Healthy AND Delicious Chocolate Cake




About: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I happen to need at the time. Lipstick, a mixing studio, all-p...

This is an amazing cake: it contains no fats such as butter, cream, shortening or oil, and no eggs. In spite of these limitations,  it tastes better than any cake mix and than most other chocolate cakes made from scratch.

Spread jam between the layers and decorate with powdered sugar, for a fat free, cholesterol free birthday!

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Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment

1 large beet
1/2 to 1 cup apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour  (alternate: 1 cup whole wheat & 1/2 cup white flour)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

You will need a blender or a hand held stick blender like the one in the picture.

Step 2: Instructions

Peel and dice beet into 1/2" cubes, and boil until soft. Drain the beets and puree in the food processor with 1/4 cup fresh water.

Preheat oven to 325°F

Put pureed beets into large measuring cup and mix in enough apple sauce to get 2 cups of beet and apple puree. Add vanilla, vinegar, and 2 tbsp water.

Sift all the dry ingredients together then combine with the beet mixture.

Pour in a greased 9" by 13" pan or two 8" round layer pans and bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick pricked into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Step 3: Decoration

I have a great recipe for butter icing enriched with egg yolks -- but it has no place here in the "Health by Design" contest. To keep this cake fat free (OK, OK, almost fat free. Cocoa powder does contain a small amount of fat) you can spread your favorite jam between the layers, then decorate with powdered sugar (which also goes by the names confectioners sugar, caster sugar or icing sugar).

Make a paper doily . Lightly place the pattern over your cake (no need to press down, that will only make it harder to remove) and powder the sugar over the doily. Carefully lift off the paper to reveal your beautiful cake.

One word of warning: powder your cake just before serving. The sugar pattern will be absorbed by this wonderfully moist cake and disappear completely if you decorate it ahead of time.

Step 4: Epilogue: a Cake With Nothing in It

I thought it would be amusing to try to make a fat, egg, gluten AND sugar free cake. My first test, replacing the sugar in this recipe with xylitol was, literally, a flop. Cakes involve very delicate chemical reactions, and granulated sugar has properties which aren't so easy to mimic.... I'm still planning on attempting a gluten free version though, when my kids get over the disappointment caused by this inedible cake.

To learn more about some other things I make, check out Make Anything and Make Anything Pop-Up.

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    56 Discussions


    4 years ago

    I love that powdered sugar design on the top of the cake. It's beautiful


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This looks pretty nice. I wonder if sugar- free strawberry preserves would work instead of the beets?

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not sure, but it's worth a shot. A "safer" approach might be to just use more apple sauce if you don't want beets.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, I think I'll try that instead. The preserves would work better maybe as a filling for the cake. Still, I guess I could try the beets. You never know what you might like ;)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome idea! I kind of loathe beets and I made a half batch of this to see if I could still taste them in the finished product... alas, I could. Do you think this would work substituting strawberries for beets? Is the texture similar enough? They're at least as sweet as beets and still quite healthy, but I wasn't sure if there was another reason you had for using beets.

    5 replies

    Substituting Kumara (Sweet Potato) for the beets will work great, and it has a smoother texture also. The use of the beets or vegetable is usually to make up for the fact that there is no eggs, or fats in the recipe..I'm thinking strawberries have way too much water content to work. Would be an awesome accompaniment though.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Aeons later, just putting it out there that canned pumpkin makes a good substitute for the beet.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It's worth a try -- but I think strawberries are much more juicy than beets, so it might not work. Substituting ingredients in a cake can be tricky, it's a pretty delicate chemical balance. Maybe cooked carrots?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Oooh, point. The cake was already fantastically moist-- I didn't fancy the taste but you did a spectacular job on the texture. If I do strawberries I suppose I'd have to cut out the extra water and maybe have to add a bit more cornstarch to balance it. Cooked carrots is a good thought too, though! Perhaps I'll try two tiny batches, one with each, and see what happens?

    Yeah, I've done a lot of traditional baking but I'm just now getting into crazy substitutions so I don't have a great grip on the chemistry yet. Hence I was trying to figure out why beets so I knew what properties to look for in a substitute. Sooo... why beets?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I love beets, but I'm the only one in my family who does, so I found this way to disguise them. Though they won't eat beets, my kids will devour this cake... In addition to liking their taste, they give the cake a beautiful, rich color....


