Monthly Archives: May 2012

Lemon Cake with Fresh Raspberry Filling and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Good Memorial Day to you! I hope that you have been enjoying a wonderful holiday weekend.
In a break from a regular story-telling tradition I will start with the happy ending of the story. I created this cake for the guests at a picnic, which also marked the celebration of my mother in-law's birthday. There were a lot of oohs and aahs when everyone saw the cake, and lots of happy noises as people enjoyed it.

The surprise to everyone was that the cake did not contain one bit of refined sugar. It tasted just as sweet and satisfying as a proper cake should without that pesky cane product.

Since I have a food sensitivity to cane sugar, I am motivated to find work-around solutions because I have a large sweet tooth. I have learned, through trial and error, that one can still bake cakes (and cookies and breads) and eat them too! And as an economist by trade, I am a big fan of spreadsheets. I have created a natural sweetener conversion chart in case you want to modify some of your own recipes. My favorite natural sweeteners are agave nectar, honey and maple syrup. Whether you are sensitive or not, try a few substitutions and see what you think about the finished products.

And now I’ll end this blog with the start of the story: creating the cake. I found recipes for lemon cake and vanilla buttercream frosting, substituted the sugars with agave nectar and doubled the cake recipe to have two layers. To make the raspberry filling, I mashed one pint of raspberries with one tablespoon of agave nectar and one teaspoon of water. And I halved the frosting recipe to just cover the top of the cake. Serve with agave-sweetened ice cream or raspberry sorbet.

Lemon Cake Ingredients (one 9-inch cake):
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup agave nectar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Cake Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter, or spray with a nonstick spray, a 9 inch circular pan and dust with flour.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat the butter and agave until light and fluffy and pale in color. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add to the batter along with the lemon juice. Mix only until incorporated. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula. Bake about 40 – 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting Ingredients (enough to frost top and sides of a two-layer cake):
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/3 cups agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoon milk

Frosting Instructions:
After all of the ingredients are in a bowl, mix on medium-high for a few minutes until the frosting is stiff and lightened in color. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add 1 extra tablespoon of milk.

Assembling Instructions:
Spread the raspberry filling evenly between the two cake layers, and frost the top of the cake with the vanilla frosting. Decorate with your favorite fruit – I chose blueberries and strawberries.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and Food Trip Friday.


Happiness is Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Birthday Cake

Happy birthday indeed! I enjoyed a wonderful weekend with visits, calls and cards from my family and friends. I also was treated to a delicious dinner out with my grandmother, MIL, FIL and SensitiveHusband. After the meal we drove back to our house for dessert…that SensitiveHusband baked! Not only was the cake delicious, it was free of cane sugar, yeast, and all of my other “sensitive” ingredients. I think cake tastes even better when someone else bakes it, don’t you agree?

SensitiveHusband perused my recipes and decided on the Chocolate Agave Cake with the Honey Peanut Butter Frosting. What a delicious combination! The cake was extremely light and moist and the frosting was fluffy. Good thing I have a bit left…I look forward to having another piece.

What is your favorite dessert? There is one week left to take the poll on my home page. Simply click your favorite dessert and then click “vote.”

Chocolate Agave Cake
2/3 cup agave nectar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour one nine-inch round pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the agave nectar, egg, milk, oil and vanilla. Mix for 2 minutes on medium speed of mixer. Stir in the boiling water last. Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Honey Peanut Butter Cream Frosting
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/8 cup peanut butter
1/2 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1/3 cup honey


Cream butter and peanut butter. Add the water, salt, and vanilla and cream again. Slowly add the honey and beat until creamy.

Please note: refrigerate the butter creams if either becomes too runny to use for frosting. A few minutes in the cool temperature will correct the consistency.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Food Trip Friday and Simple Living.

Chocolate Dipped Bananas are Delicious Yet Gluten, Dairy & Cane Sugar Free

This past weekend SensitiveHusband and I enjoyed a lovely evening with some family friends. I have known these wonderful people all of my life and I feel privileged to be able to continue this extended family connection.

Each couple contributed something to the meal, and I was fortunate enough to be asked to bring a dessert. What a great experience to bake one of my favorites as well as try something new! As for the favorite, I made a chocolate agave cake and I doubled the recipe to make a layer cake with a cherry jam filling. I topped the cake with homemade whipped cream. I will definitely make this again!

My new creation involved chocolate dipped bananas. You can probably guess the two main ingredients! I had fun topping this dessert with all sorts of tasty treats as seen in the photograph above.

Chocolate Dipped Bananas (Gluten, Cane Sugar and Dairy Free)

2 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2 inch disks
1 bar (3 oz) dark chocolate (The dark chocolate with raspberries Endangered Species brand is gluten, dairy and cane sugar free)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Assorted toppings (such as peanuts, granola, coconut, or cinnamon)

Melt the chocolate on low heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Dip the bananas into the melted chocolate so that about half of the banana is covered. Place bananas on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Top the bananans creatively. The close-up photo shows one dusted with cinnamon. Freeze for at least half an hour. Once frozen, you can transfer the bananas to another bowl or zip lock bag. Allow bananas to defrost for a few minutes before enjoying.

P.S. If you have not already done so, please answer the poll on the web site just to the left of this post. It just takes two clicks of your time. The results are very close and I hope to get a large enough sample to declare a winning dessert. Thanks for your participation!

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Cybele Pascal Allergen Free Cuisine, Food Trip Friday and Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.

Being Naturally Sweet: Results from the CTVegFest

Greetings from a very happy CTVegFest speaker! The festival was a great weekend filled with exhibitors, raffles, cooking demonstrations and speakers. I spoke on Sunday, April 29 all about natural sweeteners. About 30 people joined the discussion “Being Naturally Sweet: The Costs and Benefits of a Refined Sugar-Free Diet.” When I polled the audience, I was quite impressed that the majority were already trying to limit the amount of refined sugars that they consume. I first talked about how I learned that I had food sensitivities, and that by listening to my body and consulting a second physician’s opinion really started me on the right path to adjusting my diet. We discussed how tricky it is to remove sugars from one’s diet, and the possible code words for “sugar” in an ingredient list – including, but not limited to, the following – dextrin, dextrose, glucose, saccharose, sucrose, and some syrups and sweeteners. By looking at cost comparisons we all agreed that the relative low expense of cane sugar is why it is the sweetener of choice for many food manufacturers – it’s just less expensive to make foods sweetened with cane sugar than with a natural sweetener.

Yet do not despair! Even though I cannot have cane sugar, and choose to limit the amount of other refined sugars that I consume, desserts can still be enjoyed! We talked about how to substitute with natural sweeteners using sweet conversions. The question did arise about liquid versus solid sweeteners – I have not found any trouble with substituting liquid alternatives like agave nectar, honey and maple syrup instead of using granulated sugar in baked goods such as cookies, cakes and brownies. For puddings, however, I sometimes have to use a little cornstarch for its thickening properties.

The benefits of natural sweeteners are many – so that’s why many of us at the CTVegFest aim to be naturally sweet. I enjoyed discussing my journey so far with the audience, and I intend to continue the discussion right here on this blog. So thank you for hearing me speak, reading my blog posts, commenting with questions and ideas – it’s wonderful to be part of a supportive community.

At the close of my speech I asked everyone to answer a short survey. Since I am an economist, I just love to collect data! I now have the results prepared for you. The survey consisted of three questions involving rating favorite desserts, naming a favorite dessert flavor, and listing a favorite food. Thirty-one people answered the survey.

The results of the favorite dessert choices are shown in this pie chart. As for first choice selections, the group was evenly split between cookies and ice cream.
However, if the first, second and third choices are included, ice cream slightly edges out cookies.

When asked to list a favorite dessert flavor, the choice is overwhelmingly chocolate! Twenty-three of the respondents selected chocolate as their favorite dessert. I am certainly not surprised by that result! Vanilla was a distant second with three responses, and cinnamon came in third with two mentions.

And what were the respondents’ favorite foods? The answers ranged from green smoothies to pasta, and from filet mignon to chickpeas. However, eight of the responses involved seafood. Yum!

Would you like to provide your dessert preference? Please do in my first poll! All you have to do is click on which dessert category is your favorite and then click on “vote.” It will be interesting to see if the results are the same as or differ from the CTVegFest audience. The poll will be available on the front page of my blog for the rest of the month, and then we can check the answers.

Thanks again to all of you who participated in the CTVegFest! And thanks for taking my dessert poll!