Sunday, 10 July 2011



Sorry cake-hungry folks, I’ve been MIA due to recent surgery.

The good news according to my surgeon, was the pathology results indicated it wasn’t the big “C”; however he told me that the results indicated that I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.

All in the span of 30 seconds, I felt elated and then dejected.  I already knew a bit about Hashimoto’s because of my googling thyroiditis causes.  My jaw dropped as he told me that it was an autoimmune disease where your immune system attacks the thyroid gland and that eventually what usually happens is that my (remaining half of the) thyroid will kick the bucket and I'll probably have to take thyroid medication for the rest of my life.

Oh wait. Let me back up a bit and fill you in about how this came to be.  About a year ago I discovered a lump in my throat and thought it was a lymph node or something of the sort.  In casual passing, I mentioned it to my GP when I took my kids in for something in the beginning of the year.  He said, “No, that’s your thyroid”.  After a battery of blood tests, an ultrasound and a fine needle biopsy, the results were inconclusive and I went to see an Otolaryngologist who told me I had to have  surgery… a hemi thyroidectomy on my right side (the thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located above your adam’s apple).

Gee, no wonder all my beautiful choker necklaces don’t fit anymore!  No wonder I was lethargic.   No wonder I can’t lose those last 10 pounds easily even with tons or running and going low-carb most of the last 10 years.

I was on a wait list for surgery for a few months and about 2 weeks ago, I went in for surgery.  I don’t want to scare you with the pics I took with my iPhone right after surgery that day. It looks like I was held hostage and someone slit my throat.   It’s healing well now and looks as it should be; the scar should fade away within a year or so according to doc. The right part of the thyroid that was removed apparently was impressive in size.  It was hard and the size of a walnut. Jeepers!

So this accounts for my reluctance to post any of my baking recently.  I still eat out a lot (as you can see from my twitterfeed and urbanspoon link).  However, I have been trying to be good by choosing low-carb and mostly veg and seafood.   I eat a ton of berries since it’s berry season.   I still bake the occasional dessert for the kiddies because I figure they shouldn’t be deprived.  All this time that I haven’t been posting about cake…is due to my looking into some possible ways to alleviate any Chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis (a.k.a. Hashimoto’s Disease) symptoms.  From my casual googling, I noticed that I have to pretty much eliminate everything I love:  soy products, cruciferous veggies (which is pretty much all I eat 75% of the time during main meals) and GLUTEN! 

I couldn’t believe it. The irony.

I haven’t actually talked to my GP about this, but I’ll be seeing him in a few weeks and ask him what he thinks about going GF.  In general I guess it’s a good thing if I avoid these things anyway to protect the remaining part of my thyroid.  Poor thing’s still swollen from all the trauma it’s endured recently.  Most likely he'll take a wait and see approach (he's very conservative) and not prescribe drugs (because he hates doing that too) and send me for periodic testing and if my thyroid kicks the bucket he'll prescribe me the drugs.

Well, apparently there are many people with thyroid issues.  The more I talk about it with people, the more I learn that they know someone with thyroid problems or they themselves have it.  Also, I found that there are a ton of Gluten Free sites.  In the past, I always avoided clicking on a GF recipe because I figured I didn’t really need to investigate a recipe if it’s gluten free because I don’t have an allergy.  Besides, Gluten Free usually means really nasty cakes with dense textures made with crazy combinations of GF flours and weird ingredients that I don’t have on hand. 

I recently purchased two Gluten Free cookbooks on my Kindle/iPad2 and I am still researching GF flour blends that’ll help me achieve a more real-cake texture.

I decided to bite the bullet to buy these books because of the results from my first attempt at baking a Gluten Free Chocolate Cake as you can see here.


I have been eating Quinoa for a while (even before my diagnosis) and still had a big bag from Costco.  I usually eat it as a salad or a “fried rice”.  However, I noticed a recipe online (from a book Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood) that incorporated cooked quinoa to make a chocolate cake.  It promised a moist texture.  Well, it’s moist alright.  It kind of jiggled when I took it out of the oven though it tested done with a cake-tester.  This is more of a gelatinous jiggle I’m talking about rather than the kind you get from underbaked batter. 

