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Filming Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake for Waitrose


When I was thinking about which recipes I wanted to feature for the Waitrose TV films, chocolate cake was the first thing that sprang to mind. Yep, I love chocolate and it’s my idea of heaven on a plate. But also a chocolate cake is a wonderful addition to a whole load of different occasions, whether it’s a birthday, an anniversary, a thank-you, or something to do on a weekend afternoon with your kids. This is a gluten-free and dairy-free chocolate cake that has a rich, moist sponge that holds together really well when you cut into it – and a seriously rich, indulgent ganache icing, topped with delicious berries.


One of the most important things to do when baking gluten-free cakes, is to get as much air into the mixture – and keep it in there – as possible. When you cream the margarine and sugar together, it’s important to beat them together until really light and fluffy. I use a stand mixer, but you can use whatever you like, whether it’s a hand-held mixer or even do it by hand. I leave the stand mixer beating for anything up to 10 minutes until it’s the right consistency. Because there’s no gluten in the mixture, it’s important to get a really light mixture at this stage, to get the cake to rise really well.

Then, when you fold in the chocolate and then the gluten-free flour mixture, it’s important to fold gently, so that you don’t lose air. And work fast once you’ve creamed the margarine and sugar, and added the eggs.

Talking of eggs, I generally use them in baking but you don’t have to. Sometimes people think that eggs are a dairy product and that anyone on a dairy-free diet needs to avoid them. But they’re not, which is lucky for those who can eat them, because they work brilliantly as a raising agent and to bind the cake together – and this is really useful when there’s no gluten to bind it. But if you need to avoid eggs, you can use an egg-replacer product instead. Or you could even use more raising agents to get the rise and either fruit purees (such as apple or pear) or dairy-free yogurt or even chia seeds to bind the mixture together.

And if you need to avoid nuts, you can make this cake nut free very easily. Don’t use any product that contains nuts, such as margarine, cream or in the gluten-free flour mixture. This recipe doesn’t use ground almonds or any other nuts so, as long as you don’t use a nut product, you’ll turn out a chocolate cake that’s not only gluten-free and dairy-free, but also nut-free!


To watch the film on Waitrose TV, click on this link. And I hope your Bank Holiday weekend becomes filled with delicious chocolate cake!


Filming Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Chicken & Tarragon Pie for Waitrose TV


The Chicken & Tarragon Pie was the first recipe we shot during the day’s filming for Waitrose TV. It was the first time I’d done anything like this, and it was completely fascinating how the whole filming process rolled out.


Once I’d had my hair and make-up done (very nicely!), I went through the order of filming with the home economist. The recipe was divided into 3 blocks of filming – for making the gluten-free pastry, making the white wine sauce and the filling, and for rolling out the pastry and putting it on top of the pie – and we went through the running order together. I’d expected lots of takes during the filming but, in fact, once we started the filming, we only did one take on each. But what we did do, though, was to do additional filming of close-ups on my hands as I was doing various parts of the recipe. And later on, I did an additional voice-over of the recipe methods.


Gluten-free pastry is MUCH easier than people think. The only thing to focus on is that you need more liquid than wheatflour pastry. This invariably makes your pastry sticky. But instead of using loads of flour when you’re rolling the pastry out so that it’s not sticking, the best thing to do is to work with the dough in its sticky state. Sometimes I roll pastry out on a breadboard so that I can then use the board to turn the pastry onto the tin or dish. But the best trick I’ve found is to use baking parchment when you roll. This enables you to roll out the dough without it sticking to your rolling pin – and then you can use the parchment to turn the pastry onto your dish. Generally I start rolling it out on one piece of parchment and then, when it’s getting too sticky, I add another piece of parchment on top to finish the rolling.

When you’re making a dairy-free sauce, it’s really easy to get something that tastes utterly delicious. The world of dairy-free milks and creams has completely opened out in the last couple of years and there are now lovely products on the market. I love the different fresh nut milks – especially the coconut milk – now available. And also the fresh soya creams that you find in the chiller cabinets in supermarkets. I tend to use either a milk or cream and then add some stock, too. And in this case, I’ve added white wine, too, to make a dairy-free white wine sauce.


I wanted to make a really simple pie recipe for this. So I’ve used just onion, garlic, chicken and tarragon – but this combination creates a pie with wonderful flavours. The tarragon imparts an aniseed/licorice flavour with undertones of vanilla and pepper – all of which go wonderfully well with chicken. And when the filling is baked as a pie, it makes a wholesome yet light and fresh-tasting meal.

Free From Filming for Waitrose TV

A couple of days’ before Easter, I did some filming for Waitrose TV. Along with the brilliant crew from Parkinson Productions, I made three short films showing how to make gluten-free and dairy-free bread, cake and pie.

It was a fantastic experience. I’ve never been on a film shoot before and, even though they told me that it was a fairly small production compared to some, it seemed seriously impressive to me. They were 13 crew in total – the Director, Producer, 3 Cameramen, 1 Soundman, 2 Home Economists, 1 Make-up Artist, 3 Assistants and myself. We had a beautiful venue in Hertfordshire and the entire day was fascinating.


I always thought that filming meant lots of takes. But they did just one run on each piece to camera, with extra filming of my hands doing things and an additional recording of me talking through the recipes. The attention to detail was incredible. At various stages the main Cameraman even covered himself in a black blanket to ensure that he didn’t cause any reflection on the work surfaces.

We chose a bread recipe because I wanted to show the techniques I use to make bread. I use more liquid than most people and whisk the mixture with a metal whisk. I don’t knead the bread or leave it to prove. And when the mixture’s in the tin, I run a wet spoon over the top to help make the top smooth. All of these methods are unusual – but they work really well for gluten-free bread. You get a lovely rise to the bread, with a great crunchy crust. And for this recipe, I toasted seeds to add flavour.


The recipe is up on the Waitrose website. Click now to watch my Gluten-Free Toasted Seed Bread recipe – and I hope you enjoy it!