Paleo Chocolate Cake
I find it very easy to justify any sweet treat, I mean, we all deserve a little indulgence every day, right? But those butter, flour, sugar-laden desserts (while oh so delicious) don’t always sit well with me once I’ve devoured them. I wanted a chocolate treat that tasted like those decadent ones I loved, but that would not leave me passed out on the sofa.
Every baked good need fat (fat is your friend), but I wanted to keep the butter or oil out of it. Pumpkin and applesauce are great butter substitutes in terms of giving moisture, but they do not have any fat in them, which will affect the final texture of the cake (less fat, less tender baked good).
Almond butter provides the fat as well as a nice nutty flavor and little kick of protein, which makes you feel a little bit better about eating a slice (or three). I have about four different types of almond butter always laying around (Barney Butter Bare Smooth is my favorite), but you could use cashew butter or peanut butter (peanuts are not paleo, but still yummy).
For the last few years, I have been cutting refined sugars and flours out of my diet; so, I don’t like baking with refined sugar (that lovely super white sugar from the yellow box) either. It is hard to find a replacement that will work about the same, but be a little bit better for you. Coconut sugar (my favorite brand is Madhava) is just as sweet as cane sugar, tastes more like caramely brown sugar and is a low glycemic sweetener. All in all, it is a healthier substitute for cane sugar.
Coconut sugar does the trick, mostly, but I really wanted a rich, moist crumb so I added maple syrup. Not only do you get a richer sweetness, but you also get moisture. I think that it is a mix of the maple syrup and the almond butter that keeps this cake moist and tender for days. I had this cake sitting on my counter, in a paper bag, tasted just like it did on the day I made it.
In the last couple of weeks, I have put aside my gluten-free flour in favor of nut flours. Nut flours like almond, hazelnut of pecan are low carb, paleo-friendly, give additional protein, but also lend a tenderness to the crumb. Nuts are full of oil (healthy oil), which means, as a flour, they provide an extra kick of moisture to a cake or baked good. Also, they have a great nutty flavor, especially if you toast the flour beforehand.
That being said, nut flours aren’t the best at holding things together. On their own, the cake would be way too crumbly. So I have added two teaspoons of potato starch. Potato starch almost acts as gluten in this recipe. It binds things together and gives a little bit more structure to the cake. Potato starch is a bit of controversial ingredient among paleo followers, so you can also use tapioca starch.
1/3 cup organic pumpkin puree
1/3 cup smooth, unsweetened almond butter
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/3 cup organic maple syrup (the darker the better; I used Grade B)
2 large organic eggs (you can use flax eggs here)
1 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup organic almond flour
2 tsps organic potato starch
1 tsp kosher sea salt
Handful of Enjoy Life chocolate chips to top the cake
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line an 8in square baking dish with parchment paper (you can also use tin foil)
In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin puree and almond buttter. Whisk together. Add the coconut sugar and maple syrup and whisk again until smooth.
Add both eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth and little lighter in color, about 3 minutes (a little bit of an arm workout).
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the almond flour, cocoa powder, potato starch and salt. Almond flour can clump up, so I’d sift this mixture. Sift the coco mix into the egg and pumpkin mixture. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet with a rubber spatula until it is all combined.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and top with the chocolate chips. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool fully before cutting (if you have the will power). I love this cake with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream (dairy-free) or a nice drizzle of almond butter.