Saturday, 14 February 2015

Light and Fluffy Chocolate Cake

Happy Birthday to me......

I totally made my own birthday cake.  Is that pathetic?  I didn't trust anyone else to get it right.  Heck, the first time around, even I didn't get it right.  I Googled a recipe for 'light and fluffy' coconut flour chocolate cake.  And there were dozens out there, advertising how light and fluffy they were.  And they really just aren't.  We all know that, right?


We've all made those take-the-spit-right-out-of-your-mouth cakes, or those bricks that have the weight of brownies but none of the right mouth-feel.

And I made a gut bomb of my own the first time around.  Two, actually, because it was a double-layer cake and I wasted a whole 1 1/2 cups coconut flour, and 8 eggs in that monstrosity, and I let it sit wrapped overnight because 'that will make it more moist'.  But it didn't.  And I thought about feeding my family the cake because I'd already put so much effort into it, but I knew we'd all be very disappointed and they'd tell me it was good when it wasn't, and then they'd say they're just too full, and not really eat it.

I could have made a to-die-for flourless chocolate cake that we all love, but it wouldn't have been a birthday cake.  I really wanted birthday cake.  Light and fluffy 2-layer birthday cake.  Was I being a brat?  I mean, I hadn't eaten any kind of birthday cake in YEARS--not even non-paleo traditional cake.  I soooo wanted cake.

Look at the light fluffiness!
So I went on the internet and Googled some more.  And then I found a site that mentioned separating the eggs first.  But then didn't actually have any recipes on their site that actually used separated eggs. But that seemed so plausible.  It just made so much sense.  After all, THIS recipe that the Paleo Mom makes uses separated eggs to make to-die-for fish batter that tastes totally authentic and perfect, so why can't it also work in cake?  Too far of a leap, maybe?  I've used separated eggs in a lot of creations (though I haven't been posting them)--and it makes a HUGE difference in texture.  All I needed was to fix the texture of the cake.  I knew how to make the cake taste right, but it had to FEEL right, too.

And it did.  Totally worked.  In fact, if my family didn't know me, they would have thought it was normal birthday cake.  I'm not kidding.

And then I iced it with a peanut butter butter-creme icing.  Don't judge me.  I do not react to peanuts at all--and this IS supposed to be a treat, after all.  I used all-natural and organic.  You can use almond butter or any nut butter you want.

And so, despite my total lack of photography skills, here's the recipe.  Don't let the photography offend you.

Chocolate Layer Cake

2x 8" round cakes


6 eggs, separated
4 Tbs canned pureed pumpkin *
4 Tbs butter, melted & cooled
1/2 c Truvia + 1/2 c unsweetened almond milk **
1 tsp baking soda + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c coconut flour (do not pack tight into measuring cup)
1/2 c cocoa powder


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease sides of 8" cake pans with coconut oil or butter.  Line bottom with parchment paper.

In first bowl, using a stand mixer or hand-mixer, whip egg whites until firm peaks form (the firmer, the better).

In second bowl, add egg yolks, pumpkin, butter, Truvia, almond milk, and vanilla.  In small cup or bowl, mix vinegar and soda to activate it, then add to wet mixture.  Mix well.  Add in coconut flour and cocoa powder and mix again.  Mixture will begin to thicken like wet cement, don't worry.   Now, add your egg whites into the wet mixture.  Blend carefully using the lowest setting on your mixer, try to blend only enough to barely mix together (too much mixing will deflate the egg whites so just barely get it mixed and no more than that)

Divide into 2 cake pans and tap on counter to help level out.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Allow to cool fully in cake pans before inverting and icing.

Peanut Butter Icing

1/2 c butter, softened
1 c unsweetened natural peanut butter, or other nut butter
1/2 c coconut sugar
1/4 c Truvia
1 tsp vanilla
5 Tbs unsweetened almond milk, or as needed to thin

Blend all ingredients together.  Try to spread as much on the cake as you have the willpower to not eat right then and there.

* Pumpkin helps to keep the cake moist.  It will not flavour the cake at all, don't worry.  Apple sauce or pureed bananas will also work, but will change the flavour and texture slightly.

**Truvia is an artificial sweetener made from a blend of stevia leaf and erythritol (the only sugar alcohol that does not cause digestive distress).  It has roughly twice the sweetness of regular sugar or honey, and little to none of the bitterness that many artificial sweeteners have.  It has no effect on blood sugar/insulin levels.  Read more about sugar alcohols here.  If you choose to use honey instead, omit the almond milk and double the measurement to 1 cup honey or sugar.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Divisiveness of Dairy

If you're afraid of butter, use cream.
Julia Child

love you Julia Child, and I love a good food debate.
Photo courtesy of

A couple of weeks ago I was out at a paleo potluck and I mentioned that I was having some problematic health issues--extreme stress, extreme cravings and insatiable hunger, constant belly bloating, and accumulating belly fat.

