Carb Solution: Chocolate Avocado Birthday Cake!
By Dennis Linden
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A QUICKIE GLYCEMIC PRIMER:
The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
Both the Index and Load scores should be checked to determine how a food affects the metabolism. A parsnip, for instance, has a very high glycemic index (97) but the fiber in a parsnip slows the conversion of its starch to glucose, so its glycemic load score is a very “digestible” 10.
The low carb recipes that appear monthly in this blog are usually synced around both the seasonal fresh harvests of the day and/or some of the culinary activities associated with each month throughout the year i.e. a hot soup in winter, a summer picnic dish or a holiday appetizer. Initially this January piece gave me some difficulty in coming up with a seasonal carb challenge. I had shared many carb-less cold-weather edibles and there were no obvious glycemic-unfriendly national observances to hang my chef hat on. It was a case of temporary writer’s block until I realized that I was overlooking the most obvious of all glycemic challenges that has popped up every January since my doctor introduced me to the Glycemic Index – my own birthday! Specifically, the dessert celebrating that hallowed day.
Some dread this annual anniversary passionately, while others refuse to even acknowledge the milepost at all; my thinking is that if it were not for my day of birth I definitely would not be here! Not a very deep supposition, but enough of a reason to never miss celebrating the day with a bit of self-toasting, a special dinner – sometimes home-cooked / sometimes dining out and always finished off with a serving of something really decadent on a plate or in a bowl crowned with a single candle to mark the occasion. And for many years I did just that without a glycemic care in the world. So for those carb counters who believe in toasting his or her first day on this planet, know that a carb-free decadence dessert can still be had. It’s as simple as turning a few ripe avocadoes into a chocolate raspberry birthday cake!
The mere thought of that combination -- avocadoes and chocolate – was hard to envision, let alone be convinced that somehow this duo made for a totally glycemic-friendly dish of any kind let alone a cake! All that presupposing vanished with the first forkful. The avocadoes provide a creaminess to the texture of the frosting and also lends just the right moistness to the cake itself. Though an avocado’s subtle flavor is recognizable, there is not much power to it; conversely, the very distinctive chocolatey taste of unsweetened cocoa powder overpowers any hint of “avocado-ness”.
Besides avocado, the other secret ingredient to this low-carb chocolate delight is not chocolate at all, but rather UNSWEETENED cocoa powder that is sweetened with Melissa’s glycemicly neutral Organic Blue Weber Agave Syrup for the frosting and any preferred dry sugar substitute in the cake. Unsweetened cocoa powder, a brown and bitter powder used in baking, will not spike blood sugar even if eaten on its own. With only 1.6 g of net carbs per tablespoon, it can satisfy those chocolate cravings without the sugar rush. In this recipe the powder provides both the color and base flavor characteristics of real sugar-added chocolate and the sweeteners complete the replication carblessly.
For the cake I used my favorite white flour substitute: almond “flour”. While this is not a flour at all, but rather a very finely grated, powder-like, meal made from whole almonds, it is a carb-counting baker’s best friend as the meal holds together quite well in the mixing bowl and even seems to react to baking soda with a bit of a rise during the baking process. Contrary to expectations of a dense texture, the cake part of this recipe turns out surprising light, yet firm.
Chocolate Avocado frosting – and it works! Again, the avocado provides the creamy quality required of all frostings. Combining the fruit with the cocoa powder, heavy cream and sweetener whips into a scrumptious topping for this virtually carb-free chocolate-on-chocolate present to self! The crown of raspberries seemed to fit both the cake and the occasion, so why not? Plus recent research has discovered the ability of raspberry extracts to block the digestive activity of an enzyme called alpha-glucosidase that speeds up the breakdown of starches into sugars. By blocking this enzyme, raspberries help persons with type 2 diabetes to better manage their blood sugar level, so eating raspberries is a healthy activity! Though I probably would have crowned my cake with them anyway, it’s still good to know. Topping, alas, with yet another candle, this recipe definitely helped celebrate my personal holiday with a little chocolate decadence--carblessly!
Chocolate Avocado Cake
Serve approx. 12 slices
Cake – Dry
2 cups almond meal or almond flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup sugar-free crystal sweetener of choice
1 tsp baking soda
1 Haas avocado, mashed
½ cup plain Greek Yogurt
½ cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Haas avocado, mashed
2 TBS heavy cream
2 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
2 TBS Melissa’s Organic Blue Weber Agave Syrup
2 TBS coconut oil, melted
¼ teaspoon salt
Fresh raspberries (topping)
Insert pic #3
For the cake: In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients thoroughly and set aside. In a blender or food processor blend all the wet ingredients until a smooth batter forms with no lumps of avocado.
Pour the wet mixture onto the dry ingredients and combine with a spatula until it forms a consistent cake batter. Then transfer that batter into a greased 8-inch round cake pan. Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Flip the over and out of pan. Cool down on a wire rack for about an hour before frosting.
In a blender or food processor, add all the frosting ingredients and blend until a thick, shiny frosting forms. Spread the chocolate frosting over the top of the cooled cake. Top the frosting with a generous layer of fresh raspberries.
Note: Store in the fridge for up to 3-4 days covered or wrapped. The cake gets super fudgy in the fridge!