They say 7 is the perfect number and for this recipe, it really was! I experimented over the weekend and made 7 different test batches to get a great tasting and perfectly moist spice cake. I really should have named my blog “Satisfying Eats: The Grain-Free Test Kitchen” with all the grain-free and low-carb experimenting I have done over the last 2.5 years. During this time, I have learned SO much, all by trial and error. I intentionally don’t look at other grain-free recipes because I want to make sure I am original. To create a new recipe, I experiment with different ratios (and brands) of flours, liquids, amounts of eggs, different spices and sweeteners. I have been through 100’s of pounds of almond flour (really, I have), dozens and dozens of eggs, almost 200 lbs. of butter and the list goes on and on!
I do this so that you don’t have to. Know that when I post a recipe, I have made it NUMEROUS times and if you follow the recipe’s instructions, you should have great success. Don’t worry if you are not a baker or are new to this grain-free lifestyle. I LOVE helping you on your new journey! My goal is to help you create delicious grain-free foods that taste just as good as the “real” thing!
**What Sweeteners I use & Why**
Over the past 2.5 years, I have used quiet a few different sweeteners, but about 2 years ago I began using KAL Stevia pretty much exclusively. I chose KAL because it contained no fillers, it was cost effective and it didn’t have a bitter aftertaste compared to other brands of stevia I had tried. I do sometimes however use raw honey or organic coconut sugar to balance out the sweetness in recipes (only if needed).
Recently KAL has changed the method for producing their powdered stevia and started adding Maltodextrin. Not only does their new formula contain corn but it also can have a slight aftertaste in certain recipes. 🙁 I tested 4 different varieties of stevia in this blog post and came to the conclusion that for the World’s Best Chocolate Birthday cake, there was not a big difference in taste between Organic Sweet Leaf, Organic KAL, the “old” KAL and the “new” KAL with the maltodextrin. However, the more I use these other stevias in different recipes, the more of a difference I can taste. 🙁
That being said, my ultimate goal in EVERY recipe is that the recipe is grain-free, low-carb (sometimes dairy-free & nut-free), that I use real ingredients, and that the final product taste DELICIOUS! To accomplish the perfect spice cake, I had to add more of the additional sweeteners to achieve the right sweetness and even texture for this recipe. Don’t worry, I still am able to keep the Net Carbs under 6 grams (with the frosting)! 🙂
When testing this recipe, I decided to use xylitol. I normally don’t use xylitol but since I know many of you do (and I still had some that I bought from 2 years ago), I decided to use it for one of the test batters.
Here are the sweetener combinations that I used and the results when used in this recipe:
12-14-14 Update: This recipe works perfectly with my latest stevia find, Stevia Select! Use 1/2 tsp. Stevia Select, 2 tbsp. raw honey and 2 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce. Perfection!
- 1/2 cup xylitol– Very good and perfectly moist. GOOD
- 1/4 tsp. Organic KAL Stevia- Bitter and resulted in a very dry cake. BAD
- 1/2 tsp. Organic Sweet Leaf Stevia- Bitter and resulted in a very dry cake. BAD
- 1/2 cup xylitol & 1/8th tsp. Organic KAL Stevia- Perfectly sweeten and moist. GOOD
- 1/4 cup honey & 1/4 tsp. Organic KAL Stevia- Perfectly sweetened and moist. GOOD
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar, 1/2 tsp. Organic Sweet Leaf Stevia & 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce- The right amount of sweetness and moisture. GOOD
- 1/4 tsp. Organic KAL Stevia, 2 tbsp. raw honey & 2 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce- Right sweetness and perfect texture (and lower in carbs than using more honey or coconut sugar). GOOD
So after 7 test batches of this spice cake, I have concluded that if using only powdered stevia, it is very hard to achieve a moist end result unless the applesauce was added. The batches that I used xylitol, honey or applesauce in had the perfect texture and did not need the added moisture from the applesauce. Out of 7 test batches, 5 were exactly what i was looking for… Perfectly sweetened cake with the perfect texture!
My conclusion: Use whatever sweetener you like but if using KAL Stevia or any other powdered stevia, you will need to add the applesauce to give the cake the extra moisture as well as a small amount of supplemental sweetener of your choice. If using honey or xylitol, extra moisture is not needed. For the final recipe, I decide to use part KAL Stevia, part honey and part unsweetened applesauce to achieve the perfect sweetness and the perfect texture. Feel free to use any of the sweetener combinations from above labeled GOOD!
This is the first time that I have tried all of these different sweeteners with the same recipe (7 different times) and compared the results. My intention is not to confuse you but to give you a little background and let you know exactly what sweeteners I used.
