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Guilt-Free Desserts

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I don’t recall how this tradition started, but at some point after we arrived to the United States, my grandmother Fira started baking a Russian cake called “Annushka” once a year for my birthday. She’s had the recipe for this honey-based cake in her recipe notebook for at least 40 years. Maybe she made it once, and I loved it, so she started baking it for me. I loved this tradition.

My favorite cake stopped being a part of my birthday celebrations once I adopted the Paleo lifestyle about 8 years ago (all of that flour, sugar, honey, and condensed milk!) Honestly, I didn’t really miss it because I only baked Paleo treats once in a while.

Since I adopted the Keto / Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) lifestyle about a year and a half ago, I’ve been having a lot of fun modifying old family recipes. Keto / LCHF allows dairy, if you aren’t sensitive to it, so it’s a lot easier to modify recipes that call for butter, sour cream, etc., which this recipe does. I am actually sensitive to dairy, so I still rarely make dairy-based desserts. They’re mostly for my husband who handles dairy fairly well.

Annushka Russian Cake Recipe Notebook
“Annushka” cake recipe in my grandma’s 40-year-old recipe notebook

This year for my birthday, I thought it would be a great idea to bake this Russian cake for me and then share it with those who would appreciate all of the effort, trial and error, and creativity that it takes to modify a recipe. It’s a lot of work to make it gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free, and have it taste so much like the original! And on top of it, I get to share this recipe with all of you! A win-win all the way around 🙂

It was hilarious and frustrating, I must admit, when I first tried to modify this cake earlier this year. I visited my grandma to bake it with her. I brought all of my substitute ingredients: almond flour, coconut milk, low-carb sweetener, etc. The recipe in her notebook doesn’t have all of the details, of course, such as at what temperature to bake the cake layers. It also lists Soviet measurements such as “one package of butter.”

Me: “Grandma, how much was one package of butter in the Soviet Union?”
Grandma Fira: “Do you think I remember??!! I’ve lived in the U.S. for 30 years now!”
Me: “Well, approximately?”
Grandma Fira (after showing me in the air with her fingers): “About this much, I think. I don’t remember!!!”
Me: “But you baked this cake last about 7 years ago. How much did you use then?”
Grandma Fira (clearly frustrated): “I’m going to turn 90 years old this year; I don’t remember!!!”

Discussing Annushka Russian cake recipe with my grandmother
My grandma Fira teaching me how to make Russian cake “Annushka”

She actually has pretty good memory, but maybe not when it comes to baking cakes 🙂 So, here I was trying to convert from grams to ounces and American-sized cup measurements and Googling the typical temperature at which one would bake cake layers. I’m still amazed at what it takes to modify a 40-year-old Soviet recipe to be a healthy, modern-day awesomeness. Oh, yeah, the recipe also calls for margarine in the cake batter, which just like in the U.S., was considered “healthier” back in the day. Needless to say, I’m using grass-fed butter instead.

This “Annushka” Russian cake is very typical of Russian cakes (tortes). It’s a layered cake with a Russian-style frosting made from butter, sugar, and nuts. The flour, sugar, honey, and condensed milk were substituted, of course. Ahhh, this cake is soooo good…quick and easy to make, too…why wouldn’t folks just bake low-carb desserts??!! The longest part is making a coconut-milk-based condensed milk using a low-carb sweetener, which can be made ahead. And that takes only 15 minutes!

“Annushka” in the Russian language is a diminutive of “Anna,” so it’s an endearing nickname for Anna, for those who are curious. I’m so glad that this cake can once again be part of my annual celebration!!! Enjoy 🙂

Annushka Russian Cake Slice
I can have my favorite cake for breakfast guilt-free!