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I really enjoyed the cake thank you. I made one slight modification though, which was to replace about a third of the flour with ground nuts (mostly walnuts). I also added a little more sugar and lemon, which probably was needed because I didn't have enough apple source and I used arrowroot instead of cornflour. Was fabulous and I plan to make it again and include tasty sun dried cherries. :)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    i understand not using butter, cream, shortening, or oil, but why no eggs? is this suppose to be vegan or what? if i wanted to uses eggs to make it extra goey how could i mod the recipe?

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     If you are trying to reduce your cholesterol you want to avoid eggs (or at least egg yolks). I would recommend trying this recipe as it is before modifying it... the texture is really quite good, you won't miss the eggs. 


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    oh... i never thought of that. and yeah, i'll be sure to try it b4 i mod it, i was just wondering :)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    One of the things that recipes like this assist in is helping people who have food allergies begin to realize that there are ways to eat more foods than they originally feared they were stuck with.

    I'm totally in agreement also that the chemistry of cooking is often overlooked by many who labor in the kitchens around the world. I've gone to internet archive to find some old cookbooks to help me in that regard.

    Thanks again for this recipe.


    9 years ago on Step 3

    I just thought you would like to know, icing sugar isn't known caster sugar. Caster sugar is a fine sugar between icing sugar and granulated sugar commonly used for baking.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 3

    You are right, I am glad to know... I thought caster sugar was a British word for the same product, and I'd never heard of a sugar between granulated and powdered. Thanks for the info!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Please do not post health-related information (like nutrition) if you don't know what you're talking about. People are misinformed enough as it is, so please just post your awesome recipe without all the non-scientific very-much-political bs.

    Eggs have been cleared of all charges and for the last 20 years have been called "Natures Vitamin Pill". Having high cholesterol has never been proven to have any link to heart disease, statistical or otherwise. In fact, people with high cholesterol and a good ration between HDL and LDL show a very clear statistical tendency for living longer.

    With regards to fats.. You know what the only macronutrient the human body has evolved to burn without first converting it is? That's right, saturated fats. The fuel on which the heart muscle works best? Saturated fats. What every cell membrane in the entire body is made of? Saturated fats (and cholesterol).

    If you want to make healthy choices I suggest you read book by Dr. Michael R. Eades and his wife Mary Dan Eades who have been in the field of bariatrics for decades and have treated thousands of patients with LCHF (low carb, high fat) diets. The book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes is a solid piece of work with loads of scientific citations and references, and considering the sheer number of deadly ill patients he treated anything Atkins wrote is probably gold.

    Insulin promotes inflammation and fat storage. Chronically high insulin levels cause insulin resistance, which in turn increases the amount of circulating insulin. Inflammation is the primary villain behind/agitator of heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, arthritis and many more of the so-called life-style diseases. Insulin resistance causes obesity and diabetes type 2, which is often treated with insulin injections, which make the patients even more resistant and obese.

    Know what causes your body to produce insulin..? Carbohydrates. Period. Fats aren't bad, proteins aren't bad, cholesterol isn't bad, in fact, they are all vital for our very survival! Carbohydrates though make your body produce insulin which makes you fat, diabetic, insulin resistant and at huge risk of heart disease, stroke, etc. Insulin from fast carbs (like candy, rice, potatoes, soft drinks, pasta, etc.) also makes your blood sugar crash, which tends to make you ravenously hungry and lusting for more sugar.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     OK, OK, keep your pants on. I would like to point out that just because I posted a cake recipe which contains no fat and no eggs does not mean I advocate a strict no fat diet and that I consider eggs evil (check out my lemon tart recipe). My philosophy when it comes to nutrition is very much influenced by Michael Pollan ("Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants"). Although I was not aware that the link between high cholesterol and heart disease is disputed by certain groups, I am perfectly willing to accept that today's accepted dogma can, and probably will be disproved tomorrow. Which is why I try not to follow fads or diets. In this step of my eczema instructable I go into more detail of the general rules I follow. 
    In conclusion, I do not make this recipe because it contains no fat or eggs, but because I find it delicious. As for calling it a "healthy" cake.... well, I know that's a stretch, but I wanted to make sure I would get accepted into the "Health by Design" contest because my kids are quite desperate for me to win the wii. Even though you might think it's all hogwash, plenty of people and their doctors are trying to reduce their fat and cholesterol intake -- for them this cake is as healthy as a cake can be.