Let me start this post by telling you a bit about one of the ingredients I used in this recipe: coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is a sugar derived from the coconut palm tree. It’s made by boiling and dehydrating the sap contained in the palm tree’s flower buds. While it comes from the coconut palm tree, coconut palm sugar is not to be confused with sugar palm, or palm sugar – an ingredient that we often find in commercially-available food and drinks. Palm sugar originates from the date or sugar palm and it’s totally different to coconut sugar in terms of its texture, taste, and micronutrient profile. Coconut sugar has a lot of things going for it: it’s high in polyphenols and antioxidants, minerals, and rich in vitamins like potassium, zinc, iron, and B1, 2, 3, and 6. Because it is derived from coconut sap, which contains 16 amino acids (the most prominent one being glutamine), coconut sugar can also be said to contain traces of aminos. Another benefit of coconut sugar is that its GI (Glycemix Index) is between 35-38. This is quite low when compared to cane sugar and honey which have GI profiles that range between 58-68. (For more on coconut sugar, check out this study.)
It’s not, of course, all roses and lullabies. Coconut sugar IS basically just a carbohydrate, and a sugary one at that – comprised as it is of primarily sucrose, glucose, and fructose. So it’s not really ideal for someone on a low or ultra-low-carb diet. But coconut sugar is a great alternative to high-GI sugars and artificial sweeteners for someone on a moderately low-carb or a macro-balanced diet. That’s why a lot of healthy food manufacturers today are embracing coconut sugar as a natural sweetener and ‘paleo’ adherents are buying it by the bagful.
What about taste and texture though, what’s coconut sugar like? It’s a bit… toffeeish in flavor, especially when you use it in baking. It’s almost caramely and, while gram for gram it’s just as sweet as sugar, it doesn’t actually taste as sweet as sugar. It’s more subtle in its sweetness. And in texture? It’s treacly when you cook with it and just like brown sugar when you add it to tea, coffee, or cereal. It tastes a lot ‘frutier’ than sugar or honey though.
Anyways, that’s my brief summary of coconut sugar; below you’ll find a recipe that uses it. While reading this recipe, I want you to bear in mind that, if you do NOT have – or you do NOT want to use – coconut sugar, you don’t have to. I’ve added a few notes at the bottom of this post for a few substitutions you can use in case you want to make a lower-carb Vanilla Mocha Protein Cake.
1 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 cup of latte-flavored whey protein powder (could use mocha too!)
1/2 cup liquid egg whites
1 cup oats (gluten-free or regular)
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup coconut sugar (I use this one when I’m in the US and this one when I’m in the UK)
1/2 cup Total Greek yogurt
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 tbsp vanilla essence
1 400g pack of quark (you can substitute this with a low-fat ricotta, mascarpone, cream cheese, or a combination of any of them – it depends on the taste you want to go after; mascarpone will make your cake Tiramisu-ish in flavor)
1/4 cup mocha flavored whey
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 toffee flavdrops
Blend all the cake ingredients together and pour into a (silicone) 9-10 inch cake pan. Bake at 160 C (320 F) for about 25-30 minutes or until, when poked with a knife, your knife comes out clean. NOTE: Be careful not to overbake your cake! If you do, it’ll come out really dry so please do keep an eye on it.
When your cake is done, let it cool COMPLETELY. Then, make your frosting by blending all the frosting ingredients together and layering that on top and around the cake. Pay attention to the substitutions for the quark I mentioned in the ingredients above because you really can (and in fact, you should) play around with your frosting ingredients until you end up with something that ticks all your taste buds’ boxes. Make sure you taste the frosting before you frost your cake, just to make sure it’s perfect. Finish by sprinkling some cocoa powder on top.
Macros per slice (out of 10): 148kcals, 17g protein, 10g carbs, 4g fat.
Notes on Substituting Coconut Sugar: If you want to make this cake but don’t have (and don’t want to get) coconut sugar, you can still make it. Just add a bit more ground almonds to your cake mix! And taste the batter to ensure it’s sweet enough for you. If it’s not, add your sweetener of choice (e.g. stevia drops, splenda, toffee flavdrops, or dates!)