Chocolate Serenity Cake

Valentine’s Day is coming soon. Forget pre-packaged milk chocolates and dive into an (almost) guilt-free cake …. sugar-free, gluten free, and half-sized to keep leftovers to a minimum. The serenity prayer asks to know the difference between those things we can and can’t change. Does a slice of cake really have to weigh heavy on hearts and hips? Could a dark chocolate mess of happiness … also be healthy? I had to find the answer. And that led to Chocolate Serenity Cake.

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Good News: It’s Good for You

And what I found was good news. First, research shows that dark chocolate helps prevent atherosclerosis. I normally make this cake with all-purpose flour and sugar; in fact, my eldest stepdaughter usually requests this cake for her birthday. The cake mix is made of almond flour, dark chocolate, buttermilk, light olive oil, sugar substitute, vanilla, egg … mostly heart healthy choices. And it’s simple to make. 

Chocolate Serenity Cake: Guilt-Free …

For Valentines Day, I wanted to see if this healthier version would taste just as good … or close enough. This is partly to accommodate my calorie-conscious husband, and partly to accommodate diet needs for my high cholesterol. I first discovered I had high cholesterol as an otherwise healthy, active, underweight  28-year-old eating a balanced diet. As I age, keeping cholesterol in check becomes more important. Part of the journey is a lower fat, lower carbohydrate diet. And while almond flour is a great gluten-free choice, it also reduces carbs while supplying healthier fats. 

If you’ve never worked with almond flour, there are some things you should know. You want your mix thicker. Also, you can blend the mix as long as you want because this flour won’t give you trouble like an all-purpose or baking flour might. However, it might over-brown on top while baking. You can cover it with foil if that happens. For this cake, I tented foil over it from the start because I was not sure I’d notice over-browning in such a dark cake. The cake also took a little longer to bake than the usual one … about 10 minutes longer.

… or With a Little Guilt

If you want to bake the “regular” version, simply replace the Splenda with sugar, the cup of almond flour with 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and make sure that water is  boiling when you add it in. For a two-layer cake, simply double ingredients.

A Comparison

How did the healthier version compare? When dear sweet husband tasted the plain cake, he said, “Not bad. It could be a little sweeter.” (Keep in mind he orders eight Splenda packets for a large iced tea—eight!) His first test of the iced cake fared better. “This is gooood!” he exclaimed. “You can’t leave this laying around … I’ll eat it all.” 

I like the rich, dark chocolate flavor that stands out in both versions of this cake. However, the texture of the almond flour cake is different. The original version is light and airy, almost falling apart as you cut into it. This version is denser. In fact, the almond flour texture seemed a bit heavy and meal-like when I tasted it plain, shortly after it cooled. The texture improved when I iced it—I tweaked a vegan icing using peanut butter, dark chocolate, Splenda and almond milk. Day two, it tasted even better—like a piece of rich, dense, moist cake.

The Bottom Line

I’d make Chocolate Serenity Cake again. As always, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And this cake is being eaten at a similar pace to the original version. Dear sweet husband even felt the need to cut the cake into portion sizes to keep from binging on it. And considering the entire cake is under 2,200 calories frosted, a couple of slices only costs about 360 calories: compare that to a typical slice of iced boxed cakes can run from over 500 to almost 800 calories, according to researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. Bye, Bye guilt, hello chocolate serenity cake!

 “Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis.”

—Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Chocolate Serenity Cake

A gluten-free take on a classic chocolate cake. Make it with a heart-shaped pan for a Valentine's Day dessert!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cake, gluten free, sugar free, vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 12 pieces
Calories 167kcal


  • 1 C Splenda
  • 1 C almond flour as needed for thick consistency of mix
  • 6 TBSP dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 eggs
  • ½ C buttermilk
  • ¼ C vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ C very hot water


  • Grease a nine-inch cake pan (for cupcakes, use cupcake liners in standard muffin pan).
  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Combine dry ingredients.
  • Add all but hot water and beat on medium or whisk about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in water and pour batter into greased pan.
  • Bake cake 35-40 minutes (cupcakes 25-30 minutes) or until wooden pick comes out clean.
  • Cool on baking rack and remove from pans.
  • Ice completely cooled cake with desired frosting or top with fruit, nuts, or a combination.
  • Drizzle with a sugar-free chocolate syrup and top with a light whipped cream.


Serving Suggestions
Serve as a plated dessert with chilled fruit and hot coffee.  Makes one 9-inch cake or 12 cupcakes.


Serving: 1piece | Sodium: 209mg | Calcium: 51mg | Vitamin A: 36IU | Sugar: 14g | Fiber: 2g | Potassium: 58mg | Cholesterol: 15mg | Calories: 167kcal | Trans Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Fat: 10g | Protein: 3g | Carbohydrates: 19g | Iron: 1mg