I hope these tips about the different sweeteners help you choose which sweetener combinations to use and that it helps you understand the process I go through when creating recipes. Now you also know why it takes me a bit to get a recipe posted but rest assured, every recipe that I post on my blog has been tested numerous times and I won’t publish it on my blog until I feel I have got it! I just wanted to show everyone what goes into creating a great recipe that is Satisfying Eats approved… I take my “job” very seriously! 🙂
How to Correctly Measure Almond Flour
As mentioned numerous times, I only use blanched almond flour from Honeyville. I know some people make their own almond flour but already ground flour is one luxury that I insist upon having in my kitchen! 🙂 Honeyville’s flour is ground into the finest texture I have tried, and this makes for lighter cakes. However, I know many people that are happy with the results from using almond flour that they grind themselves.
You may not realize but the amount of almond flour you measure in a 1 cup measuring cup can vary GREATLY depending on how you measure (and the brand you use).
I measure the same way every time to give me consistent results and here is how I do it:
- Stir almond flour in the container with measuring cup to aerate the flour and break up any lumps.
- Use correct dry measuring cup (not liquid) and scoop into container of almond flour, over filling the cup.
- Using my hand (or butter knife), I run my hand over the full cup to push off any extra flour that doesn’t fit into the cup without packing the almond flour.
- Using this method give me the same results every time. One cup of blanched Honeyville Almond flour = 3.05 ounces or 86 grams when weighted using this digital scale.
How I DO NOT measure almond flour:
- Pouring the almond flour into the measuring cup. This will result in LOTS of air and less almond flour than needed.
- Pack the flour into the measuring cup to see how much will fit. This will result in TOO MUCH almond flour and probably a dry end product.
I am not saying that you need to start weighing your flours but if you have been getting inconsistent results, you should give this a try, especially when following my recipes. However, weighing your flours will give you more consistent results.
I really love the spice combination in this spice cake. This also was trial and error. Add a little cinnamon, taste. Add a little ginger, taste. Add more cinnamon, taste. Add more nutmeg, taste. I find that I enjoy the batter just as much as the finished cake!
I used organic cinnamon and ground ginger but used fresh nutmeg which I HIGHLY recommend using. It’s really cheap and the “nuts” of nutmeg will last a while. If using fresh nutmeg, you will need a microplaner but you will also use this compact grater to zest citrus as well as grating Parmesan cheese. To round out the flavors, I used my homemade double strength vanilla. Good vanilla really brings out the spices in this cake.
Note: If you happen to not have ground ginger or nutmeg, you can substitute 1-1/2 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice in the place of both. I had to do this for the last 3 test batches because I ran out of ginger and it was delicious! 🙂
Looking for a little more texture?? Try sprinkling 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts on top of frosted cake, yum!
Dairy-Free Modification: Substitute coconut oil or raw cacao butter instead of the butter. If using coconut oil, the cake will have a slight coconut flavor. Also use canned coconut milk in place of the dairy. This cake is great with or without the frosting so omit it if going dairy-free.
Nut-Free Modification: As stated before, recipes calling for almond flour can EASILY be made nut-free by using ground raw (unsalted) sunflower seeds. If using ground seeds, be sure to go by the volume needed vs. using a measuring cup to make sure you use the right amount.
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- 1-1/2 cup blanched Honeyville almond flour (128 grams)
- 2 tsp. grain-free baking powder
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. Stevia Select powdered Stevia or sweetener of choice, to taste** (See notes above under "What Sweeteners I use.")
- 2 tbsp. raw honey** (See notes above)
- 2 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce** (Omit if using honey or granular sugar substitute. See notes above.)
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup sour cream, yogurt, heavy cream or canned coconut milk (for dairy-free)
- ¼ cup salted butter, room temperature (or coconut oil for dairy-free and add a pinch of salt)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- 1/8 tsp. Stevia Select Stevia or sweetener of choice, to taste
- 1/2 tbsp. raw honey (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 8 inch square (or round) pan with parchment paper and grease the sides of the pan with butter or coconut oil. In a medium bowl, blend dry ingredients. Add remaining ingredients and blend with whisk or hand mixer. Taste for sweetness and spice and adjust if needed. (Feel free to add more spice here to suit your palate.)
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 22-26 minutes or until edges are slightly brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack and remove the parchment paper. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Feel free to leave the cake in the pan to cool (resting on a cooling rack) and frost the cake in the pan.
For cupcakes: Makes 12. Bake for about 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and beat with hand mixer until thick. Taste for sweetness and adjust if needed.
Frost cooled cake then cut into squares.
Nutrition: 150 Calories, 13 grams of Fat, 5.5 NET Carbs, 4 grams Protein per serving including cream cheese frosting and ingredients as listed in recipe.
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