I was mighty concerned.   I was even more disappointed. 

Gluten free. sigh. 

Is this what I have to look forward to?  No more delicate crumb texture and no more light fluffy layered cakes?


Upon removing the cake layers from the pans, I noticed the layers immediately shrank a bit and then started to sag in the centre. 


A sad little slice taken the night I baked the Chocolate Cake made with quinoa. Tasty and moist but kind of ugly.  Not exactly fudgy in flavour but it leaves a “clean” feeling in your mouth afterwards.  Huh?

It was late at night and I took a few crappy pics; covered the cake with a tea towel and left it for the morning to see.


The morning after, the Chocolate Cake looked a tad more tasty; but not as a traditional cake I’m used to.  It tasted the same.  It was just as moist.  The two thin layers that are baked in 8 inch pans are practical.  It would be impossible to slice this cake for layers, so you bake two thin layers.  Also, I suspect it wouldn’t bake through very well without burning if you dumped all the batter into one pan and tried to make one regular height cake.  So DO use two 8-inch pans or you’ll be doomed with problems.  This cake stayed in for the full allocated 40-45 minutes indicated in the recipe.  A skewer tested with no crumbs attached.  However, as you can see with the cross-section it doesn’t have crumbs per se.  It looks gluey, but doesn’t taste gluey (because it’s GF); it is somewhat like Asian rice flour/glutinous rice flour desserts in texture.  If you’ve had those Chinese sweet rice cakes, you’ll know what I mean.


Bib loved the cake and ate two big slices.  She snacked on it all day.  It’s still moist on the third day too.

Bebe was offended by the cake and said that she wanted me to make the “regular kind of chocolate cake”.  Gee whiz.  Mommy want to make the regular kind of cake too.  Or at least make a GF version that tastes and looks like the real thing.  This to me was like my many experiences with that lovely mock meat that you eat at vegetarian restaurants (it’s made of gluten, by the way).  Guess I won’t be doing mock meats anymore.  You have to eat mock-ups with the attitude that it is a different animal (pun intended!) and has qualities that are just as tasty albeit different than the real thing.  I love those mock meats because they absorb all the sauces so well and take on flavours and textures of real meat.  But it definitely doesn’t taste like meat though it may look like it sometimes.  You eat it for what it is.  And love it for what it is I guess.

So my verdict? 

I love cake.  This GF Chocolate Cake is good for a Gluten Free cake, but it sure isn’t anything like the real thing in texture.  Mouth feel is very different.  However, as a GF dessert, if I gussied it up with real SMB and decorated with appropriate flowers and such, I’m sure it would look like the real thing.  People might even like it.  I liked it.  I don’t love how ugly it looks.  I don’t love the texture either.  It sure isn’t light in appearance or texture.

Here’s a LINK to the GF Chocolate Cake recipe made with cooked Quinoa.  I don’t know how they got the cake to bake up so high and light looking in the picture posted on that site.  It sure doesn’t look like that here!  I followed the instructions exactly (as usual!)

Back to the ol’ drawing board.  I’ll keep you posted on more GF Cake recipes.  I may make this cake again, but I’ll know now not to expect a light cake-like structure.

BTW!   We’re making plans to renovate our kitchen.  yay! Finally.  I was starting to think I’d have to live with the ugly dark granite underfoot and on my counters forever!  Though I’ve been replacing appliances as they’ve broken down, I think most of the remaining big appliances are on their last legs.  My Sub-Zero fridge has broken down several times.  My faucet (2nd one) is leaking and rickety and my cooktop is rusty and chipped.  I hate it. What do I want?  A newer Sub-Zero (same one), a Wolfe Range (6 burner), a Kohler faucet and a WHITE Kitchen!  My plan is for a Carrara marble central island for baking, white quartz counters around the perimeter and white cabinets.


SwakeleysCakes said...

I have tried several versions of GF Chocolate cake and the best ones tend to use Ground Almonds as the flour substitute. An interesting one to try is Nigella's flourless chocolate orange cake. I have made this for Coeliacs before and it has gone down well. Have a look at Gluten Free Goddess's blog or "Love and Olive oil" for more ideas. I'm afraid it's trial and error to find a good texture. I wish you all the best.