Ingredients

For the homemade coconut-milk-based condensed milk:

1 (13.5 oz.) can of full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk (I use Native Forest brand, which typically has the cream and liquid already separated in the can when you open it, without requiring refrigeration)
2 tablespoons low-carb sweetener (I use Lakanto® Classic White or Golden Monk Fruit Sweetener, which is available on Amazon.com)

For the cake:

1 stick butter, softened (preferably grass-fed or French)
2 eggs, preferably pastured (I use pastured eggs from Vital Farms, which are available at most grocery stores in our area)
1/4 cup full-fat sour cream, preferably pasture-raised (I use Organic Valley sour cream from pastured cows)
3 tablespoons honey-flavored low-carb sweetener (I use All-u-Lose® Natural Honey Flavor Sweetener, which is available on Amazon.com)
1 cup blanched almond flour
3 tablespoons low-carb sweetener (I use Lakanto® Classic White or Golden Monk Fruit Sweetener, which is available on Amazon.com)
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting:

3/4 cup homemade coconut-milk-based condensed milk
2 1/4 cup (200 grams) walnuts, chopped
1 stick butter, softened (preferably grass-fed or French)

Directions

For the homemade coconut-milk-based condensed milk:

  1. Separate the cream part of the coconut milk from the liquid part. Discard the liquid or save for other uses.
  2. In a small pot, bring the coconut cream to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally to prevent it from burning.
  3. Whisk in the sweetener.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the coconut milk is reduced to about 3/4 cup.
  5. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Let it cool completely.

For the cake:

  1. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix softened butter, eggs, sour cream, low-carb sweetener, and honey-flavored low-carb sweetener until a smooth consistency.
  3. Mix in almond flour and baking soda until well combined.
  4. Lightly grease two 9-inch by 9-inch round cake pans with butter.
  5. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two cake pans.
  6. Place both cake pans in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown. Ovens vary, so start checking for doneness at around 12 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the cake — it should come out clean.
  7. Remove the cake pans from the oven, place on a wire rack, and let cool completely.
  8. Remove the cake layers from the pans once cooled.

For the frosting:

  1. While the cake is baking, make the frosting.
  2. In a bowl, mix softened butter and homemade coconut-milk-based condensed milk until a smooth consistency.
  3. Mix in the chopped walnuts with a spatula or a spoon.
  4. To assemble the cake, spread the frosting on top of the first cake layer.
  5. Place the second cake layer on top of the first.
  6. Spread the frosting on top of the second cake layer.
  7. Spread any leftover frosting on the sides of the cake.
  8. To make a 4-layered cake, double the recipe.
  9. Cut into cake slices and serve, or refrigerate in an enclosed container. Let the cake come to room temperature before serving.

TIP:
Natural low-carb sweeteners vary. If you use a different sweetener, you may need to adjust the quantity depending on your sweetness preference.

VARIATION:
To make this cake dairy-free, you could try using coconut milk yogurt instead of sour cream and coconut oil + palm oil shortening instead of butter. If you do, let me know how it turns out in the comments below 🙂

Looking for more Russian recipes? Check out From Russia With Love. Love guilt-free desserts? Find more here.

This is the closest you get to peanut butter cookies, for all of you peanut butter lovers out there, but a low-carb version, of course! I love peanut butter — a great American invention, in my opinion — but it’s not low-carb, lectin-free, Paleo, or Keto, so, how often do I eat it? Almost never. Now, I can make this flourless almond butter chocolate chip cookies recipe and enjoy these guilt-free cookies.

My sister-in-law Carrie, who is an avid home baker, shared her easy, flourless chocolate chip peanut butter cookies recipe with me a while ago. It was pretty basic — one cup of peanut butter, one egg, half-a-cup of sugar, and chocolate chips. I finally modified her recipe by using regular almond butter, monk fruit sweetener, and a few other ingredients. The cookies turned out yummy, but they tasted a bit gritty due to the texture of plain almond butter, and nothing like peanut butter cookies.

Then I had the thought of baking these cookies with blanched almond butter because my husband said that it has a similar consistency to peanut butter. Fortunately, Barney & Co. sells Bare Smooth Barney Butter, which is blanched almond butter with no added sugar or salt. This is the closest you get to peanut butter. Or you can make one yourself with blanched almonds and a food processor.

Grain Free Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Blanched almond butter made all the difference! My husband, the chocolate chip cookie lover, said that these cookies have the look and consistency of Chips Ahoy! cookies, so this is a huge compliment 🙂 My little niece had a bite and kept saying, “More! More! More!” Needless to say, I’m very excited to share this super easy and quick almond butter chocolate chip cookies recipe with you.

