Monday, September 23, 2013

From the Oven: Making light of baking - Honey cake and Banana Yogurt cake/muffins

I've been wrapped up in the renovation, and then travel for work, and then getting really sick because of... well, who knows why one gets a stomach virus, but I can tell you that stress and travel don't HELP at all.

I'm starting to feel better, so I thought I'd update you with some baking experiments I've snuck in here and there (pre-and-post sickness, lest I bake the virus into something...).

It's starting to be Fall here in the northeast, and I didn't have a chance to get together with my family at the big family dinner in September, so I wanted to remind myself of "home" AND try out all my new counter space.

So I dug out my old food processor recipe book.

Don't snicker.  This was my second recipe book (more on my first, some other time) and food processors were making their way into home kitchens in the 80's.  This one, The Pleasures of Your Food Processor by Noreen Gilletz, is basically a version of Second Helpings Please, with the recipes tweaked for the processor (check out her other books as well... looks like the food processor one has a 30th anniversary update!).

I remember reading my mother's copy all the time. There were great tips at the start of most chapters-- like why your cake would have "tunnels" in it, different types of substitutions you could make for ingredients, and metric to Imperial conversions.

My copy has this neat feature where the cover bends back, so it becomes its own recipe stand!

The bend in the cover is so it can fold back and become a recipe stand. GENIUS!

I love a lot of the cake recipes from this book, and the two I've made recently are great in their original format.
However, since I'm watching my calorie intake, I decided to try to lighten up both recipes, and am delighted at my own success!

Honey Cola Cake
My all-time favorite honey cake recipe.  My mom and I aced this cake years ago, which was great because my Great-Aunt Celia also made Honey Cake yearly, but she burned the heck out of them (and I don't think she was aware), and so my first memories of honey cake are not the greatest... but this cake is foolproof, and really delicious.

The original recipe from the above book calls for brown sugar, eggs, 3/4c of oil, 1/2c of cola (could be regular or diet), 1c of honey, and the regular flour, baking powder and baking soda, cinnamon.

I swapped out the entirety of the oil for unsweetened applesauce, which brought the calorie count per slice (for 12 generous slices) down from 363 to 249.
This is a great trick, and can be used in any cake that calls for oil. Substitute some or all of the oil for unsweetened applesauce, which helps keep the cake moist.

By doing this, I lowered the fat from 15g per slice to 1g, and cholesterol became negligible.

I also swapped 1/3 of the brown sugar  for splenda (so 1/2c brown sugar and 1/4c splenda), and reduced the calories further to 232.
You can safely remove 1/4 to 1/3 of the sugar from any cake recipe-- in this case, I kept some in, for it's various properties (aside from sweetening, sugar adds texture, draws in and keeps moisture, adds to browning, tenderizing the gluten... this is why you can't just straight substitute sugar for Splenda or other non-sugar sweeteners, which don't all have these properties).

So the final count for this cake (1/12th) comes to:
232 calories
1g fat
53g carb
4g protein
1g fiber
7% calcium
10% iron
2% vitamin A
trace vitamin C

Here's how to make my lightened Honey Cola Cake:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 cup honey
3/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1/2 cup diet cola
1/4 cup splenda (bulk)

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Make sure to do this 20-30 minutes before you start baking, to ensure the oven is at the proper temperature (the first beep isn't the right temperature... you basically need a good oven thermometer to ensure you're there).

Grease (or use a spray oil, like Pam) a 12" Bundt pan, or 10" tube pan.  You need that hole in the middle of the pan to ensure the cake bakes evenly.  You could try other pans, but will have to adjust the baking time.

First, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon until blended.
Put aside in another bowl.

Flour mix, set aside, and the applesauce, standing by.

Process the brown sugar splenda, and eggs for about 30 seconds.  Then add applesauce and honey, blend for another 90 seconds.
Eggs and sweeteners (splenda and packed brown sugar) before blending.
Remove processor cover, and add the dry ingredients, pour the cola over that. Pulse for 4-5 quick turns, just until the dry ingredients are incorporated (a few lumps are ok, you can grab those with your spatula).

Immediately pour the batter into your pre-greased pan. 

