As Wikipedia tells us:
Cocoa solids contain alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have physiological effects on the body. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Some research found that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure. The presence of theobromine renders chocolate toxic to some animals, especially dogs and cats.
Cocoa mass was used originally in Mesoamerica both as a beverage and as an ingredient in foods. Chocolate played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the deities and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. All of the areas that were conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a “tribute.”
The Europeans sweetened and fattened it by adding refined sugar and milk, two ingredients unknown to the Mexicans. By contrast, the Europeans never infused it into their general diet, but have compartmentalized its use to sweets and desserts. In the 19th century, Briton John Cadbury developed an emulsification process to make solid chocolate, creating the modern chocolate bar.
Although cocoa is originally from the Americas, today Western Africa produces almost two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, with Côte d’Ivoire growing almost half of it.
I have a sugar-free chocolate brownie recipe that is out of this world yummy, but it is a process to make — it involves separating eggs, melting chocolate, tempering egg, and so on — and so I only make it when I’m feeling like puttering around. When I’m wanting something quick, easy, and chocolate, I like to make Chocolate Snack Cake.
The inspiration for this recipe is from a recipe in both my Betty Crocker Diabetic Cooking and Big Red cookbooks. Diabetics — most of whom have to test their blood sugar levels daily and control their levels with insulin — can sometimes have sugar; as a hypoglycemic, though, I need to strive to avoid all concentrated sugars. I have replaced the sugar with artificial sweetener and some honey, and also increased the amount of cocoa and vanilla. Vanilla not only brings out and enhances the chocolate flavor, it also adds a sweetness without adding sugar carbs! The cake is also dairy-free and reduced-fat.
This cake is best served warm — gently reheat leftovers in the microwave. It’s a lot like a cake brownie and is incredibly yummy with a scoop of no-sugar added ice cream, a dollop of whipped topping, and a maraschino cherry.
So the next time you’re craving some yummy chocolate, channel Marie Antoinette and say “Let them eat cake!” 😉 (Go on, listen and watch this while you read the recipe — you know you’ll feel better with a bit of Mel Brooks silliness in your life!)
Chocolate Snack Cake (Makes 9 – 10 servings)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Splenda granular or other favorite sugar substitute (the kind that measures cup-for-cup like sugar)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa plus one or two more tablespoons, to taste
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil (I used canola)
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup cold water
- Heat oven to 350F. Lightly grease bottom and sides of a round (9″ X 1 1/2″) or square (8″ X 8″ X 2″) with shortening; flour lightly.
- In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a measuring cup, mix together oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Vigorously stir oil mixture, water, and honey into flour mixture about 1 minute or until well blended. (I used a whisk.) Immediately pour into pan.
- Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (I baked mine for 30 minutes, then turned the oven off and left the cake in it for another 5 minutes.) Cool 15 minutes. Serve WARM. (Gently reheat leftovers in microwave.)
- Tasty all by itself or topped with any one or combo of the following: caramel ice cream topping (which I can get sugar-free), chocolate ice cream topping or syrup (can also get that sugar-free), whipped topping, ice cream, sprinkling of nuts…you get the idea.