Working toward a better birthday cake

Ben's cinnamon-oatmeal birthday cake

Ben’s cinnamon-oatmeal birthday cake

Ben wanted a spice cake “like Grandma Jane’s” for his 15th birthday on Wednesday.

Up until last year her birthday always arrived two days after his, with a caramel-frosted spice cake and the annual retelling of her most famous birthday memory — hearing the news about Pearl Harbor as she was having her hair brushed for her seventh birthday.

Ben always liked the flavor of Grandma Jane’s favorite cake — and he loves the frosting — but he doesn’t care much for the texture of cake in general, believing most to be fluffy, insubstantial calorie bombs.

The birthday boy

The birthday boy

“I like a cake that’s dense — kind of like carrot cake, only I don’t want a carrot cake or a pumpkin cake, I want a spice cake.”  Those were his parting words as he headed out for the school bus.

Flipping through my Berne Heritage Cookbook, I came across a “rolled oats cake” that I thought might add some heft while working with the same spice set. I subbed in a half-cup container of unsweetened applesauce for the stick of butter, 4 egg whites for the 2 whole eggs and ramped up the spices, adding ginger and cloves to the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Then I presumably undid any nutritional enhancements by topping it with caramel icing as requested.

Ben approved of his cake, and the sausage-laden cavatina that preceded it. But I couldn’t help wondering if there was a better way.


This cinnamon-oatmeal cake is just 2 points

So I made another, smaller version for a breakfast snack cake Thursday — this time with whole wheat flour, only 1/2 of the sugar, and double the cinnamon, but no frosting.

All three kids thought this snack cake version was pretty good, even without icing. And it was just 2 points for a piece that was 1/9 of an 8-by-8 pan.

And Colleen, who put a small slice of each on her plate, said she actually preferred the low-cal version.

“That regular cake, it tastes good. I mean, it’s really good. But after you eat it, it feels bad in your stomach,” she said. “The other cake isn’t like that.”

She suggested the next time Ben asks for a spice cake for his birthday, I make the low-cal version.

“Even if you frosted it, you could probably eat it and not feel as bad,” she said.

Low-cal cinnamon oatmeal cake 

1. Pour 1 cup boiling water on 1 cup rolled oats.

2. Stir in 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce and 4 egg whites.

3. To 1 cup whole wheat flour, add:

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger

4. Stir flour mixture into wet oats mixture, pour into greased 9-by-13 baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a fork inserted in center comes out clean.

5. If desired, frost with a caramel icing. But it’s pretty good as is, or simply topped with fat free Cool Whip. (Next time I might make an apple sauce to top this with.)

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