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MY rice flour cakes always rise nicely, resulting in a fluffy cake. When I add pieces of fruit (mostly fresh) like cherries in a chocolate cake, apples in an apple cake or shredded sweet potato, the cake rises just a little bit. There are some microscopic air bubbles, but it is basically one thick clump of (nevertheless soft) dough. It isn't fluffy or has air bubbles at all. Why is this, how can I improve it?

This is the basic recipe I use: rice flour, eggs, and baking powder (bicarb + acid). Then there are some varying things regarding taste, like salt, sugar, chocolate etc. Note that there isn't any milk.

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    Have you tried this with dried fruit, or always with fresh fruit?
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 10:01
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    Only once with dried, might be that it was a bit more fluffy
    – Sebastian
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 10:05

3 Answers 3

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You don't list your process and ratios, but this looks like something in the middle between a cake and a souffle, or maybe something close to a gluten-free genoise.

The structure you get in this kind of sponge is incredibly delicate. It's mostly all egg-based, both for the leavening action and for the structural integrity. Consequently, throwing in a bunch of wet fruit is no better than throwing wet fruit into whipped egg whites - the liquid disrupts the foam. It's also sensitive to simple weight - I have made a gluten-free genoise with different flours, and when a flour is ground to a larger particle size, it basically falls down to the bottom during baking, creating a thick inedible layer. I don't think that the exact same mechanism is happening with dried fruit, but this is probably part of it.

In the end, gluten-free recipes are simply not robust to changes. If you want a gluten-free recipe with fruit, search for an existing recipe with fruit, instead of changing the one you have.

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  • Probably that's it! I will try it with a lot of starch to give it structural integrity and try some recipes. Thank you
    – Sebastian
    Commented Jul 8, 2023 at 19:09
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I can think of three things that might be going on here.

First, if your baking powder is "double-acting" (i.e. with a heat-activated acid) the acid from the fruit may be neutralizing the sodium bicarbonate in the baking powder. That means that during baking when the baking powder's acid is activated there's not enough bicarbonate to react with. If this is the case, adding some baking soda with the baking powder should help. If the fruit is just pieces of fruit and doesn't significantly suffuse the batter with juice, though, it's probably not the case.

Secondly, it could just be the fruit weighing down the batter, ripping open the foam as it forms. Gluten-free crumb is quite delicate during baking. I would only suspect this if, after baking, the surface of the cake was cratered by the fruit (or if there were a LOT of fruit and the surface was uneven).

Thirdly, the fruit could be a red herring and other "things regarding taste" you'd also changed were the real cause. Salt, sugar, and chocolate all affect the texture and behavior of batter.

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    Fruit is also wet, so will act as a thermal sink and prevent the batter around it from getting the same amount of heat.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 17:20
  • That's a very good answer and plausible possibilities. First and second aren't the case for sure. The third one might be the case but apple cakes are normally fluffy, so it can't be the apple per se. Probably Joe is close to truth. I am just guessing but I think it must be a combination of the weight plus different heat plus no gluten maybe. I also always have cake with fruit longer in the oven, in order that the fruit bakes through. Do you have any guess how to work arround?
    – Sebastian
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 6:19
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Many fruits contain enzymes (amylases) which break down starch. Dough needs the structural support of starch to rise and keep the shape, so having the long starch molecules chopped down by enzymes severely undermines the structural stability of dough.

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  • Do you think laying in slices of apples will spread amylases that fast into the entire dough? Anyway, this is a great information! I will try adding some potato starch next time
    – Sebastian
    Commented Jul 8, 2023 at 7:48

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