This week the L.A. Times Test Kitchen staff baked a treat for us: the official birthday cake of the American Cancer Society. Red velvet. Reduced-fat cream cheese frosting. No, we're not convinced that it will stop tumors in their tracks, but it tasted fine to me.
This was the first we'd heard of the American Cancer Society being -- as its press materials proclaimed -- "the Official Sponsor of Birthdays." But back to the "New Red Velvet Cake," the winning entry of a competition put on by the ACS with the Culinary Institute of America. It subs out some of the sugar, eggs, oil and butter and adds in some whole wheat flour and quinoa grains. It adds some applesauce and dried cherries.
And you use roasted beets instead of red dye to color the cake. (This didn't work very well in our test run: The cake was dark brown, courtesy of the chocolate. But that suited me. I sometimes wonder whether the reason I think red velvet cake tastes weird is a green-eggs-and-ham effect: It's red but tastes of chocolate -- that's not right.)
We were a tad disappointed to learn that the ingredients weren't very specifically selected because they had super-duper cancer-fighting powers. The idea, we were told, is more general: that you can live longer if you eat more healthfully and also don't consume too many calories so you don't end up overweight. Obesity is linked to a higher cancer risk, and dietary changes such as upping your intake of fruits and vegetables are linked to a lower risk of cancer -- read all about that here.)
But this cake isn't a health food, and it's not a diet food either. If you make this cake and divide it into 12 pieces, you'll have 546 calories per slice. OK, so regular recipes run to 840, but that's still sizable.
You'll get 29 grams of fat. And 34 grams of sugar. The ACS points out that some of that is "natural sugar," but last I checked, sucrose is sucrose is sucrose, whether it comes in white bags or red beets.
Not that we're quibbling. We think your birthday cake is one of the last things you should worry about when it comes to healthful eating.
To get the recipe for the cake, go here.
-- Rosie Mestel