Is That Right? Cancer Society Birthday Cake
What to make of the American Cancer Society's new birthday cake recipe?
The ACS had a nice, though kind of unsettling, idea with its campaign to celebrate birthdays as a remarkable achievement for cancer survivors. As part of that campaign, the organization sponsored a competition for students at the Culinary Institute of America to devise a cake that would become the ACS's official birthday cake. "Because healthy living is key to creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays," the ACS Web site says, the Society urged the chefs "to create a better-for-you birthday cake."
But as the L.A. Times health blog "Booster Shots" points out, the cake's not exactly health food.
We were a tad disappointed to learn that the ingredients weren't very specifically selected because they had super-duper cancer-fighting powers. The idea, we were told, is more general: that you can live longer if you eat more healthfully and also don't consume too many calories so you don't end up overweight. Obesity is linked to a higher cancer risk, and dietary changes such as upping your intake of fruits and vegetables are linked to a lower risk of cancer....But this cake isn't a health food, and it's not a diet food either.
The ACS responded to the blog's criticisms, pointing out that they hadn't promoted the cake for any cancer-fighting capacity or other health benefits, but just as a lightened-up version of a festive birthday cake.
Booster Shots conceded right up front that a birthday's no day to fuss over calories and fat; it's a day to indulge and celebrate. And the ACS cake does feature some smart substitutions: It cuts back on eggs and oils and uses whole-wheat and quinoa flours, dried cherries, applesauce and roasted beets to add both fiber and color. Its reduced-fat cream-cheese frosting contains no butter.
On the other hand, the recipe calls for a ganache made with two ounces of heavy cream. A single slice of the cake (one-tenth of the whole thing) has 650 calories (down from 1,010 in a traditional red velvet cake), 34 grams of fat (down from 67) and 40 grams of sugar (down from 72).
I have nothing against splurging on special treats now and then, especially on your birthday. But this seems to me a big blunder for the ACS. Sure, the Web site offers tips for fiddling with the recipe to make it a bit more healthful. But to my mind, the words "heavy cream" are incompatible with the goals of any health-promoting organization. It's not likely that eating this cake on your birthday will contribute to your getting cancer, of course. But shouldn't the ACS have seized this opportunity to come up with a more healthful cake recipe, or even suggest a non-cake food item that feels celebratory? One without a cream-based ganache, for instance? (A friend once made me the most fantastic almond-tinged angel-food cake for my birthday; topped with some fresh raspberries, it was plenty indulgent.
Am I being a jerk about this? Or do you agree that the ACS blew it on the birthday cake?
Please take the poll and add your comments -- including any healthful-cake ideas -- below.
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