Thursday, 13 July 2017

Chocolate Cravings

 I am trying to lose a few pounds, and definitely to maintain a healthy weight and my partner is trying to lose a significant amount.  Low carbohydrate eating works for both of us but like anyone we don't want to feel deprived of treats and delicious food as this only leads to binging or going astray from the healthy eating plan.  Making rich and creamy food is quite easy since cream and butter are low carb staples, but baked treats take a little more experimentation.  I have been working on perfecting a low carb chocolate cake but it's really the icing (or frosting for my American friends) that is the tricky part.  It wouldn't be so tricky if my partner and I could eat powdered erythritol, which functions exactly like regular powdered sugar, but as I explain below, we don't tolerate sugar alcohols well so I have to make do with other options.

I find recipes online but often I adapt, modify and re-create them so this chocolate cake is my own creation now.  Since I'm not a dedicated low carb blogger and I don't actually count carbs, I just keep an intuitive sense of what I've eating, I don't have carb counts for this cake because I don't actively count carbs.  I have a pretty good idea of the carb count of most foods and know when I am in the range I want to be in.

Even when a treat is low-carb I still consider it a treat and not a license to binge. I would estimate the cake alone has roughly 10g carbs per serving but that's just an estimate.

Chocolate Cake-one layer in a square pan but can be sliced in half to make a two-layer cake.  I've been working to make this recipe more moist and although I've improved on the original recipe that I found online I think it still needs work.  My partner says I am terribly self-critical and that the cake is delicious.  I think of it as a work in progress so next time I might reduce the coconut flour by one tablespoon.

3/4 cup cocoa                    6 eggs, 2 egg whites
1/2 cup coconut flour         1/2 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tsp baking powder    1/2 cup greek yogurt
pinch salt                           1 tsp vanilla
2 cups Splenda

 Preheat oven to 325F
Combine the dry ingredients and the liquids separately and then whisk the liquids into the dry.  Spread batter in a parchment lined 8x8 inch pan and bake at 325F for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

To ice the cake I improvised by melting chocolate and cream together, adding Splenda to taste and later stirring in some cocoa powder.  I beat it all in my mixer aiming to get it as smooth as I could, dribbling in a little bit of boiled water.

I am not a food photographer and made no effort to beautify this, as you can see.   It generally looks and tastes like real cake though so if you are eating low carb or feeding a diabetic, you could do worse than to try my cake.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Fudge-gooey and best kept frozen.

1 cup heavy cream
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 cup Splenda
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz cream cheese

Melt the cream, chocolate and Splenda in a suacepan over low heat, stirring to incorporate the sugar well.  Add vanilla.  Pour the chocolate mixture into a mixing bowl with the cream cheese and beat on high until the mixture is smooth-about 5 minutes.  Spread the mixture in a parchment paper lined pan, using a larger pan for thin pieces of fudge or a smaller pan for thick fudge.  I used a 9x11 pan and made thin fudge.   Refrigerate an hour or more until firm and then lift out the parchment paper and cut the fudge into squares while still on the paper.  Place the fudge squares on fresh paper on the original pan and put in the freezer for an hour or two.  The fudge keeps best in the fridge or freezer and I store mine in plastic containers.  Once the cut up fudge is frozen it is less likely the pieces will stick together or at least they will separate from each other fairly easily.  

 Some Ramblings About Low Carb and Particularly Sweeteners

My partner and I both love carbohydrates.  If I had to pick a favourite food group it would be the breads/cereals group followed by dairy.  I've struggled over the years with health and weight issues and before being diagnosed as celiac ate far too many bready things.  They never seemed to satiate or satisfy and one piece of bread lead to several pieces, and so it went with anything made with wheat flour, sweet or savoury.  I was vegan for several years and I had the same non-satiation problem with the grains and vegetables and beans I lived on.  In order to feel full I ate large quantities and I gained weight.  I was eating the plant based, low fat, whole grain diet so often recommended for health but I couldn't manage my hunger or my weight.  A celiac diagnosis muddied the picture but for a time I experimented with using any non-gluten whole grain and although this addressed the celiac issue it didn't address my weight or my hunger.

Diet can be a very emotionally fraught thing.  People feel strongly about the ethics or the health beliefs associated with various diets and although I was once one of those obnoxious vegans who thought anyone eating animal products was misguided about both ethics and health, I am no longer that person.

