tephra: Sanji from One Piece, Cooking (Cooking Sanji)
Looking back it seems I completely did not blog about the two cakes I made in March and May.

March was an attempt on German Chocolate Cake without sugar. It was not terribly successful and became less so recently when I realized the likely fall out.

The cake itself was too dry. This a failure of recipe and not so much the sugar/stevia switch. I started with an "intense chocolate bread" recipe, trying to start with a dense product so the lack of structure from the sugar would be less of an issue. It was, unsurprisingly in hindsight, rather dry and could have been sweeter. It did give me ideas about future from scratch cake making, largely with Greek yogurt I replaced the sour cream with. Stevia makes a much stiffer batter than sugar does so it also required a bit more liquid to get it to even consider spreading into the pan.

Next time I will try taking my favorite chocolate cake recipe (the one that has more sugar than flour in it) and try that with stevia or Splenda with added Greek yogurt. Perhaps just a straight out Splenda for sugar switch for one attempt and stevia and yogurt for another.

The frosting was really tasty! And I should never, ever make it again.

For the coconut pecan frosting I used unsweetened flaked coconut, chopped pecans, and a jar of Smucker's Sugar Free Caramel Topping. Basically just stir in coconut and pecans until the texture is right. This was surprisingly similar to the completely from scratch with sugar and corn syrup frosting I used to make when I was a teenager.

So why should I never, ever make this frosting again? Sorbitol. It's just a theory right now, but I had a pretty rough month from the intestinal point of view and no idea what it was causing it. I had been eating things with sugar alcohols for a couple years and didn't have any problems so it just did not occur to me until this week to put the observations of the last few months through some hard study. The lovely chocolates and ice creams I have been enjoying all use malitol. Smucker's uses malitol and sorbitol in their sugar free caramel and hot fudge toppings. Which I started eating just before my intestines decided to stage a revolt. So I am going to avoid sorbitol for a while and then conduct a potentially unpleasant experiment involving a caramel hot fudge sundae or two.

May was another stab at doctoring up a box mix, this time Pillsbury Sugar Free Yellow Cake Mix. I did this one up as a lemon cake with straight from the can Pillsbury Sugar Free Vanilla Frosting.

Success! I added an egg, a box of cook and serve sugar free vanilla pudding powder, and lemon extract to the box mix instructions. It was still a bit fragile but much more like a boxed mix with sugar would be so I am happy with it. I will say that Watkins lemon extract is not as nice as it was 30 years ago and I will search out a more concentrated flavoring when this bottle is gone.
tephra: Sanji from One Piece, Cooking (Cooking Sanji)
Sugar-free products have come a long way since the early 1980s when I first tasted them, and these days most of the sugar-free and no sugar added things we can buy are pretty awesome (go get yourself some Russel Stover sugar-free chocolates, the dark chocolate pecan delights are my favorite) but the baked goods are definitely lagging behind. It's not really a taste thing with most of them, it's texture and depth of flavor that's a problem, cookies tend toward crisp rather than chewy and cakes can be fragile. This is because of the things that sugar does other than make things sweet, like keep them moist and add structure.

Now, I will say, there is nothing I would do to improve Pillsbury's Fudge Brownie Mix, if you like a heavy fudge brownie they have you covered. Their Devil's Food cake mix though... it's tasty, and when you haven't had cake in ages due to sugar it's pretty freaking awesome, but it's merely a mediocre chocolate cake. It's light and fragile and not really that chocolate-y. So today I am experimenting.

After doing a bit a research on what to do to a boxed cake mix to make it taste more like "bakery" cake (from what I see, people mean "from scratch") I have decided to do the following:

1. Add an egg. Every site I found on the subject says to add an egg, so I am. The box says use three so I'm using four. The egg should help with the texture and fragility issue. They also say use melted butter rather than oil but I'm sticking with oil this time.

2. Add flavorings. I'm adding one third cup of cocoa powder. Sites suggest adding coffee; brewed, instant, or espresso powder depending on the site. I'm skipping that for now and sticking with the cocoa.

3. Use boiling water rather than whatever temperature you get it from the tap. Boiling water makes the cocoa powder bloom for fuller flavor. I have to say it's always made my favorite from scratch chocolate cake extra awesome so I figure it's a good bet on improving the box.

So the cake is in the oven now and I'm going to hold off on messing with the frosting until it's out and cooled.

Frosting. This is where Pillsbury has failed me. I'm really not fond of the canned Chocolate Fudge Frosting they make. The flavor is weak and chemical. It's bad snack food chocolate frosting is what I am saying, edible but not really enjoyable and cake should be joyful.

Sites were a bit less useful for fixing up frosting, at least if you are avoiding sugar. I can't do the one thing they all say to do, which is to beat in powdered sugar. The reasoning behind doing that seems to be mostly for fixing texture though, and since the flavor also needs help this is my plan:

1. Add cocoa powder. This should take care of the texture part of what the powdered sugar was doing and also help with the weak chemical chocolate thing.

1a. If it needs more sweetening to deal with the cocoa I will add a bit of liquid stevia. I have vanilla and English toffee flavors as well as plain which goes well with the next step.

2. Add flavoring. A bit of vanilla couldn't hurt.

Another suggestion I saw was to add peanut butter, which is something I will save for another day.

I may have to try the vanilla sugar-free frosting Pillsbury also has (they have yellow cake mix too, which is fragile but tasty). I can make that into a peanut butter or cream cheese frosting, or just add flavor for things like lemon. The yellow cake mix is bound to be made into a lemon cake here someday.

Another idea I have for frosting experiments involves Smuckers Sugar-Free Caramel Sauce, flaked (unsweetened) coconut, and pecans. German Chocolate Cake is one of my favorites. :)

I will update with the taste results after thorough sampling.


Update: Added 2 Tbsp cocoa powder and 1 tsp vanilla to the frosting. It's better but still has that sharp chemical after taste. If I want chocolate frosting that I actually like I will have to come up with something else. I'm leaning toward making ganache at this point. It won't be sugar-free due to the cream having natural sugars, but it will be at least low sugar.

As for the cake, the egg did help a bit on the fragility. I think next time I will do still more cocoa powder and maybe try the butter instead of oil thing. I like a dark dense

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