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Healthy Cake – Have your cake and eat it too!

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Healthy Birthday Cake! It holds its own against any boxed cake mix, with none of the sugar or artificial ingredients: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2013/06/12/healthy-cake-recipe/

Do you think sugar makes kids hyper?

It’s a widely-held belief that sugar makes kids act crazy, but I’m not sure I believe it. Especially at birthday parties, with all the presents and balloons and ice cream and games… who wouldn’t get excited in such a revved-up atmosphere? And the experts are split: some swear childhood hyperactivity and sugar are linked, while others argue no solid evidence exists to back up the theory.

No matter the truth, there are still many other reasons to be wary of America’s favorite sweetener. Excess sugar consumption has been linked to gum disease and cavities, blood sugar spikes, mood swings, Diabetes, and obesity (which can lead to high cholesterol, heart disease, etc.).

One thing is certain: as a whole, we are consuming way too much sugar. According to a study conducted by Family Circle, the average teen is taking in roughly five times the AHA’s recommended daily sugar limit of 6-9 teaspoons. And eating sugar leads to craving more sugar:  Penn State researchers found that the more sugar children consumed, the less they ate vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods.

So what’s a sugar-craving, health-conscious dessert lover to do?

Healthy Cake Recipe - Chocolate-Covered Katie

Have a piece of cake!

That’s what.

With a light and fluffy texture, the following healthy cake recipe can hold its own against any boxed birthday cake mix. It’s been kid-tested and approved, so you know it must be good. Yet it offers you fiber, selenium, manganese, and protein… all while tasting like real, sugary birthday cake!

The cake above is frosted with my recipe for Healthy Strawberry Frosting.

(No, I don’t think it’s bad to have a slice of processed, sugary, white-flour birthday cake every now and then. But if you can make a healthy cake that tastes just as good, why not save your empty sugar calories for something else?)

Healthy Birthday Cake

Kid-Approved Healthy Cake

Adapted from Homemade Donuts.

  • 1 1/3 cups milk of choice (320g)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar (23g)
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract (15g)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp veg or melted coconut oil (50g)
  • 2 loosely-packed cups spelt or all-purpose flour (or Bob’s gf, plus 1 tsp xantham gum) (240g)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup xylitol or sugar of choice (140g)
  • 1/8 tsp pure stevia, or 1/4 cup more sugar of choice
  • jam, frosting, sprinkles or Hannah’s Homemade Sprinkles

Healthy birthday cake recipe: Preheat oven to 350 F, and line two 8-in round pans (or one 13×9) with parchment paper. Combine first four ingredients in a small bowl, and whisk well. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients and stir very well. Pour wet into dry, stir until just evenly combined, pour into the pans and immediately put in the oven. Bake around 22 minutes, or until cakes have risen and no longer look undercooked. Allow to cool 10 minutes, then gently go around the sides with a knife and invert the pans onto large plates. (The frosting recipe I used is linked directly under the second photo of this post. If you use that particular recipe, I recommend frosting the cake just before serving.)

View Healthy Cake Nutrition Facts

For more specifics on the amount of sugar in this healthy white cake recipe–even if you use all sugar and none of the optional substitutes–see the nutrition facts above.

Healthy Birthday Cake

For the birthday cake photoshoot, I called my roommate at work and asked her if she knew where the matches were. Her response was a suspicious “Why are you looking for matches?”

Ever since I set a pot on fire about a year ago, she doesn’t trust me with matches. 😕

Link of the Day: 14 Homemade Larabar Recipes

Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. Lisa says:

    Oh gosh, I totally think sugar makes kids hyper. I’m SUPER sensitive to it and as a kid my parents had to monitor my sugar intake because I’d go insane for a while and then completely crash (in a bad way). And now I have blood sugar issues like hypoglycemia, so maybe that has something to do with it? Who knows 😉

  2. Katie, this looks fabulous! I could really go for a piece of cake right now. The frosting looks especially delicious. I think I might make it today. 😉

  3. I love the pictures of this cake, they are just beautiful! From what I’ve learned in psych, sugar and excitability has been researched by many psychologists and most are in agreement that the sugar itself does not cause excitability. However, we are definitely consuming way too much sugar and a cake like this is a perfect alternative. Love the frosting too!

