Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Recipe for Low Sugar and Whole Wheat Apple-Pear Cake with Cinnamon and Pecans

Low Sugar and Whole Wheat Apple-Pear Cake with Cinnamon and Pecans
Low Sugar and Whole Wheat Apple-Pear Cake with Pecans.

There's something about cinnamon-laden cakes with fruit that just screams Autumn, but this cake recipe actually got started when it was still summer and I had a surplus of zucchini and made a low sugar and whole wheat Garden Harvest Cake with apples, zucchini, and carrot. Despite the fact it looked more like a bread than a cake, it was definitely one of my favorite new recipes of the year. At the time I wondered if you could adapt the recipe to make a cake with just apples, but recently when I had both pears and apples I decided to try it with that combination. Apples and pears together in a low sugar cake sounded so good to me, but my first attempt was far too wet, and I also decided I wanted a flat cake instead of the loaf pan the original recipe called for. It took me two more cakes to get to the version you'll find in this recipe, which is a low sugar dessert that I'm thinking just about anyone would enjoy, or make it with all sugar if you prefer.

I do want to be frank about the whipped white stuff on the cake above, which is not real whipped cream. I was skeptical when a reader wrote and told me Kraft had a new version of Cool Whip that was approved for the South Beach diet, but I consulted The South Beach Diet Supercharged, and found "whipped topping, light or fat free." Then I found Cool Whip Free in the store, and it has the South Beach Diet logo on the package. I bought it out of curiosity, and when I decided to photograph this cake, it screamed for a dollop of something creamy on top. Although I ate some of the Cool Whip Free when I tried the cake, when I when I check the nutrition info, I'm not sure I'd buy it again. Next time I'd probably use sugar-free frozen yogurt or ice cream, or even (gasp) real whipped cream, since you're only eating a few tablespoons of it. (Edit: An anonymous commenter suggested topping the cake with plain low-fat Greek yogurt, which I think also sounds good. You could drizzle a little agave over the Greek yogurt, and this would still be pretty low in sugar.)

Start by combining the white whole wheat flour, sweetener, brown sugar (or 2 T more sweetener), baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.

I found I got best results with this recipe when I grated the pear and apples in a food processor (hand grating made it wetter) so I'd recommend using that if you have one. One pear and two apples gave me 2 cups of grated pear-apple mixture.

Mix the pear-apple mixture into the dry ingredients, turning over several times until all the grated fruit is coated with the flour-Splenda mixture.

Then measure 3/4 cup pecans, chop pecans with a chef's knife, and stir into the floured fruit mixture.

In a small bowl, whip eggs with a fork, then stir in the canola oil and buttermilk and stir together a few times with the fork.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredient mixture and stir to combine. It should be fairly stiff.

Spray a 9X9 inch dish with non-stick spray, then pour the batter in and pat down evenly with a rubber scraper. (I think an 8x8 inch cake pan would also work.)

Cake is done when it's nicely browned, begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. For me, that was about 35 minutes.

Low Sugar and Whole Wheat Apple Pear Cake with Pecans
(Makes 6-8 servings, recipe adapted from Garden Harvest Cake by Jennifer Dunklee for the Austin American Spokesman.

1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup Splenda or Stevia in the Raw (or use sugar if you prefer)
2 T brown sugar (or use 2 T more Splenda or Stevia in the Raw)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon (I used Saigon Cassia cinnamon from The Spice House)
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt (I used fine grind sea salt)
1 pear and 2 Granny Smith apples (or any combination of apples and pears to make 2 cups grated fruit, grating with food processor recommended)
3/4 cup pecans, chopped with chef's knife
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup buttermilk (plus additional 1 T butter milk if needed)

Preheat oven to 350F/175C and spray a 9X9 inch pan with non-stick spray or oil (Or you can use an 8X8 inch pan and have the cake rise a bit above the top.) In a large mixing bowl, add white whole wheat flour, sweetener, brown sugar (or more sweetener), cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Mix together with large spoon until well-combined.

Peel and grate apples and pear to make 2 cups grated fruit, then stir into dry ingredients, turning over several times until all the grated fruit is well-coated with the flour mixture. Measure 3/4 cup pecans and chop with chef's knife, then add chopped pecans to the bowl with the flour/fruit mixture. Use the spoon to toss ingredients together.

In a smaller bowl, add eggs, and beat with a fork about 30 seconds. Add canola oil and buttermilk, and stir together with the fork. Pour egg mixture into the other bowl with the flour mixture and stir until just combined. (Mixture will be fairly stiff, but if it's not wet enough to incorporate all the dry ingredients, add 1 T more buttermilk.)

Pour cake into oiled pan. Bake at 350F/175C for about 35 minutes, or until cake is nicely browned, is beginning to spring away from the sides of pan, and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out completely clean. (For me, that was exactly 35 minutes.)

Cool cake in the pan placed on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting. This lasted several days in the refrigerator, but I did find it very hard to resist eating it for breakfast!

Printer Friendly Recipe

South Beach Suggestions:
Obviously this cake can't ever be sugar free, because there's natural sugar in the fruit, but even if you use the 2 T of brown sugar I felt gave the best flavor, it's still pretty low in sugar for a dessert. I'd consider this a "once in a while treat" for the South Beach Diet if you're on phase two, or you could eat it more often for phase three.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Recipes for Low-Sugar or Sugar-Free Cakes:
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients. White Whole Wheat can probably be subbed for white flour in most of these cakes.)
Low Sugar and Whole Wheat Garden Harvest Cake from Kalyn's Kitchen
Harvest Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting from The Kitchn
Sugar-Free Snickerdoodle Cake from Ginger Lemon Girl
Lower Glycemic Carrot Hazelnut Cake from Christine Cooks
Sugar-Free Splenda Pound Cake from Life is Better with Cake!
Flourless Sugar-Free Chocolate Torte from Gluten Free Goodness
Sugar Free Cocoa Zucchini Cake from Eating Well Living Thin
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at Amazon.com, and Kalyn's Kitchen earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!
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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at Amazon.com, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!

