Yesterday was my husband’s birthday, so I decided that this year I would actually bake him a cake. A real, homemade cake! In the past, I would either purchase one from the grocery store or use a boxed mix with frosting from a tub. Well, not this year! Those cakes are filled with artificial ingredients and colors, so this time I wanted to try making one myself.
I debated whether I should use normal cake ingredients: mainly all-purpose flour and white sugar, but, in the end, I decided to stick with what I’ve been doing lately…swapping out ingredients! I was concerned no one would like it if I tried to ‘health-ify’ it, but then I realized it’s only my family! 😉 If I can’t try new recipes with them, then who can I try them for?!! I’m definitely not going to make a cake just for myself! So, anyway, I made it my mini-mission to make his birthday cake just ‘a little bit healthier.’ It’s still cake…and it’s definitely not something I’ll make very often, but a birthday is a special occasion and it’s okay to splurge now and then. Plus, I really just wanted an excuse to try making a cake with “cleaner” ingredients. 🙂 And I think this turned out great! Keep in mind, I’m no professional and I have very little experience making my own cakes, but I was very happy with the end result!
My first ingredient swap was to use white whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose. As I’ve said before, I usually find that I can switch this out in almost any recipe and my family doesn’t notice a thing. Next up was the sugar issue. When I finished the last of our white sugar a month or two ago, I decided not to buy any more. I rarely use it and if it’s not in the house, I knew I wouldn’t even be tempted to use it. I thought about buying a small bag just to make my husband’s cake, but then I came across a coupon for Florida Crystals Organic Cane Sugar AND it happened to be on sale when I went grocery shopping. Score! Cane sugar is less refined than traditional sugar and it can also be replaced cup-for-cup in recipes. “Its light golden color and delicate molasses flavor make it perfect for all your baking needs.” (As stated on the bag!)
To making my frostings, I used organic powdered sugar. It’s made from organic cane sugar and organic tapioca starch, so it’s a little better than regular powdered sugar. To dye my frosting green, I used India Tree Natural Decorating Colors that I bought a couple of months ago. And then for the crumbled chocolate on top, I chopped up 2 squares of Endangered Species Natural Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint (72% cocoa).
I was very nervous that it might be a total flop as far as taste. Once I finished decorating it, I thought to myself that it might look pretty, but that wouldn’t matter much if it didn’t taste good. Well, after a couple of bites, I was very impressed! I didn’t taste any difference from a ‘regular’ cake and I thought it was quite good (though, just to point out, we use white whole wheat flour in everything, so we’re used to it). And the mint flavor was just the right amount! My husband reassured me several times afterwards that he liked it and didn’t think it tasted different than any other homemade cake. Yay! My mom and step-dad were here to help celebrate and they both liked it as well. (My kids aren’t big cake eaters, so I can’t really use them as a gauge for this…but one of my boys ate his whole piece and some of his sister’s, so I take that as a ‘thumbs up’ from him.)
‘a little bit healthier’ Chocolate Cake
- 2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour, sifted
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
- 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
- 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 cup organic butter, softened
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
- 2 eggs (local, free-range is ideal), lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of your pan(s). I used two round pans, but you can also use a 9 x 13″ or even cupcake pans. You can either grease it with butter and white whole wheat flour, or another option would be to line the bottom with parchment paper so it pops out easily.
Measure out both the flour and the cocoa. Sift both of those into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk together. Next add the softened butter, water, vanilla, and eggs to the bowl. Use an electric mixer to blend together. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix some more.
Pour batter into pan(s). Bake until a toothpick comes out clean. For my round pans, this took about 30 minutes. For a 9 x 13, probably closer to 40 minutes. (Mini cupcakes will take about 11 minutes and regular sized cupcakes take about 20.) Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes and then remove from pans. Let cake cool completely on wire racks before frosting (at least an hour).
Vanilla (Mint) Buttercream Frosting
(Recipe source: Betty Crocker Cookbook (Bridal Edition))
- 3 cups organic powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup organic butter, softened
- 1 1/2 tsp. organic vanilla extract
- 1 to 2 T organic whole milk
- Optional: 1/2 tsp. pure peppermint extract
- Optional: Natural food colors (I mixed blue and yellow)
Mix powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl with electric mixer. Add in vanilla and milk. Gradually beat in extra milk until frosting is smooth and spreadable. If you want the icing mint flavored and/or colored, add in peppermint extract and food colorings.
To keep my plate clean, I put three small pieces of waxed paper around the edges before placing the cake on top. (This worked so well for me!) Next, I spread some frosting on the first layer and then placed the second layer of cake on top of that. I frosted the edges first and then spread frosting on the top of the cake before adding the decorative chocolate frosting.
Creamy Chocolate Frosting
- 2 3/4 cups organic powdered sugar
- 6 T unsweetened cocoa powder
- 6 T organic butter, softened
- 5 T organic whole milk
- 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
Whisk the sugar and cocoa together in a bowl. Add the butter, vanilla, and milk. Beat until light and fluffy. Add more milk if too dry and more powdered sugar if too wet. This is enough to frost a 8 or 9″ cake, but not fill it. If you want to frost a whole cake, you may need to increase these amounts. I only used this for decorating the edges and I had plenty leftover. If you’re only using it to decorate, you may want to half the recipe.
I used my Wilton Cupcake Decorating Set with star tip to embellish the cake. After adding the chocolate frosting, I completed the cake by sprinkling a little chopped-up natural (mint) chocolate on top. Perfection!
Update 1/28/14: Here are the mini cupcakes I made for my daughter’s recent ‘real food’ birthday party. I used the chocolate cake and chocolate frosting recipes from above. I also placed one Simple Truth milk chocolate drop on top (they’re made without any artificial ingredients or colors). Didn’t they turn out so cute?? She loved them and so did all the kids!!
In case you’re wondering about my platters, I absolutely love them! I received several pieces of Wilton Armetale serving dishes and bowls (in the reggae pattern) as wedding gifts 10 years ago and I use them every time we host a party or get together! They have held up beautifully.
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