How to prepare no-sugar-crash cakes

Valerie O’Connor happens upon a handy, sugar-free cake by accident and offers a few more options besides. 

OVER the last few weeks it’s been hard to avoid the hushed mumblings of gossip-like chatter everywhere you go.

“It’s in everything,” people utter, with shocked tones in their voices “the cereal, the bread, even the mayonnaise.” The word on everyones lips is not some brain-washing drug from the government, just sugar, of course.

After Dr Eva Orsmond’s exposé (was it really so shocking?) the fear is palpable, almost enough to make you reach for a double chocolate fudge ice cream sundae. 

There has been a plethora of books in recent years, garnering a hefty and well toned following of people stocking up on agave syrups, coconut blossom sugar, brown rice syrup, and all manner of pricey sugar replacements.

These sugars are then combined with deliciously expensive ingredients like medjool dates and endless nuts to make dense and odd-looking sweet-ish things that take ages and remind you some kind of a vegan mountain retreat where self-denial is the most interesting thing you can do with yourself.

Yes if kids eat sweets all the time their teeth will rot, if you drink endless pints and eat mars bars every day you will probably be overweight. 

Did we really need a shocking TV programme to tell us that? It makes me want to drink a lot of red wine, (also high in sugar it seems), but also great to help you digest a good meal.

As a mother of two now very tall boys, they loved to eat the sweet bakes I made on a regular basis and they did they get a little bigger than was healthy.

So I cut down on the cookies and the brownies, and now when I feel like getting them a treat in the supermarket aisle, I don’t, and that’s the treat. Boring and responsible, I know. 

I still bake all the time and have replaced refined sugar with honey or maple syrup in flapjacks and brownies.

These recipes are made from pretty normal ingredients that won’t have to be bought online or cost you a fortune — oh they’re gluten free too as a bonus.

Chocolate Beetroot Brownies

The addition of beetroot makes a moist brownie that you won’t even care is gluten-free. Like many cakes baked with nut flours and veg this is a cake that’s actually nutritious — so it’s better for you to eat it than not. I cook the beetroot by dry-roasting it in a tray for two hours while the oven is on with other things. When its cool, peel the skin off with a knife.


200g/8oz dark chocolate — min 70% cocoa solids 100g/4oz butter or coconut oil 2 medium sized cooked beetroot, you can use the vacum-packed ones from the shops but make sure they have no vinegar 2 eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract 100ml/4oz pure maple syrup 150g/6oz ground almonds Preheat oven to 170C/340F. Line a small baking tin, about 20cm x 10cm with foil.


1. Break up the chocolate and put it in a thick-bottomed pot with the butter, heat gently until it’s all melted, stir gently while melting. 2. Add the vanilla and leave to cool slightly, slowly stir in the maple syrup. 3. Blitz the cooked beets in a blender and add to the mix. 4. Beat the eggs in one by one, sprinkle on the ground almonds and stir in until well combined. 5. Pour the mix into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes until slightly risen. 6. Take out from the oven and leave to set until almost completely cold, cut gently and devour with cream, ice cream, or créme fraiche, and a few raspberries.

Yogurt Cake

I made this up one night after giving a class in yogurt-making where I arrived home with lots of extra yogurt and a bag of defrosted frozen berries. I made the coulis quickly, just melt the fruit and slowly bring to the boil, add the honey and reduce slightly. It also keeps in a jar in the fridge for ages. This is a little bit cheesecake, a little bit sponge but is made without sugar or any kind of grain, so it’s kind to your gut and really delicious too.


250g/10oz ground almonds 250g/10oz ground coconut 1 cup yogurt 150g/6oz cup honey Zest 1 lemon 3 eggs 120g/5oz melted butter 200g fresh or frozen mixed forest fruits/berries 3 tblsp honey To make the coulis simply heat both ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer, allow the fruit to cook for five minutes and remove from the heat. 

Make this well enough in advance so it’s fully cooled before you pour in on the cake mixture. Preheat the oven to 170C/340g. Grease and line the bottom of a 26cm springform tin.

1. Combine everything but the coulis in a large bowl and mix well.

2. Pour into a prepared tin and drizzle on the coulis, swirl it around with a cocktail stick.

3. Bake for 50-55 minutes. remove from the oven and leave it to cool fully before cutting, this cake keeps well for four to five days.


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