  4. Sarah the Official CCK Drooler says:

    Sugar TOTALLY makes kids go hyper, though i guess it depends on the kid. Some of my siblings eat sugar, and then end up acting like Honey Boo Boo on steroids (sorry for that visual)- but its true. Then the others, can eat sugar and have no problems.
    But i never advocate children eating excessive sugar in the first place.
    I do, however, strongly disagree with some parents I know who will go to such lengths as making a whole wheat cake for their kids (who don’t have allergies) to take with them to a party. Not only does that make the child feel left out, but I think its a little rude to the host. And come one people, live a little!
    I personally stay away from refined sugar most of the time, and cut myself some slack for the special days, where I really don’t care what I eat (within reason, though). I think its all about achieving a balance and not being extreme, unless you have to for health reasons.
    But for those parents who have to send their kids off with an alternative birthday cake to parties, this one seems to be a winner!

  5. I have never been affected by caffeine, but sugar for sure! I remember on one particular occasion I decided to have a baking spree (about 3 years ago) and then ate sugar-filled baked good after sugar-filled baked good. I was bouncing off the walls! Thankfully I had a marching band performance soon after to burn off all of that pent up energy! 😀

  6. Erica says:

    OMG! This wus posted on my bff’s birthday! what a coincidence!

  7. Suzanne says:

    Mmmm birthday cake; this one is a contender for my own birthday cake! I only have 3 weeks to find the ideal dessert, eek!

  8. I love your healthy twists on party foods :) If I’m at a birthday party, I’ve probably already eaten my fair share of calories, so a lightened up cake is perfect.

  9. Oooo, this looks wonderful! Perhaps I’ll make a Father’s Day cake. :)

  10. Hannah says:

    I think sugar certainly effects some kids behaviors! Most get hyper, but when my brother who is 10, eats a lot sugar he doesn’t really get hyper, but he gets really agitated and moody… and, well, mean! My sister on the other had gets extremely hyper, and I do to

  11. melissa l says:

    I never believed that sugar made people hyper…until I had kids. I totally think it depends on the person. My daughter rarely ever gets sweets; we call it a “special treat.” So when she gets a piece of cake with icing and has all of that sugar in her, she changes into a different person. My husband and I think it’s b/c she doesn’t consume that kind of food very often but that’s just my opinion. My son is 1.5yrs old and has never had any “special treats” yet so I can’t vouch for him yet.
    Thanks for all of the great recipes.

    1. saraaa says:

      Just fyi, after many studies showing that sugar doesn’t actually produce hyperactivity in anyone (and children), a lot of psychology studies suggest that it’s normally the parents’/others’ behavior and the situation which makes children hyper. For example, telling a child “you’re gonna get a special treat!” excites them….plus, think about the situation when they do get a special treat (guests are over, PARTIES, birthdays, being rewarded, etc.). These situations and the way people react to the children basically determines the child’s behavior. Interesting huh?

  12. Marci says:

    Thank you for this, Katie! I need a birthday cake for my son’s party for our family whose collective food allergies include gluten, cow dairy, cane sugar, nuts and chocolate. You’ve saved me!

  13. Gi says:

    Wow Katie your photographing skill have become just so good they never cease to amaze me; but THOSE photos I think are even better than the other of the other posts! Or maybe it’s just because of the subject? xD

    Btw thanks for sharing an other wonderful recipe with us all (:
    x

  14. Cristina says:

    I definitely like my empty sugar calories, but I love the idea of your recipe for the strawberry frosting. I’ll have to try it!

  15. This is so beautiful! What frosting did you use to pipe the bright pink? It looks like the strawberry frosting is spread all over the top? I am always looking for healthier frostings for cake decorating and piping. I hope you celebrated something really fun with this!

  16. Summer says:

    Personally I’d avoid xylitol as a substitute, because we really don’t need more chemicals in our bodies, ESPECIALLY if we’re feeding it to children! Coconut sugar and agave are both great, low-glycemic alternatives that are much healthier and offer many benefits. For anyone not avoiding honey, raw and unfiltered local honey is best so that you get the benefits of the pollen and other particles in it.

    1. Sunnie says:

      Actually, xylitol isn’t a chemical; it’s a sugar alcohol and is natural. It actually occurs naturally in a lot of fruits and vegetables. It’s no stranger to isolate xylitol from produce than it is to isolate cane sugar from the sugar cane. :)

      1. krys says:

        Actually xylitol is highly processed and most often made from GMO corn. Xylitol is NOT a healthy alternative by any stretch. It is produced by hydrogenation using an aluminum alloy. It’s loaded with heavy metals once processed and sold in it’s white crystalline “healthy” sweetener form.

