Lolly cake is a Kiwi birthday party staple, and with one special ingredient in this easy and delicious gluten free lolly cake, no one will notice there are no malt biscuits!
If you grew up in New Zealand and had and/or went to birthday parties as a kid, then I can almost guarantee you encountered a slice of lolly cake or six. It’s been a quintessential Kiwi party food for many years.
Crushed biscuits mixed with condensed milk and butter, with some chopped fruit puffs or Eskimo lollies mixed in, it’s easy to make, and sweet but super addictive.
Once I aged out of birthday parties, I never really gave lolly cake much thought. That is, until a few years back when I was helping a friend make a six-tier wedding cake – one tier of which was made from lolly cake. I know! I didn’t realise you could make lolly cake part of a tiered cake, but you can. And you should. Because what is a wedding if not a super fancy kid’s birthday party?
Anyway, I was eating some offcuts and I remembered just how good lolly cake really is.
Once I went gluten free I figured that I’d probably just never have lolly cake again – half the flavour from a traditional lolly cake comes from the malt biscuits and malt contains gluten, so there is no such thing as gluten free malt biscuits.
But then, in a moment of experimental brilliance, I discovered a way to make gluten free lolly cake that still has that rich sweet flavour but sans the gluten.
This is the magic ingredient that makes it all happen…
The tinned caramel topping is a similar consistency to the condensed milk usually used in lolly cake, but it has so much more flavour, and also helps to give the lolly cake that traditional golden brown colour. You’ll find it in most supermarkets, usually right next to the condensed milk.
In fact, even if you don’t need your lolly cake to be gluten free, and you just want to have caramel flavoured lolly cake or want to make lolly cake with plain biscuits rather than malt biscuits, then this is the recipe for you.
Let’s talk quickly about the rest of the ingredients:
Gluten Free Lolly Cake Ingredients:
Butter – You can use salted or unsalted butter in this. I like to use salted butter as it helps cut through some of the sweetness of the caramel. If you only have unsalted, you can add a pinch of salt to the wet ingredients if you like.
Caramel – The tinned caramel is what gives the gluten free lolly cake that traditional colour, and replaces the flavour of the malt biscuits. I have only tested this recipe with Highlander caramel, but a dulce de leche type sauce of a similar consistency may also work – you may just have to experiment. You can also make homemade caramel from a tin of condensed milk. If you can’t get any kind of caramel, you can just use regular condensed milk, as you would for traditional lolly cake, but you won’t get the same depth of flavour that you do from the caramel.
Vanilla extract – This is optional, but I love vanilla in almost everything sweet.
Gluten free biscuits – I used gluten free arrowroot biscuits for the slice in these photos as they’re available from most supermarkets. You can pretty much use any gluten free plain or flavoured biscuit you like in these though. Most gluten free biscuits seem to come in a 200g packet – you will need one and a half packets to make this recipe.
Fruit puffs or
Eskimos (now called Explorer lollies) – You can use either of these for this recipe. There are a couple of different brands of fruit puffs in supermarkets, one comes in a 150g bag and one in a 180g bag – you can use either size for this recipe. I used 180g of fruit puffs for the lolly cake in these photos. Check the packet to make sure whichever brand you’re using is gluten free.
Desiccated coconut – The lolly cake gets rolled in the coconut to help stop it from sticking to your hands. I know a lot of people aren’t fans of desiccated coconut, so if it isn’t for you, then you can press the lolly cake mixture into a baking paper lined cake or slice tin instead. Once it’s set it won’t be quite so sticky on the outside. Or you could roll it in more crushed biscuits.
How to Make the Lolly Cake
You’re in luck, this is really super easy.
It’s pretty much just a melt-and-mix situation, with the butter and caramel getting melted together, then the vanilla, crushed biscuits and lollies get mixed in.
You do need to give the caramel a stir until it’s smooth before you add the butter and microwave it, I found out the hard way that it doesn’t emulsify well if you don’t stir it first. But other than that, it’s all very straightforward.
I like to roll the lolly cake into a log on a piece of baking paper, it keeps your bench clean, stops the lolly cake from sticking, and makes a convenient wrapping for the log to wear while it hangs out in the fridge.
Once it’s nice and firm, slice it all up, and then
shove it all in your mouth serve it at your party (even if it’s just a nostalgia party for one).
Can You make Lolly Cake Without Coconut?
Yes, you can. While I’m a big fan of desiccated coconut, I know not everyone is. Rolling the lolly log in coconut is what stops it from being sticky on the outside, but if you prefer to make lolly cake without coconut, you can roll the log in more crushed biscuits instead.
Or, you can simply press the mixture into a baking paper lined loaf tin instead. Chill as usual, then slice it into pieces. It will be a little stickier on your fingers when you eat it, but if you eat it fast enough you won’t even notice 😉
Are you new to gluten-free baking?
Or just need some tips on how to make the most of the recipes on GFKF? Check out my start guide to learn how to bake safely and successfully gluten free.
Allergen safety ✔️ Gluten free flour info ✔️
Accurate measuring ✔️ Tools + Equipment ✔️
Gluten Free Lolly Cake
- 150 g (1/2 cup) tinned caramel topping
- 100 g butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 375 g gluten free biscuits
- 150 – 180 g fruit puffs or Explorer lollies
- 30 g (1/3 cup) desiccated coconut
- Place the caramel topping into a large heatproof bowl, and stir or whisk until smooth. Add the butter and microwave just until the butter has melted. Add the vanilla and stir to combine well. Set aside.
- Crush the gluten free biscuits – either in a food processor or place them in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin.
- Chop the lollies into pieces – I chop fruit puffs into a mix of halves and quarters, explorer lollies will need to be cut into 4-6 pieces each.
- Mix the crushed biscuits into the wet ingredients then stir in the lollies until they're well distributed. Pick up a handful of the mixture and squeeze it into a ball to check the consistency – If the mixture looks like it will too soft to shape into a log, stir in some more crushed biscuits until you get a firmer texture. If it is too dry, add a little more melted butter or caramel.
- Turn the mixture out onto a piece of baking paper, and shape it into a roughly 28cm long log. Sprinkle over the coconut and roll the log to cover it completely in the coconut.
- Roll up the log in the baking paper, twist the ends closed and pop it into the fridge for at least one hour, or until firm enough to cut. If you're in a hurry, you can whack it in the freezer instead.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the lolly cake into 2cm thick slices.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge.