Servings: 16 Prep: 15 min Cook: 1 hr Total: 1 hr 15 mins
I’m always looking at recipes, trying to determine what I’m missing, what might be interesting, or… and most importantly… what I want to eat!
One observation I made was a lack of cake. I have pancakes, cheesecakes, Jell-O cakes, funnel cakes, griddle cakes, and even crab cakes! To date, however, I have no actual, good ol’ fashioned, garden-variety cake cakes. Time to change that!
In my book The Fakery, a book dedicated to grain-free quick-breads, I discuss baking and the role gluten plays within it. The short version is, gluten is an elastic protein that solidifies when cooked, forming a durable and tasty internal structure that holds everything together. Without the gluten, many low-carb/ketogenic baked treats tend to collapse on themselves. They have no internal structure. No firm, internal protein matrix!
This may go some length towards why I tend not to bake a lot of cakes. That said, I have a tendency to be a portion control monster and design my own meals around a variety of shapes, sizes, and their ability to be easily portioned. A cake represents a greater challenge to portion and store, than 6 muffins might. Unless I’ve got company lying around, I tend to stick with recipes that are better for breaking up into more logical portion sizes.
But… some of the time, I DO have company wandering about. Some of the time, you just gotta bake a cake! Plus, my website isn’t altogether written for me. It’s by me, but not for me. You likely have a family. You may have friends looking for a slice of cake. You may just want to sit and eat a whole cake! Who am I to say?!
So, let’s talk cake!
The Goal: Bake a cake, low in carbs, no concern for fat content, and done in such a way so that it’s light, lovely, and doesn’t collapse on itself.
This will require some tomfoolery!
The first goal is to lower the carb count. This is largely done by eliminating wheat flour and sugar. This will radically diminish the number of net-carbs within a recipe. One classic, remaining ingredient that maintains common usage in low-carb baking is baking powder, a chemical leavener. Baking powder is a mixture of sodium-bicarbonate (baking soda), a powdered form of acid (usually cream of tartar [potassium bitartrate, a byproduct of winemaking]), and a filler/buffering agent, usually cornstarch. Corn (a grain) and starch (CARBS!!).
Baking soda is a base, meaning it’s the opposite of acid, which is acidic. Mixing baking soda with an acid will cause a chemical reaction, resulting in quick-release, carbon-dioxide bubbles. The corn starch is added to help prevent this from occurring inside the little bottle or can, as well as clump prevention. It’s really a very small amount and won’t lend many added carbs to your baked treats, but I think it’s an interesting topic, nonetheless.
Rather than baking this cake with baking powder, I’m using baking soda and adding my own acid, instead. Acid is often used in baking, in this way. This can be ingredients like vinegar, wine, yoghurt, or buttermilk. I’m opting for lemon juice. It’ll result in the same chemical reaction but omits the corn and the starch (While still bringing a tiny bit of carbs through the lemon juice. A distilled white vinegar has no carbs). Going even a step further, I embraced and enhanced the taste of lemon by adding the zest, as well. This resulted in a sweet, light (for a grain-free pound cake) cake, with an outstanding citrus essence.
Then, because of my concern that the cake would fall, I layered in a few gluten-replacement tricks. This gets into a few funky corners and embraces some of the more exotic ingredients people view with a modicum of skepticism (somewhat understandably). That said, I also don’t believe there are any bad foods. The trick, to my mind, is to know what’s in the food, and making sure that it falls in line with one’s dietary approach.
Ultimately, I could easily argue that cake (even a healthier cake, like this one) isn’t a requirement in any dietary ideology. We can sustain ourselves just fine on a diet of chicken thighs, asparagus, and pecans. Cake is a luxury, a bit of a vacation for the mouth, is common in our culture, and can be fun to make, look at, and eat! So, I suppose my thought is, while it’s not a requirement our bodies need, we like cake… so let’s do our best to make it a good one!
And, this is where a sugar-filled, floury cake becomes a bit of a challenge to replace, when using no flour or no sugar. It’s almost like saying I’d like a glass of water, without hydrogen or oxygen. It’s a pickle! The resulting cake-like form is essentially voodoo and chicanery!
We’re taking ingredients that normally won’t result in cake and blending them in such a way as to be very cake-like. It’s not a cake, exactly, so much as an excellent cake-like alternative. It’s “like” cake, but your body will thank you!
