Reduced Sugar Chocolate Layer Cake and Creamy Chocolate Frosting

Reduced Sugar Dark Chocolate Layer Bittersweet Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This cake is so delicious, always a hit with friends and no one can tell that it’s a reduced sugar recipe. It’s one of the many fantastic recipes found in from America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks called Naturally Sweet. Sucanat is not found in many grocery stores and can be ordered online.

Download Reduced Sugar Chocolate Layer Cake and Creamy Chocolate Frosting recipe

INGREDIENTS

¾ cup plus ⅓ cup Sucanat (6 ounces)

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

⅔ cup (2 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1½ cups hot brewed coffee

1½ cups (8¼ ounces) bread flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 recipe Reduced-Sugar Creamy Chocolate Frosting (see below)

*BEFORE YOU BEGIN

If you use natural cocoa powder for this recipe, the cake will be lighter in appearance and have a milder chocolate flavor. This cake was made with Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Premium Baking Bar; other brands may contain different amounts of sugar. Do not skip grinding the Sucanat in step 1 or large air pockets will appear inside the cake and on the surface of the cake. If using dark colored cake pans, start checking the cakes for doneness 5 to 10 minutes earlier. You can learn more about Sucanat in this article. The flavor of Creamy Chocolate Frosting is terrific on this cake; however, a Vanilla Frosting will also work well.

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour pans. Working in 4 batches, grind Sucanat in spice grinder until fine and powdery, about 1 minute.

2. Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl, add hot coffee, and whisk until melted and smooth. Refrigerate mixture until completely cool, about 20 minutes. In separate bowl, whisk ground Sucanat, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together.

3. Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

4. Divide batter evenly among prepared cake pans. Bake until cakes are set and center is just firm to touch, 20 to 22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discard parchment, and let cool completely on wire rack, about 1 hour. (Cake layers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

5. Line edges of cake platter with 4 strips of parchment to keep platter clean and place dab of frosting in center to anchor cake. Place 1 cake layer on platter and spread 1 cup frosting evenly over top. Top with second cake layer, press lightly to adhere, then spread 1 cup frosting evenly over top. Spread remaining frosting evenly over sides of cake. To smooth frosting, run edge of offset spatula around cake sides and over top. Carefully remove parchment strips and serve.

Reduced-Sugar Creamy Chocolate Frosting

Makes 4 cups (TIME 50 minutes)

INGREDIENTS

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons Sucanat (4⅔ ounces)

4 large egg whites

⅛ teaspoon salt

24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 24 pieces and softened

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Microwave chocolate in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, about 4 minutes. Stir in vanilla and let cool, about 10 minutes.

2. Combine Sucanat, egg whites, and salt in bowl of stand mixer and set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy, and registers 150 degrees, about 8 minutes.

3. Fit stand mixer with whisk attachment and whip warmed Sucanat mixture on medium speed until slightly cooled and has consistency of shaving cream, about 2 minutes. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. (Frosting may look curdled after half of butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.)

4. Once all butter is added, add cooled melted chocolate mixture, and mix until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and whip until light, fluffy, and well combined, about 2 minutes, scraping down whisk and bowl as needed. (Frosting can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. To refresh, microwave until just slightly softened, about 15 seconds, then whip on medium-high speed in stand mixer until light and creamy, about 2 minutes.)

Reduced Sugar Dark Chocolate Layer Bittersweet Swiss Meringue Buttercream


Fresh Strawberry Galette (Free Form Tart)

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Galettes, also known as free form tarts, are less fussy that traditional fluted edge tarts. They can be sweet or savory, and the crust is crisp, butter, and rustic in appearance. I first saw this recipe in the April / May 2021 “Strawberry Celebration” issue of Cook’s Country and couldn’t wait to try it. You can prepare the dough in advance to save a little time, but otherwise it’s straightforward, just be careful not to overwork the pastry dough.

