For his birthday, my husband requested (as usual) lemon cake. I went through this whole thing of trying to figure out how to make a lemon cake like he used to have, only with better ingredients. The problem was, I didn’t think I could use a whole sweetener like coconut sugar or honey without really throwing off the lemon flavor. I also thought that with all whole-grain flour it would never achieve the light and fluffy texture I needed.
So I compromised. Big time. I used organic white sugar and fooled myself that it really wasn’t THAT BAD because, you now, it was organic. That was what I told myself to feel better, anyway. I also used 3/4 white spelt flour and only 1/4 whole grain.
What resulted was lovely. It really was.
I wrote up this whole blog post about it, even though it really isn’t something any of you should be eating.
And then I went on to see if I could turn the recipe into something healthier. I thought that maybe I could find a way to make it into something acceptable…just not something birthday cake-ish. I thought I’d have the unhealthy version as the special occasion birthday cake thing, and the healthy one for other times.
I used all coconut sugar, and half whole grain spelt and half almond meal. It was brown and rustic looking. And, guess what?
Everyone liked it BETTER than the birthday cake version! “It’s so moist!” they said. “It makes my mouth happy!” they said. “Make this one instead of that other one next time,” they said.
So! I no longer have to share the unhealthy version of this cake, but can just go straight to sharing the better-for-you version, because it also happens to be delicious!
Combine the spelt flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, lemon zest, and coconut sugar in a bowl, breaking up any lumps. For the lemon zest, just take a lemon, wash it off well, and grate it with a grater with small holes.
In another bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, lemon extract, and melted butter. The eggs and buttermilk should preferably be at room temperature to help the texture, but it’s not a huge deal if you forgot to take them out ahead and they’re not. If you can, though, try to have them at room temperature. It helps make a nicer texture in the cake.
Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients.
Stir it together thoroughly, then prepare a 9 inch cake round by greasing it with butter or coconut oil. Sprinkle some white flour in it, then knock it around to evenly coat the bottom of the pan with flour.
Turn the pan upside down over the sink and knock the bottom a few times with your hand to get rid of the excess flour, and then you have your greased-and-floured pan!
Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. It’s done when you press a finger down in the center and it springs back.
Let it cool for 15 minutes, then loosen the outside edge with a knife or fork and turn it out onto a cooling rack.
Let it cool 15 more minutes, and then poke holes in the top with a fork.
Combine juice of half a lemon with some honey. Heat it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so to make the honey melty enough to mix in.
Taste, and if necessary add in a pinch of Stevia, or more honey until it’s as you like it.
Dribble about 4 Tbsp of the honey-lemon mixture on top of the cake, and let it sit for at least half an hour.
This would probably be fine just as is – really nice and lemony. But if you want to have something REALLY good…pair it with some freshly sliced strawberries and some fresh whipped cream! (To whip cream, just combine a pint of heavy cream with a Tablespoon of maple syrup, and then whip it together with an electric mixer until it’s firm.)
The flavors of this are spectacular. Truly marvelous. The lemon of the cake comes across really strongly, and with the sweetness of the strawberries and the creaminess of the whipped cream…it’s just perfect. Perfect!!
And if you want to make it more of a layered birthday cake, do like I did with the unhealthy version: Double the recipe to make two cakes, and layer fresh sliced strawberries. Top with the second layer. If you want, you can make a glaze with some powdered sugar and lemon juice and drizzle it on top. It’ll be sugar, but not much, and might be a good extra something to appease your sugar-eating guests. It’ll look like this! Beautiful! Serve with plenty of sliced fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream!
But if you want to keep it simple and just have this…that’s good too. It’s better than good: it’s perfect. You won’t be disappointed!
(This does have a fair bit of sweetener in it, though they’re all whole food sweeteners, so consume carefully if you’re still at the stage in which any sweeteners bother you. And, as always, this is something to be eaten in moderation!)
- ¾ cups whole grain spelt flour (whole wheat can be used if preferred but I haven't tested that for taste)
- ¾ cup almond flour
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp grated lemon zest
- ¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ tsp lemon extract
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
- ¼ cup honey
- For lemon-honey syrup: juice of half a lemon and 1 tsp honey
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, lemon zest, and coconut sugar.
- In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, eggs, lemon extract, melted butter, and honey.
- Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet. Mix together thoroughly.
- Grease a 9 inch cake round with butter or coconut oil. Sprinkle some white flour in and knock it around to evenly distribute until the entire pan is coated with the flour.
- Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until the center springs back when pressed firmly with your finger.
- Let it cool for 15 minutes, and then remove the cake from the pan onto a cooling rack and let it cool for 15 more minutes.
- Poke the top of the cake with a fork a few times to create holes.
- Prepare the lemon-honey syrup by combining juice of half a lemon with about a tsp of honey. Heat in the microwave for 10 seconds just to get the honey liquidy enough to mix, and then stir them together. Taste, and if it's still too sour add a pinch of Stevia or more honey.
- Pour about 4 Tbsp of the lemon-honey syrup over top of the cake. Let it sit for at least half an hour.
- Serve with plenty of sliced fresh strawberries and freshly whipped cream.
- (Whipped cream: whip together 1 pint of heavy cream with 1 Tbsp maple syrup with an electric mixer until firm.)
- For a more festive-looking layer cake, double the recipe to make two cake rounds. Put sliced strawberries in the middle between the rounds. If desired, make a thin glaze combining powdered sugar and lemon juice, and drizzle over the top. Serve with strawberries and fresh whipped cream.