For many people, the goal of vegan baking is to make something that can't be distinguished from a non-vegan product — equally decadent, equally delicious, able to fool omnis. There's a place for that, and I respect it, and occasionally I even bake with that goal in mind. I don't think we need to deprive ourselves in exchange for caring about animals and the planet. When baking gluten-free, the goal is trickier to achieve but basically the same — fool everyone into thinking they are eating a fabulous, gluten-filled, non-vegan treat, regardless of how much fat and sugar needs to be added. I'm always impressed and filled with admiration when I see others' successful results.
But, I've been vegan so long, and my tastes and ideas have changed so much, that I'm less concerned with making something exactly like its "normal" counterpart, than I am about making something that tastes great and has a pleasing texture and appearance. It may be entertaining to create a vegan dessert that perfectly mimics its non-vegan predecessor, but do my desserts always taste exactly like a familiar omni dessert? No. Do I care? No. In cooking as in life, it's OK to be different. I prefer that most of the sweets I make be reasonably healthy, whether it's for dessert or not. Not every dessert has to be "decadent." Actually, I kind of hate that word a little. I don't mean to deny anyone their decadent vegan desserts — I'm just not that into them. Never was. As a child I always wanted the piece of cake with the beautiful sugary flower, but only because it was pretty. I never ate it. In fact, I usually didn't eat more than a bite or two of the cake.
I know that things taste sweeter to me than to most people, and even when I add extra sweetener to a cake or cookies to please others, they still often perceive it as less sweet than they are used to, though not necessarily in a bad way. I often get comments like, "I love this. It isn't too sweet. Deserts are always so sweet." I like desserts that are modestly sweet and not overly rich.
Baking GF has been really interesting. I can now turn out GF baked goods that people really seem to enjoy, but there are certain aspects about GF baking that still have me bothered. I don't like the large quantity of empty-calorie starches that go into so many recipes and flour mixes, and I don't like xanthan gum. As far as I can tell, xanthan gum is perfectly safe to use, so I'm just weird. But so is xantham gum ... weird.
Though I don't know the exact flour-to-starch ratio in Bob's Red Mill GF Flour Mix, it doesn't appear to be too bad as far as empty calories go. In comparing it to regular whole wheat flour, it actually has fewer calories and fewer total carbohydrates, though it has more sugar and less protein. A few people who left comments on the Bob's Red Mill Web site hate the taste, and while it does taste fairly nasty raw, once it's baked I think it tastes really good. It's a very easy and convenient way to bake GF, but like I said, mixing flours is fun.
So, back to the banana muffin cake. I call it muffin cake because it has a texture that reminds me of muffins — kind of soft and springy. I just love sinking my teeth into it — maybe too much. In addition to trying out the flour mix, I've been experimenting with two things — using ground flax seed instead of xanthan gum, and using a hand mixer instead of a spoon or whisk. The flax seed I read about here, and the mixer I read about here. Using a hand mixer definitely improved the rise, and the resulting texture from the flax seed (and maybe also from the mixer) is very pleasing to me. If I had a stand mixer I would definitely use it, but my little hand mixer seems to be working well. Even when I think I already know how to do something, it never hurts to look around to see what someone else has to say. Using the mixer, especially, has made a big difference.
I'm still having a problem with sinking chips, which is why I added some to the cake top as soon as the cake came out of the oven. I mixed the chips with some flour before stirring them by hand into the beaten batter, but it didn't do the trick. Next time I'll try arrowroot. I really have to figure this out since I add chocolate chips to a lot of what I bake. I also am not sure why the cinnamon and ginger are so barely there — perhaps they are overwhelmed by the garbanzo flour. In any case, I'm pleased with the cake and happy to share it with you. The first time I wrote a cake recipe I was about 12, and the result tasted exactly and horribly like soap. This is much better.
Banana chocolate chip muffin cake
*I was actually planning to use olive oil in the cake but the organic extra virgin olive oil I have right now is the kind with a peppery after-bite, and I wasn't sure how that would work in a cake. So, I used organic canola oil. Rapeseed, from which canola oil is extracted, is nearly all GMO, so if you want to avoid GMOs, buy organic.