Monday, July 20, 2009

Fat-Free Coffeecake

Some years ago my mother-in-law gave me a microwave cookbook. In it there is a recipe for a simple coffeecake made from scratch. When I began eating a low-fat vegetarian diet, I changed the recipe. It took some experimenting, but I eventually developed a very simple, inexpensive coffee cake that is easy to make and that I like. I never expected anyone else to enjoy it. I mean, you can tell that it's fat-free. So why would someone want it, if they can have other options that taste more like what they usually eat?

But my two young men always ask for it when they are home. Even their friends ask for it. Lately, other people have been asking me for this recipe, which I have never written down. Last night, I made it for my husband's parents. I wanted my mother-in-law to see what I had done with one of the recipes from the book.

After her second piece, she said, "This is really good."

I thought to myself, "All right, that does it. I'm putting it on my blog!"

So I am sharing it with you, my readers. Let me say here that its advantages are:

1. The ingredients are ones you probably always have in your pantry.
2. It cooks in the microwave, making it ideal for hot weather.
3. It's fast. I mix the batter in 5 minutes and cook it in 5 minutes in the microwave.
4. It has no fat. It won't do anything ugly to your heart or your waist line.
5. It is, in many ways, an ideal treat for a busy mom -- simple, flexible, quick, inexpensive, low-calorie, and pretty to look at.

On the other hand, because it's fat-free and microwaved, its texture is not quite like that of many commercial and homemade coffee cakes.

Cassandra's Fat-Free Coffeecake

Cake Ingredients:

2 cups of plain flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar (or other, preferred sweetener)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

3-4 egg whites (or equivalent egg substitute of your choice)
1/2 cup skim milk (or other milk of your choice)
1/3 cup apple sauce

Preparation Directions:

1. Grease a glass microwaveable dish (round, square, or small rectangle) with oil spray or a touch of oil on a paper towel. I like to wipe the excess away so that a light, even film is left on the dish.

2. Blend the first four ingredients in a medium-to-large-sized bowl. Make a hole in the middle of the dry mixture.

3. In a small, second bowl, gently whip the wet ingredients together for a full minute with a fork until well-blended and frothy.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the hole in the dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients with a stiff, large spoon until they are just blended. Extra stirring can make the batter tough. Batter should be thick like muffin batter. If the batter is too dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. If it's too runny, add one or two tablespoons of flour.

5. Spread the batter with a large spoon evenly into your prepared glass dish. Your glass dish should be tall enough to allow at least two inches of rising as the cake cooks.

6. Add topping of your choice.

Topping Ingredients and Methods:

1. Cinnamon Topping: sprinkle a light layer of brown sugar evenly over the top of the cake. Shake cinnamon over that. Add nuts if desired (of course, nuts make it not quite fat free anymore -- I rarely use them). Press the topping down very lightly into the batter with a few featherly light, gently pats.

2. Spicy Chocolate Topping: Blend 1 tablespoon of cocoa, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of sugar. Sprinkle this mixture over the top of the batter. Press the topping down very lightly into the batter with a few featherly light, gently pats.

Cooking Directions:

Cook cake on high in the microwave for five minutes. Test with a knife or toothpick. If it's gooey, cook another 30 seconds and test again. Repeat if necessary. Cooking it for the right amount of time is the trickiest part of the recipe, since microwaves vary in power. Too long, and the cake will be tough. Too little cooking time, and it will be gooey. You will probably have to experiment a little to find just the right amount of time for your microwave.

Icing the cake:

We like to drizzle icing over our coffee cakes. To make the icing, I use 1 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, a light shake of salt, and enough milk or water to make it drizzling consistency. I start with one tablespoon of liquid and keep adding it to the powdered sugar by one tablespoon at the time, until the icing is just right. I drizzle the icing in pretty patterns over the top -- after the coffee cake has cooled on the counter for a few minutes.

If you want to really dress up your coffee cake, you can place some fruit on top -- sliced strawberries are heavenly with the spicey chocolate topping. Sliced peaches are delicious with the cinnamon topping.

Enjoy the results with your favorite cup of coffee or tea!

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