How to adapt any cake recipe to make a Paleo version

Apple Cake

In the last few posts, we’ve looked at how to replace sugar with honey in baking recipes, how to replace flour with ground almonds, and how to replace butter with coconut oil. So the obvious next step is to apply what we’ve learnt, and have a go at actually making a cake by adapting an existing recipe.

Click here for my automatic recipe adapter (a spreadsheet that will calculate the amounts for you)

I visited my sister recently and she had baked a lovely apple cake by Mary Berry, which I immediately wanted to have a go at adapting into a Paleo-friendly version. As you can see, you will be disappointed if you expect an adapted recipe to result in an exact copy of the original recipe. In this example, the obvious difference is that my cake is a lot darker, due the honey that I used. But it was very tasty, and personally that’s all I ask for from a cake (as a side note, I had run out of foil, otherwise I would have put some on the top of the cake to stop it from browning)!

So, how did I do this?

firstly, I re-calculated the amount of ingredients needed:

Original Recipe Ingredients Paleo Version Ingredients Explanation
1 7/8 cups (225g) self-raising flour 2 1/4 cups (200g) + 2 tablespoons ground almonds
  • because we used ground almonds: increase the amount of ground almonds by 20%
  • because we used honey: add 2 tablespoons of ground almonds for each cup (270g) of honey.
1 level tsp baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • because we used ground almonds & because we used honey: add 1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup (225g) sugar 5/8 cup (170g) honey
  • because we used honey: reduce the amount of honey by 40%
2 large eggs 3 large eggs
  • because we used ground almonds: add 1 more egg
1/2 tsp almond extract 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • because we used ground almonds: I thought the cake probably had enough almond flavour already!
2/3 cup (150g) butter, melted 2/3 cup (150g) coconut oil, melted
  • because we used coconut oil: use the same amount of coconut oil
2 cooking apples, peeled and cored 2 cooking apples, peeled and cored
1/4 cup (20g) flaked almonds 1/4 cup (20g) flaked almonds
1/4 teaspoon salt
  • because we used coconut oil: add 1/4 teaspoon of salt
Optional:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • an optional suggestion for making a spiced version of the cake

Secondly, I made a few changes to the methodology:

Original Recipe Instructions Paleo Version Instructions
Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F. Lightly grease a deep 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F. Lightly grease a deep 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin.
Measure the flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, almond extract and melted butter into a bowl. Mix well until blended, then beat for a minute. When baking with thick, sticky honey, I find that it is easier to get an evenly mixed batter if you mix the wet ingredients together first.

    1. Measure the honey, egg yolks, vanilla extract and melted coconut oil in a bowl. Mix well until blended.
    2. Tip the ground almonds, salt and baking soda into the bowl. Mix well until blended (the baking soda will activate immediately, so don’t take a pause from baking after this point).
    3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk for 1-2 minutes, until soft peaks form.
    4. Lighten the mixture in the first bowl by stirring in one-third of the whisked egg whites. Tip in the rest of the egg whites and gently fold in using a spatula: cut down the centre with the side edge of the spatula; scrape across the bottom of the bowl and up the side, scooping up the mixture as you go so that it is turned over and under; rotate the bowl 90° and repeat until fully blended. Be careful not to overwork the mixture and knock out the air, but make sure the bitter egg white is fully blended.
Spread half this mixture in the prepared tin. Thickly slice the apples and lay on top of the mixture in the tin, piling mostly towards the centre. Using 2 dessert spoons, roughly spoon the remaining mixture over the apples. This is an awkward thing to do, but just make sure that the mixture covers the centre well as it will spread out in the oven. Spread half this mixture in the prepared tin. Thickly slice the apples and lay on top of the mixture in the tin, piling mostly towards the centre. Using 2 dessert spoons, roughly spoon the remaining mixture over the apples. This is an awkward thing to do, but just make sure that the mixture covers the centre well as it will spread out in the oven.
Sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds.
 Bake in the preheated oven for 1¼-1½ hours until golden and coming away from the sides of the tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 1¼-1½ hours until golden and coming away from the sides of the tin.

Do not open the oven door at any time before 1 ¼ hours, as this will cause the air to escape from your cake and it will collapse in the middle. If you do not want a browned top, then rest a sheet of tin foil on top of the cake before putting it into the oven. Wait until the cake has cooled before taking it out of the tin, otherwise it will crumble.

the final recipe:

Apple Cake
serves: 8-10 | approx. cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes – 1 hour 30 minutes
Ingredients Instructions
  • 2 1/4 cups (200g) + 2 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5/8 cup (170g) honey
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (150g) coconut oil, melted
  • 2 cooking apples, peeled and cored
  • 1/4 cup (20g) flaked almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

optional:

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F. Lightly grease the sides of a deep 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin, and line the bottom with baking paper.
  2. Measure the honey, egg yolks, vanilla extract and melted coconut oil in a bowl. Mix well until blended.
  3. Tip the ground almonds, salt and baking soda into the bowl. Mix well until blended (the baking soda will activate immediately, so don’t take a pause from baking after this point).
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk for 1-2 minutes, until soft peaks form.
  5. Add the egg whites to the first bowl, and briefly whisk until fully blended. Be careful not to overwork the mixture, but make sure the bitter egg white is fully blended.
  6. Lighten the mixture in the first bowl by stirring in one-third of the whisked egg whites. Tip in the rest of the egg whites and gently fold in using a spatula: cut down the centre with the side edge of the spatula; scrape across the bottom of the bowl and up the side, scooping up the mixture as you go so that it is turned over and under; rotate the bowl 90° and repeat until fully blended. Be careful not to overwork the mixture and knock out the air, but make sure the bitter egg white is fully blended.
  7. Spread half this mixture in the prepared tin. Thickly slice the apples and lay on top of the mixture in the tin, piling mostly towards the centre. Using 2 dessert spoons, roughly spoon the remaining mixture over the apples. This is an awkward thing to do, but just make sure that the mixture covers the centre well as it will spread out in the oven.
  8. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours until golden and coming away from the sides of the tin. Do not open the oven door at any time before 1 ¼ hours, as this will cause the air to escape from your cake and it will collapse in the middle. If you do not want a browned top, then rest a sheet of tin foil on top of the cake before putting it into the oven.
  10. Wait until the cake has cooled for 10 minutes before taking it out of the tin and turning it out onto a wire cooling rack.

ps as a cautionary tale, here is what happens when you open the oven door before the cake has finished baking: catastrophic collapse!but it still tasted goooood



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