“Have my cake and eat it too” was the phrase that kept coming to mind while I was creating this cake. I wanted to simultaneously indulge in a piece of cake and feel good about eating it. The challenge was on! Gluten free baking alone can be tricky at times but baking with little to no sugar as well? Was I unrealistic for wanting a cake that was gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar free and delicious? Surely, there had to be a way. I just needed to figure it out. Over the process of doing so, I started receiving requests from other Moms for this kind of cake. I became even more motivated to crack this cake code for all of us. Thankfully, my son and husband were good sports in tasting all of those experiments. I arrived to this recipe just in time for my son’s 2nd birthday party.
Now EO’s actual birthday was this past summer. While we were traveling through Salzbug, Austria we had a small family celebration. It was a sweet moment seeing him blow out his candles all by himself on his Waldorf, birthday set for the first time. He seemed satisfied with this occasion until after we attended several of his friend’s birthday parties. EO expressed he wanted a birthday cake and I started wanting the memories of him being surrounded by his friends and blowing out his candles. So what did we do? We threw a birthday shindig four months later! Yup! It is never too late to celebrate!
My first thought of using the Waldorf set to blow out EO’s birthday candles was to do something different then the traditional candles on a cake. Am I the only one to question why this is such a strong custom? Come to find out, German bakeries in the 15th century were the first to market the birthday cake and placed candles on a cake to represent “the light of life”. The ancient Greeks also placed candles on round cakes to honor Artemis, the goddess of the moon. The glow of the candles represented the glow of the moon and the smoke from the blown out candles carried their wishes and prayers to God.
Once we decided to throw a party for EO, this beautiful trivia made me excited to continue with a birthday cake tradition of our own. I just wanted it to be a “healthier” cake without white flour, white sugar or partially hydrogenated oils. If you’re interested in why I wanted this, keep reading ;).
Omitting refined sugars any chance I can get is important to me because they are extremely addictive and affect the body negatively in so many ways. Sugar spikes blood sugar levels that contribute to fatigue, mood swings, lowered immunities and increases in stress. Plus, some studies have found that sugar affects cognition in children. Sugar has been my nemesis, taunting me my whole life. This is the most challenging ingredient for me, but the good news is, there are alternatives!
I am not a fan of white flour because it has practically been stripped of all its vitamins and minerals. To me, it is a pointless food to eat because it does nothing for the body but give it calories. Why not use flours that nourish the body?
As for partially hydrogenated oils, they are just one molecule away from being plastic. You read right, plastic. These oils are injected usually with metals that change their molecular structure to increases their shelf life. This process makes the oils thicker and when eaten makes your blood thicker, which makes your heart work harder to pump it.
Once I learned these things about common cake ingredients, I haven’t been able to shake them out of my head. This is why I wanted to create a treat that we could all eat while supporting our bodies at the same time.
The alternatives I came up with are very exciting to me because they actually contain nutrition. For starters, the garbanzo flour has plenty of protein (about 11 grams in half a cup) as well as fiber, minerals and vitamins including folate.
The cacao, of course, adds chocolaty yumminess to this cake, but it also has significant amounts of iron. When iron is paired with vitamin C (the cherries in this recipe) the body is able to absorb the iron better.
The coconut milk and coconut oil add good fat to the cake. The body can use good fat in many ways including supporting a healthy brain. Did you know that the brain is composed of 60 percent fat? It actually needs fat to work its best. I was also super excited when I discovered that the coconut milk helps this cake stay moist, which is a big plus with a dense cake.
On EO’s big day, this cake disappeared faster then I could say “Wowie Zowie” or even get a piece of it! This was the best feedback I could ever get from our guests. I hope you enjoy it this much too.
* Disclaimer: Do not expect this cake to have the same taste or texture of a white flour cake with loads of sugar. Instead, expect a delicious, dense cake that lets you celebrate the moment without sacrificing the tradition.