More to Chew On:


  1. I have to say that when I clicked on your webpage this morning, I instantly started drooling when I saw this. I love cinnamon-laden anything, and the apples makes this all the better.

  2. I love the cassia cinnamon from The Spice House; it's so rich in flavor without being bitter. Your recipe inspires me to try a low sugar version of my favorite apple spice cake.

  3. That cake looks and sounds very good!

  4. I have a similar chopped apple cake recipe that is our family favorite so I know this will be good!

  5. Very nice Autumn cake recipe, Kalyn! I like the tip about grated the apples and pears in the processor.

  6. Why not try some lowfat greek yogurt as a topping, as something a bit more real but still not too unhealthy?

  7. Joanne, Chriesi, and Linda, thanks! I really liked it. I'm not much of a sweets person, and this was just sweet enough.

    Dara, this was one of those things you learn by accident. The food process gave me nice long shreds of grated fruit, but when I grated it by hand it turned to mush!

    Anonymous, love the idea of topping it with Greek yogurt! Will edit to add that suggestion, thanks!

  8. Apples and pears are so good right now. I bet your kitchen smelled amazing while this cake was baking. I love it!

  9. This looks delish! Love the recipe. So healthy. :)

  10. This is quite a lovely looking cake, Kalyn. I'm eating no wheat these days so may try to play with your great recipe (nut flours?). I'll let you know how/if it turns out. Thanks, as always, for the link!

  11. Kalyn,
    Cool whip or not, the topping does make the cake look fabulous...I like the Greek yogurt idea much better though!
    Looks great...

  12. Maria, yes indeed, it did smell fantastic!

    Jessica, thanks!

    Christine, would love to see a version of this with almond flour or some other type of nut flour. Do share if you come up with one.

    Winnie, that's what I decided. I took a couple of photos without any topping, but it did indeed look "blah." I'm thinking Greek yogurt with a bit of agave drizzled over might be the best option of all!

  13. I wish the nutritional values were listed for this. I have Ginger Gold apples and plenty of pears.

  14. Anonymous, the reason I chose the South Beach Diet is because I didn't want to have to figure out calories, carbs, etc. for everything I eat. I think there are some easy places online where you can enter the amounts and calculate it yourself though if you want to know.

  15. Awesome, not only low in sugar, whole wheat but has cinnamon and pecans! I must try this :)

  16. Kalyn, I was wondering...for those trying to avoid artificial sweeteners, could you subsistute Splenda with only Agave? Do you know what the conversion would be? Thanks!

  17. You could probably make a cake like this with agave, but I don't know what the adjustments would be. I think it would take some definite tinkering with the recipe, since Splenda is a dry ingredient and agave is a wet ingredient.

  18. What a delicious & good for you cake this is!!!

    I love cakes as yummie as this!!


  19. My wife loves apples and pears so this will be perfect for her.

    Just thinking out aloud, I wonder if some stiffly beaten egg white added to whipped cream might reduce the calorie load. Don't think it would keep too well though.

  20. I live in Tenerife , CXanary Islands , what is Splenda ?

  21. Anonymous, always wanted to go to the Canary Islands!! Anyway, sorry for getting off the topic. Splenda is an artificial sweetener sold in the U.S. that can be used just like sugar in baking. Here is some information about Splenda if you want to read about it. Thanks for the reminder, I should be linking to it in my posts I guess.

  22. Hi all - is this the Splenda Sugar Blend or just plain old Splenda?

    Can't wait to make this over the weekend!

  23. What a photo! I can smell it! Perfect recipe for a fall treat.

  24. Sophie, Healthy Life, Neil, Katrina, thanks! I'm slowly learning a little about baking (but I do mean "little.")

    Ashycats, the 3/4 cup Splenda is the white granular Splenda, not brown sugar blend. (You could use Splenda brown sugar blend for the 2 T brown sugar if you wanted to reduce the sugar a tiny bit more.)

    Elenka, thanks! I got a new camera and am trying to learn how to use it.

  25. This is a lovely recipe, Kalyn. My dad's a diabetic but loves his desserts, so my mom is always on the lookout for low-sugar desserts. What did diabetics do before Splenda?

  26. Susan, I'm not sure what they did, but I'm guessing life is a lot easier for diabetics with a little Splenda once in a while!

  27. This recipe looks AMAZING! I can not wait to make it myself! :) I love that it has cinnamon and pecans in it!

  28. Kalyn, do you have a carb count for this cake? Also - what is white whole wheat flour? Is it the same as whole wheat pastry flour? Thanks, Danielle

  29. Anna, thanks.

    Lovemom, I chose the South Beach Diet because I didn't want to have to count carbs, so people who want that information will have to calculate it themselves. There is a link in the post for White Whole Wheat flour which will take you to a post I wrote about it.

  30. What a great recipe! I was searching for a way to use up excess pears and apples when I found it. I substituted almond meal for the flour, and added an extra cup of it instead of the pecans (because I didn't have any) and it turned out a bit wet, but very delicious! I made it in muffin tins, and froze all but a few to keep from eating them all at once!

  31. Laura, fun to hear that you made this work with almond meal, thanks for the feedback. It might help to use almond flour which is a little more finely ground than almond meal (and seems to absorb a little more liquid.) Glad you liked it.

  32. Made this today. Moist, delicious and smelled great while in the oven!


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