“To Eat Less Sugar, Bake a Cake”

170x170bbI wish this post’s title were original to me, but I swiped it from an episode of The Sporkful, Dan Pashman’s off-beat and inspiring podcast. I recently discovered this amazing food lover’s feast for the ears, and it is now the soundtrack of my every car ride. Here’s his tagline, “Every week we obsess about food, to learn more about people.” Pashman proclaims himself an Eater, which is, as you know, a distinction dear to my heart. I am not a trained chef, not a restaurant critic, and can’t afford to be a foodie (plus the foodies won’t have me because I still consider peanut butter the nectar of the gods). But boy, am I an Eater.

These wise, liberating words about cake came from the eaterly lips of Yotam Ottelenghi, who was the guest on a recent episode. His cookbooks, including Plenty and Jerusalem, are visually thrilling. Even if you never make one of his dishes, just looking at the photographs makes you want to fondle an eggplant. He is also a fan of sweets, and the inventor of one of my very favorite, stunningly delicious (and deliciously stunning) desserts: the strawberry pomegranate and rose petal mess. I wrote about it here, and have made it many times since. His new book, Sweet, just arrived in stores. Just a side note: he is fabulously easy on the eyes (and ears, with a voice like creamy butter).

Never one to turn down a command, request, or gentle nudge to bake a cake, I got to it. I would love to say I followed Ottolenghi and Goh’s recipe for beet, ginger and sour cream cake to the letter, but as always, that would be a lie. First of all, I used carrots in place of beets. I had the perfect amount of grated carrots in my freezer, plus I can’t get used to beets in desserts, despite their brilliant coloring abilities. It called for 3/4 of a cup of sugar; I used 1/2. It called for sunflower oil; I used butter – and so on. It all came together to make a good carrot cake, complete with crystallized ginger and pineapple, (the latter was my addition) but it’s really the frosting I want to dwell on here.

Cream cheese frosting is proof that God loves us, but with fresh ginger juice painstakingly squeezed in? Well, it’s clear God loves us more than we deserve. I was in enthusiastic agreement with Ottolengi’s idea that it’s better to enjoy a homemade slice of cake in the sustaining company of family and friends, than to waste your precious sugar quota on dispiriting granola bars, maneuvered into your face while you drive, or demoralizing Famous (not with me) Amos cookies. Yes, I am a sweets-snob, but that’s not news. So I was careful to eat no other dessert the day I made the cake. But then, due to the creamy, gingery frosting, (coupled with an inability to self-govern) I ate three pieces. Oh well, I will try to do better tomorrow, when I bake another cake.


5 1/2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature (I used 8 ounces)
1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated into a fine-mesh sieve place over a bowl and flesh squeezed to extract all the juices

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place and beat (you may also use a hand mixer) until smooth (the amount of time this takes will vary). Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until well incorporated. Add the cream and beat for about 1 minute, until the frosting is thick and smooth. Add the ginger juice, beat for a final few seconds. Slather on cooled cake.




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