How to Make a “Healthy” Cake

I do not advocate celebrating half birthdays. That I made my daughter a half birthday cake, as I mentioned in this post, is a testament to said daughter’s dogged persistence.

Several readers asked for the recipe for the flourless chocolate cake with lemon curd frosting. This recipe is only slightly modified from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts (which is hands down the best dessert cookbook I’ve ever had. I actually won this book from Words to Eat By. Thank you again Debbie!). This cake is almost like chocolate mousse. It’s gluten-free and delicious:

For the flourless chocolate cake:

1/2 cup of butter

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

8 eggs

1/2 cup of agave

1 t pure vanilla extract

1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 275 (or don’t. You don’t actually have to preheat ovens. Read more about that in this popular post, “7 Strange Things I Do In The Kitchen”)

Melt the butter and the chocolate, stir to avoid scorching, set aside to cool while you generously butter a 9-inch cake pan.

Separate the egg whites and yolks into two separate bowls.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

Beat the yolks, add the yolks, agave, vanilla, and salt to the melted chocolate mixture.

Fold in the egg whites until no trace of white shows (at this point the 11-year-old shrieks. “Mom! You’re stirring, not folding. Let me do that or you’ll mess up the cake!”)

Bake for 1 hour until the center is no longer wet.

If you plan to frost it with the recipe below, chill the cake first.

For the lemon curd (doesn’t that sound weird? I’ve never made “curd” before I tried making this. I’ve made it twice with great success and totally screwed it up once by not measuring the ingredients and by accidentally throwing the butter in at the beginning):

1 T freshly grated lemon peel (make sure you buy an organic lemon for this)

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup turbinado sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup butter

1 cup cream

Whisk together the lemon peel, juice, sugar, and eggs in a small saucepan. Turn on to medium heat and cook the mixture, whisking constantly. In about 5 minutes the curd will thicken. This cool chemical reaction is fun for kids to experience and if they take a turn whisking your arm won’t get so tired. Remove from heat. You could strain the curd through a mesh cloth to remove bits of peel and egg. If you do, I’m in awe. Then whisk the butter in a bit at a time. Refrigerate until chilled.

Use a serrated knife to carefully cut the cooled chocolate cake in half and spread a little less than half the chilled curd in the middle. Whip the rest of the curd with the cream and spread the lemon-y whipped cream on top. Chill before serving.

This is not a healthy cake!

But it’s easy to modify a cake recipe so that it’s healthy(er) and still totally delicious.

Here’s how:

1) Substitute some or all of the whole wheat flour for the white flour. If you have a wheat intolerance, you can substitute whole spelt flour. Whole grain flour is always better for you than bleached flour. It’s higher in naturally occurring nutrients and fiber and it’s better for your blood sugar levels. If you see flour that says “enriched” on the package that does not mean healthy. That means that the naturally occurring nutrients were taken out of the flour to make it white and that chemicals (in the form of synthetic vitamins) have been put in. Most people don’t realized this because enriched is such a, well, enriching word.

2) Use agave instead of sugar (except when you need the sugar to chemically react, like in the lemon curd recipe above. Agave doesn’t work there. I found out the hard way): Agave nectar, made from a succulent plant that is grown mostly in Mexico (the same plant is used to make tequila) is lower on the glycemic index than sugar and most other sweeteners. It also contains vitamins and minerals. Though some nutritionists object to it, I feel fine after eating agave-sweetened desserts whereas I feel terrible after eating sugar-sweetened desserts. Agave is sweeter than sugar so you can short it a bit.

3) Make your own confectioners sugar out of turbinado sugar. Turbinado sugar is not as processed as white sugar and some of the vitamins and minerals from the sugar cane plant are still present. Use this instead of conventional brown sugar (which is refined white sugar with molasses and other additives.) You can grind turbinado sugar in the blender to make confectioners sugar. You can also substitute turbinado sugar for white sugar in most recipes.

4) Add some healthy extras to the batter: I got this idea from Ruth Yaron’s Super Baby Food. You can add a tablespoon of ground walnuts, brewer’s yeast, kelp or even pureed vegetables to almost any cake recipe to make it healthier. I boil and purée apple, carrot, and broccoli and add that to pancake batter. Though Yaron’s recipes are often lacking in the delicious factor, mine are not! Just make sure you don’t add too much at the beginning as you experiment with this.

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on Monday, January 24th, 2011 at 3:11 pm and is filed under kids and food.
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