Cakebrain said...

Swakeleys cakes,
Thanks for the info! I too have used ground almonds with success for low carb cakes, but unfortunately my daughters have nut allergies. So unless I want to eat a cake all by myself, I'll keep trying for alternatives. Yes, I have checked out Gluten Free Goddess' blog and Love and Olive Oil. There are many inspiring blogs to peruse! I'll be experimenting soon. I have purchased a ton of coconut, rice and other GF flours and will embark on my GF cake journey shortly! Thanks for commenting!

a. maren said...

oo i am very sorry to hear about your troubles! not only do you have to deal with the health side of things (which doesn't sound like it has been much fun), it impacts your baking and eating too! i'm sorry.

i think i mentioned on my blog that my mother was recently diagnosed with a strong gluten allergy, and while it's been difficult, she's learned to make some really delicious foods. i'm sure it will be a similar journey for you, and you will be whipping out fantastic GF desserts in no time! you won't even miss 'the regular kind of chocolate cake'. :)

i hope you are feeling better. be well!

Iqbal said...

I'm so glad to hear it's not the big "C"!! Yay!!! I am sorry to hear that you may have to take meds for the rest of your life. That's a real bummer :( But I know you're an awesome baker and will soon be writing about GF recipes. I've considered a GF diet myself (b/c I feel better) but it's soooooooo hard. I'll be checking out your blog more often :)

I hope you are enjoying your summer!

Cakebrain said...

gee, thank you for the kind words! I too hope that I can make sense of all this GF stuff and figure out how to make yummy cake again!
Hope you're having a fab summer too! Yes, GF will be the way to go I think. Hope I don't fall off the wagon and get tempted by all the goodies that are made with wheat flour!

Bethany said...

I was just glancing at this post and your info about your thyroid caught my eye. I also have thyroiditis and have been struggling with a multi-nodule goiter for about 7 years. I had the ultrasounds, needle biopsy, etc. that came back inconclusive as well. Because my thyroid is so enlarged and I'm continuing to experience new nodules I'm considering a full thyroidectomy which is what has been recommended since I came across my first lump. What advice do you have pre and post surgery? Thanks and best of luck with the GF baking. I'm planning to look into that more as well.

Cakebrain said...

Sorry to hear you are also experiencing thyroid woes! As for surgery, it was no biggie. I had a great surgeon, Dr. D.W. Anderson, who is very experienced with these operations. He told me it would be Day Surgery and that after a hemi, I would be okay to go home the same day. They of course keep you for the minimum 4 hours at the hospital for observations and to see how you're doing. I don't know the protocol for a full thyroidectomy. You would have to talk to your surgeon. I noticed in the States, thyroidectomies require overnight or several days' stays at the hospital but I would imagine it depends on the individual circumstances and the age and health of the patient too. I am younger than most thyroidectomy patients(according to doc). And in good general health otherwise. In Vancouver Canada though, a hemithyroidectomy is not as big a deal I guess and I am surprised at how well I was able to recuperate. You definately need to stay at home and rest up, not do any heavy lifting and such for at least a week. However, after that you can surely go back to work. I was on Tylenol 3's (times two) every 4 hours for the first 3 days. Then I tapered off gradually and now I'm pretty good. Meds are good. No need to be in pain. The surgeon and hospital provides you with a pamphlet to take home vpbecause you're still kind of stoned from the general anaesthesia when they're telling you the instructions in the hospital.
Give me a shout if you do the surgery and I can fill you in on the details! I journalled it all with day to day pics on my iphone and recorded the recuperation on my Cozi so I could remember the details. Currently, I still have the visible scar, but it is not as ugly as before. It is still tight and a tad swollen where the remaining part of my thyroid is located. As far as surgery goes, I was pleasantly surprised and pleased with the experience and the nurses and hospital staff at St. Paul's hospital were awesome. Especially the anaesthesiologist and the after op pain meds guy...I was stoned still but I really thought he was a hoot and very professional. He knew what he was doing and prevented me from barfing when I told him I was getting hot and sweaty. He said that was a sure sign I drank my little bit of post op water too quickly. He gave me some gravol through my i.v. And I went to laa laa land for a while and when I woke I felt better and was shortly discharged to the area where you wait out your time (4 hours in my case) to go home. Good luck! Make sure you have complete help at home for at least 3 days post op and maybe up to a week even for a full thyroidectomy. You may want to stock up on Tums to prevent hypocalcemia problems (Metamucil too!)