Download Fresh Strawberry Galette (Freeform tart)

 

Galette Dough

1 ½ cups (7½ ounces) all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon table salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes and chilled

6 tablespoons ice water

Strawberry Filling

1 ½ pounds strawberries, hulled, halved if small or quartered if large (about 5 cups)

¼ cup (1¾ ounces) plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided

⅓ cup strawberry jam

1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

¼ teaspoon table salt

NOTE:

Quarter any strawberries larger than 2 inches. Do not combine the macerated strawberries with the jam mixture until you're ready to form and bake the galette; they may release more juice and make it hard to shape the dough around the fruit. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

FOR THE DOUGH:

  1. Process flour and salt in food processor until combined, about 3 seconds. Scatter butter over top and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand and butter pieces are size of small peas, about 10 pulses. Add ice water to flour mixture and pulse until dough begins to form small curds and holds together when pinched with your fingers, about 5 pulses.
  2. Transfer mixture to lightly floured counter. Using bench scraper, gather dough into rough rectangular mound about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Starting at farthest end, use heel of your hand to smear small amount of dough against counter, pushing firmly down and away from you, to create separate pile of dough (flattened pieces of dough should look shaggy). Continue process until all dough has been worked. Gather dough into rough 12 by 4-inch mound and repeat smearing process.
  3. Form dough into 6-inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. (Wrapped dough can be frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, let dough thaw completely on counter before rolling.)

FOR THE FILLING:

  1. One hour before rolling out dough, toss strawberries with ¼ cup sugar in bowl. Set aside for 1 hour. Reserve 1 tablespoon strawberry juice. Drain strawberries in colander in sink. Leave strawberries in colander while rolling out dough.
  2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll dough into 12-inch circle on lightly floured counter, then transfer to prepared sheet. Cover dough loosely with plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 10 minutes.
  3. Whisk jam, cornstarch, and salt in large bowl until combined. Add strawberries and toss gently to coat. Mound fruit in center of dough, leaving 2-inch border. Carefully grasp 1 edge of dough and fold up 2 inches over fruit. Repeat around circumference of galette, overlapping dough every 2 inches; firmly pinch pleated dough to secure, but do not press dough into fruit.
  4. Brush top of dough with reserved strawberry juice and sprinkle dough and filling with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
  5. Bake until crust is deep golden brown, and fruit is bubbling, 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Let galette cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes. Using parchment, carefully slide galette onto wire rack. Remove parchment and let cool on rack until just warm, about 30 minutes. Serve.

Fresh Strawberry Galette (Free Form tart) slice

Fresh Strawberry Galette unbaked
Fresh Strawberry Galette unbaked


Decadent Low Sugar Lemon Cream Pie

Low Sugar Lemon Cream Pie

Decadent Low Sugar Lemon Cream Pie

I’m always hesitant to try recipes that claim to be healthier versions of classic desserts, but this one is a winner. Perfect balance of sweet and tart, with a crisp graham cracker crust. It is from the cookbook Naturally Sweet, which has over a hundred recipes for classic baked goods and desserts using 30% to 50% less sugar. Traditional lemon pie has 64 grams of sugar per slice, and this recipe has reduced it to 26 grams without any compromise to flavor or texture. 

Download Decadent Low Sugar Lemon Cream Pie

Lemon Pie

1 recipe Graham Cracker Pie Crust (Reduced Sugar, see below), baked and cooled

2 large eggs plus 7 large yolks

½ cup honey

¼ cup grated lemon zest plus ⅔ cup juice (about 4 lemons)

⅛ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

3 tablespoons heavy cream

Whipped Cream Topping

1½ cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

⅛ teaspoon salt

Make the Graham Cracker Crust:

9 whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces and softened

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Process graham crackers in food processor to fine, even crumbs, 30 to 60 seconds. Scatter butter over top and pulse until mixture resemble coarse sand, 15 to 20 pulses.
  2. Sprinkle mixture into 9-inch pie plate. Using bottom of measuring cup, press crumbs firmly into even layer on bottom and sides of pie plate. Bake until crust is fragrant and set, 20 to 22 minutes, rotating plate halfway through baking. Let crust cool completely, about 30 minutes.

For the pie:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk eggs and yolks, honey, lemon zest and juice, and salt in medium saucepan until smooth. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with rubber spatula, until mixture thickens slightly and registers 165 degrees, 5 to 7 minutes.
  1. Off heat, whisk in butter and cream until incorporated. Strain filling through fine-mesh strainer into cooled pie crust. Bake until filling is shiny and opaque and center jiggles slightly when shaken, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let pie cool completely, about 2 hours.

For the topping:

  1. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream, honey, vanilla, and salt on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Spread whipped cream over pie and serve.

Tartine Bakery's Citrus Almond Poppy Seed Cake

Tartine Bakery’s Citrus Almond Poppy Seed Cake

This is one of my all-time favorite loaf cakes (aka tea bread) that I first discovered at Tartine Bakery in LA. It is dense, moist, tender, and delicious; it’s often sold out at the bakery which is not surprising because it’s just so good! Acclaimed pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt and master baker Chad Robertson shared this recipe in their 2006 cookbook Tartine.  I love the look of quick breads that are baked in a square shaped pullman loaf pan, but you can also bake this recipe in a traditional 9x5 pan or in a small Bundt ban.

