Gluten-Free Coconut Squash Cake

October  7, 2013

Every week, Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef -- and Gluten-Free Girl Everyday -- will be sharing smart tips and smarter recipes that will please even the most devout gluten-eaters among us. Come one, come all -- we're going flourless. 

Today: Why a scale will set you free in the kitchen -- and the lightly sweet fall cake that proves it. 

Coconut Squash Cake from Food52

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If you don't have a kitchen scale yet, it's time to buy one. 

For years, I measured out my gluten-free flours in cups, just as I had dipped my one-cup measure into bleached white wheat flour. Sometimes the baked goods worked, with a good spring and a moist crumb. And sometimes they were leaden messes.

It took me a long time to realize that each of the different gluten-free flours -- and there are plenty to choose from -- has a different density. 1 cup of arrowroot flour weighs 128 grams, but 1 cup of sweet rice flour weighs 204 grams! If I ran out of arrowroot flour and used sweet rice flour instead? Well, that's why that cake weighed more than it should. 

So I learned to bake by weight, as pastry chefs do. And everything grew easier. 

More: Build flavors with flours -- here's how.

Coconut Squash Cake from Food52

But when I started playing with the flavors of gluten-free flours, I also realized I could play with the flavors of fats and liquids in recipes if I weighed those too. If I wanted to make a cake dairy-free, I could use 115 grams of coconut oil instead of 115 grams of butter. (1 U.S. stick of butter weighs 115 grams.)

And so, this coconut squash cake, which is moist and springy and tastes of autumn, is adaptable for your palate. Do you want to try brown butter? Use 115 grams of it instead of the coconut oil. Do you not have coconut sugar in your kitchen? Use 140 grams of brown sugar instead. Can't find kuri squash in your store? Butternut squash or kabocha will work beautifully -- just weigh out the purée. And then you have cake. 

Coconut Squash Cake

Serves 8 to 10 

170 grams grain-free flour mix (see below)
1 teaspoon psyllium husk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon 5-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
115 grams coconut oil, melted
140 grams coconut sugar
2 large eggs
240 grams roasted squash puree (we like Kuri, but feel free to use kabocha or butternut)
120 grams milk  

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Shauna Ahern

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Zoe Borenstein
    Zoe Borenstein
  • Julie Wolman
    Julie Wolman
  • Two Trays Kitchen
    Two Trays Kitchen
  • Lisa Naylor
    Lisa Naylor
  • mrslarkin
Shauna writes about food. Danny cooks it. We grow excited every Saturday morning to go to the farmers' market. This time of year, a Billy Allstot tomato is enough to make us look like goons at the stand, jumping up and down with excitement. We will eat one slice with sea salt, standing over the sink. Another goes to our baby daughter. The rest might go into the smoker to make smoked tomato salsa, or thrown together with watermelon and good olive oil for a watermelon gazpacho, or stacked with smoked salmon and drizzled with horseradish sour cream. Every day is new. I have no idea what we're having for dinner tonight. But I'm sure interested to find out.


Zoe B. July 18, 2014
Any recommendations for an egg replacement? I am allergic
Julie W. November 21, 2013
where is the recipe for the grain-free flour mix ? I do not see it below. thannk you - I woud love to try this for thanksgiving
Julie W. November 21, 2013
Where is the recipe for the grain-free flour mix?
Two T. October 16, 2013
Hey all, I made this today with a few of Shauna's subs in tow...browned butter and half coconut/half brown sugar. Halved it and baked it in an 8 x 1 inch tart pan which was perfect in size. Glazed with a little orange honey and toasted hazelnuts. For flour I used equal parts almond (Honeyville), buckwheat and oat (and knew I was taking a gamble w/ no potato starch. It was definitely a bit moist/denser due to that but not in an under-baked way. While it baked up nice in just a half hour and the taste was very nice, my main quibble was I thought the buckwheat to be a bit overpowering. I wanted the squash to sing more I guess. Still good, but I think I'll do a few more tweaks next time.
Lisa N. October 9, 2013
Maybe a dumb question.. but how do you think this would work with pumpkin? The squash looks awesome and delicious but I am looking for a substitute for pumpkin pie for Canadian thanksgiving this weekend.
Kt4 October 13, 2013
I don't see why not. Pumpkin is a winter squash too :)
mrslarkin October 7, 2013
here's the video about psyllium husk from Shauna's website. I wonder if I can use some of my giant can of metamucil??
simona October 7, 2013
I am curious about the psyllium husks as well. Any subs?
ChefJune October 7, 2013
Curious what the purpose of the psyllium husks is to the cake. Can I omit them, Shauna? My body doesn't react well to that stuff. Or should I sub something else?
shauna.ahern October 7, 2013
Hi there! The psyllium works as a bit of a binder for the cake, ensuring that the edges are crisp and it holds together well. But since I first developed this recipe — I adapted my own recipe here to be grain-free and dairy-free — I've realized that psyllium (or xanthan gum or flax seed or chia) really isn't necessary for cakes. So if you want to avoid it, simply add another 15 or 20 grams of flour instead!