Ingredients

1 egg, preferably pastured (I use pastured eggs from Vital Farms, which are available at most grocery stores in our area)
3 tablespoons low-carb sweetener of your choice (I use Lakanto® Monk Fruit Sweetener, which is available on Amazon.com)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use Simply Organic® no-sugar-added Madagascar Pure Vanilla Extract)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use Himalayan pink salt for its mineral content)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup blanched almond butter at room temperature (I use Barney & Co. no-sugar-added Bare Smooth Barney Butter)
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I use Lily’s no-sugar-added Dark Chocolate Chips)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk the egg, vanilla extract, sweetener, salt, and baking soda in a bowl until mixed well.
  4. Add the blanched almond butter and mix well. You’ll need some strength to mix it in. Having the almond butter at room temperature helps a lot!
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips and mix well.
  6. Place balls of cookie dough onto the baking sheet. I use an ice cream scooper to scoop the balls of dough, which makes about 17 cookie dough balls that fit onto 1 baking sheet. Lightly press with a spatula to flatten.
  7. Bake for about 12-15 minutes.
  8. Cool the cookies for at least 10 minutes, then transfer onto a wire rack and cool completely, otherwise, they’ll crumble apart. Enjoy!

Low-Carb Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

VARIATION:
Feel free to try this recipe with regular, no-sugar-added almond butter instead of blanched almond butter, but increase Lakanto® Monk Fruit Sweetener to 1/4 cup. If you use a different natural low-carb sweetener, you may need to adjust the quantity depending on your sweetness preference.

Let me know how you like this grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, no-sugar-added almond butter chocolate chip cookies recipe in the comments below!

If you like low-carb treats, check out my easy Grandma Helen’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe.

I woke up early this morning and told my husband, “It’s National Coffee Cake Day!” He got a giant grin on his face and said, “Does this mean you’re going to bake coffee cake?!” I said, “No, it means I finally want to post grandma Helen’s sour cream coffee cake recipe on my blog.” He said, “You can’t tell me it’s National Coffee Cake Day and not bake the coffee cake. It’s like telling a kid it’s National Candy Day and giving him carrots.”

Well, it’s lightly snowing outside (a perfect day for baking a coffee cake!); it is National Coffee Cake Day; this recipe is so easy to throw together; and hopefully, I can finish writing this blog post by the time the coffee cake is done. It’s starting to smell so good in here!

Years ago, in my pre-Paleo and pre-Keto days, we visited Joel’s grandparents in Kansas. This was the first and only time I met grandma Helen. She was a mighty fine lady who lived a full, exciting life with Joel’s grandpa, filled with lots of travels and love for each other. Sadly, she developed Alzheimer’s disease by the time I met her, which scientists now call “Type 3 diabetes.”

LowSour Cream Coffee Cake

At some point during our visit, I asked to look at her recipe notebook and jotted down a few recipes I liked. One of them was her sour cream coffee cake recipe. Funny thing is I never baked it before I adopted the Paleo lifestyle. Then I also learned that Joel absolutely loves coffee cake, so one Christmas morning I tried modifying the recipe for the Paleo diet. I must say that it didn’t turn out too well due to the ingredient substitutions that I was playing around with at the time. It was too dry and had the consistency of a brick, but we ate it all anyway because it was a rare treat for us to have a baked good.

So, the recipe went back into a pile of recipes until a couple of months ago. I’ve been following a Keto / low-carb Paleo lifestyle for a year and a half now, and Keto allows the use of dairy and natural low-carb sweeteners that are 1:1 substitution for regular table sugar, so I’ve been baking a lot this past winter 🙂 That’s when I came across grandma Helen’s sour cream coffee cake recipe in my pile of recipes.

You know how they say that timing is everything in life? This was one of those moments. I realized that I only have to substitute 3 ingredients this time around, and one of those ingredients is simply the type of oil to use. I would have to play with the quantity of these ingredients and the baking time and temperature, but that’s the fun part! I replaced flour, sugar, and corn oil with healthier ingredients. Modifying grandma’s coffee cake recipe to be grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, lectin-free, low-carb, and Keto-friendly was quite satisfying.