One note:  You may be tempted to skip the last step of glazing the entire, warm cake in a citrus syrup – but don’t give in to temptation.  This step is an important aspect of the cake’s perfection.  It seals in the moisture and adds a tart citrus note to the rich, almond-flavored cake.  It takes 3-5 minutes and is more than worth every second of your time.

Download Tartine’s Citrus Almond Poppy Seed Cake recipe

1 Large loaf, at least 8-10 servings

For the Cake:

¾ cup (95 gram) cake flour or all-purpose flour (cake flour preferred)

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

5 Large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) almond paste, at room temperature

1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar

1 cup (8 ounces/225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 16 pieces

1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

2 tablespoons (20 grams) poppy seeds

For the Citrus Glaze:

3 tbsp/45 ml Lemon juice

3 tbsp/45 ml Orange juice

3/4 cup/150 grams Sugar

Powdered sugar to coat, optional

For the Cake: 

1. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF/175ºC.

2. Butter and flour an 9x5 loaf pan, or 9x4 small pullman loaf pan (if you like square shape)

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt – twice, set aside.

4. In a 4 cup Pyrex or small bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla and whisk together until just combined, set aside.

5. Pinch of pieces of the soft almond paste into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (some recipes suggest grating it on a box grater into the bowl, I did not).

6.With mixer on low speed, slowly add the sugar in a steady stream, beating until incorporated.  Don’t go too quickly – you want this mixture to continue to break up in the bowl. 

7. On low speed, slowly add the butter one piece at a time until all of the butter is incorporated (important that the butter is soft room temperature) Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula before continuing.

8. Turn the mixer to medium speed and beat until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.

9. With the mixture still on medium, add the eggs in a very slow, steady stream and mix until incorporated. Again, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn on the mixer one last time and mix for another 30 seconds.

10. Add the citrus zest and poppy seeds; mixing in with a wooden spoon.

11. Lastly, add the flour mixture in 2 batches. Stirring just until incorporated. Then spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula if you have one.

12. Bake until the top springs back when lightly touched and a cake tester comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for roughly 5-6 minutes while you make the glaze.

For the Glaze: 

It is important to make the glaze while the cake is resting and not before – so wait to do this step. 

1. After the cake comes out of the oven, mix the juices with the sugar to dissolve the sugar, about 1-2 minutes.

2. Invert the cake onto a wire rack placed over a baking sheet or wax paper (to catch any spills)

3. Slowly brush the entire warm cake with the glaze, giving it a chance to soak before adding more glaze, until the entire mixture has been brushed onto loaf.

4. Let it cool completely on the rack. Do not try to move it until completely cool because the cake is too fragile while it is warm. For added beauty and sweetness, dust the entire top with a coat of powdered sugar before serving.

5. This cake will keep well-wrapped for a week in the refrigerator and improves with age as the flavors mature and settle.


Healthier Whole-Wheat Blueberry-Almond Muffins

Healthier Whole Wheat Almond Blueberry Muffins

 

This recipe is adapted from one in America’s Test Kitchen magazine called “Nutritious Delicious” and it delivers perfectly moist, tender, and flavorful blueberry muffins.

Download Healthier Whole-Wheat Blueberry-Almond Muffins recipe

 

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup (1 ounce/28g) sliced almonds, lightly toasted, cooled, and roughly chopped

1 cup (5½ ounces/155g) whole-wheat flour

¾ cup (3¾ ounces/107g) all-purpose flour

¾ cup (3 ounces/84g) almond flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup organic low-fat buttermilk (or 1 cup whole milk mixed with 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes to thicken slightly)

⅔ cup packed (4 ¾ ounces/135g) dark brown sugar

2 large organic eggs

¼ cup canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1½ cups (7½ ounces/210g) fresh or frozen blueberries

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 12-cup muffin tin, including top, generously with canola oil spray (if using paper liners, lightly mist liners).

2. Mix together whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

3. In separate bowl, whisk buttermilk (or sour milk), brown sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla together until combined. Using rubber spatula, gently stir buttermilk mixture into almond-flour mixture until just combined (do not overmix). Gently fold in blueberries until incorporated.

4. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (cups will be filled to rim) and sprinkle with reserved chopped almonds. Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out with few crumbs attached, 16 to 18 minutes (a few minutes longer if berries were frozen), rotating muffin tin halfway through baking.

5. Let muffins cool in tin on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.