The ground nuts, coconut (a drupe), whey protein, and eggs will provide most of the bulk. The eggs and protein will help form some of the internal protein structure, but not enough to hold a cake together, should it be too tall or heavy. It’ll simply collapse into itself, like I often do after a long, winding hike.
The sweetener will add a sweet taste, but even this be a bit odd, depending on the sweetener used. For example, allulose is becoming a popular sweetener, but it browns more quickly than sugar, resulting in easier-than-normal-to-burn goodies. Erythritol based sweeteners won’t caramelize at all, resulting in pasty pastries with blotchy brown spots. A blend of the two can help whittle into that perfect sweet spot, but… wait! I think I’ve just wandered off the trail…
To increase a cakes ability to hold itself together, we need some gluten-replacers. These help, along with the other ingredients, but I’ll be the first to say they only help. I’ve yet to find a perfect alternative which can allow for something like a big, bold, crusty loaf of substantial French bread. These things help, but… at least so far… they’re still not strong enough to hold up to much more than 3 or 4 inches (9 to 10cm) of height. Even then, the internal bubbles will be smaller, and the texture less chewy and elastic.
But, we do what we can!
The big trick I’m employing, to help this hold together is… a bit of psyllium husk (a fiber that gels and holds moisture), as well as xanthan gum (a texturizer, wonderful in ice cream).
Beyond that, a Bundt cake is also part of the trick. It’s a ring. It’s hollow in the center, allowing for a taller cake, but one with a unique shape that helps it to bake more quickly and evenly, while maintaining its own structure. This cake is about 5-inches tall, but if I tried to bake a standard 5-inch-tall (12.5cm) cake (I don’t know that these pans exist), it would most assuredly collapse in the center. Because this cake has no center, it can’t collapse. A Bundt cake also happens to have an arc form, specifically a catenary arch, a natural shape known for its ability to hold up its own weight.
Are we having fun, yet?!
Note: This recipe is all about the cake and the underlying logic, but in order to make pretty pictures, I whipped up a batch of citrus strawberries (orange segments, orange zest, strawberries, toasted almonds, sweetener, sliced mint and a dash of salt) and layered it all over a puddle of Crème Anglaise. As delicious as this was with the fruit and custard sauce, I also love to pour a bit of almond milk and xylitol honey over the top, or just spread some butter on the slices and enjoy. Or, add a tiny bit of almond milk to this cream cheese frosting for an outstanding drizzle. Great with tea!
Lemon Pound CakePrint Pin Rate
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup coconut flour
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 cup sugar-free vanilla whey protein
- 1 cup 'Swerve' or other sugar replacement
- 1/4 cup ground psyllium husk (optional, but recommended)
- 2 tsp xanthan gum (optional, but recommended)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 16 large whole eggs
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup melted butter
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F (177°C). If using allulose as the sweetener, set the oven to 325°F (163°C).
- Wash, dry, then grate the outside of the lemon over the finest side of a cheese grater, citrus zester, or a microplane grater. Set the zest aside.
- Juice the lemon, saving the juice and discarding the lemon husk.
- Grease a 10+ cup (2.35+L) Bundt pan. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut flour, almond flour, whey protein, sweetener, baking soda, and salt. The cake will rise and bake without the xanthan gum and psyllium husk. Because of the shape of the pan, it’ll also likely hold its shape, if you’re careful. So, while it’ll likely be fine without these ingredients, adding them will bake some confidence into the mix. If you happen to have some, add it at this point, as well.
- Combine the dry ingredients together.
- Add the eggs and almond milk to the bowl. Whisk the ingredients together.
- Add 1 Tbsp (15mL) of the reserved lemon juice and whisk into the mixture, along with the saved lemon zest. If you have any extra lemon juice, add to a drinking glass with a bit of sweetener, some water, and a few ice cubes. Enjoy your lemonade!
- Add the melted butter to the bowl, while whisking. It should be a very nice cake batter, at this point. However, different nut and coconut flours vary quite a bit from company to company. If your mixture is too thick, add a bit more almond milk (or just a bit of water) to thin it down to a nice cake batter.
- Pour the batter into your Bundt pan and bake!
- Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 45 to 55 minutes, or a bit longer if using allulose.
- Allow the pan to cool for at least 15 to 20 minutes, before flipping and slicing.
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