Friday, June 3, 2011

In which I hide a can of beans in a cake...

I have a friend who doesn't eat wheat or sugar and her daughter doesn't eat dairy.  I have to confess that I kind of love it when they come over.  Aside from them being great company, it is such fun trying to come up with tasty food to serve… dare, double dare, physical challenge!!  My latest experiment was this chocolate cake that has no flour, no sugar, no milk and no butter.  I'm not kidding… I know you're thinking that it isn't humanly possible to bake without any of those ingredients.  I must say I was very sceptical too.  When I first read the recipe I shuddered a little.  The main ingredient is… back beans!  I was calling it the 'frankencake' before I actually tasted it.  It seemed like some kind of extreme vegan experimental crime against baking (not that it's even technically vegan since it contains eggs but you know what I mean).  Or like one of those april fools food jokes (anyone for a mashed potato and gravy 'sundae'?) But I promise you this tastes exactly like a moist, delicious, rich chocolate cake.  It is ten kinds of awesome.  

Just a word of warning - it contains a couple of more specialised ingredients that you may not have in the pantry if you aren't a frequent visitor to the health food store.

The first is stevia.  Stevia is a sugar substitute made from the leaves of a sweet tasting herb.  Stevia extract can have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar so a little bit goes a really long way.  It contains no calories and unlike sugar, it does not trigger a rise in blood sugar levels. You wont get a sudden burst of energy followed by fatigue and a need for another "fix".

The second is xylitol.  Xylitol is another naturally occurring sugar substitute that can be found in the fibres of many fruits and vegetables.  Often it is extracted from birch bark.  It is as sweet as sugar with 40% less calories and 75% less carbs.  Plus as an added bonus it helps prevent tooth cavities… but be warned if consumed in large amounts it can have a laxative effect. 

You can find the original cake recipe here.  It is worth checking out the site because Lauren offers several alternatives for some of the ingredients.  Plus she has heaps of other amazing healthy recipes for treats (she even has a recipe for a healthier version of the cadbury cream egg!!)

The official taste test... result = WINNER!  Minty spent the rest of the day nagging for more cake!

Here is my version of the cake (I made a few substitutions here and there)...

400g can of unseasoned black beans
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons nuttelex 
1/2 cup honey plus 1 teaspoon pure stevia extract
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 160C. Grease a 9" cake pan with a thin layer of nuttelex. Dust cocoa all over the inside of the pan, tapping to evenly distribute. Cut a round of baking paper and line the bottom of the pan.

Drain and rinse beans in a strainer or colander. Shake off excess water. Place beans, 3 of the eggs, vanilla, stevia into blender. Blend on high until beans are completely liquefied. No lumps! Whisk together cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Beat butter with honey until light and fluffy. Add remaining two eggs, beating for a minute after each addition. Pour bean batter into egg mixture and mix. Finally, stir in cocoa powder, and beat the batter on high for one minute, until smooth. Scrape batter into pan and smooth the top. Grip pan firmly by the edges and rap it on the counter a few times to pop any air bubbles.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. Cake is done with the top is rounded and firm to the touch. After 10 minutes, turn out cake from pan, and flip over again on to a cooling rack. Let cool until cake reaches room temperature, then cover in plastic wrap or with cake dome. For BEST flavor, let cake sit over night. I promise this cake will not have a hint of beaniness after letting it sit for eight hours! 

Frosting Ingredients:
5 tablespoons nonhydrogenated shortening
2 tablespoons nuttelex
1/4 cup xylitol, powdered
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 fresh organic egg yolk (optional)

To make the frosting:
Cream the (melted) shortening and nuttelex in a small bowl until fluffy. Powder xylitol in a coffee grinder for a minute or two, until extremely fine in texture (reminiscent of powdered sugar). Let sweetener settle in grinder before opening the top. Stir powdered sweetener into butter with a spatula, then beat until smooth. Slowly blend in the cocoa powder (unless you want to redecorate your kitchen), and vanilla. Beat in the coconut milk and egg yolk, if using.


  1. How amazing! Worried by weird extracts though. I think I'd rather eat small amounts of sugar really. Goodness knows what the other things do if tested on enough people.

  2. I wouldn't be worried about stevia since it has been in widespread use in many countries like Japan for decades. It is just a herb which you can grow in your own backyard and crush your own leaves if you really want. I would think it is much less harmful to you than sugar cane.
    As for xylitol it occurs naturally in oats, mushrooms, corn and berries so I would suggest you are probably eating it unknowingly anyway. I wouldn't recommend eating it in large amounts - but then I wouldn't recommend eating sugar in large amounts anyway. Plus xylitol is used in a lot of toothpastes and mouth washes. Studies have been done on the toxicity of xylitol with people consuming up to 1.5kg a month with no ill effects... so yeah not really worried - though moderation in everything is probably a good idea.

  3. also I find it a little strange that you would prefer to choose regular sugar which is definitely proven to be linked with heart disease, diabetes, tooth decay, obesity and gout (just to name a few) over other naturally occurring sweeteners which do not have proven links to these diseases. Just saying... seems like strange logic to me.

  4. Are you serious? Black beans? I've tried straight stevia before and it was kind of like eating leaves with diet soda flavour (not good in my books). I don't think I'd be very good at waiting 8 hours before eating it either! Nonetheless, I'm very curious...