birthday cake recipe, no sugar added
February 10, 2020 10:19 AM   Subscribe

I need to make a birthday cake for my coworker's birthday tomorrow. No sugar*, no chocolate, no dairy, bonus points if the recipe uses a purple sweet potato.

*no sugar meaning no refined sugar, including (but not limited to): honey, sugar, brown sugar, agave, molasses, xylitol, stevia, dried fruits, 100% juice, etc. On the okay list include (but are not limited to): sweet potato, apple, apple sauce, etc. I have cherries on hand and my coworker likes cherries.

If you know a recipe that is close, I can make substitutions to make it not have dairy.
posted by aniola to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Does it specifically need to be in cake form or can it be muffins?

I ask because this purple sweet potato muffin recipe looks pretty close (already uses unsweetened almond milk and vegetable oil). It uses cinnamon and vanilla for flavor, which would work pretty well with apple sauce. You could call them cupcakes if it helps.
posted by jedicus at 10:25 AM on February 10, 2020

That recipe calls for sugar and maple syrup. Will it be ok without those? Are you saying that substituting applesauce for the sugar works for this recipe?
posted by aniola at 10:36 AM on February 10, 2020

Sorry, does no dairy also mean no eggs?
posted by holborne at 10:38 AM on February 10, 2020

I would probably sub applesauce or flax seeds for an egg. I could also sub chia seeds or aquafaba.
posted by aniola at 10:41 AM on February 10, 2020

I'd look through the archives at Are dates okay? How about bananas?
posted by juliapangolin at 10:43 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

sweet potato brownies: I guess you could try dropping the maple syrup and putting in some roasted cherries or cherry puree in it's place

I might try mashing a banana in there too, alternative to the cherries if you're dropping the sweetener. I would still expect these to turn out a little... savory, though. I don't think any of your allowable sweetening options are sweet enough to actually make something that tastes like a "cake". chocolate and vanilla extract is a good choice on that front though because in the west it's a "sweet" flavour to us, so it will read like a dessert anyways?
posted by euphoria066 at 10:54 AM on February 10, 2020

Are you saying that substituting applesauce for the sugar works for this recipe?

I can't speak to this recipe specifically, but applesauce is a common substitution in muffin recipes. The usual method is to replace the sugar 1:1 with unsweetened applesauce and then reduce the amount of liquid by 1/4. So in this case you'd use 3/8 cup of almond milk instead of 1/2 cup.
posted by jedicus at 11:09 AM on February 10, 2020

To clarify, are artificial sweeteners an option?

If not, I once made a "fruit cake" for someone doing no-sugar using tiers of watermelon, honeydew melon, and cantaloupe, with a pile of unsweetened whipped cream and berries on top. Something along the veins of these. It should be fairly simple to swap out whipped cream for a non-dairy whipped topping.
posted by drlith at 11:12 AM on February 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

Hmm, if I was in this situation I would probably make a mousse cake -- (like banana, cacao powder, coconut cream, and vanilla, whipped well) and freeze it in a cake tin and top it with the cherries and maybe extra whipped coconut cream.

I might also make a bottom crust of ground oats, coconut, cinnamon, and vanilla with melted coconut oil to.hold it together. Bake until it's toasted and then cool before adding the mousse.

Or maybe this vegan banana cream pie? Skip.the sugar, it should still be fairly sweet. Double up the vanilla, that usually helps.
posted by ananci at 11:40 AM on February 10, 2020 [4 favorites]

Eggs are not dairy.

some googling found recipes that might be adapted. Sugar Free Dairy Free Cake Recipes

I don't eat dairy, and apple cider or a pretty good quantity of applesauce will activate the baking powder. You can probably sub applesauce for the liquid and it will provide some sweetness. Earth Balance is a good-tasting non-dairy butter substitute, esp. the soy-free version. If coconut is okay, add coconut flakes for sweetness.

A very basic batter:
2 c Flour
1/2 c fat(substitute for butter needed)
3 tsp baking powder, 2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
2 - 3 eggs
1 c liquid
(1/3 c sweetener- this requires substitutions)
finely grate in a sweet potato to meet the request and add sweetness; it will add some liquid, but I routinely add pumpkin puree to muffins.
Add flour if it's too wet.

Frosting pretty much demands sweetener. If pineapple is okay (it might not be - lots of natural sugar in them) you could make a pineapple upside down cake with very thinly sliced pineapple on the bottom as you bake it, then flip it to have the pineapple provide moist & sweet on top.
posted by theora55 at 11:42 AM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

I can attest that Joanne Chang's Kabocha Squash Spice Cake is lovely, and you might be able to use your purple sweet potato in it?

