Sunday, November 13, 2011

Have Your Cake and Eat it Too

Baking isn't exactly a paleolithic activity. I doubt our hunter-gatherer ancestors spent Sunday afternoons baking pies and cakes at the campfire. I can picture Mrs. Cro-Magnon mashing nuts and seeds into flours and pressing even more nuts into oils. Baked goods were definitely not on the menu for dessert in 40,000 BC.

As you'd expect, baking Paleo can be a challenge. Not only do our cookies and cakes need to be dairy and grain free they also need to be sugar-free. Many Paleo cooks like to use unrefined sugar substitutes like agave nectar or honey. Both of these may seem like healthier alternatives but their fructose contents are off the charts! I propose using coconut sugar in your baked goods instead and here's why:

Glycemic Index

Fructose Content

Sucrose Content

Coconut Sugar




Agave Nectar








High Fructose Corn Syrup




First let's remember from chemistry class that sucrose is a disaccharide (2-sugar carbohydrate) composed of glucose and fructose. So sucrose content should be taken into account when looking at total fructose load. The above numbers are easily found online. The ranges are due to the different varieties and processing methods for the sweeteners. So regardless of how “natural” honey and agave seem as alternative sweeteners, their fructose content indicates they are to be avoided.

Why avoid fructose? Fructose is the one sugar that is considered most “lipogenic” (fat producing) due to the way its processed in the liver. Too much fructose isn't good for anyone, with the research indicating links to insulin resistance, high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, gout, obesity, and many other conditions.

For more information on the role of fructose in disease watch this:

Or read this excellent article from Gary Taubes in the NYT.

Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut trees. It can be found in syrup form or in powdered, crystal form. These two options make it an easy sub for most recipes. Coconut sugar is primarily inulin, a soluble fiber starch. Inulin does not effect insulin or triglyceride levels and may aide in calcium and magnesium absorption and promote growth of intestinal flora.

Mmm. It seems like a no brainer to me. It is cheaper than other sweeteners and tastes good too. You can get both forms on Amazon Prime here and here. If you see other brands, make sure it is 100% coconut sugar without added cane sugar (sucrose).

Try this simple chocolate cake using coconut sugar. Splurging on excellent chocolate is what takes this cake to the next level. I like to use Scharffen Berger or Valrhona.

Flourless Chocolate Cake

made Paleo via David Lebovitz's recipe for Flourless Chocolate Orbit Cake

7 ounces coconut oil, plus more for greasing the pan

10 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate

5 eggs

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare a 9in spring form pan with oil. Cut a parchment round to fit the bottom or coat the greased surface with a thin layer of cocoa powder so the cake can easily be removed.

In a large glass bowl, whisk the eggs, vanilla and coconut sugar. In a smaller glass bowl, add the oil and chocolate broken into small pieces. Place the bowl over a small pot of boiling water and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture has a thick sheen. The chocolate can also be melted in the microwave using 15-20 second intervals to gradually bring the mixture together. Once melted, slowly add the melted chocolate to the egg and sugar mixture, whisking constantly.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and cover with foil. Place in the oven in the middle position. On the bottom rack fill a glass baking dish with water that will steam as the cake cooks. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake is tacky to the touch but set. This cake always tastes better later so let it cool completely then refrigerate for a couple hours before serving, if not the following day. It will be hard to resist, but the deep chocolate flavors develop in the refrigerator.

1 comment:

Nina said...

Fantastic post!!! So good to know about coconut sugar. I can't do fructose--so this is a great option! Thanks!