Saturday, November 11, 2017


Celebration! Chocolate birthday cake, bubbly cava and friends.

With a major birthday this week, a date that also marks the anniversary of the day I quit smoking (32 years ago), plus the eighth anniversary of starting this blog, I was all set to live it up. I would bake myself a sugar-free chocolate birthday cake, regale myself with flowers, invite some friends over and pop open a bottle of bubbly cava.

Birthday bouquet.

Not enough candles for my cake.

The taste test--- (Cake is topped with whipped cream sweetened with stevia.)

The gala event went sort of according to plan. The cake, which I photographed earlier in the day, looked gorgeous. But I noticed that the friends politely pushed the cake aside. I tasted. The cake was awful! A disaster.

My idea was to use pureed prunes to stand in for sugar and to use dark (85%) chocolate sweetened with malitol and stevia plus unsweetened cocoa in the cake batter. Oh, and also to sub olive oil for butter. Prunes would point up the fruitiness of chocolate. A hint of coffee would also deepen the chocolate. A shot of Sherry vinegar, conversely, to emphasize the sweetness of prunes and stevia. (The recipe was based on one for Chocolate Prune Cake in Joy of Cooking.)

The cake didn’t rise. It tasted great--a deep, bittersweet chocolate. But it was dense and heavy as lead. Inedible. The cava went down nicely. The friends were fun, the pressies nice.

I couldn’t give up on the cake. A couple days later I made a second one, using more liquid to make a lighter batter. It rose nicely. Full of optimism, I spread a chocolate ganache on the top.

The second cake, topped with ganache.

Alas! The texture was horrid, dense, sort of like steamed pudding. “Throw it out,” said my son Ben. “Too chocolate-y,” said grandson Leo.

I know that sugar in baking does more than just sweeten. It gives texture and volume as well. And I know that creaming butter with sugar creates a cakey texture that olive oil can’t match.

I’m just now googling sugar-free cake entries. Perhaps I’ll have another try for the next celebration. But, this week you get no blog recipe, just some pretty pictures.

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to! Just pour me another cava, please.

Other (successful) recipes for sugar-free desserts:
Sugar-Free Almond Torte.
Date Bars.
Apricot Mousse.

More recipes for baking with olive oil:
Apple-Almond Crumble.
Olive Oil Carrot Cake.
Fig Pudding.
Zucchini Chocolate Cake.


  1. Wife gets good results with baking Splenda when making her (famous) low sugar cheesecake. (The cheesecake itself is sugar-free, but the cookies she uses for the crust have sugar.)

    And in other news, I gave yet another friend your "Heart of Spain" La Mancha cookbook. Fortunately good used copies are pretty widely available.

    1. David: I will have to try sugar-free cheesecake. I've had pretty good results with other desserts--just not this chocolate cake! Glad to hear Heart of Spain is still in circulation. It is the book I most liked doing (research in La Mancha kitchens) and still cook from a lot.

  2. OH! I had a good laugh with this blog! It's nice to know even great cooks, like you, can have bloopers too....I know the feeling. But, I wish you a very happy belated birthday! Great Cava is good anytime!

    1. Patty: Thanks. Yep, we all have occasional misses in the kitchen!