Anonymous said...

Ah, you don't know how happy i am to finally see gluten-free recipes from your site!
I've been debating whether or not to stop viewing your site because everything you make looks so delicious, but i cannot date have.
Though it is a shame you are unable to eat gluten, i'm sure you'll create wonderful ways of going around it.
P.s: Oatmeal can sometimes contain trace amounts of gluten. As well as many other non-baked goods. There's even gluten-free baking powder. Though most usually use xanthan gum.
Also watch out for tapioca flour, i never use too much of it in my mixes, as it causes everything to be extremely dry, they often go rock hard after a day or two when left out.

Cakebrain said...

Hey Anon,
Funny thing about declaring myself with Hashimoto's...I may have kept you as a viewer (Yay!) but I seem to have lost a few followers immediately! I guess some people really don't like the idea of GF! Not that I should really care too much because this blog ultimately is for me and my kids and I intended for it to be a culinary legacy for them...but I do not think I will stop baking with regular flour either because I still will be baking bday cakes and snacks for my kids. I will have to just resist tasting. Stay tuned, I'll be adding the GF recipes, but not necessarily stopping the regular stuff altogether. Thanks for commenting!

Bethany said...

Thanks for your response. I have an appointment with a surgeon on the 25th just outside of Seattle. I'm excited and nervous at the same time. I'll let you know how it goes and what we decide to do. Good luck taking care of your other half ;)

nazarina said...

Dear Cakebrain,

I love the pictures of your quinoa cake, it definitely does look moist & gorgeous, anyway, after reading your dilemma with the looks, texture etc... I thought to myself ahhh! the woes of gluten-free baking after a diet of gluten. I bake a lot for my clients that have Celiac D & I have learned that gluten free baking powder & tapioca starch & several other of these alternative flours lightens cakes immensely. Here is another book you might want to take a look at "The Gluten-Free Gourmet" by Bette Hagman.

Cakebrain said...

Thankyou for the words of encouragement! I will certainly look into the cookbook and different GF ingredients...I already have bought some GF flours but have to finish eating this cake first (mostly by myself...sigh) before making anything else.

Connie the Cookie Monster said...

good to hear it's nothing big like the 'C' word! im glad everything is going well though slow :P stay positive!

crisom236 said...

This looks like it will just melt into your mouth and I'm already picturing it with some raspberries and drizzle of sugar free chocolate syrup. Yum

Anonymous said...

This looks better than I thought it would. Check out this alternative recipe.

Elsie Chapman said...

I love quinoa and I miss chocolate cake (going wheat free, as much as I can), so thanks for this recipe!)

Anonymous said...

I second the gluten free goddess blog! Look into fluoride as it relates to your thyroid too. On top of tap or bottled water It's used on produce, in toothpaste, teas, wines etc...
Good luck!

Cakebrain said...

Hi Anon,
Fortunately, I live in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. We have the most amazingly delicious tap water. It is fluoride free. In fact, we have to supplement with fluoride for our kids because it isn't in the water. I have never had fluoride supplements as a child and I drink tap water, which I additionally filter. So I don't ingest fluoride in general. I don't drink much wine either. Thanks for the information though

linda tanzini said...

I'm new to your blog but i I wanted to say don't be sad to be gluten free
The options are endless.I started with Gluten Free Baking Clasics by
Annalise Roberts and learned so much
By using her brn. rice flour blend you can bake any kind of pie, cake
muffin or what have you.I still bake
all my old favorites by tweeking
them with several flour blends such
as Bobs Red Mill all purpose gf.for
great chewie cookies which I also use for thickening soups and gravies. Linda T

Cakebrain said...

Hi Linda T.,
I have since moved beyond this mentality and have developed my own flour blends and recipes. Yet I still yearn for croissants and laminated doughs and a good chewy bread. I am not satisfied any gf breads out there. I make excellent cookies, tarts and cakes with my gf blend but I think that croissants are simply my holy grail 😁


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