Have your cake and eat it too

Now, I may have mentioned that baking things like low-carb cakes (that actually taste good) requires some weird ingredients. On the other hand, once you’ve tried this cake, you may decide it’s worth it. This is one of my solutions to the “I hate omelets” problem – a not-too-sweet zucchini cake (or carrot, if you prefer) that’s perfect with coffee in the morning. Did I mention each large piece has 16 gm protein and only 6 gm carbs? You won’t even feel guilty. And once you’ve located the strange ingredients, it won’t be so difficult the second time. OK – so as far as new things you might not have tried before, we need 1) almond flour, 2) stevia or Splenda (your choice) and 3) protein powder – preferably vanilla. Let’s go shopping!

Learning to cook with almond flour is one of the best things I’ve discovered for baking low-carb. Almond flour is high in protein, all natural, and has a nutty, floury texture that’s really nice for baking cakes and muffins. My next experiment with it will be quiche crust, and I’ll report back on that shortly. You can find it at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, or you can order it online from Amazon.com or CarbSmart. You can also make almond flour if you have a heavy duty food processor by simply grinding up almonds to a very fine consistency.

It’s impossible to cook low-carb sweets without some form of non-sugar sweetener, so you might as well get used to the idea :) The two best options available now are stevia, which is a natural plant extract that is MUCH sweeter than sugar (so you don’t use very much of it) and Splenda, which a slightly altered artificial sugar that nevertheless tastes and bakes almost exactly like sugar. You will need only tiny amounts of stevia, and it is a natural product, but it has a somewhat different flavor from sugar. Both of these are available in nearly any mainstream grocery store.

The third thing you need is protein powder, which in addition to the almond flour ups the protein content of the cake. This is usually flavored vanilla or chocolate, and is sweetened with stevia. Vanilla is best for this recipe. You will most likely find this at health food or supplement stores – I’ve even seen it at Rite Aid. In addition, it is easy to find online as athletes and others use it to make protein shakes. There are many varieties from different sources of protein such as soy, milk (whey), rice, etc. Choose whichever one you’re most comfortable with – I use whey. Check the labels and choose one with high protein and low carbs.

OK! Now that we’ve got all our weird stuff, the cooking is actually easy. Here we go!

1 1/2 C almond flour
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/2 plain yogurt
2/3 C Splenda OR 1/4 t stevia (really)
1/2 C vanilla protein powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1 C shredded zucchini (can substitute some carrot if you wish)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Whisk the eggs, oil, and yogurt together. Add almond flour and dry ingredients through nutmeg and mix well. Add zucchini last, mixing thoroughly.

Coat a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray (or use loaf pans) and fill with the batter. It should be full about halfway. Bake for 45 minutes and cool. Cut into 8 pieces. This cake freezes well, too.

Nutrition: Each piece (1/8 cake) has 16 gm protein and 6 gm carbs.

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