Recipe Revamping: Coffee Cake

“It’s different but also the same.”

We were fortunate this past weekend to attend the world premiere of an orchestral piece by a composer from Singapore. My oldest was playing her French horn in the orchestra so my other daughter and my son drove with me to watch the performance.

For the selection, the composer began with an opera by Beethoven and imagined a different way of composing the piece. As the orchestra played his version, speakers placed at the four corners of the the building piped singing from the original opera piece. The conductor invited the audience to experience the “difference” and “sameness” by moving around the room. The conductor also asked the audience to add to the entire experience by downloading different variations of Beethoven’s work onto our phones and to play those, too, as we listened and walked around.

One would imagine this would be cacophonous but it was not, and in fact, the experience was quite pleasing and delightful; and we were glad we had been able to attend and participate.

As I thought about what the composer did – taking something known and creating something different, all the while keeping the essence of the original – I realized that this is precisely what I did when I set about perfecting a healthier and allergy friendly coffee cake. I wanted to create a coffee cake which I could eat but also which was better than traditional coffee cake.

Coffee cake is one of those foods which everyone enjoys but which truly is quite awful for your body, because it’s mostly white flour, butter and sugar. To create a coffee cake which kept the essence of what folks liked about it but which was allergy friendly and healthy was a very tall order.

But I like a challenge, so I created a recipe the other day which hit a home run the first time out….

Revamping Coffee Cake:

1. The butter: With a dairy allergy I obviously wanted to substitute the butter with a vegan version, but I also wanted to cut how much butter is usually in a coffee cake. I thought about what makes coffee cake most appealing and realized it’s really that streusel topping. As such, I didn’t want to get rid of the butter in topping which meant I needed to get rid of it in the cake part.

To substitute for the butter, though, I needed to find a perfect substitute which would mimic what butter does for the flavor and texture of coffee cake.  Simply substituting a healthy plant oil wouldn’t work. Neither would using mashed fruit or vegetables. I finally decided to use a combination of tofu sour cream and frozen bananas. The tofu sour cream would add some fat without adding as significant an amount as butter, especially if I used half the amount I might otherwise have by mixing it with bananas. I wanted something which had the texture of butter, though, so I froze the bananas and pureed it with the tofu sour cream which mimicked the texture of soft butter.

2. The flour: Besides having gluten which I can’t have, white flour also adds nothing nutritionally to one’s body. I needed to substitute a gluten free flour, but I also wanted to use flours which protein and fiber. This meant foregoing the usual gluten free blends which use rice flours which are just carbs. I didn’t want to use the heavier blends, either, though, with the garbanzo and fava bean flours because the texture would be compromised.

In the end I made my own blend which was a mixture of 1/2 cup quinoa flour, 1 1/2 cup gluten free oat flour, 1/4 cup coconut flour, 1 1/4 cup sorghum flour, 1 cup potato starch, and 2 tsp xanthan gum. The oat and sorghum flours have low glycemic indexes with high fiber. The oat and quinoa flour have a good amount of protein, and the quinoa and coconut flours add nutty lightness to the heavier oat and sorghum flours. The potato starch is necessary for binding and adds smoothness to the flour blend.

3. The sugar: Since refined sugar is poison to one’s body, I wanted to get rid of it altogether in the coffee cake. Agave would affect the texture of the coffeecake, and Stevia would affect the flavor. So, I opted to use coconut sugar which has a very low glycemic index and which would not affect the texture of the cake.

4. The eggs: Coffee cake usually utilizes a generous amount of whole eggs. To keep the cake healthier, I used liquid egg whites instead.

5. The cake pan: Since I wanted the cake to be healthier, I wanted to use less streusel topping than regular coffee cake recipes call for, but I still wanted a nice topping to cake ratio. As such, I opted to put my coffee cake batter into a larger 11 x 15 pan instead of the usual 9 x 13. This made for a slightly thinner coffee cake which meant the thinner layer of streusel was perfect.

