Greetings! So sorry for being out of touch for awhile there. I got on the fast train of life and I have just now caught my breath.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the East Coast for a few days. I spent a couple of days in NYC, hanging out with some old grad school friends as well as meeting up with new friends. The first day I got a chance to have coffee with my pal Cathy, from the Mrs. Wheelbarrow blog. As soon as I got into NYC, I went up to the Upper West Side to wait for my friend, Diana, who was putting me up for my stay. I had a couple of hours, so I went to Zabar’s (which has a pretty big gluten-free crackers and cookies section, by the way) to grab some snacks. While waiting in line, I tweeted that I was at Zabars. Cathy tweeted me back that she was a few blocks away and did I want to meet for coffee? Sure, thing. I walked over (suitcase and all) and we had a fun time chatting and catching up. She was there for the BlogHer conference (as were many, many bloggers). It is so amazing to me that I (being from Washington state) could run into her (from Washington, DC) in New York City. A very small world, indeed.
Over the next couple of days I got a chance to hook up not only some of my oldest, dearest friends (who don’t have blogs), but with some of my new friends, too. I spent time with my pal Aran, from the lovely blog, Cannelle et Vanille for a few hours. And I got a chance to meet and spend time with Kate, from the fun blog Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. (hey–her book is coming out in Spring 2011–I can’t wait!). I love these two women–so talented and just plain nice. I just spent a couple of hours with each one while we bopped around the city. Another thing–they are both gluten-free. It’s so amazing to know how many people out there are gluten-free for one reason or another. Truly, we are not a small minority by any stretch of the imagination.
After my time in NYC, I went across the Hudson river to spent a couple of days with my Twitter pal, Amber, of Bluebonnets and Brownies, and her terrific husband. They are just about the best hosts one could ask for. And, her husband is English, so I got a proper cuppa each morning–so wonderful. Everything they did from the time I arrived until the time I left was about making me feel at home–wow. And they did. I felt right at home. They live right next to a forest, so when we drove up the driveway, there was a young stag there to greet us (I kid you not). I thought it was a statue until I took a step towards it and it bounded away. And their cats, Milo and Connor, were charmers. Even they did everything they could to make me feel at home. I could have stayed much, much longer. You may think I’m crazy, but I had never met Amber before I showed up at her house to stay with her and her terrific husband. On top of it all, she even made a delicious tropical crockpot chicken dish that was gluten-free (I want that recipe, Amber!).
Now, you may be asking yourself–why did you go to the East Coast? Well, the genesis of the trip is this: one day several weeks ago, I saw a conversation on Twitter about something called the Big Summer Potluck, hosted by the fabulous women, Pam, Sharon, and Maggy, behind Three Many Cooks and their pal Erika from The Ivory Hut. I got an intense feeling that I should go. Then I found out that my pal Alice, from Savory Sweet Life, was going to be the keynote speaker. I tweeted that I was thinking of coming out for the potluck. Immediately, two of my best Twitter pals, Amber and Nancy (from The Sensitive Pantry) tweeted back that I should definitely come. Amber offered me her guest room. I did the money math and decided we could swing it and made my plane reservations and voila! I was on my way.
Amber and I drove over to the Andersons’ house with another terrific blogger, Kristin, of The Dinky Kitchen. The Big Summer Potluck was a lovely event. There were around 40 of us who gathered at Pam Anderson‘s lovely summer house in PA for a day of food, information-sharing, and conviviality. It was a terrific day and the setting was beautiful. Truly a wonderful day. Other than Nancy, Amber and Alice, I hadn’t met anyone in the room until that day. And the minute I walked in, I felt like I was home. There was, of course, good food galore (which was labeled for allergens–so very kind!), amazing and talented people at every turn, and even giveaways! Wow. I wasn’t prepared for that. So much giving. I won a chef’s knife from New West KnifeWorks. I have been lusting after a chef’s knife for a couple of years and I finally got one. And it is a work of art. The handle is so beautiful, I spend quite amount of time staring at it (’cause I am a cooking geek). You can see a photo of me here holding the knife. At the end of the day, Erika took a photo of all of us. Such a nice way to remember the day:
If you’re interested in more photos of the day, check out Erika’s slideshow!
After that lovely day, I didn’t think things go get much better. But then Amber, her husband, and I spent the next day at Nancy’s New Jersey shore home. We had another fabulous day together, hanging out, eating, and talking. Nancy made an amazing grilled salad (I want the recipe, Nancy!), and her husband made turkey chili with peppers from their garden (I want that recipe, too!!). At the end of the day, before we sped off to Newark Airport, we walked to the beach. It was so nice.
Really, words cannot adequately describe how wonderful this trip was. So many terrific experiences with amazing people.
One of the things that were in the amazing swag bag for this event was a copy of the yet-to-be-released cookbook, Perfect One-Dish Dinners, Pam’s latest cookbook! We were all so honored to have this book in our hot little hands before anyone else did. Of course, when I got home I immediately set about looking for a recipe to adapt to gluten-free. The one I decided on was Nanny’s Victoria Sponge, which is a simple sponge cake with a layer of jam in the middle. Victoria Sponge cake is so named because it was supposed to have been a favorite tea-time snack of of Queen Victoria. It is distinguished from other sponge cakes by the layer of jam in the middle. Traditionally, the top is not iced–although people often sift powdered sugar on the top. (more info here).
This cake is simple and delicious! Wow. It is so easy to make and is a crowd pleaser. My daughter and her pal declared it the best cake they’ve ever had. No wonder Her Royal Highness liked it so much. This is also very easy to make dairy-free. Just use your favorite butter substitute in the place of the butter.
Note: This recipe uses my gluten-free flour mix:
Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix (mix together and store in a cool, dark place):
1 1/4 C (170g) brown rice flour
1 1/4 C (205g) white rice flour
1 C (120g) tapioca flour
1 C (165g) sweet rice flour (also known as Mochiko)
2 scant tsp. xanthan gum
(you can also use the gluten-free flour mixture (not baking mix) of your choice–just be sure it contains xanthan gum. Or, you can add 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum per cup of gluten-free flour. If you use bean flour, it will add a bean taste to the cake)
12 TBL (1.5 sticks; 6 oz; 170g) unsalted butter softened (or butter substitute)
1 C (190g) granulated sugar
3 large or extra large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C (210g) Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C (120 ml) raspberry jam (or other flavor of jam)
Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar for dusting top (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your pans by lining the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper. No need to grease the sides.
In a small bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar for a few minutes–until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat a few minutes more. The mixture will look almost white. Beat in vanilla.
Add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Pour into prepared pans. Thump each pan on counter to release any trapped air bubbles.
Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Remove from oven. Cool cakes in pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto wire rack to cool completely.
Once cakes are cool, spread jam onto the top of one of the cakes. Place the other cake on top of the first cake. You may now dust top of cake with sifted confectioner’s sugar (if using).
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