Monday, January 20, 2014

How to make a (almost) No White Sugar Chocolate Walnut Cake

I wanted to make something tasty and deliciously 'kinda good for you' for my dad's birthday cake.  He loves chocolate (glad I inherited that gene from him) so it was my obvious choice. He also likes to watch his sugar so I wanted to keep that in mind. 

 There's not many things I refuse to do or consider morally, ethically wrong when it comes to baking... except using sugar replacements.. is that the right word? I'm referring to chemically altered substances like aspartame or sucrolose. I have tried using the infamous Splenda a few times in baking but I couldn't get past the weirdness of it or the odd taste and no browning properties it lent to the baking process. 

What I am ok with is finding low sugar alternatives, as long as I personally can enjoy a fully sugared dessert whenever I want without feeling guiltily about it (which I never do..feel guilty that is) I also figured I should add a low sugar, no white sugar cake to my repertoire, just to keep the health nuts intrigued and to keep my sugar conscious readers under the assumption that I do in fact think sugar could be bad.  So Happy Birthday Dad.. this cake's for you!

While there might be some truth to the statement that sugar is bad... as for me I refuse to investigate this disturbing statement any further.  I can live my life happily unaware of the darker side of sugar because let's face it I'm buzzed on the stuff most of the day anyways, wonderfully, deliciously buzzed. The only thing better than the sweet rush is the sweet rush mixed with wonderful caffeine. 'Ta da' enter chocolate and coffee.. Sugar, chocolate, coffee; in no specific order my life is complete.

(Back to no white sugar cake) I traded my beloved misunderstood ingredient with my next favorite baking sweetner, organic agave nectar.  I started using agave nectar with my gluten free recipes. While it is sweeter than white sugar, agave nectar adds much needed moisture to my gluten free flour blends. I usually use a 50/50 ratio of agave and white sugar in baking but for this cake wanted to go all in agave!

I subbed out all the white sugar for agave but only used 50% of the amount called for since agave nectar is about 1.4 times sweeter than sugar.  The one side effect I was not expecting from replacing all the sugar was the nectar seemed to dry out my cake much more than I expected. I was at a bit of a loss as to how to moisten the finished cake, since my usual move would be to saturate the cake in simple syrup (what? more sugar?! YES) I did try to moisten the cake with straight espresso but the finished product while tasty was still on the dry side. If I dabble in the sugar free again I would add some applesauce or extra oil to  keep the layers moist (I added this to the recipe below so hopefully your results will be excellent)

The middle is layered with walnut filling, dark chocolate ganache, and dark chocolate buttercream.. yup all white sugar free (pay no attention to the sugar in the chocolate of course)

While I'm not going sugar free anytime soon I hope you can appreciate my attempt to lower your glycemic index intake!
Enjoy life with cake!

p.s While researching agave nectar for this post I came across so called proof that agave nectar is not good for you either! I HATE the internet!

(Almost) No White Sugar Chocolate Walnut Cake

 Printer Friendly Recipes!

For filling I used a dark chocolate ganache.

 Mix hot heavy cream with dark chocolate bits until smooth

 First cake layer down.
Level if necessary.
 Walnut filling spread evenly next.

 Topped with rich dark chocolate ganache.

 Next cake layer, then dark chocolate buttercream. 
The buttercream was made by adding butter, cream cheese and cocoa powder to the chocolate ganache.
Rinse and Repeat!
(Don't really rinse... but do repeat)

Ta Da!

To keep the edges from drying out wrap loosely in plastic wrap until serving.

Mmmmmmmm! Enjoy!

Almost No White Sugar Chocolate Walnut Cake

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Cool Time: 1 hour

Makes 4 six inch layers

1 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup  Water
1 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup Sour Cream
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
16 tbl Unsalted Butter, softened
1 cup Agave Nectar
2 large Eggs
1/2 cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce
3/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt

Walnut Filing
Dark Chocolate Ganache
Dark Chocolate Butter cream

Method of Preparation:

1.  Heat water to boiling in the microwave in a 2 cup measuring cup. Let cool slightly and add cocoa powder and agave syrup. Mix until smooth and cool completely.  Once cooled add sour cream and vanilla extract.
2.  In a medium bowl mix flour with baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3.  In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer beat the butter until very smooth about 1 minute.  Add the eggs one at a time until smooth.  Add 1/3 of the chocolate mixture followed by 1/3 of the flour mixture stirring about 30 seconds between each addition, do this until all the chocolate and flour mixtures have been used.  Fold in the apple sauce.
4.  Spray 4 six inch cake pans with non-stick cooking spray and portion batter between them. If you would like a two layer cake use 9 inch cake pans. ( I only have 2 six inch cake pans so I divided the batter in half and baked 2 layers at a time)
5. Bake in a 375F oven for 10-18 minutes checking every 5 minutes until the middle of the cake is set and springs back slightly when pressed. Cool completely then turn out onto a baking rack.

Spread walnut filling on the first layer, followed by chocolate ganache, top with second layer cake, then dark chocolate buttercream. Top with third layer cake more walnut filling and chocolate ganache and finally the last layer cake. If desired top cake with more buttercream or powdered sugar. If not eating right away wrap loosely in plastic wrap to keep cake from drying out.

Walnut Filling

Taken from Gluten Free Cooking
  • 6 ounces of finely ground walnuts
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons butter (preferably salted)

Put nuts in a food process and pulse for about 15 seconds or until nuts are finely ground and the texture of sawdust.
Place the ground nuts, milk, sugar, egg and butter in a heavy saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium high heat until it begins to bubble. Stir constantly to avoid scorching. Lower heat to medium low and continue to cook and stir for about 3 more minutes or until the mixture is thick and bubbling. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. 

Dark Chocolate Ganache & Dark Chocolate Buttercream

Prep time  5 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Cool Time 10 minutes

Makes about 1 cup


8 oz of chopped Dark Chocolate (the higher quality the chocolate the better the sauce will be!)
1/2 cup Heavy Cream

Method of Preparation:

1. Heat heavy cream in the microwave for 1 minute or until just about boiling. Microwave in 30 second increments until it is very hot.
2.  Place chopped dark chocolate into a medium bowl and pour hot cream over top.  Mix with a rubber spatula until melted and smooth.  If necessary place mixture back in microwave until it is fully melted.  Ganache will firm as it cools.

To test consistency spread a small amount onto a plate and place in freezer fro 5 minutes remove and see how firm the ganache is this will be the consistency of the ganache layer in your cake, if you would like it gooey add more heavy cream or more chocolate for a thicker texture.

To make Buttercream place 1/2 cup of cooled ganache into stand mixer and mix with 4 oz of cream cheese,  8tbl (1 stick) softened butter and 2 tbl agave nectar. Beat until smooth and fluffy.  Add more nectar to add sweetness or unsweetened cocoa powder to add a deeper chocolate flavor.


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