6. The additions: One of the fun things about coffee cake is that there’s a variety one can purchase or make, so I wanted to experience with flavor. What I found worked well was to drop small dollops of Polaner’s All Fruit on top of the batter before I sprinkled on the streusel topping. The all fruit would melt while cooking and spread but then re-solidify with the streusel when cooling to mix the flavors.

7. The streusel: To make the streusel topping I decided to use garbanzo bean flour because it would add protein and fiber. Also, it is a heavier, denser flour which would make for a thicker streusel topping. I blended the flour with coconut sugar and added some cinnamon and nutmeg for flavoring. For the butter, I substituted a vegan butter which worked really well.

Allergy Friendly Coffee Cake


1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup vegan butter

3 cups Paula’s flour blend**

2 cups coconut sugar

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup vegan tofu sour cream

2 frozen bananas (medium 5-6 inch in length)

1/2 cup soy milk mixed with 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 cup liquid egg whites

1/2 cup Polaner All Fruit

Baking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 11 x 15 pan with favorite method or line with parchment paper.

2. Combine the garbanzo bean flour with the coconut sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Using a pastry knife cut the vegan butter into the flour mixture until coarse crumbs form. Set the streusel topping aside.

3. Mix the gluten free flour blend with the coconut sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.

4. In a food processor or blender, blend the tofu sour cream with the frozen bananas until thick and creamy. You should have 1 1/4 cup yield to use for the recipe.

5. Mix the sour cream-banana mixture with the soy milk mixed with lemon juice. Blend well, and then add the liquid egg whites.

6. Quickly mix the liquid ingredients with the dry ingredients and spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

7. Drop small dollops of the Polaner All Fruit onto the cake batter so they’re evenly spaced on the surface. You won’t cover the entire surface of the cake.

8. Evenly distribute the streusel topping over the cake batter.

9. Bake in the preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. The cake will puff and be golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.

10. The cake is delicious warm. It’s also good at room temperature after it’s cooled a little bit.

** Paula’s coffee cake gluten free flour blend: 1/2 cup quinoa flour, 1 1/2 cup gluten free oat flour, 1/4 cup coconut flour, 1 1/4 cup sorghum flour, 1 cup potato starch, and 2 tsp xanthan gum. You’ll only use 3 cups of this which will leave you with some leftover flour which you can use for something else.






Recipe Makeover: Lemon Cheesecake

“Why a Meyer?”

As my mother tells the story, sucking on lemons was the only thing which helped with the morning sickness she had while pregnant with me. Interestingly enough — for those who believe the studies which say that children get their tastes from what their mothers eat during pregnancy — I am rather fond of the taste of lemon, and though I didn’t eat a lot of lemons while my son was in utero, he, like my mother, loves to suck on a fresh lemon.

When we had company last weekend, I wanted a dessert which would complement the tastes in the Moroccan chicken with figs I was making as the main entree. As I considered and discarded several options, I came across a recipe for a Meyer lemon raspberry cheesecake. My son, of course, was all for the idea, though he did inquire what a Meyer lemon was.

For folks who might not be familiar with them, Meyer lemons are lemons which have crossed with mandarin oranges. As such, while still lemony, they’re not as sour as a true lemon. The resulting taste is really quite nice if you like lemons but aren’t fond of the pucker.

The original recipe, though, needed some tweaking if our family was going to be able to it, and the result was a delicious cheesecake which even my daughter who doesn’t like cheesecake found herself enjoying.

Original Recipe for the Crust:

1 box quadruple chocolate chunk cookies, 1 box pure butter shortbread lemon thins, 2 tablespoons sugar, 4 tablespoons butter

Revamping the Crust:

1. The cookies: Here’s my thinking on crusts for cheesecake: The crust it there as a contrast to the cheesecake. The cheesecake is the glory. So, I decided there was no reason to use such decadent cookies and opted for simply graham crackers instead. Also, because I needed the crust to be gluten free, I used Smoreables gluten free version.

