These cakes look fancy enough to serve at special occasions and will satisfy your craving for something sweet—but are actually kinda healthy.

November 28, 2019
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Greg Dupree

“It’s a joyful food. Cake feeds your soul,” says Odette Williams, the author of Simple Cake. “Baking is like meditation. And you feel great because you created something.”

Cake can also be healthy. Williams made the delicious treats here with ingredients like yogurt, olive oil, and spelt flour, and she kept sugar to a minimum without affecting the flavor. And pro tip: All three of these cakes can be made with gluten-free flour, too. Try 1:1 Baking Flour from Bob’s Red Mill. (Related: Healthy Cake Recipes Filled with Vegetables)

They’re easy too: You can enjoy them plain or mix and match the toppings. The cakes are perfect for the holidays and special occasions, but “you don’t have to have [one],” Williams says. “They can be an everyday treat.” (See: How Eating Dessert Every Day Helped This Dietitian Lose 10 Pounds)

Keep reading to try her Cinnamon Spice Cake, Versatile Coconut Cake, and Lovely Lemon Yogurt Cake—but first, some helpful tips for baking healthy cakes:

Dos & Don’ts

  • Do line cake pans with parchment and grease them. “I know it’s a pain, but your cake will come out of the pan easily, and it won’t brown too much around the edges,” Williams says.
  • Don't overmix cake batter. Just incorporate the ingredients until there are no lumps. Overbeating activates the gluten in the flour, so the cake won’t be as light and fluffy
  • Do measure flour properly. If you overpack the cup and use too much, your cake will be dry. Spoon flour into the measuring cup, and sweep off the excess.
  • Don't cook it too long. “Set a timer. When the cake looks ready, touch the middle,” Williams says. “If it springs back slightly, put a toothpick in the center. The cake is done if it comes out clean.”
  • Do treat yourself and cut cake when it’s still slightly warm. “Take it out of the oven, wait 10 minutes, then slice it,” Williams says. “A piece of warm cake is like heaven.”
  • Don't be afraid to give it new life. If your cake is a day or two old, heat it in the microwave for a few seconds or quickly panfry it in a little butter or coconut oil. “It will taste fresh again,” Williams says.
Greg Dupree

Cinnamon Spice Cake Recipe

Start to Finish: 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter, for pan
  • 2 1/4 cups organic whole-grain spelt flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mild-flavored extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 10-by-3-inch round pan with butter. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment, and grease.
  2. Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large mixing bowl. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, vanilla, applesauce, honey, milk, zest, and brown sugar until smooth.
  4. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and whisk until there are no lumps and the batter is smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven, and let it stand for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife around the cake to gently release it. Invert the cake, peel off the parchment, and let cool on a wire rack.
  7. Place a stencil pattern on the cake, and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Remove the stencil carefully.
Greg Dupree

Versatile Coconut Cake Recipe

Start to Finish: 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1 cup fine dried shredded unsweetened coconut, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup well-stirred unsweetened coconut milk
  • Coconut Glaze (recipe below)
  • Toasted shaved coconut, for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8-by-3-inch Bundt pan with butter, and dust with coconut, shaking off any excess.
  2. Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large mixing bowl. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the coconut and sugar to the flour mixture, and whisk to combine.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and coconut milk.
  4. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until combined. Add the melted butter, and stir until smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes or until a wooden skewer comes out clean and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven, and let it stand for 10 minutes. Tap the pan to gently help release the cake. Invert the cake, and let cool on a wire rack.
  7. To make the coconut glaze: Sift 1 cup confectioners’ sugar into a small mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the sugar. Stir sugar and 3 to 3 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk, shaken and stirred, together until smooth. Add enough coconut milk to reach your preferred consistency.
  8. When the cake has cooled completely, drizzle with Coconut Glaze and sprinkle with the toasted shaved coconut.

No bundt pan? Use a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, and bake for 50 minutes. Or use an 8-by-2-inch round pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Greg Dupree

Lovely Lemon Yogurt Cake

Start to Finish: 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter, for pan
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
  • 1 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • Compote (recipe below)
  • Yogurt Whipped Cream (recipe below)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9-by-2-inch round pan with butter. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment, and grease.
  2. Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large mixing bowl. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, yogurt, zest, lemon juice, and sugar.
  4. Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and whisk until there are no lumps and the batter is smooth. Fold poppy seeds into the batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes. If it’s browning too quickly, cover with foil after 30 minutes or turn oven down slightly.
  6. Remove the cake from the oven when a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed. Let it stand for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife around the cake to gently release. Peel off the parchment from the sides. Invert the cake, peel off the bottom piece of parchment, and let cool on a wire rack.
  7. To make the compote: Place 1 1/3 cups blueberries, 1 1/3 cups raspberries, and 1 1/3 cups blackberries along with 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or orange juice and 1 tablespoon lemon or orange zest (optional) in a heavy saucepan, and gently cook on low heat until they swell and burst. Don’t stir the berries too much since you want them to keep their shape. Continue simmering for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste the compote, and add 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, pure maple syrup (Grade A), or honey if needed. Serve warm or chilled.
  8. To make the yogurt whipped cream: Pour 1/2 cup chilled heavy cream into a cold large metal bowl. Add 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt and 1 tablespoon sifted confectioners’ sugar. Using a balloon whisk, whisk the cream until it has doubled in volume, has smooth soft peaks, and is light and fluffy. Add some finely grated lemon zest. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired.
  9. Slice the cake horizontally through the center to make 2 layers. Slather with Compote and Yogurt Whipped Cream.

Shape Magazine, November 2019 issue

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