Before baking

Bake at 325 degrees for about 1hr, and check that the cake is done with a fork or toothpick-- stick it into the middle, and if it comes up pretty clean (a crumb or 2 is fine), you're set.

Also, when the cake starts to pull away from the sides, you are for sure done!
After baking. Yes, it is gorgeous!

Let cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, before you remove from the pan to cool on a cake rack. 

Look at that light texture! It's really a delicious and easy cake.
The cake keeps well (honey is a deterrent to weird things growing, and keeps it moist), and definitely freezes well.


Similarly, I was able to convert my favorite banana cake recipe.  The recipe has yogurt in it for tang and to help leaven the cake (you'll see!).

In this case, I 
replaced the butter with unsweetened applesauce (which is a bit risky-- butter and oil are NOT the same, chemically speaking.  Butter has fat AND water, and milk solids, whereas oil is just a pure liquid fat.  But it seems to have worked), and replaced the 1.5 cups (!) of sugar with 1/2c brown sugar, 1/2c xylitol, and 1/2c splenda.
The brown sugar is more flavorful than white sugar, and contains molasses, which helps make it moist (and is where the brown flavor and color come from).  The Xylitol is a great sugar substitute, with good flavor and browning abilities-- I'm liking it more and more in my sweet treats.  Splenda just adds sweetness, but doesn't do much in terms of texture, which is why I needed the other sweeteners. It is the lowest calorie sweetener of the bunch.

The original recipe made 9 servings, which must've been HUGE... I decided to make muffins, and I made 18 muffins, so we'll compare against that number.

The original would've been 187 calories per muffin, with 6g of fat (3 saturated) and 38mg cholesterol
My lightened version  has 123 calories per muffin, 1g of fat, and 24mg cholesterol.
Lots of folate and B1

here's the stats for 1 of 18 muffins (I made 12 slightly bigger and 6 slightly smaller, but let's say I made them all even, and this would be the count):
123 cal
1g fat
24mg cholesterol
111mg sodium
101mg potassium
27g carb
6g fiber (some of this is how the xylitol is counted)
3g protein
4% calcium
5% iron
2% vitamin C
1% vitamin A
8% B1
7% Folacin

2 large eggs
1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup splenda (bulk)
1/2 cup xylitol
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large bananas
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup greek yogurt 0% fat
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Do this a good 20-30 minutes before you start baking.

In a food processor, combine the eggs, applesauce, sweeteners, and vanilla.  Whiz for 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl once.
While it's running, drop in the banana in chunks, and whiz until fully processed and smooth.

Meanwhile, in a 2c measuring cup or a bowl, mix 3/4c of yogurt (greek 0% or regular non-fat, or even regular yogurt of a different %, but you'll have higher calories), with the 1tsp of baking soda.
This will take about 2 minutes to DOUBLE IN VOLUME.
Have the kids watch that... :)

Mix the 2c of flour with the 1tsp of baking powder. Set aside.

Mix the yogurt/baking soda puff into the banana mixture with a few quick pulses.
Then mix in the flour/baking powder with about 4 quick pulses.

Pour into your muffin pans,  sprayed with Pam, or a well greased 9x9 pan, or a bundt pan... you can't really go wrong with this recipe.

Well, unless your oven isn't hot enough...then your muffins will be flat, like mine. The leaveners need a quick BLAST of high temperature to start working, and this is why pre-heating your oven is SO CRITICAL.
Let this be a lesson!!!

they still taste delicious though...
Yes, the muffins are flat. My oven wasn't hot enough.  Still delicious, but flat.

Bake for 40 minutes at 350 and check for done-ness.  Bake up to 50 minutes total. (Muffins take less time than a full pan of cake).
Easily frozen, and could be frosted if you like that kind of thing.


  1. These both sounds incredibly good! I definitely want to try the Honey Cake over the holidays. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! It's really easy to make and bake (just make sure your oven is up to temp before you even start) and it has a nice mild spice from the cinnamon, combined with the honey. Would make great muffins, and I bet it could tolerate some flax or chia or other fibrous additions... maybe some raisins (toss in flour before you add them in so they don't all sink). :) Happy Baking!