A velvety almond flour coffee cake with a tunnel of rich caramel and pecans. All the flavours of a sticky bun in a low carb, gluten-free package!
Please note: I no longer use any coconut sugar in my baking whatsoever. I am working on updating this post but the recipe now features my Keto Caramel Sauce, which uses only Swerve Brown and BochaSweet.
A number of readers have asked me what I think about coconut sugar and whether it’s good for diabetics or people trying to lose weight through low carb diets. There’s no quick and easy answer for this question, in my opinion. The claim is that coconut sugar is low glycemic and has little affect on blood glucose levels, but they said that about agave too. For many diabetics, me included, agave spikes them as much as regular sugar, so I tend to take claims of glycemic levels with a grain of salt. But because there was seemingly so much interest in coconut sugar, I was willing to try it out and use my own blood glucose as a guinea pig. Don’t say I am not willing to sacrifice myself for you!
I first tested it out in my Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies to make paleo version for my CrossFit class, and I was surprised to find that the cookies (I had two) didn’t seem to raise my sugar levels. I tried it out in a few other baked goods for my kids, and every time I tested, I was within a good range of blood glucose levels. So hey, that’s good, right? But let’s not jump the gun. Coconut sugar is still, in fact, sugar. It’s not some magical substance that we can use willy nilly now that we know it doesn’t seem to affect Carolyn’s blood sugar levels. Because it’s still made up of sucrose and fructose, with some inulin in there too. The inulin, a sweet-tasting fiber, may be what keeps it from spiking me, I don’t know. But I am not quite ready to trust it and maybe I never will be. Because every diabetic and dieter is different and what doesn’t affect me might affect you. My evidence is purely anecdotal and it would be irresponsible at best for me to tell you it’s good for you. Kris Gunnars of Authority Nutrition has a good rundown on coconut sugar that’s worth a read. Coconut Sugar – Healthy Sugar Alternative or Big Fat Lie?
Here’s what I really think about coconut sugar: I think it’s healthier than the highly refined white sugar that is so prevalent in our society, but it’s not a cure-all for our collective sweet tooth. I think that it can be useful in some recipes, because it lends a brown sugar taste and appearance which is hard to get with other low carb sweeteners. But I will only use it in my recipes in small quantities, small enough that it will have little to no affect on anyone’s blood sugar. Because I am not willing to risk your health or my own.
The dark appearance and rich caramel flavour of coconut sugar is very useful for certain recipes, though. I discovered this when I attempted to make a low(er) carb English Toffee to give away at Christmas time. I used about ⅔ Swerve and ⅓ coconut sugar and it wouldn’t harden up properly at all. I stared sadly at the pecan covered goo on the cookie sheet, thinking it was meant for the trash bin but I didn’t have the heart to throw it away. And thankfully, I did not! With a little added heat and cream, it turned into the most amazing low carb caramel sauce I have ever tasted. I then added it to a coffee cake for Christmas morning and it was to die for. The flavour was reminiscent of the pecan sticky buns I used to love. So I recreated my “mistake” a few times and perfected it. This might be the best low carb coffee cake you’ve ever had!
Sticky Bun Coffee Cake – Low Carb and Gluten-Free
- Make the caramel sauce as directed in the recipe and let cool while preparing the cake.
- Preheat oven to 325F and grease a bundt pan well (this could also be made in a 9-inch springform pan).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together almond flour, protein powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add Swerve and beat until lighter and well-combined, about 2 minutes.
- Beat in eggs, scraping down beaters and sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in vanilla extract.
- Beat in half of the almond flour mixture, then beat in almond milk. Beat in remaining almond flour mixture until well combined.
- Spread half the mixture in the prepared pan and use the back of a spoon to create a channel in the center of the batter, all the way around the bundt pan (if using a springform pan, simply create slightly higher sides around the edges of the pan.
- Pour half of the caramel sauce into the channel (or spread half over the batter in the springform pan). Sprinkle with ¼ cup pecans.
- Top with remaining batter and spread evenly with offset spatula to cover caramel and pecans.
- Bake 35 to 45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and just firm to the touch. A tester inserted in the center should come out clean (except for some caramel sauce!).
- Remove and let cool 10 minutes then flip out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Drizzle with remaining caramel and pecans.