Just because you are watching what you eat and making healthier choices does mean you can’t indulge in an occasional decadent dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Angel food cake is a perennial favorite with health-conscious individuals because it is relatively low in fat and calories and tastes refreshing and gratifying whether you eat it solo or topped with other healthful goodies.
Some tasty ways to incorporate more nutrition into your desserts or snacks are to serve angel food cake topped with berries or frozen confections like low fat yogurt or drizzled with glazes and syrups. Here are some creative angel food cake ideas to make or to inspire as you create your own unique treats.
Berry Benefits and Tips
This delicious cake and berries just go together like pie and ice cream, and there are so many different ways to enjoy them that one would never get bored.
Use them fresh as a garnish for a slice of cake topped with reduced or no-fat whipped topping or yogurt, or slice them and let them macerate at room temperature for about 30 minutes to form a simple fruit and syrup mix.
Cook them over low heat with a small amount of water, while crushing the fruit gently to create a yummy sauce but remember that heating the fruit causes some nutrient loss.
Berries are a good source of anthocyanins (the pigment that gives them their attractive colors), which protect against the free radicals that can speed up aging. Eating berries is good protection against certain cancers and vision disease like cataracts.
However, while all berries taste good atop a slice of angel food cake, not all berries are created equal when it comes to their nutritional profile. Some of the healthiest choices are:
Blackberries and raspberries are a low calorie treat that is packed with anthocyanins, fiber, folate and vitamin C. Serve them fresh to get the best nutritional benefits.
Blueberries and cherries are an interesting nutritional challenge because you get the most vitamin C from eating them raw, but the highest amount of fiber pectin from eating them cooked. What’s a hungry person supposed to do? The best answer is to make a simple blueberry sauce with a half serving (one half-cup) and use the other half-cup of fresh berries to garnish the sauce for a double whammy punch of healthy goodness.
Cranberries provide an extremely high dose of procyanidins, anthocyanins and fiber and are best served cooked or dried. Simmer them on low heat in a small amount of calcium-enriched orange juice and spoon over a cake slice. Serve as is or sprinkle on a few dried cranberries as a garnish and additional nutritional boost.
Strawberries are nutritional shining stars because they provide 96 percent of the RDA for vitamin C in a one-cup serving according to The Wellness Kitchen. They also provide fiber, anthocyanins and ellagic acid, which neutralize free radicals, and their taste can’t be beat.
Don’t limit yourself to just sauces that you can whip up quickly in the kitchen; commercially prepared fruit butters like apple butter, peach butter or pumpkin butter can make a fast but elegant topping for a humble cake slice. Just be sure to read the nutrition label and opt for the brands with the lowest amounts of sugars, artificial flavors and preservatives.
Fruit compotes are other good cake toppers and can be made from a variety of fruits and berries to provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Chocolate does not always get the proper respect for its impressive nutrition profile because too often the focus is on the negative of the fats and sugars that are often added to it when it is used as a cooking ingredient. In addition, while it often gets a bad rap about containing caffeine, a one-ounce serving of semi-sweet chocolate contains just 5 to 10 mg. of caffeine.
In fact, according to The Wellness Kitchen, chocolate provides magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, cathechins (these flavonoids are found in dark chocolate) and traces of added protein with unsweetened chocolate providing the most nutrients. In addition, it contains healthy amounts of oleic acid, stearic and palmitic acids.
Now that you feel better about occasionally indulging in a little chocolate decadence, go ahead and drizzle some chocolate syrup over your serving of cake or grate a little chocolate over top of a raspberry or cherry sauce topped with a little whipped topping.
Flavored Syrups and Toppings
While chocolate is a number one favorite with many individuals, there are lots of other flavored syrups and toppings available for your choosing. For instance, choose a low sugar or sugar free version of butterscotch, strawberry, raspberry or caramel syrup and drizzle it over plain cake. If your daily calorie count can stand a few more calories, add a small scoop of frozen yogurt or lowfat ice cream or sherbet to the cake slice and drizzle the syrup overall for the finishing touch.
Fabulous Fruits and Facts
Extolling the health benefits of berries is not meant to denigrate the value of other fruits, which also have a lot to offer individuals who are careful about what they eat. Serve warm or chilled with angel food cake.
Apples contain the phytochemical quercetin as well as soluble and insoluble fiber. Stew them or microwave them with a small amount of liquid and seasonings like cinnamon, apple pie spice, ginger, nutmeg or cloves until fork-tender and spoon over the cake.
