WW: Cookbook Review, "Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking" by Cara Reed

Baked goods. I crave them.
Baked goods. I crave them.

I bought Cara Reed’s cookbook Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking a few months ago. Cara is the genius/madwoman behind the Fork and Beans blog (the woman made her own Cheerios, seriously). I bought the cookbook because I’ve made a few of the recipes on her blog (starting with these adorable ghosts, although I made a lot of weird shapes instead), and I knew that they worked, so I was excited by the cookbook. I am not being compensated for this review — I bought the cookbook with my own hard-earned money, and then I spent the rest of it on gluten-free flours to bake with.

This is, hands-down, one of my top 5 cookbooks I’ve ever purchased. Only a few cookbooks capture my kitchen this way, where I keep picking them up and picking out something new to make from them. I love cookbooks, and I enjoy just reading them. But for the majority of cookbooks, they sit on my shelf a lot and I think about making things from them. This one? I’m baking from, nearly weekly.

THIS IS NOT A HEALTH FOOD COOKBOOK. For anyone who thinks “gluten-free” and “vegan” both mean some weird definition of “healthy,” um, yeah, this isn’t it. This cookbook is cookies and cakes and pastries and sugar and then some more sugar. It is awesome. Cara Reed’s goal in food seems to be bringing us all the cookies and things that we miss, living with food restrictions (chosen or not). She makes pop tarts.

Reed’s recipes are all based on one of her two flour blends. I’ve only made the standard one, and I’ve been through 3 recipes of it (it makes 9 cups. NINE CUPS.) I’m sure I’ll get to the second blend; I keep meaning to. But making flour blends is one of the *sigh* *so much work* BAH parts of gluten-free baking, so the fact that I have one on hand means I’m more likely to bake. The fact that this one is half sorghum was also a selling point for me; so far, I’ve had more luck with sorghum than any other gluten-free flour.

The one and only “problem” I’ve had with any of these recipes is that, in my oven, the cooking times are too short, by anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. At the moment I’ve misplaced my oven thermometer, but it was good 6 months ago. Regardless, this is a pretty easy issue to fix. It is consistent enough that I’m adding 5 minutes of time to every recipe and then going from there, though. Different ovens.

So far, I’ve made the following recipes:

  • Chocolate Cloud cookies, which were quick, easy, and chocolate
  • Brown Sugar donuts
  • Cracked Pepper and Herb Drop Biscuits (but I made them plain)
  • Gingerbread cupcakes
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes
  • Blackout cake
  • Whiteout cake
  • Chocolate “Soufflés” Individual cakes (more like lava cakes)
  • Cinnamon Streusel Coffee cake
  • Pumpkin Streusel bread
  • Dark Chocolate Quick bread
  • and several frostings for this

High on the list of things to try:

  • the Samoas
  • Cheese-Its
  • cheesecakes (Key Lime Bars, and strawberry cheesecake)
  • Chocolate Indulgence biscuits
  • the almond croissants and danish squares
  • Cinnamon Raisin loaf

Okay, does that list make you drool? If not, really? I’d offer photos, but it turns out that I’ve not remembered to photograph a single one of these recipes. They are *that good.*

When I had to start gluten-free baking, along with the vegan side (the egg allergy was new at the same time, but I was so good at vegan cake already that it didn’t matter), I failed so much. I made brownies that no one wanted to eat. The experiments that weren’t inedible just weren’t very good. I tried a few cookbooks, but honestly, I was disappointed, overall, with the results. Gluten-free failures are expensive, too! I have been a baker since I was 10 years old. I have always loved baking, especially cakes. I’ve gone through several obsessive baking phases — first Bundt cakes and then for a while vegan cupcakes. This is a less thematic baking cookbook to be obsessed with, which is nice. But the other thing that’s nice is that these recipes all work.

HIGHLY, highly, highly recommended. Check it out.


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