        1. Hi Krys,
          Look into Xyla brand. It’s made from birch, not corn. http://www.xylitolusa.com/

        2. krys says:

          Some Xylitol is made from birch, but the process is still the same and results in a heavy metal laden processed sweetener. But, knowing what you’re eating is allowing you to make informed decisions. I personally chose my health over zero calorie processed sweeteners.

          1. Lisa says:

            @Krys: Your uneducated comment shows just how little research you did before feeling the need to leave a comment. Xylitol is not in fact a zero calorie sweetener. And for some people like my husband who are diabetic, it is the best option. If you think sugar is the best option for you, then by all means do what is best for you. But don’t look down on people for doing what they believe is best for them even if you don’t agree with it.

          2. Krys says:

            I’m sorry, I miss spoke regarding the zero calorie sweetener. I do apologize for that. As far as uneducated, I am a clinical nutritionist, holistic nutritionist, herbalist and have a MBA in molecular biology, and what I do for a living is heal people from disease. I have saved more lives than I can count in my practice and it is my job to know all I can about certain “foods” on the market, how they are created and the dangers of such foods. Again. I am hardly looking down at anyone for their choices, simply informing people so they too can make educated decisions. I’ve seen the damage first hand that Xylitol can do to the gut alone. I deal with many type 1 and type 2 diabetics in my practice and this is not something I would recommend for them. But again, everyone’s choices are just that, their own. Have a wonderful day! :)

          3. Krys says:

            haha, make that B.Sc. not an MBA. Autocorrect genius.

          4. Jessica says:

            Krys: you OWNED that xylitol argument 😉 I just started doing research on this product myself. I own a cake business and am trying to make my cakes as healthy as I can for my customers. I came across this recipe, then looked up the xylitol sweetener after seeing it in the ingredient list. In my VERY short time researching, I found MUCH evidence that this is not a natural product. Here is just one site that did real research: http://www.crunchybetty.com/xylitol-should-we-stop-calling-it-natural

            I am also questioning the use of Xanthan Gum for my Gluten free items for similar reasons.. Peace&sweets! – Jess

          5. Kim says:

            What have you found that is the healthiest to use? I want to avoid consuming and buying all these. I want a recipe with just one natural sugar and low amounts. Do you use Stevia? I’ve never tried it myself

          6. Jessica says:

            @Kim: Honestly, I haven’t found anything that is better than (Organic) Evaporated Cane Sugar to sweeten a treat of any kind. Outside of just using fruit of course. But then you have to alter the flour to liquid ratio.. which just means more testing! Blessings! – Jessica

          7. butyouare says:

            For all those “ist” things you are still not a doctor….

          8. Elizabeth says:

            So I made this recipe for my birthday yesterday and I decided to use erythritol instead of the xylitol… I am new to these types of products, but I heard that erythritol is the better option… Any opinions on that? I am curious what people think..

  17. trajayjay says:

    What bothers me even more is that some people still think that sugar is healthier than fat. Like, in my culinary class, we made a supposedly nutritious bread, which was healthy because it was “low fat” but it was made with refined flour and had 3 tsp of added sugar per serving. The most nutritious thing about that bread, was the 1 cup of applesauce we put in it. So basically, we were consuming 4 tsp of applesauce per serving, all with 12g of added sugar. At least it was low fat! Hahah just kidding, but still, I’m mad that they make reduced fat peanut butter too, and as usual, that has added sugar, way to deceive the public! Oh well, sugar is addictive, and not as filling as fat.

  18. Sunnie says:

    How funny! It’s my little sister’s 16th birthday today and, being the sweetie that she is, she asked my mom to make her cake vegan so that I could eat it, too. :) I think that you would approve: it’s a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting!!

    1. Oh yes, would definitely approve. Tell her happy birthday for me!

  19. Sarah says:

    Looks yummy! I’ve heard that it isn’t sugar, it’s the event surrounding the sugar – big sugar intakes are during exciting days. They did some study on it.

  20. Jess says:

    This is beautiful! Look at that one little green sprinkle hanging on to the edge. How did you make your frosting?

    1. The darker is storebought. In retrospect, I wish I had used the strawberry frosting shot recipe for both. The frosting recipe is this one: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2012/06/08/strawberry-frosting-shots/