How was your holiday weekend? Long but still too short? I feel you. That’s why I welcome you to keep the party going with this super easy, delicious, refined sugar-free, paleo birthday cake. Why a birthday cake? Well, today is my birthday so naturally I had to whip up a special treat to me, from me, with love.
If today isn’t your birthday, too, then I invite you to celebrate your unbirthday by baking this Honey Vanilla Paleo Unbirthday Cake. You have my seal of approval and full support to do so.
While I’ve found that the paleo label is either loved or loathed, I’m using it to describe this cake because it’s a lot easier than saying grain-, gluten-, dairy-, sugar-free repeatedly. You could simply call it a whole or real food cake. But now that I have dropped the paleo label, I think I will discuss it, as well as labels in general. Cool?
In case you are not familiar with the term “paleo” (or perhaps you are fuzzy on what it means), “paleo” it is short for Paleolithic, which refers to a period in time some 10,000 years ago. The paleo diet is a way of eating that mimics how scientists and evolutionists believe our ancestors did during that time in history, long before we had industrialized agriculture. At its core a a paleo diet emphasizes eating whole foods—lean wild caught seafood and game, grass-fed meat, an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats like nuts, avocados, and seeds—and avoiding refined and processed foods like grains, legumes, and dairy. The rationale being that these refined and processed foods would not have been consumed by our ancestors given that they did not have the technology for it.
Essentially, the argument is that even though our world has changed significantly in the last 10,000 years (hello genetically modified organisms and factory farms!), our genome has not. Thus our digestive systems have not caught up to our advances in technology and we, as a population, are suffering by relying on overly processed foods that our body has difficulty digesting and recognizing. This suffering may manifest in the form of many different health ailments including non-specific inflammation, autoimmune disease (Celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis to name a few), overweight and obesity, chronic fatigue, specific digestive disorders (IBS, IBD, malabsoprtion), heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, depression, cancer—the list goes on and on and on.
That’s why it’s so important to maintain a healthy and thriving gut. I mean, 60-80% of our immune system is in our guts people! Sorry, this topic gets me pretty excited. OK, so let’s toss out the paleo label altogether (because labels are for clothing brands) and instead focus on the diet’s principles—eat whole foods of the highest quality available within your budget and avoid refined and processed foods, especially sugar. I can say with complete confidence that following those principles will support a healthy microbiome (i.e. your gut flora—the good bacteria that reside in your digestive tract).
Hold up a minute. Am I saying everyone needs to follow a paleo-style diet? Uh, hell no. You guys should know by now that I don’t believe in dietary dogma or absolutes. It is my experience that as soon as you label yourself as X or Y, you are giving others permission to put you into box. It also traps you into thinking of yourself in a certain light.
For example, when I practiced vegetarianism I found that if and when I did have the occasional piece of fish, I was bombarded with questions as to whether or not I was still a vegetarian. Or I was told I couldn’t call myself a vegetarian if I ate fish—even if it was a rare event. On those occasions, I remember feeling bad about myself, which is ridiculous (and my own fault for letting my self worth be tied to what I was or was not eating).
I believe that while there are clearly good, better, and best practices when it comes to supporting a healthy gut, there are a myriad of nutrition approaches that you can follow—it’s all about finding what works best for YOU. And only you’re the expert in all things you.
And to be perfectly honest, I thought paleo, primal, ancestral—whatever you call it—was simply another trendy fad diet practiced by people who like to toss tires around in gyms (mad props to those of you who love that type of thing) and wanted an excuse to eat a lot of bacon. Then a little over a year ago, I had time to actually delve into the research and I have to admit that not only was I incorrect about paleoism (and those who follow it) but also quite surprised by the science backing the diet’s health claims. Hey, I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong.
Like I said, I followed a vegetarian diet for more than six years based on moral and ethical reasons. I am a huge supporter of animal rights not to mention I had learned in graduate school that vegetarian and vegan diets were THE gold standard diet for optimal health, especially cardiovascular. Saturated fat and cholesterol containing foods were “bad” and diets rich in low-fat carbohydrates and dairy were “good.” Sadly this was not 10 years ago either, I was a nutrition grad student in 2012 and 2013. Le sigh.
Anyway, a few months after finishing my dietetic internship, I finally had time to delve into the subject matter on my own and I realized that much of what I learned in school was not exactly up to speed. I also began to wonder if the health ailments I had been struggling to overcome for the better part of a year might be related to my high carb, low fat, vegetarian (and far too processed) diet.
Now I’m not saying vegetarianism is bad—far from it—rather that at the time, vegetarianism and the foods I was eating (lots of processed soy and alternative meat products) were possibly exacerbating my health issues. I was anemic, sluggish, forgetful, and suffered from constant bloating and indigestion. I was especially moody (I’m always a little moody, I mean I am a Cancer astrologically speaking), my blood sugars were wacky, my skin was a battle ground, and my sleeping habits were terrible.