Of course, my very astute paleo peeps immediately pointed out my coffee intake was excessive, and caffeine does drive up cortisol and stress the adrenal glands.  Fine.  I will cut back my coffee intake (and I will miss it sorely...)

But the next thing that came up was my dairy consumption.  What?  Nothing, and I really mean nothing, is as hotly debated as dairy in the paleo/primal health community.  

My friend is a strong supporter of Loren Cordain's work.  He sent me this article:

Dairy:  Milking it for All its Worth

The article is certainly thought-provoking.  Some interesting points on the insulinogenic nature of low-fat diary and even high-fat milk and yogurt.  I had heard of studies that showed an extreme response to not just GI but also other insulin markers.  I had not, however, given much thought to the connection between insulin response from the specific kinds of dairy I was consuming and the belly fat accumulation I am dealing with (which may be exacerbated by my elevated stress levels)--my current health issues seem to be an issue of several combined factors rather than a single food group in isolation causing issues (SIBO, maybe?).  You know how it is when you KNOW the science, but somehow fail to apply it to yourself?

Add caption
On a simple level, mammalian milk is full of naturally-occurring growth-like hormones meant to be fed to our infants to cause them to grow quickly--it is meant to "fatten" infants up as quickly as possible.   So why would we, as adults who don't need to be fattened up, want to consume it, right?

It's funny how divisive this diary thing is.  I mean, you've got Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf on one side, and Chris Kresser, Mark Sisson, and Stephen Guyenet on the other side.  They've all read the same research, and somehow come up with completely different interpretations.  It is all too easy to interpret the results of research in a way that reinforces any point you are trying to make.  Chris Kresser has suggested that lab results measuring chemical markers (measuring GI on a scale and its' corresponding insulin markers) do not always equal the response inside our bodies.  Perhaps we have mechanisms within our bodies that mitigate or even negate the insulin response, because alternate studies have shown that high-fat dairy can REDUCE heart disease and IMPROVE insulin sensitivity.  Totally the opposite of what Cordain has been saying.  It is important to understand how studies are done in isolation of other factors--looking at a specific component in milk as opposed to all the elements in milk at once, because often one thing cancels or neutralizes another in its whole form.

So, just to throw a wrench into things, here are some arguments contrary to Cordains' statements about dairy (that I emailed back to my anti-dairy friend):

(this is an awesome podcast with transcript he did after his tv show appearance on Dr Oz, explaining and defending what was said on the show), and:

If nothing else, these all suggest that dairy (the right kinds) are, at minimum, not as harmful as originally suggested.  In fact, most of the big paleo advocates do allow the consumption of butter--the amount of actual dairy that remains in butter is negligible (99% of it is milk fat, the other 1% is lactose and water combined) unless you are casein intolerant--then, rendered ghee is a reasonable solution and it is even more loved than grassfed butter.  
Photo courtesy of
I agree with Chris that it all boils to your personal state of health, or the health of your gut.  If you are already insulin-sensitive, milk--particularly low-fat milk-- may exacerbate the issue.  Anyone with a damaged metabolism or damaged gut biome would be smart to avoid most dairy altogether.

On the other hand, I doubt that butter causes much trouble for anyone except the casein-intolerant (and has proven, in fact, to be protecting against obesity and heart disease, among other things).   I feel that aged cheese, which is low in lactose (the sugar that causes the insulin response), simply makes food taste better, and if eating a bit of cheese as garnish now and then allows us to otherwise stick with a paleo-type diet, then it is a reasonable thing to allow.  As long as it doesn't replace meat in a meal--it should remain a garnish only since it is not actually a complete source of animal-based protein.

Photo courtesy of Dairy Farmers of Canada
Perhaps under my current level of stress, with my cortisol and insulin response not functioning as well as they should, it is not such a bad idea to return to a paleo template in it's most black-and-white form.  In the last few days, having removed dairy from my diet, my body has been acting like I'm on some kind of sugar-cleanse, giving some validity to Cordains' view on dairy.  So maybe it really is a question of your current state of health.  Right now, in my current state, it is not a good thing to consume.  Perhaps, if I were at my goal weight and under substantially less stress, I could tolerate small amounts of cheese and yogurt again, but not so much right now. 

I do follow more of a paleo framework rather than the strict sense of the diet itself--don't we all do that nowadays?  The whole diet is only as good as the science behind it, and the science is changing every day (have you heard Chris's stance on legumes now?)  I am a firm believer in the N=1 style of testing every theory on your body since we all are a bit different.  I really appreciate how the paleo diet has evolved over these past few years, relaxing it's stance on many whole foods that it had previously banned (like the whole safe starches argument that suggests white potatoes and white rice might be better for the metabolism than most fruits due to how your body breaks down simple fructose--but that's another post).  That being said, the minute your health begins to decline again, a return to a strict paleo diet (and sometimes an even stricter auto-immune protocol) is the best bet until conditions clear up.

Here's Mark Sisson's view on dairy, with a tonne of links--more good reading if I got you thinking....