* Zero refined sugar in the recipe (it uses dates as the sweetener, but I'm not sure if that works for you or not given that "dried fruit" is a no but "sweet potatoes, apples, applesauce, etc" are okay - what else would fit into that "etc?")
* zero chocolate
* I suspect the 1/2 cup of milk could probably be substituted with your milk alternative of choice.
* It does call for two eggs, though, and I'd want to do a test bake if you're going to substitute both eggs and milk with vegan alternatives.
* I don't know what to do for dairy- and sugar-free frosting, though, to make the cake say "I'm a *birthday cake!*" As opposed to just a snacking cake, quick bread type thing. Is "no dairy" none at all here, or would something like goat dairy be acceptable, just not cow dairy?
posted by Pandora Kouti at 12:37 PM on February 10, 2020

Something from Chocolate Covered Katie might suit your needs. Despite the name there are a number of non-chocolate options and she frequently omits dairy or offers alternatives.
posted by miratime at 12:40 PM on February 10, 2020

reminder: no chocolate, no cocoa
posted by aniola at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2020

artificial sweeteners are not an option
posted by aniola at 1:38 PM on February 10, 2020

Marked as best answer specific recipes that are actual cake. She wants actual cake and I don't have internet at home. Off to bake a cake. Thank you all so much!
posted by aniola at 1:46 PM on February 10, 2020

This sweet potato muffin recipe from Detoxinista is great. I don’t see why a purple sweet potato wouldn’t work.
posted by saltypup at 1:49 PM on February 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have used a few tablespoons of crown royal in recipes and it adds the perception of sweetness without any sugars. It also makes things taste fancier IMO.
posted by i_mean_come_on_now at 9:41 AM on February 11, 2020

The almond extract in the frosting tastes very similar to cherry flavoring. The pink from the beet powder helps the tongue understand that the frosting is cherry flavored. It also helps add emotional sweetness to the cake.



1 2/3 cups garbanzo (chickpea) flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup pecan pieces
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon flax seeds, ground
2 teaspoons potato starch & psyllium blend
1 teaspoon allspice, powdered
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
Pinch of dried cayenne pepper


1 1/2 cups applesauce
1 cup shredded purple sweet potato, steamed
1 cup of liquid (we used all the purple water from steaming the purple sweet potato)
1/4 cup oil
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon tangerine extract

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add in the wet ingredients. Mix well. Pour into a small greased rectangle baking dish. Cook at 350°F for 50 minutes or until a fork comes out clean.


1 cup applesauce
1 cup ground defatted pepitas*
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons beet powder
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup frozen cherries, thawed, whole
1/2 cup frozen cherries, thawed, diced

Combine applesauce, ground pepitas, ginger, beet powder, and almond extract. Divide into two batches. In one batch, add the whole and diced cherries.


Cut the cake in half. Frost the bottom cake with the frosting without cherries in it. Then put the second layer of cake on top. Then frost the top of the second layer of cake with the cherry frosting.


Sprinkle dried borage flowers on top. A friend of ours brought us some edible borage flowers from her yard last season, which we kept in a vase for a few days, and then dried to use as a garnish.


Defatted pepitas: We pressed the pepita oil using our oil press. Some of the pepita grounds that are left after being pressed for oil were used in the frosting. This makes the frosting low fat. You can buy "defatted" nut/seed flours online if you're going for that on purpose. You can also just grind nuts/seeds in a molcajete, food mill, or meat grinder. The easiest option is to substitute peanut butter with the fat poured off the top.
Tangerine extract: Or use the zest from one unwaxed tangerine, or the zest from half an orange.
Shredded purple sweet potato: Really you could just mash it. And it doesn't HAVE to be purple, it could be orange. I just think the purple sweet potatoes are really really good. And sweet.
You can use 1/2 cup of peanut butter (or other nut/seed butters) as a substitute for the 1/4 cup pecans and 1/4 cup oil. The nut butter will provide the oil, but is healthier than oil because it has fiber. That means it will taste healthier, too, though.


- I also added 1/2 teaspoon butterfly pea flower powder for coloring to the cake batter, but it didn't do much.
- The potato starch and psyllium blend was to help with rising since I used garbanzo and coconut flours and flax seeds and applesauce instead of whole wheat flour and eggs. Whole wheat flour and eggs are better at holding cake together, so this ingredient wouldn't be necessary.
posted by aniola at 7:46 AM on February 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

It was a very filling cake. Hearty, sweet, and delicious! Thanks for all the comments, they helped build the cake!
posted by aniola at 10:37 AM on February 13, 2020 [3 favorites]

Also it probably should only have called for 1/2 (or 3/4) teaspoon almond extract in the frosting.
posted by aniola at 1:34 PM on February 14, 2020

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