Lessons in the Art of Cake-Making: Low-Sugar Cake Recipes

The author shares her lessons in the art of cake making and adapts those recipes into low-sugar cake recipes, includes recipes for Poppy Seed Cake, Orange Sponge Cake, Carrot Cake with Vanilla Cream and Blueberry Gingerbread.


| December/January 1996



159-075-01

Our kitchen turned out this very respectable poppy seed cake with amazingly little fuss.


JOHN PARRISH/FOOD STYLING BY TRISH DAHL

MOTHER's Kitchen column shares the author's lessons in the art of cake making and adapting her grandmother's cakes into low-sugar cake recipes. 

When I was growing up, baking cakes was my passion. I found Rice Krispy bars to be predictably boring while cakes were fun and festive. Consequently, I was appointed the house baker every time a birthday rolled around. My favorite was a banana cake so tasty that I was asked to make it for my mother's wedding. During the ceremony, I fixed my eyes on my four-layer cake, dripping with buttery icing. On this not-so-joyous occasion (for me anyway), I could at least anticipate a gigantic slice of my gooey cake. When I married during the carrot cake era, I loaded my rich carrot cake with raisins, honey, and fat. Some of our friends loved it so much that they wanted my cake for their wedding.

While these two cakes may have qualified for the cake hall of fame, I could never compare them to my grandmother's. On Easter we looked forward to her coconut cake decorated with jelly beans. Summer picnics were delicious with her orange sponge iced dream. There were breathtaking birthday cakes followed by her work-of-art Christmas chocolate log.

While my grandmother's wonderful cakes are forever etched in my memory, I regret that's where they must stay. These cakes may remind us of happy days but they're too rich for today's health-conscious cake consumer. The trend these days is to eliminate the fat while compensating with more sugar. This isn't a healthy solution for a variety of reasons. Not only are there the obvious dental problems associated with high sugar intake, but excessive sugar consumption may even suppress one's immune system. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, just 100 grams of sugar (about one large Coke) in any form decreases the germ-killing ability of white blood cells for up to five hours after eating. Excess sugar also interferes with the body's absorption of antioxidants and minerals. Recent research shows a strong connection between high levels of insulin in the blood and heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. When you eat any form of sugar, your pancreas responds by producing insulin, a hormone designed to take excess sugar out of the bloodstream and move it into fat storage. This is why those folks who are buying supermarket fat-free desserts aren't succeeding in their weight loss programs. I'm not a fanatic, mind you, just conscious of the amounts I use when making low-sugar cake recipes, and diligent about choosing non-refined sweeteners whenever possible.

Poppy Seed Cake Recipe

My husband was so fond of the poppy seed cake at the Tassajara Bakery in San Francisco that I wanted to develop my own two-layer version. The yogurt cheese for the frosting must be started the day before.

1/2 cup poppy seeds
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup skim or lowfat milk
2 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cup sifted unbleached white flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Lemon zest for decorating (optional)
 





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