Sugar-Free Is the Way To Be

…Atleast in my Nana’s house, that is. Being diabetic, I’ve rarely been able to make any sort of dish, dessert or not, that was suitable for her to enjoy with everyone else. What can be even more difficult is finding something acceptable as a gift, since she’s quite adamant aboyt not wanting things. The only thing that would make these two separate issues more difficult would be to combine them some how, which is exactly what happened as I prepared for her birthday a week or two ago! Now I think she just turned about… 35 years old (Right, Nana?) so I wanted to do everything I could to celebrate her marvelous youth! I knew that it would be a challenge however I approached it, so I decided to take the bull by the horns and attempt a full fledged birthday cake that everyone could enjoy together. That’s right, a cake that is both diabetic-friendly and vegan-friendly. Easier said than done.

I quickly discovered that no such recipes truly exist at the current date, so I was on my own for this quest. I determined that the hardest part would be making it sugar-free, so I started with a non-vegan but diabetic recipe and proceeded to switch out the offending ingredients. Knowing that my Nana is a fan of fruit and apples in particular, I seized upon this flavorful item and made it the star of the show. I didn’t want it to become a “fruit-cake per-say,” but I thought that a good measure of dried fruit would add more sweetness to the party, and nuts could provide a pleasant textural contrast.

Once the base was figured out, decorating was another complicated issue to resolve. Frosting or glaze wouldn’t work, and neither would a sprinkling of powdered sugar. So what could look pretty, but still tasty? In the end, I cheated a bit in this area: I used marzipan to shape little apples for the center, which are unfortunately mini sugar bombs, truth be told. There were only a couple though, so most slices only carried away a light sprinkling of sliced almond for the adults, while most of the youngsters feasted upon their almond paste sculptures.

Clearing that hurtle, I realized that the filling between the two layers would still be another obstacle to work around. Apple butter is easy to find in just about any grocery store, but like regular jams and jellies, it is packed to the lid with sugar. Finding no sugar-free apple butter on the market, I resolved to go the extra mile by making my own. Having never made anything from the fruit preserve family, I was worried that it might not come out as intended, but it all cooked down without a hitch.

I used a healthy amount for the cake, but there was still enough left over to fill a small jar, so I gave the remainder to my Nana to enjoy after her birthday had passed and the cake was long gone. The smooth, creamy spread definitely added another dimension of flavor to the cake, so I can only imagine how that alone would liven up a mere slice of toast.

After all that tinkering and experimentation, the finished dessert surpassed my expectations. Containing no added sugar, I figured that the kids would opt to save room for something else after the party, but to my sincere surprise, everyone requested a slice. Less that a quarter of the cake was still standing within 15 minutes of singing “Happy Birthday.”

I was informed that anytime I felt like baking for a family get-together, this cake would always be welcome.

As for the apple butter that I sandwiched between the two layers, I used the recipe found here, but consider yourself warned: Although it estimates that this procedure will only take a little over an hour to cook, I was boiling mine down for closer to around 6-7 hours! Just make sure you have plenty of time to hang around in the kitchen before you light up your stove for this.

I did honestly find it intriguing to watch my apple sauce reduce and concentrate into a spreadable substance. It was a really fun venture in itself, so for anyone else curious about the process, this is what it looked like before cooking:

…And after:

So all in all, it just goes to show that you don’t need any extra sugar to make life sweeter! Happy birthday, Nana, you put all of our “youth” to shame!

16 thoughts on “Sugar-Free Is the Way To Be

  1. Wow, that’s a great looking cake, and clearly it was popular with your family. I’m diabetic, and it seems to meet all the guidelines.

    I’ll make it for the upcoming holidays, and report back!

    Thanks for sharing, it’s a great thing you did for your Nana. :-)

    1. AP flour is “All Purpose” flour, the bag of flour you have probably bought all your life, like Gold Medal, King Arthur, Pillsbury.

  2. Thats a beautiful cake!
    I understand the work to find a family exceptable sugar free and healthy dessert. I love
    apple butter and never ventured to make it . Thanks for the inspiration I never thought to make it myself. So now I see it is possible to make. I’ll try it for Mother’s Day.
    Check out my site. Its not vegan but the mixes are sugar and white flour free!

  3. I was wondering what your name is! My husband and I love this apple cake, and I’ve added it to my own cookbook, but I want to put your name next to it. Right now it just says “Bitterswet blog”.


  4. I just found out that I have type 1 diabetes, and I have been looking for good diabetic “sweets” recipes. This cake looks great. Could you possibly send me the recipe?

  5. Am I missing the recipe? I am having a baby shower for someone who is diabetic and this sounds really good but I don’t know where to find the recipe!

  6. Where can I get this receipe? I just bought some apple butter at an orchard yesterday (sugar-free, all apple!) and I want to make this cake.


  7. The cake looks really good! I am a little concerned on the sugar content though and correct me if I’m wrong. Isn’t apple butter, even without sugar added, still very high in sugar? You’re condensing down a bunch of apples and that sugar gets concentrated. I’m guessing you used maybe 2 cups of apple butter for the filling. Looking at a nutrition guide for “no sugar added apple butter” gives me 128 grams of sugar for 2 cups of apple butter! Plus whatever other sugars may be in there. It seems like it would be a high sugar dessert, although admittedly no where near as much as other cakes or store bought junk! I just want to hear your take on it because I REALLY want eat this! :-)

    1. It’s true that this cake isn’t technically 100% sugar-free, but there is naturally occurring sugars in essentially every single thing we eat, including broccoli. A more accurate description for this recipe would be no-sugar-added, in that sense, and it has a much lower impact on blood sugar than a cake made with refined white sugar. It’s not just the numbers that matter, but the quality and the source. I know that’s probably not an entirely satisfying response, but I hope that helps!

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