last bit of butter. If it is getting too loose, you can pop it in the fridge for 5 minutes to help it set up.
  5. Add small amounts of yellow gel coloring until the buttercream is the color you desire.


gluten free lemon thyme shortbread with cup 4 cup flour from williams sonoma

Lemon Thyme Shortbread & C4C flour review

cup 4 cup gluten free flour from williams sonomaThere was a bit of hubub on twitter over this flour. Mostly it was about the price – not sure why. 3lbs of the King Arthur Gluten Free Flour is $16 and 3lbs of Jules Nearly Normal flour comes out to about $12 (she sells 5lb bags). It is a little more expensive, but not horribly so. It is a product sold at Williams Sonoma, they sell premium cookware and foods. Pasta sauce from there is expensive too ($12 a jar!). It is a premium store that sells premium products. Call me snooty, but I love shopping there. And I am ok with paying a price for luxury/ premium goods.

And yes, the flour is fairly pricey. But, is it good? Yes. Very.

Blondie and I got up early last Sunday and went to a gluten-free baking technique class. Ours was taught by a delightful pastry chef who gave some good tips for baking – and taught Blondie quite a bit about gluten-free ingredients and baking. I even learned a trick about baking cookies.

The whole point of this class was to sample their new brownie & cookie mixes (which don’t taste like they came from a box at all – but I still think they are cheating). And to demo their new flour. (Williams-Sonoma, please have more Gluten-Free technique classes!)

Cup4Cup is a gluten-free flour blend developed by Chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Bouchon Bakery fame. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the flour. I baked some shortbread cookies to test it out. I have had some disappointments in the past when it comes to gluten-free flour blends. And there are very few that I recommend without hesitation. This one is now on that list.

The batter seemed a little gummier than I am used to, but the cookies are a little chewy (but not gummy) and did not turn to dust when I touched them (this has happened). There were no strange flavors (which some brands AP blends have) and the texture of the baked good was spot on. Sometimes when you bake gluten free cookies, you need to substitute shortening for some of the butter so that they do not spread into one giant cookie. This flour held its shape in baking, a major plus.

I also used this while testing my fried doughnut recipe that will be live on Wednesday for the Gluten Free Ratio Rally. It actually seems to be working (the dough is raising now, but the texture seemed spot on. The dough had stretch and absorbed the right amount of moisture). I will have to try a loaf of bread with this next…

I also love that I can pick up a bag of this stuff when I am wandering around Williams-Sonoma ogling the kitchen goods that I am going to register for when I get married. I also am really impressed that a fancy-schmancy player has entered the game.

This blend will not work for those of you who also have problems with dairy or gums, as this blend has both. My only aversion to dairy is that I don’t like the way that milk tastes.

I am going to make sure that Blondie has a bag of this in his pantry for when I come to town. (Especially now that he finally has measuring cups and spoons – I can deal with not having a scale for our weekends together)

I would definitely put this as one of my preferred store-bought blends. I think it might have worked its way up to second favorite blend.

There are some limitations to using a prepared flour blend. You can’t change the ratio of grains to starches depending on what you are baking. (So no whole grain breads). You also can’t change the amount of the binding agent (xantham gum, guar gum, flax, expandex, etc.) But, you can make your grandma’s famous chocolate cake without doing math.

This blend beats out my other favorite blend in one aspect, I can just go into a store and pick it up. (Maybe not in Champaign, but in Chicago). No expensive shipping because flour weighs alot!

If you are baking a recipe from a gluten free site (such as this), just total all the flours and use this in it’s place. It works as a weight substitution and as a  volume substitution.

So, thank you Williams-Sonoma and Chef Thomas Keller for this flour.

gluten free lemon thyme shortbread with cup 4 cup flour from williams sonoma

Gluten Lemon-Thyme Shortbread
#ratingval# from #reviews# reviews
Recipe Type: Cookie
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 30
These are a light, summery cookie. They are not too sweet, but they are tangy with an herb kick. They would go great with some vanilla ice cream for a summer dessert.
  • 230 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100 grams (½ cup) sugar
  • 340 grams (2 ½ cups) gluten-free all purpose flour blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (the juice from 1 large lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar until it is just blended.
  2. Add the flour in 2 batches, scraping down the sides of your mixer after each addition.
  3. Add the lemon juice and mix to combine.
  4. Stir in the lemon zest and thyme.
  5. Refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes.About halfway through this time, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Roll the dough out and cut into the desired shape (I did 3 inch circles).
  7. Arrange about a half inch apart on a greased cookie sheets and bake for 13-17 minutes.
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Gluten Free French Lemon Cake

GF French Lemon Cake

Gluten Free French Lemon Cake with lemon rum syrupWe had a cooking unit in my high school french class and everyone was given a more or less traditional French food to cook. I had to make this lemon cake.

A year later, in college, I had my dad find the recipe, type it up and email it to me so that I could impress the other girls in the dorm. In European fashion, it was by weight and I definitely made it by eyeballing it.

Lemon cake for Bastille day Two years ago, I went back to the yahoo email address I used back then to find it, but I didn’t make it – this whole gluten-free baking thing was a bit too scary for me.

I dug it out yesterday because today is Bastille day and a French treat was in order.

It is a bright, lemony cake with a delicate crumb. There is absolutely no need for any gums or even flax in this cake – you want it to disintegrate into lemony goodness  in your mouth.


GF French Lemon Cake with Lemon Rum Glaze
#ratingval# from #reviews# reviews
Recipe Type: Dessert
Author: Mary Fran Wiley
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 8
The original recipe was given to me as a handout in my high school French class by Mme. Czarnecki. I have made it gluten-free and changed a few things to make it even better than the original.
  • 150 grams (3/4 cup) sugar, divided (75 grams for the cake, 75 for the syrup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (60 grams/ 1/2 stick) VERY soft butter
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking powder
  • 30 grams (1/4 cup) sweet white sorghum flour
  • 30 grams (1/3 cup) brown rice flour
  • 30 grams (1/3 cup) sweet white rice flour
  • 30 grams (1/4 cup) tapioca starch
  • 5 grams (1 Tablespoon) ground flax
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 lemons (3 zests for cake, 2 zests and juice from 3 lemons in syrup)
  • 3/8 cup (6 Tablespoons) dark rum
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place eggs & half the sugar (75 grams or 3/8 cup) sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the butter, flours, baking powder, salt and zest from 3 of the lemons.
  4. Mix well. The batter should be thick and look creamy.
  5. Pour into a greased 8 or 9 inch round pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  6. While cake is baking, combine remaining sugar (75 grams or 3/8 cup), the juice of 3 lemons and the rum in a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and stir regularly while the cake is baking.
  7. Remove cake from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
  8. Invert over a cake plate and pour syrup over cake while still warm.
  9. If you can wait, the lemon flavor will intensify over night, but the cake can be enjoyed immediately.

You can replace all flours with 1 cup GF all-purpose flour, such as Jules’ Nearly Normal Flour.

You cannot make this cake without the rum. In high school we used rum extract because of laws and such, but with real rum it is 1,000 times better.

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