It’s been so fun this week having three amazing recipes to write about! Here is the last healthified dessert I created for no-added-sugar challenge that presented itself to me in the form of a cooking club/class I helped with at the local senior center. I’ll admit I had to cheat a bit on this one and add a few tablespoons of agave to the icing. Also, the only type of non-dairy yogurt and dark chocolate I could find both still had some added sugar in it. However, I am not going to fret over such a trivial amount of added sugar.
The focus of this last lesson on healthified dessert baking will be fat. Fat is important in baking because it adds flavor, texture, and structure to our desserts. Various fats that are used in cooking and baking, such as butter, oil, lard, and shortening, contribute to a different result in texture because of the variation in melting points. Butter has a lower melting point than shortening, and will produce softer cookies.
There are quite a few types of fats, but for the purposes of this blog post, we will divide them into three groups: saturated fats, trans fats, and unsaturated fats. It is often recommended by health professionals (including dietitians) to consume butter, ground meats, cheese, and whole milk in moderation because these foods are high in saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can contribute to high cholesterol levels and heart disease. Trans fats are considered to be even worse, and it is recommended that we consume as little trans fats as possible. Trans fats are found in pre-made baked goods you find in the bakery section of the grocery store, as well as unnatural peanut butter. Just read the ingredient label for “hydrogenated oil” to detect if there is trans fat in the product.
On the other hand, the healthy unsaturated fats from peanut butter, oil, avocados, fish, and nuts help reduce our risk of heart disease. All fats, however, have the same caloric density, so be sure to watch portion sizes, even when consuming healthy sources of fat.
The one outlier in all this may be coconut oil. Although coconut oil is very high in saturated fat, some studies have suggested that the type of saturated fat found in coconut oil does not have the same negative effect on our health as other types of saturated fat. However, the research on this is still inconclusive.
Now, in this amazing chocolate cake recipe, all of the fat that would usually come from butter is replaced with mashed avocado! I make this replacement all the time when I bake, and it has never failed! To make the switch, simply replace the butter in a recipe with an equal volume of mashed avocado. This works in pretty much any recipe, although if you are looking to hide the avocado color, chocolate recipes work best.
Some other great 1:1 substitutes for butter include:
- Peanut butter or other nut butters
- Oil (use less of other liquid ingredients when making this swap)
- Mashed banana
If you don’t like swapping out 100% of the butter, try replacing just half of it. I’ve also heard of using applesauce, chia seeds, and flax seeds in place of butter, but this usually only works if only half the butter in the recipe is replaced.
Other key ingredients to making this recipe work:
- Whole-wheat pastry flour: You could use regular whole-wheat flour, but the cake would be a lot less fluffy and tender.
- Cocoa powder and mint extract: the taste of chocolate and mint detract from the fact that there is no granulated sugar added to the batter
- Applesauce: this makes the cake moist and adds some sweetness
- Yogurt: this also adds moisture as well as some thickness to the batter. I used a plain, coconut milk yogurt.
Adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
Makes one 8-inch round or square cake (serves 8)
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate, or chocolate chips
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana
- 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy yogurt
- 1/4 cup mashed avocado, measured after mashing
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or peppermint extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and grease an 8-in square or round pan. (Or double the recipe for a double-layer cake.)
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, chocolate, and salt, and stir very well. In a separate bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients.
- Pour wet into dry and stir until just combined (don’t over-mix), then pour into the greased pan.
- Bake 25 minutes or until batter has risen and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cutting or serving.
Now, let’s ice our cake! Key thing to remember with the icing is to make it and ice the cake just before serving! If you are a frequent consumer of avocados, you know they brown pretty quickly. If you want a pretty green cake to present, wait to ice it until about a half hour before consuming. The first time I made this icing was actually 30 minutes before the class I taught. 24 hours later, the one slice I had left of my pretty green cake had turned brown. Still tastes good, though!
Recipe: Mint Cream Icing
Adapted from One Green Planet
Makes enough to cover one layer of cake (I tripled it to cover the entire double layer cake)
- 1/2 cup mashed avocado, measured after mashing
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1-2 sprigs of mint leaves chopped
- Mint extract, optional (if mint isn’t minty enough)
- 2 tablespoons agave nectar, or maple syrup
Combine all ingredients into food processor or blender, or mix by hand. Ice cooled cake just before serving, as avocado will start to turn brown.
I made two layers of the cake, put them in the fridge, and then came back about a half hour before my class to make the icing and ice the cake. It didn’t take long.
I have zero experience icing cakes, so I think this is a win.
If you want more of a frosting and less of an icing, try this Crazy for Crust recipe. You can probably sub coconut oil or a vegan butter. for the butter if vegan.
For more info on healthy baking, check out this great infographic.