Apricots provide beta carotene, vitamin C, fiber and potassium.
Nectarines furnish potassium, fiber, beta crytoxanthin, and beta carotene.
Peaches are a good choice as well and furnish vitamin E and fiber, but they are not as sweet as the other two and could require more sweetening, which would impact their nutritional value.
Sliced bananas are hard to beat for taste, ease of preparation and good nutrient. Toss sliced bananas gently with a little fruit juice or fruit nectar to prevent the bananas from turning brown. Spoon the sliced bananas and a small amount of juice over the cake, sprinkle with a light dusting of pecans, and enjoy.
Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons contain important phytochemicals called limonenes. These citrus flavonoids neutralize the disease causing free radicals. Adding lemon or lime zest or juice to recipes for syrups and sauces to serve with cake slices is a good way to improve the health profile of your angel food cake desserts. You can also use the juices to make lemon or lime curd for a cake topping or flavored glazes to use as a drizzle.
While we have already mentioned a few frozen confections like frozen yogurt, remember that there are lots of variations to be created by making your own frozen creations. Pop a container of your favorite yogurt into the freezer until frozen solid and scoop a few spoonfuls on your cake slice, or make your own fruits ices and gelatos. Reduced or no-fat or sugar ice creams and sherbets are other healthy toppings when used in small quantities to accent the cake.
Nuts about Nuts?
There’s no need to avoid nuts just because they are calorie-dense because nuts are also nutrient-dense. By using them as garnishes in small quantities, you can boost the health profile of many angel food cake based desserts without increasing the caloric count drastically. Their fat profile is a favorable one for healthy eating.
To get the best taste satisfaction for the least calories, toast the nuts prior to using them to bring out their full flavors. Here are some nutritional powerhouses to consider:
- Hazelnuts provide thiamin, vitamins B6 and E, iron, and manganese.
- Brazil nuts furnish protein, fiber, vitamin E, thiamin, iron, magnesium and selenium. These hard-to-shell nuts are best used grated.
- Peanuts contain plant sterols and protein, vitamin E, folate, niacin, magnesium and folate.
- Pecans provide thiamin, zinc, fiber and plant sterols.
- Pistachios will give you vitamin B6, thiamin, iron, magnesium, fiber, potassium, monosaturated fat, and plant sterols.
The key to enjoying nuts without wrecking your diet is to use them in moderation.
Transforming Trifles for Better Health
Angel food cake is a common ingredient in trifles, which are typically lavish affairs created by alternating layers of the cake with layers of sugar-laden fruits and fat-laden whipped cream. However, it is possible to slim down a trifle by making a few modifications.
Switch out fruits packed in heavy syrup for those packed in light or natural syrups, and swap heavily sweetened fruit pie fillings for lite or sugar free versions. Replace full-fat whipped cream or whipped topping for reduced or no-fat whipped toppings.
Other Ways to Dress Up Angel Food Cakes
Other creative angel food cake ideas include:
Slice the top off of the cake and set aside. Hollow the cake out leaving a thin shell and fill with low calorie frozen yogurt, whipped topping or pudding. Replace the top and frost with a thin layer of reduced or no-fat whipped topping or icing.
Slice the cake into layers and fill with fruit sauces, puddings, or other tasty fillings. Reassemble the cake and serve as is with a garnish of drizzled chocolate or flavored syrup or frost as above.
Eliminating sweet treats such as angel food cake from one’s diet is neither healthy nor realistic. Healthy desserts eaten in moderation can be a delicious addition to most diet plans and make sticking to an otherwise restrictive plan a lot more palatable.
Typical Angel Food Cake Nutrition Profile
The following nutritional information is based on the packaging label for a generic brand of prepared angel food cake distributed by Inter-American Products and purchased at a major grocery store chain.
One serving of the cake is equal to one-eighth of the cake, and there are eight servings in a package. Here’s the nutrient breakdown:
- Calories: 140
- Carbohydrates: 31 g
- Sugar: 21 g
- Dietary fiber: less than 1 g
- Protein: 3 g
- Sodium: 140 mg
This cake contained no fat or cholesterol, but it did contain wheat and eggs, which could be problem for those with food allergies.
The Wellness Kitchen: bringing the latest nutrition information to your table/by the staff of the Wellness Kitchen and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, (2003), Health Letter Association
Image Credit: SXC, Cake, no author or user name listed, used under standard licensing agreement