Saturday, 1 June 2013

Let them eat {sugar free} cake!

The Friend family has a new favourite cake recipe.

Last weekend we had a few nights away with a group of friends, up in the mountains where we did not much more than watch kids play, eat food, chat, enjoy the scenery, eat food, and did I mention eat food? Our group of friends are certified foodies, and the best kinds of people to go away with.


One of these said friends is the (very proud) owner of a thermomix, and the rest of us were quite enthralled and curious about this amazing machine. I think what sold us all was when she made this absolutely AMAZING chocolate cake in it, and then told us that the main ingredient was KIDNEY BEANS!! Say what??!

Okay, so a kidney bean cake sounds pretty gross, right? The thing is, you would never guess that this cake contained such a thing. It is light, moist, rich… it tastes like a seriously decadent chocolate cake, and the kids never knew that each slice was another serve of veggies!

Of course, I had to figure out how to make this at home – sans thermomix. It’s a great, versatile cake: gluten free, grain free, and the way I make it.. sugar free! You could easily make it dairy free too, but personally I’m a big fan of butter so it’s staying. I found the thermomix recipe here, and set about adapting it to my food processor. We’ve made it twice this week, and it was a huge hit with both lots of people we shared it with. Here’s how I make this amazing chocolate cake:


  • 420 g kidney beans, canned drained
  • 1 tablespoon water or coffee (so far I’ve just used water, but can imagine that using coffee would give it an even greater richness)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 70 g unsweetened cocoa powder (or you could use cacao if you were so inclined)
  • 1 teaspoon GF baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 125 g butter, softened (if you wanted dairy free you could try with coconut oil or nutalex)
  • 5 eggs
  • 120g dextrose (or your preferred sweetener. The original recipe says 180g sugar. I found that much dextrose was too sweet for me personally)


  • Preheat the oven to 180d. Grease a cake tin. I’ve made this both in a rectangular slice tin, and in a round cake tin.. worked great both times. Also, I’ve been greasing my cake tins with coconut oil and it’s brilliant… haven’t had any problems with things sticking since I’ve been using it.
  • put the kidney beans, water/coffee, vanilla and one of the eggs into the food processor, and blitz on high until it is smooth.
  • Transfer the kidney bean mixture into another bowl and set aside. (I do the rest of the steps in my food processor too since I already have it dirty. I’m lazy like that. You could do it in a mixmaster though if you preferred. And if you don’t have a food processor, you could use a stick-blender to do the first step, and do the rest with electric beaters/mixmaster/by hand.)
  • Cream the butter and dextrose, then add the remaining four eggs one at a time, beating until smooth.
  • Add the vanilla extract, cocoa powder, baking powder, bi-carb and salt, and mix until well blended.
  • Reintroduce the kidney beans, and blend until it is all incorporated, and smooth.
  • Taste this delicious chocolate cake mix. Seriously. I’m not usually one who enjoys eating cake batter but man this is yum!!
  • Pour into a tin, pop in the oven and bake! I’d start with 30 minutes. This was the perfect amount of time when I made the cake in the slice tin. I had to give it an extra 5 minutes in the round tin. You know the drill, a skewer will come out clean, and the the outside has started to pull away from the tin when it’s done.

How great does it smell!!? Okay. Now when we were away last weekend we ate the cake just like that. Actually some of us smothered it in cream. Some of us were a bit cream obsessed. It is a moist cake and doesn’t need something on top of it. It is really nice though if you have it warm with cream… very puddingy.

However, both times I made this cake this week, it was for a birthday. And as far as I’m concerned, birthday cakes need frou frou. Sugar-free icing is an interesting adventure, that’s for sure!

The first cake was for my sister’s dog’s birthday. Oh Lordy, I am SO not the kind of person to make a birthday cake for a dog, but my daughter LOVES this dog, and was insistent on making a big deal of his birthday, so we did it. This is was Dusty’s birthday cake: (which I let Mayana go to town on with cake decorating pens)


For Reuben’s birthday cake I made the icing with cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, and dextrose as the substitute for icing sugar. It worked quite well, so I decided to give dextrose a go as an icing sugar substitute for chocolate icing. I beat together butter, dextrose and cocoa, and then added boiling water until it was a good consistency. This icing was super-dooper rich, especially in conjunction with this very rich cake. Pete and I found it very sweet, and even Mayana couldn’t eat her whole piece of cake. It was yummy, and it worked, but it was just too much for those of us who have given up sugar. Back to the drawing board.

I remembered ages ago (well before quitting sugar) coming across this recipe and bookmarking it on my iPhone. This recipe isn’t sugar free, but again, easily adapted. The icing that it makes is light, fluffy and understated in sweetness. It’s the perfect fluffy topping to just add that lovely bit of moisture to the cake without taking away (or adding too much to) the delightful richness of the cake. Here was cake number two, a birthday cake for one of Mayana’s little friends:


Ugh. Please excuse the terrible low-light iPhone photography on both of those photos. Both cakes looked far more appetising in real life!

The only downside to this icing is that it is not gluten free. This really isn’t an issue to us, but it might be to you. It would definitely be worth trying with gluten-free flour, but just a disclaimer that I haven’t tried it that way, so can’t guarantee that it will work the same!
Okay, so here is the magical, sugar free version of this fluffy, yummy icing:


  • 3 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup real butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dextrose (the original recipe uses sugar, of course, and I just want to highlight that if you are using sugar, use normal, granulated sugar NOT icing sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or other flavour if you wish. I would definitely like to try a chocolate version of this icing.


  • Whisk together the flour and milk in a saucepan and cook over low-medium heat. This icing starts off as a kind of white sauce. Weird, I know. Keep stirring until it turns into a thick, gluey consistency. You’re cooking it off a bit to help get rid of that floury taste once it become icing. When it becomes almost playdoughy, it’s ready to come off the heat.
  • Put your playdough mixture in a container in the fridge or freezer. You want it to go completely cold… no heat left in it at all. I recommend to do step one of the recipe as soon as your cake comes out of the oven.. by the time your cake is cooled enough to ice, your goop should be cool enough to use.
  • In a mixmaster (or with electric beaters – I wouldn’t personally like to do this by hand, but like I said, I’m a bit lazy like that), cream the butter and dextrose until light and fluffy. Add your vanilla or alternative flavouring, and a colour if you’re so inclined (our birthday girl wanted purple)
  • Plop in your cooled playdough mixture, and continue beating. I did this on quite a high speed on my mixmaster, and with the whisk attachment. I don’t think it would work quite so well with the paddle attachment.
  • Just keep beating. It goes really weird and gross at first and you’ll be wondering what on earth I’m going on about. But just keep going, and eventually it will all incorporate and all of a sudden turn into a glorious, fluffy icing, which looks a bit like whipped cream.

That’s it! Spread it on your cake, or piping with it works quite well too.

So far, this is the best luck I’ve had with sugar-free icing. Even if you were eating sugar, this is a great low-sugar alternative to normal icing. It obviously doesn’t set to any kind of hardness, so just be aware of that if you’re transporting your cake somewhere.

So there you have it: An absolutely delicious, fibre and protein packed chocolate cake, topped with a delicious sugar free icing! Pretty much a guilt-free cake! What’s not to love about that??

If you make this cake, I’d love to have your feedback. Have you tried adapting any of your favourite recipes to suit your dietary needs?


  1. About to try this in a cake pop tin for lunchboxes (perhaps minus the sticks so easier to freeze, pack and prepare). Thanks for putting it here:) From a fellow Bunya- mountain adventurer!! Cathy

  2. Have you tried to make this with GF flour yet?


Thank you!!


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