I was going to call this article “Eldorado, unicorns, sugarless low to no carb cakes and other mythical creatures.” Well before the little Aussie closed last year we started getting requests for cakes for diabetics, while not really an allergy issue to create a cake that would work well for a diabetic was not really a challenge for us.
However typically the folks asking for these cakes, often spouses wanting to surprise their diabetic other half with a cake they could eat without regard for their condition, have a very clear view on the substance of this cake. Enter the mythical sugarless, low to no carb cake.
There is in fact no such creature. Sugarless, low to no carb and cake, can only exist together in a sentence on paper. Try to combine these notions in a kitchen and you definitely do not get cake. A cake is an interplay of very specific ingredients in exacting ratios: sugar, fat, carbohydrates are all essential, in the absence of any of these the outcome is not cake.
However, the good news is that we can adjust how we make a cake so that we can firstly reduce the available sugar, secondly increase the glycemic index and hence make what sugar that is there less accessible by extending the time that it takes for the sugar to be released into the blood stream. And finally stay away from the notion of irresponsible eating, which applies to diabetics as well as everyone else.
Unfortunately, the rise of the notion of the sugarless, low to no carb cake as being desirable stems from the rise of the artificial sweetener in the seventies as a “healthy” alternative to sugar, with sugar being largely vilified as a poison in an attempt to expand the market for artificial sweeteners. And now we are at the point that it is largely believed that sugar is toxic to a diabetic. This is utterly false. While a diabetic may have difficulty transferring sugar from the blood stream and into cells due to low or non-existent insulin, diabetics, both type 1 and type 2 need as much sugar to run their cells as a non-diabetic. Glucose from sugar and carbohydrates is basically fuel on a cellular level, and is essential to everyone.
So how would we create a cake to work well for a diabetic? Firstly, we can reduce the sugar in the cake by about a third, which is significant. Adding a little stevia to replace the sweetness. Stevia is a natural plant based sweetener, and in the presence of significant sugar, will work well to enhance sweetness. I know some of you will want to ask why all the sugar can’t be replaced with stevia. Sugar is a structural component of cake, and a certain significant amount of sugar needs to be present, or it becomes something else. And stevia works well to enhance sweetness in the presence of sugar, but on its own it can leave a distinctive after taste.
So how do we increase the glycemic index of our cake. Several ingredients will do this quite nicely, and they are already frequently found in cake. Increasing the fat content with butter, oil, cream and or coconut cream, will all slow down the transfer of sugar to the blood stream. I know many of you are going to be wary about increasing the calorie load of the cake with these high calorie ingredients. But the calories from these ingredients just do not count when it comes to blood sugar levels, and nor does the fat content. And I also know many of you are going have concerns about the fat level in the cake. This again is the result of marketing being presented as health education. There is a huge low fat food industry out there that has a vested interest in keeping you concerned about your fat intake. And even if we were to give credence to the notion of low fat as being a valid healthy life style; this is a celebration cake that we are talking about, we aren’t talking about breakfast. Cocoa, cinnamon, gymnema and sylvestre all have a positive impact on the sugar insulin dynamic, and can be easily included in a cake for a diabetic, and these ingredients aren’t going to have a negative impact on the cake.
And finally the notion of responsible eating. Having a slice of real cake as a treat for a birthday is not going to be a problem, especially with the factors considered in this example, but whatever monitoring the individual does when dealing with treats will work just fine for this treat.