Is This Cake Good Enough for Lunch?
A cake is baking in the oven as I type this post. I'm waiting to see if the health-minded tweaks I implemented will work. Even the time of day and state of mind are part of the experiment as I wanted to gauge the difficulty level of baking a Bundt-style cake in a pre-coffee coma, while juggling other morning chores. The cake in question is one I've talked about over the years: a chocolate zucchini cake, an oldie but goodie in my recipe file that I like to bake this time of year when late-season zucchinis are begging to be used.
In the past I've waxed on about this cake's nutritional virtues -- or perhaps, lesser evils -- as it contains a heaping 1-2 cups of shredded zucchini (which means Vitamins A and C, potassium, small amounts of fiber, among other nutrients). Instead of butter, the cake calls for oil (and I've used heart-healthy olive oil with great results), so that's a good news in the cholesterol department, I rationalized. However, I couldn't ignore the inclusion of four eggs and more than one cup of sugar -- not exactly a low-fat snack.
There must be a way, I thought, to up the nutritional ante. This cake was off to a good start, after all, and I couldn't shake the fantasy of serving kids a chocolate cake that simultaneously gave them a serving of zucchini. (Never mind that I don't have children of my own...)
With my mission intact, I set out to adjust the recipe, and here's what I came up with:
Instead of using 1 ½ cups of vegetable and/or olive oil, I reduced the amount to ½ cup olive oil and replaced the balance with 1 cup of applesauce.
I reduced the amount of sugar from 1 ½ cups to 1 cup and the amount of chocolate chips from 2 cups to 1 cup.
Now out of the oven and cool enough to eat, the cake, I am pleased to report, is just as luscious as ever. In fact, the applesauce substitute is undetectable, and I don't miss the extra sugar. Next time, I may extra tweaking, reducing the amount of eggs (from 4 to 3) and perhaps refraining from using oil at all.
So, with the healthier tweaks, is this cake now fit for a kid's school lunch box? Or perhaps it's more appropriate as an after-school snack. Parents, please sound off in the comments area below! I want to hear from you. This post marks the beginning of "School Lunch Rock," a regular feature of this blog that will focus on healthy, wholesome packed lunches and after-school nibbles. I don't have to be a parent to know that the challenge of packing a healthy, interesting lunch day after day is enormous. Here, in this space is an opportunity to share ideas on how to keep the lunch box varied, particularly in a refrigerator-free zone. So, let's get busy and do the School Lunch Rock!
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