Grain Free Sour Cream Coffee Cake

But the best part was people tasting it and asking for the recipe. You know you’re on to something when you bring it to share with others, and people seek you out to ask if you’d be willing to share the recipe. That, plus seeing the kids sneak a piece (or two!) extra. So, after numerous modifications, adjustments, and tests (my husband wasn’t complaining!), grandma Helen’s modified sour cream coffee cake recipe is ready for prime time!

Ingredients

For the dough:

2 eggs, preferably pastured (I use pastured eggs from Vital Farms, which are available at most grocery stores in our area)
1/4 cup avocado oil
1 cup sour cream, preferably pasture-raised
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use Simply Organic® no-sugar-added Madagascar Pure Vanilla Extract)
2 cups blanched almond flour
1/3 cup low-carb sweetener of your choice (I use Lakanto® Monk Fruit Sweetener, which is available on Amazon.com)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use Himalayan pink salt for its mineral content)

For the topping:

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 teaspoons cinnamon (I use Spicely® Organics True Cinnamon)
2 tablespoons low-carb sweetener of your choice (I use Lakanto® Monk Fruit Sweetener, which is available on Amazon.com)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix eggs, avocado oil, sour cream, sweetener, and vanilla extract until well combined.
  3. Mix in almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
  4. In a small bowl, mix chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and sweetener.
  5. Grease an 8-inch by 8-inch or similar-sized baking dish with avocado oil. Pour half of the dough mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle half of the topping mixture on top of the dough mixture.
  6. Pour the second half of the dough mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the second half of the topping mixture on top of the dough mixture.
  7. Bake for about 45-50 minutes. Ovens vary, so start checking for doneness at around 45 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the cake — it should come out clean.

Sugar Free Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I didn’t get a chance to finish writing this post before the coffee cake was done. You want to eat it warm, right? Plus, Joel was giving me a puppy face 🙂 We sat down to have a slice or two for breakfast and talked about grandma Helen’s and grandpa Dena’s life and the love they shared. I am grateful I got a chance to meet her and write down this recipe before she passed away. I am grateful for the knowledge of and access to healthier ingredients that allow us to enjoy her legacy guilt-free.

Try this sour cream coffee cake with some grass-fed butter on top. Let me know how you like grandma Helen’s sour cream coffee cake recipe in the comments below. Enjoy!

TIP:
If it isn’t sweet enough for you, use 1/2 cup of Lakanto® Monk Fruit Sweetener. If you use a different natural low-carb sweetener, you may need to adjust the quantity depending on your sweetness preference.

VARIATION:
Don’t like nuts, or they don’t like you? Omit them!

Looking for more breakfast recipes? Check out my pancakes recipe. We finally figured out the best pancakes that are grain-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, lectin-free, low-carb, Keto, and Paleo!

I woke up to -2° outside today. It was a cold yet crisp, sunny, and beautiful Colorado morning. On such a day, which also happens to be National Muffin Day, a grain-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, lectin-free, diary-free, low-carb spiced muffin that tastes like gingerbread is what my husband requested for breakfast. How many “-free” adjectives can I fit into one sentence?! 🙂

No wonder National Muffin Day is celebrated in February. In Colorado, February is one of the coldest months. I like to bake when it’s cold outside, but this particular spiced muffin recipe doesn’t require baking, which is perfect for a busy weekday morning like today. Quick, easy, and delicious is the way to go!

This spiced muffin-in-a-bowl recipe is Keto-friendly and takes less than 10 minutes to make. We make all kinds of variations of this basic muffin-in-a-bowl recipe specifically because it’s so easy to make.

Spiced Muffin In A Bowl Recipe

You can get creative with it and have fun trying different flavors. I came up with this spiced muffin version after baking Scandinavian-style spiced, grain-free cookies during the holidays last year.

Fill your house with a warming smell of spices. Top it with grass-fed butter, if you’re not dairy-sensitive, for a luscious and satisfying breakfast worthy of National Muffin Day.

Who says muffins can’t be quick, easy, and healthy?

