I’ve loved making this gluten free Russian sandwich cake and writing the recipe up to share with you. My grandma was rather partial to this cake too. And I used to love treating to her to one from our local bakery. I’m sorry that she won’t ever get to taste my gluten free version of one of her favourite cakes. But I’m forever grateful to her for playing such a huge part in turning me into a proper foodie!
This gluten free Russian sandwich cake has it all – light buttery sponge, sandwiched together with delicious homemade pastry cream, topped with glace icing and finished with a delicate trail of toasted coconut. And, I’ve triple tested this recipe, so I know it’s a winner. Hope you love it!
For the sponge
175g (6oz) butter (I used standard Lurpak spreadable butter. If using block butter leave out of the fridge for a while to soften)
175g (6oz) caster sugar
175g (6oz) gluten free self-raising flour or mix (add a teaspoon of gf baking powder if using mix)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon *vanilla extract
For the pastry cream (Creme Patissiere)
175ml (¾pint) full fat milk
2 teaspoons *vanilla extract (loving Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract)
6 large egg yolks
110g (4oz) caster sugar
50g (2oz) *cornflour
110g (4oz) icing sugar
A little boiled water from the kettle
Toasted *coconut – I weighed out 25g (1oz) but didn’t need it all. I toasted it by sprinkling it onto a baking tray, which I then slid under a hot grill. The tray gets red hot, so do watch your hands and use a dry cloth when manoeuvring it.
Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4/Fan 160C.
Grease and line 2 x 8inch (20cm) sandwich tins.
Pop all the ingredients for the sponge into a large mixing bowl, and with an electric mixer whisk until light and creamy.
Split the mixture evenly between the two sandwich tins and slip them into the oven.
Bake for approximately 20 minutes until the sponge is golden and feels firm but springy when you press it in the middle. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Whilst the sponge is baking you can crack on and make the pastry cream. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil. In large bowl mix together the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla extract to make a smooth paste.
Once the milk has come to a boil pour it slowly onto the egg mixture, whisking as you go. If you can get someone to pour the milk in whilst you whisk, the help at this point would be marvellous!
Pour the mixture back into a clean pan (a clean pan will help prevent the pastry cream from catching/burning) and place back on the heat.
Gently bring to a boil, stirring/whisking constantly to ensure it doesn’t burn or go lumpy. If you feel it’s getting the better of you and could go lumpy, remove the pan from the heat and give it a really good quick whisk and then place back on the heat again. To check the cornflour has cooked out have a little taste. If the texture seems ‘powdery’ you need to cook it out a little longer.
Once it has come to a gently boil and it’s nice and thick (and cooked out) transfer into a large clean bowl – one big enough for you to move a whisk around in. And then place a disk of greaseproof directly onto the pastry cream (this will prevent a skin from forming). Leave to cool for a while and then pop it into the fridge to chill.
When the pastry cream and sponge are cold you can assemble. Firstly, whisk the pastry cream until it is lovely and smooth.
Then place one of the sponge layers upside down onto a plate, so that the side that you have peeled the paper off is facing upwards. Spoon the pastry cream onto the cake and spread out evenly. I recommend that you take the pastry cream to ¼inch from the edge of the cake to prevent it from oozing out when you place the top layer onto the cake.
Place the other sponge (the same side up as the bottom layer) onto the pastry cream.
For the glace icing, blend a little bit of boiled water with the icing sugar and beat well to make a nice glossy paste – that is not transparent or too runny, but can be spread smoothly over the cake.
Pour the icing onto the centre of the cake and with a palette knife spread it out evenly over the cake. Again, with the icing, leave about ¼inch gap from the edge of the cake.
Before the icing has chance to set, grab a teaspoon and sprinkle the toasted coconut around the edge of the cake.
You can of course now tuck into your cake. But if you put it in the fridge for an hour or so, the pastry cream will set a little and you will find the cake easier (and less messy) to cut up. Of course, if you aren’t eating it immediately you will need to store it in the fridge to keep the pastry cream filling chilled. To enjoy at its best, remove from the fridge about ½hr before you want to eat it. In my opinion this cake is at it’s very best the day you make it.
If you are wondering what to do with the egg whites you have leftover. You may fancy rustling up a fresh cream pavlova and topping it off with some fresh seasonal fruit. Or maybe you could whip up a batch of these yummy macaroons. For a savoury alternative you could use the whites along with another large egg to make a quiche. I did this and it turned out great!
*Check this product out to ensure no gluten containing ingredients or ‘may contain’ or ‘not suitable’ warnings on the pack. If in doubt leave it out!