I was intrigued by the research demonstrating a myriad of health benefits from simply following a diet rich in lean animal proteins, eggs, heaps of fresh produce, and healthy fats. Health benefits like appetite regulation, improved insulin sensitivity and sleep quality, optimized digestion, reduced inflammation, increased energy and vibrancy, and better lipid profiles.
Like thousands of others, I figured it was worth a try. I had tried conventional medicine and nothing was helping alleviate my symptoms. So despite my skepticism and deep-rooted belief in vegetarianism, I took the plunge.
One day I didn’t eat meat, the next day I did. One day I ate bread like crazy, the next day I did not. One day I had sugar for breakfast lunch and dinner, the next day none. One day I didn’t take probiotics or eat probiotic-rich foods, the next day I did…You get the idea.
In terms of science experiments I did everything incorrectly in that I changed 10 different things all at once so I really don’t know what exactly did the trick, but whatever. It led to me eating a plant-based, whole foods diet and giving sugar the official boot PLUS I feel awesome so hastag winning.
The point is that these changes led to a huge shift for me in terms of how I felt and how my digestion functioned. By letting go of my belief that vegetarianism was the best diet for me and opening myself to the possibility that including high quality, ethically raised animal products might help, I healed my digestion and optimized my general health (granted giving up the sugar and refined carbohydrates also helped for sure). I also found that my blood sugar and appetite is best regulated when I obtain most of my carbohydrates from non-starchy vegetables. however I can tolerate oats and quinoa when I take the time to soak them overnight.
In this same regard, I know that others have had similarly positive shifts by eliminating processed foods and adopting a totally raw vegan diet that includes tons of whole grains. There is no one way to do it. Find a way to eat that makes you feel amazing, seriously full of energy, clear headed, sexy, and limitless! You know, like Beyoncé. Or Gwenyth. If you are willing to forgo the labels and experiment with a whole foods lifestyle, I think you might be surprised at how amazing you can and are supposed to feel.
This isn’t news to most of you though is it? No. Of course not. You guys know what’s up! And you’re here for cake, not a dissertation on paleoism, right? Yeah you are. So let’s do it.
// RECIPE //
Yield: 1 9-inch cake (I made two for a two-tiered cake) & heaps of frosting
Prep time: 10-15 minutes | Cook time: 15-20 minutes
1 1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
2 tbs local honey
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2-3 tbs almond milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a 9-inch cake pan with coconut oil and cut a round piece of parchment paper to fit inside the cake pan on the bottom.
- Using a food processor, pulse dry ingredients until combined.
- Add wet ingredients into food processor with the dry ones.
- Pulse until well combined. The consistency should be quite thick and not runny or pourable.
- Using a spatula spread the cake “batter” into the cake pan until it is evenly distributed across the pan.
- Try your best not to eat all of the batter—it will be difficult because it is delicious. Trust.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow cake to rest inside pan for 15-20 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. While cooling, prepare the frosting.
2 BPA-free tins of full fat coconut milk, chilled at least 24 hours (this is essential!)
1/4 cup coconut oil, chilled until solid (this is also essential!)
2 tsp grade B maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt
- Chill metal mixing bowl and whisk/beaters in the freezer for 15-30 minutes.
- Open tins of coconut milk and drain the liquid leaving behind the thick white coconut cream, which will be solidified after being refrigerated. Scoop the coconut cream into the mixing bowl.
- Scrape hardened coconut oil into mixing bowl along with vanilla and sea salt.
- Mix on high until a thick and cream whipped frosting is achieved.
- Frost the cake to your liking or use it as a whipped cream and dollop on top! Don’t forget to top with fresh cut berries or edible flowers—that would be magical.
Wait until the cake has completely cooled before frosting. In fact, place the cake in the fridge along with the frosting and wait another 30 minutes or so before attempting to frost. This will prevent it from weeping and returning to a liquid state. As long as the temperature inside your home is not sweltering this cake will be fine covered on the counter however, I prefer to store mine in the fridge, especially once frosted. Again, I doubled this recipe to produce two 9-inch cakes as I wanted a layer cake. Also, since this is almond and coconut flour the cake will not rise a ton so I thought it would look a bit sad if it was only one. Ha. Make one, two, or 10! The sky’s the limit.
Oh yeah, and in addition to being skeptical of paleoism in general, I was long skeptical that a cake without sugar or flour could possibly taste good. But my friends I was wrong again. I actually really enjoy baking with alternative flours and find them to be even more delicious than grain-based ones. What? I know.
Also this cake is BOMB dot com. It has the perfect hint of sweetness and hardly any coconut flavor whatsoever. Am I allowed to say that I totally impressed myself? Because I did.
How do you feel about paleoism? Have you ever baked a cake without conventional flour? How did it turn out? Share your thoughts and comments below! As always, if you make this cake (and you really must) please tag me on Instagram @honestlynourished and use #honestlynourished and #hnrecipes so I can see how it turns out!
Happy UnBirthday, y’all!