I have done much research but the field of nutrition is a difficult one.  There is much misinformation, confusing information, experts promoting opposite ideals and not much money is put into nutrition research.  Big agriculture, the makers of processed foods and sellers of health and fitness products all have something to gain by funding research, publishing the results of limited studies and blocking the publishing of results that don't favour them.  I have done my own reading, come to my own conclusions and eat a diet that works for me based on how my body responds and what I believe to be the best information available, the most scientific studies and as usual in life, I also make compromises.

With all of that in mind I eat a low carb diet that is high in saturated fat, moderately high in animal products, and low in carbohydrate with most of my carbohydrates coming from vegetables.  I eat grain free both because it is more comfortable for my digestive system and because it is low carbohydrate.  My daily food consists of meat, cheese, eggs and vegetables with a small amount of berries and yogurt.

When I bake I use almond or coconut flours.  When I need to use a sugar substitute I use Splenda or imitators.  People with nut allergies won't be able to use almond flour and may not be able to use coconut flour.  Low carb/gluten free baking tends to use more eggs than regular baking so it's not good for those with egg issues either.  When it comes to sugar substitutes my ow conclusion is that there is no real evidence (thought plenty of scare tactics and misinformation on the internet) about any of them being unhealthy and it is an error to believe that 'real' sugar is a healthier choice.  You may be able to include real sugar in your diet in small amounts with no problems.  If you need to lose weight or keep it off you may not.  Sugar substitutes vary in their qualities and sugar alcohols give the best results in baking but I am among those who don't tolerate them.  They act as a laxative for me and for my partner so I don't use them.  We both tolerate Splenda well.  The drawback to Splenda is that it does not reproduce the texture that real sugar does.  It sweetens but it is terrible for that crispy-chewy texture you want in cookies or brownies.  It doesn't powder well either so isn't good for frostings and icings.

Splenda, or sucralose, in powder form is combined with maltodextrin which is an actual sugar, complete with calories and blood sugar spiking abilities.  However, it is combined with such a small amount per serving that it is mainly negligible unless you eat a batch of fudge daily.

Most Stevia powders are a mixture of Stevia with xylitol or erythritol, which are the sugar alcohols I mentioned that I don't tolerate.  Some brands use inulin, which is a water soluble plant fibre.  For me, Stevia tends to have an aftertaste.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol with that laxative effect being possible.  It also has a mouth cooling feel, sort of a minty taste and thus it is often used in toothpaste and sugarless gum.  It is toxic to dogs.

Erythritol is popular with most low carb bloggers and recipe developers.  It is expensive but functions the most like real sugar in baking.  It has the laxative effect for me and for my partner.

Some people are very anti-sweetener and nothing I can write or link to would change their minds.  I am not going to even attempt to do so, but am just trying to outline my own choice and the reasons for anyone who is curious.  You can find articles to back up any perspective you wish to take.  The validity of those articles will vary but we all believe what we want to believe. 

Splenda and Maltodextrin

Splenda Safety

STOP THE PRESSES!!!  I tried this recipe today and it's the best I've tried so far.  It will be my go-to chocolate cake recipe.


  1. We are on the low FODMAP diet and xylitol and inulin areboth high fodmap.
    Cris is on a low carb diet and doesn't like coconut. We can't have much almond and have problems with eggs. So we don't eat many cakes at all! I too think Stevia has an aftertaste. I didn't know it could have xylitol in it. Will have to check our cupboard.
    Your cake looks delicious. Your partner is very lucky! xo Jazzy Jack

    1. The cake doesn't taste at all like coconut though I will be the first to say that in many cases I can taste coconut flour and don't always like it. To many people it tastes sweet but to me it is bitter. In a chocolate cake there is no detectable coconut flavour. It's tricky trying to accommodate a variety of dietary needs within a family. We are lucky that Jim and I basically eat the same things. He needs soft food due to Crohn's but I don't mind my veg cooked a little more than is trendy. We definitely rely heavily on eggs! xoxo

  2. Eating low carb is very difficult! I I admire your discipline and do not judge anyone's eating regimen so long as it is a thoughtful one. Lots of the artificial sweeteners affect my tummy terribly!
    I find that baking fruit, keeps the fiber intact, which helps you absorb the sugar in a healthier way, and intensifies the sweetness.. so may try baking an apple with cinnamon...just a thought, no sweeteners necessary,
    Good luck ,
    Xx, Elle


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