It has recently come to my attention that I only know two ways to bake: decadent and indulgent. Those may seem like synonyms, but trust me, there’s a hair of difference. Decadent will make you physically ill if you eat the whole thing; indulgent will not. Or so I tell myself.
With that in mind, I challenged myself to make a less-decadent dessert. Something that my Crossfit and P90X-loving friends might even try a nibble of (maybe). And I wanted it to be something rich in flavor, like a lightened-up version of your favorite birthday cake that you could get away with eating at more than your annual upping-your-age celebration.
I settled on red velvet cake. Only this one became green velvet cake, because my alma mater’s colors are hardwired into my brain (Go Bulls!) and, more practically, because I went crazy making red velvet doughnuts — and red velvet everything — a year ago and still have several bottles of lonely, unloved green, yellow and blue food coloring, and I refuse to buy another package until I use at least some of them up. #stubborn
So, how could I healthy up a green velvet cake without ruining it? I consider most “healthy” desserts to be a total waste of calories: If it tastes like sawdust and sour cream, why bother eating it?! A dessert has to be at least 80 percent as good as the original to be worth trying. Don’t deny your tastebuds any less.
The substitutions were not without some trial and error (and okay, some error serious enough for its own blog post), but I finally found a version I really like.
Instead of a full-on cake, I recommend spreading a 1/2-inch layer of batter on a cookie sheet with sides, and letting it bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. The result is a springy, slightly crispy-topped snack that’s every bit as tasty as green velvet cake, yet it holds it own as its own category of dessert.
These cake tops include a few swaps:
- Less sugar
- Less butter
- Instead of eggs, a flax seed-and-water-combo
- Instead of buttermilk, one 5.3-ounce cup of Greek yogurt mixed with two ounces of water
Of course, I can’t resist unhealthy-ing them up: They’re pretty much amazing when you turn them into an ice cream sandwich. (Plus, since they’re spongier than cookies, you won’t have ice cream ooze out everywhere when you take a bite. It’s a double victory, inspired by Sprinkles Ice Cream shop’s cupcake sandwiches.) I suppose you could blend frozen bananas and use that in place of ice cream. I say “suppose” because while that sounds delicious, I couldn’t help but gobble up the cake tops with some Salted Caramel gelato. I guess decadent is every bit as hard-wired into me as my school pride. Then again, gelato was the only ice cream in my freezer, so maybe it’s a little column A, a little column L (as in lazy).
Anyway, here’s how to make these lightened up Greek Yogurt cake tops:
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seed mixed with 6 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups flour
- 1 container vanilla Greek yogurt (I used the 0% fat kind)
- 2 ounces water
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. As it heats, dump the sugar and butter into a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light, fluffy, and just a little bit grainy.
- Add in the ground flax seed-water combination. It acts as a binder in place of eggs. Mix until it's thoroughly combined, then, in a small cup, combine the baking soda and vinegar. As it starts to bubble and foam (that's a good thing), dump it into the mixing bowl, along with the cocoa powder and salt. Stir everything until it's just combined.
- Add 1 cup flour to the batter, stirring it in, then the container of Greek yogurt. Then mix in the rest of the flour and the water.
- Pour onto a baking sheet that has sides (to prevent spillover), filling the pan no more than halfway up. (Again, to avoid spillover.) Pop it in the oven for 9-11 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the cake cool.
- Once cooled, take your favorite cookie cutters and cut out chunks of cake. You can enjoy them as-is, or you can cut out two of each shape and sandwich them around a little ice cream. Life is better that way.