Chocolate Cherry Coconut Cake
You will need these ingredients:
1 cup garbanzo flour
1 cup tapioca flour
¼ cup cacao powder OR ½ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 can coconut milk
2/3 cup coconut oil
½ cup maple syrup OR ½ – ¾ cup coconut sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
1Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut
1.5 cup frozen cherries, semi-melted and cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 6 inch pans.
Mix together flours, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
Stir in coconut shreds and cherries until covered with flour mixture and set aside.
In a small saucepan on low heat, melt coconut oil, maple syrup (or sugar), coconut milk (shake can) and vanilla. Whisk to combine.
Add wet mixture into the flour mixture ½ cup at a time.
Pour batter into cake pans and bake for 45 minutes.
Let cake cool 5 minutes in pans. Take a spatula and go around the edges of the cake pan. Flip cooked cakes onto a wire rack to cool. If left in the pans too long the cakes will continue to cook while cooling.
Step by Step:
Sift together flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cacao in a large bowl. This is an important step so that you don’t have any large clumps of anything.
Add the coconut shreds and cherries to the bowl, making sure they are covered with the flour mixture. This step helps the fruit pieces to spread evenly in the cake.
Shake the can of coconut milk well. Pour it in a small saucepan on low heat, along with the coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla. If you are using sugar, make sure it melts completely in this step. Stir for 1-2 minutes until everything is melted together.
Create a well in the middle of your dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients ½ cup at a time. Make sure the dry ingredients are all the way mixed in before you add the next ½ cup. This step makes it easier to combine the ingredients.
Pour batter into pans the two pans evenly. Lightly tap the pans on the counter to remove any bubbles.
The cakes bake perfectly in my oven for 45 minutes but since all ovens are different, I would do a test at 30 minutes. Do this by inserting a toothpick into the middle of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean then your cake is cooked. If you cook for 30 minutes and the toothpick still comes out wet, add 5 more minutes cooking time.
Once the cakes have cooked. Make sure you remove them from the pans onto a wire rack so that they do not overcook. The easiest way to do this is by first running a spatula around the edge of the pan to make sure that the cake isn’t sticking. Then place the rack over top of pan and flip them over together.
Let cake cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup + 2 tablespoons organic coconut butter OR 2, 6 oz. boxes of creamed coconut
8 ounces kite hill cream cheese OR regular cream cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
¼ cup +2 tablespoons agave (optional)
50 plant colored sprinkles ( I hope this made you laugh!)
If you live in a cold climate you might need to melt the coconut butter slightly before using it. Set out the cream cheese so it can come to room temperature.
Place the softened cream cheese, coconut butter, lemon juice and agave in a food processor. Blend this for 3-5 minutes until fluffy. ** If you don’t have a food processor you can beat it with a hand mixer or by hand.
Ice the first layer of the cooled cake by covering the top and sides with frosting. Layer the second cake on top of the first and frost the top and sides again.
Decorate the cake with sprinkles and/or fresh cherries.
Place the cake in the refrigerator. If you are making this cake in the hot months, be aware that this frosting is temperature-sensitive.
Pull the cake out of the fridge 30-45 minutes before serving. This allows the frosting and cake to be set, yet soft. If the cake is too cold it will be too firm when you bite into it.
Here are some of my top-secret tips.
If you are like me and do not need the frosting to be super sweet, you can cut the amount of agave in half or even omit it. I make this frosting a bit sweeter at times, especially for adult taste buds that are accustomed to eating refined sugar. Play around with it and see where your taste buds are happy. The way I make it is with ½ c maple syrup in the cake and 2 tablespoons agave in the frosting.
I like to use agave to sweeten this recipe because it does not change the color of the frosting. If you are using maple syrup your icing will have a light brown tint.
You have two options for the coconut. The organic coconut butter is more expensive then the box of creamed coconut but they both have the same consistency and can be used interchangeably. The only difference I have found with them is that one is organic. You can possibly find the box of creamed coconut in the Jamacian section of Publix, like I can. Do NOT think a can of coconut cream is the same thing. It will not have the same consistency.