2. The sugar: If you’re using cookies or graham crackers which already have a sweetener in them, why would you add more sugar? I simply omitted it altogether.

3. The butter: Since I needed the crust to be dairy free, I opted to use the Earth Balance vegan, soy free version.

Original Cheesecake Recipe:

4 8 oz blocks of cream cheese, 1 cup sour cream, 4 large eggs, 1 cup sugar, 2 tbsp Meyer lemon zest, 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice, 1/4 tsp salt

Revamping the Cheesecake:

1. The cream cheese: Since I don’t have a soy allergy, I chose to simply substitute the cream cheese with the Tofutti soy cream cheese which works rather well in cheesecake.

2. The sour cream: Again, not having a soy allergy, I was able to use the Tofutti brand sour cream.

3. The eggs: Since whenever possible, I like to cut back on fat and cholesterol, I opted to use 2 eggs and 4 egg whites instead of four whole eggs.

4.  The sugar: Since I don’t use sugar when I bake, I decided to use Agave instead which meant I could cut back on the sweetener by half the amount.

5. The lemon zest and juice: I’m not actually all that fond of zest in my cheesecake, because I don’t like how it looks, so I omitted the zest and only used freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice. The recipe said 3 to 4 lemons would be needed for 1/2 cup, but my husband got a whole cup’s worth out of four lemons, which worked out since I then used the other half in my Moroccan chicken recipe.

Original Topping:

10 oz fresh or frozen raspberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water.

Revamping the Topping:

Okay, I’ve already confessed that I don’t like to make more work for myself than necessary. When I looked at the recipe, telling me to cook the raspberries for 15 minutes and then push the sauce through a sieve, only to have to bring the sauce to a boil again, I decided then and there that I wasn’t doing any of that.

Instead, I decided that good ol’ Polaner All Fruit was going to do the trick, and as I looked at my selection, I actually decided that I’d rather have the combination of blueberry and lemon over raspberry and lemon, so I simply microwaved some blueberry Polaner All Fruit and drizzled it over the top of the cheesecake.

The end result, as I already mentioned, was a huge hit with our guests and with our family. My son is already asking that I make it again!

Gluten, Dairy Free Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake


one 8 oz box of gluten free graham crackers

1/4 cup vegan butter

four 8 oz containers vegan cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup agave

1 cup vegan sour cream, at room temperature

2 eggs plus 4 egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice, squeezed fresh from 2-4 lemons

1/4 tsp salt

blueberry Polaner All Fruit

Cooking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan with favorite method of greasing. Cover the outside of the pan well with aluminum foil.

2. Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until you have graham crumbs. Mix the crumbs with the butter and pat into the bottom of the springform pan.

3. Bake the graham crust for 10 minutes and remove to a cooling rack to cool.  Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

4. Boil water and get out a pan which is large enough to hold your springform pan, which you’ll immerse in water halfway for the cooking.

5. In a mixer, whip the cream cheese just until smooth.

6. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the agave until it’s all incorporated into the cream cheese.

7. Add the sour cream and mix only until blended.

8. Add the eggs and egg whites, one at a time, blending after each addition just until incorporated.

9.  Scrape down the sides of the cheesecake batter, and add the lemon juice and the salt.  Combine well.

10. Scrape the cheesecake batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top.

11. Put the springform pan into the larger pan and put the pan into the oven. Carefully pour the boiling water into the larger pan until the water is halfway up the springform pan.

12. Bake the cheesecake for an hour and a half.

13. Remove the cheesecake from the larger pan and put onto a cooling rack to cool for 15 minutes. Remove the foil.

14. Gently run a butter knife around the end of the springform pan to loosen the cheesecake from the pan and remove the outer edge of the springform pan.

15. Cool the cheesecake in the fridge for at least six to eight hours or overnight.

16. Remove the cheesecake from the fridge and put onto a larger platter. Microwave 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of the blueberry Polaner All Fruit and drizzle it prettily over the cheesecake so the all fruit runs down the sides.