© 2019 Can Caramelo

Green Goddess Cake

Have you looked at you kids running and jumping all over the place, giggling and screaming and thought this was (at least partly) due to the sugar in the cookies/ birthday cake/ candy, etc. they just ate? That they are less able to focus? I think it’s one of the most common myths that sugar consumption triggers increased activity in kids. I believed it too until somebody told me it wasn’t true. I started investigating – mainly to prove the person wrong – but found out he was actually right. So why do we firmly believe that sugar was related to hyperactivity? There might be several reasons. I have seen my kids overexcited after eating cake at a birthday party. But as a scientist I should know better than to think of this observation as a causal relation. Are there alternative explanations? Maybe the cake was a chocolate cake and cacao actually is a stimulant. Also, a birthday party with special games and many kids together in itself is a reason for excitement. A meta-analysis of studies in which parents and investigators didn’t know who had consumed sugar and who had had a placebo didn’t find any effect on either activity levels or cognitive performance (Wolrich, Wilson, & White, 1995). Another reason we might believe in the link between sugar consumption and hyper activity is our expectation: a study was conducted in which kids that were reported by their mothers to be especially sensitive to sugar consumption were divided into two groups and to half of the mothers it was reported that their kids had ingested a large amount of sugar, while to the other half it was reported that their kids didn’t receive any sugar. Actually all kids had received placebo. The mothers that had been told their kids had consumed a large amount of sugar found their kids to be significantly more hyperactive (Hoover & Milich, 1994). We might also be confused by our knowledge that sugar provides energy to the body and raises blood sugar levels. While this is true, and sugar might give us an energy burst if we need it, it doesn’t trigger increased activity levels. Instead, excess sugar is kept in control by insulin secreted by the pancreas and can be stored for later (up to a certain amount as glycogen to be released back into the bloodstream when you get hungry in between meals, then as fat).

That of course doesn’t mean that there are no problems associated with high sugar consumption – on the contrary. Excess sugar can lead to a resistance to insulin and in the worst case to diabetes. Bacteria in the mouth love to feast on sugar, causing caries. Sugar consumption correlates with weight, and is one of the reasons for obesity. It can also affect your arteries and basically every organ as the extra insulin makes artery wall grow faster and get more rigid which results in stress for the heart and therefore an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Sugar increases the risk of inflammatory processes and can negatively affect our joints. Furthermore, it seems that increased sugar consumption also affects collagen and elastin in our skin, making it age faster. In our brains, sugar consumption leads to dopamine release in a similar way as cocaine, a reason we crave sugar and we get “sugar-addicted” the more we consume it.

So how can we reduce sugar consumption? We can of course avoid candy and sugary beverages and instead reach more for fruit and water. While at first this might be quite hard, our body and brain get used quickly and our sugar craving will decrease when we eat less sugar. It’s also really important to read the labels to avoid added hidden sugar. You can avoid it most effectively by cooking at home, choosing whole foods like whole grains, vegetables and legumes which are rich in fiber that stabilizes blood sugar levels and satiates us without an excess of either sugar or fat. But you knew this already, right?

And now on to this green goddess cake which is rather low in sugar, completely vegan and contains no gluten. There are even spinach and avocado in it – although you won’t taste it, I promise! It has spongy biscuit layers with a lemony hint and the green frosting is made with soaked cashews, lemon and passion fruit. Have a look at the directions, they are super short – that means an impressive cake which is actually simple to make.

Notes

  • I have 2 16cm/6” baking tins which I filled with a quarter of the batter each, baked them and then filled again, but you could use bigger tins and make less layers or even one big cake with the frosting on top. You might have to adjust the baking time.
  • Ingredients

    For the cake:

    • 2 organic lemons, zest and juice
    • 1/2 cup maple syrup (you could also use honey)
    • 1/2 cup olive or coconut oil (molten)
    • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
    • 350g/3+1/4 cups rice flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

    For the frosting:

    • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 2-8h
    • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
    • 1/2 avocado
    • 2 organic lemons, juice and zest
    • 1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey if not vegan)
    • 1 passion fruit (optional, but delicious)
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
    • a pinch of sea salt

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF. In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, maple syrup, oil and vanilla. Add the rice flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir until combined. Grease your tins with a little coconut oil and fill with the batter (see notes for the size of may baking tins and further advice). Bake for 12min or until a pastry tester comes out clean. Let cool completely.
    Meanwhile, prepare the frosting by adding all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
    Frost the cake and decorate with edible flowers or as you wish.

    References
    Hoover D.W. & Milich, R. (1994). Effects of sugar ingestion expectancies on mother-child interactions, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 22 (4) 501-515. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/bf02168088
    Wolraich M.L., Wilson D. & White J. (1995). The effect of sugar on behavior or cognition in children. A meta-analysis. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 274 (20), 1617-1621. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.274.20.1617

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