Q: I want to use a cake recipe which includes ground almonds. However, I cannot use nuts as the cakes will potentially be sold to people with a nut allergy. Is there a nut-free alternative you could recommend which will give a nice crunch and moist texture? Many thanks,

A: Ground almonds are often added to cakes to add moisture and sometimes used to replace wheat flour to make a gluten free cake suitable for coelics.

When substituting ground almonds with another ingredient it’s important to consider how much of the cake is made up by nuts. If it is a large amount then you are unlikely to find a successful substitute, so if this is the case I suggest using a different recipe .

Possible alternatives for replacing smaller amounts of ground almonds in a recipe, include breadcrumbs, ground rice, semolina and polenta but the results will vary according to the individual recipe, so each recipe will need to be tried and tested.

  • Uncooked semolina has a similar texture to ground almonds and was used during the war as a substitute when making mock almond paste. Semolina can make the recipe slightly drier and it has a courser texture, but is usually a perfectly acceptable alternative.
  • Ground rice, which isn’t as finely ground as rice flour, also has a reasonably similar texture to ground almonds and is worth a try.
  • Fine ground polenta (cornmeal) has an interesting texture when used in cakes, I love it but not everyone does, you can find a lovely lemon polenta recipe in my ’bake me I’m yours...cupcake celebration’ book

If the almonds in the recipe are just there for flavour try, substituting with equal weight of plain or wholemeal flour plus vanilla essence or lemon juice but note wheat flour and nut flours are not interchangeable since the protein/fats/moisture are totally different, not to mention the gluten aspect.

If you want to be a little more experimental, try using crushed cornflakes, weetabix or rice crispies, oatmeal that has been ground to a finer consistency or even crushed biscuits. Who knows, you might come up with a winning recipe.

Good luck and happy baking

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