Makes 1 serving 

Ingredients

1 large egg, preferably pastured (I use pastured eggs from Vital Farms, which are available at most grocery stores in our area)
1 tablespoon low-carb maple-flavored syrup (I use Lakanto® Maple Flavored Syrup, which is available on Amazon.com)
1 tablespoon filtered water
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use Simply Organic® no-sugar-added Madagascar Pure Vanilla Extract)
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon blanched almond flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I use Spicely® Organics True Cinnamon)
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt (I use Himalayan pink salt for its mineral content)

Directions

  1. Whisk the egg, maple-flavored syrup, water, vanilla extract, almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, and salt in a small microwave-safe bowl or ramekin until well combined.
  2. Pour melted coconut oil into the bowl or ramekin. Add all of the spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg) and mix well.
  3. Microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
  4. Remove the bowl using oven mittens (it will be hot!)
  5. Top with grass-fed butter, if desired.
  6. Let cool for a minute and enjoy!

TIP:
Scrape the sides of the bowl or ramekin before placing it in the microwave.

VARIATIONS:
Try my Cinnamon Muffin In A Bowl or Strawberry Muffin In A Bowl version of this recipe.

My husband loves cinnamon, so naturally, I had to create a lectin-free, grain-free cinnamon muffin-in-a-bowl recipe that is Keto-friendly.

If you love cinnamon, you’ll love this quick and easy recipe. In fact, it’s so fast and easy that we often make variations of this basic muffin-in-a-bowl recipe on weekdays, at least once a week.

This muffin goes particularly well with coffee, in our opinion, if you’re a coffee drinker. I’m an occasional coffee drinker 🙂

Have a cappuccino with your cinnamon muffin

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

1 large egg, preferably pastured (I use pastured eggs from Vital Farms, which are available at most grocery stores in our area)
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon almond flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
2 teaspoons low-carb sweetener (I use Lakanto® Classic White or Golden Monk Fruit Sweetener, which is available on Amazon.com)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I use Spicely® Organics True Cinnamon)
Pinch of salt (I use Himalayan pink salt for its mineral content)

Directions

  1. Whisk the egg, almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, cinnamon, sweetener, and salt in a small microwave-safe bowl or ramekin until well combined.
  2. Pour melted coconut oil into the bowl or ramekin and mix well.
  3. Microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
  4. Remove the bowl using oven mittens (it will be hot!)
  5. Top with grass-fed butter, extra cinnamon, and extra sweetener, if desired.
  6. Let cool for a minute and enjoy!

TIP:
If this gluten-free muffin is a bit too dry for your taste, add a tablespoon of water to the ingredients in step 1.

VARIATIONS:
Substitute strawberries for cinnamon to make a Strawberry Muffin In A Bowl version of this recipe.

Berries are in season, so I tried adding a few sliced strawberries to my grain-free, and thus gluten-free, muffin-in-a-bowl recipe. It turned out so delicious (and so quick and easy to make) that I have to share the recipe.

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

1 large egg, preferably pastured (I use pastured eggs from Vital Farms, which are available at most grocery stores in our area)
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon almond flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
2 teaspoons low-carb sweetener (I use Lakanto® Classic White or Golden Monk Fruit Sweetener, which is available on Amazon.com)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt (I use Himalayan pink salt for its mineral content)
2 medium-sized strawberries, sliced

Directions

  1. Whisk the egg, almond flour, coconut flour, baking powder, sweetener, and salt in a small microwave-safe bowl or ramekin until well combined.
  2. Pour melted coconut oil into the bowl or ramekin and mix well.
  3. Add sliced strawberries by mixing them in (make sure they’re covered with the rest of the mixture).
  4. Microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
  5. Remove the bowl using oven mittens (it will be hot!)
  6. Add grass-fed butter on top, if desired, let cool for a minute, and enjoy!

Grain Free Strawberry Muffin In A Bowl Recipe

This grain-free muffin almost tastes like a sponge cake. You can fry it in a pan like a pancake. You can add some whipped cream on top, and it’s dessert!

VARIATIONS:
Substitute cinnamon for strawberries to make a Cinnamon Muffin In A Bowl version of this recipe.