Chocolate Espresso Birthday Cake

Low calorie Dessert

The past few years I have chosen to enjoy a cupcake for my birthday dessert. I made the process special by going to a cupcake bakery and picking two luscious cakes with tempting dollops of buttercream frosting and some sprinkles.  I really enjoyed my little ritual but this year I celebrated a decade birthday.  In my mind my big birthday called for a cake big enough to slice and share.

A while back I happened across a “pin” on Pinterest with a picture of a chocolate cake that looked so moist and gooey but also humble and unassuming.  The ultimate “girl next door” cake.  I drooled when I saw it.  I wanted a piece of that cake so bad I really could taste it.  I wasn’t alone in my carnal cake lust, the Moist Chocolate Cake post on has received 388 comments since it was published last March.

Until I saw that cake I had a little Pinterest rule for myself to only pin recipes that fit my goal of eating balanced and healthy foods.  I like to fill my environment, whether real or virtual, with things that are good for my mind and body.  I still think this is a pretty good rule and should have been applied in this case too.  The cake was already invading my mind and should not be anywhere near my body.  Except…I broke my rule and repinned the cake.  It became the seed for a little guilty pleasure board I have titled Occasional Splurges.

low calorie chocolate cake

My new board has become a small, but growing, collection of ideas for decadent foods I would like to try a small bite of or slim down to reduce the guilt and increase the pleasure.  It is also where I keep pretty pictures of cocktails, apparently those are also meant to be enjoyed occasionally.

Once I pinned it I think I oogled the picture of the Moist Chocolate Cake at least once a week. I imagined the texture and the smell while running through my mental list of calorie reducing ingredient swaps.  Finally after weeks of planning and more drooling I had my recipe ready and began to mix the ingredients.  It felt strangely rebellious to make an entire cake.  I have gotten used to mixing batter and then portioning it into paper liners.  I like the portion control aspect to cupcakes, and they are really cute.

Low calorie chocolate cake

Once the cakes were out of the oven Mr. Second Helpings and I sampled a bit of one.  The flavor was bang on, not overly sweet and deeply chocolatey enhanced by decedent espresso.  Unfortunately discovered that I had over baked the cake and it was a bit dry, not the moist stick to the inside of my mouth gooey texture I had dreamed about.  It was a fine cake especially for a first attempt at a new baking recipe.  I prettied the two 8 inch cakes with some melted chocolate and powdered sugar before taking them to share at the post Dirty Thirty 5k picnic.

They proved an excellent lunch cake.  Light and just firm enough to hold together everyone said they enjoyed their piece.  I tried to let it be enough but it just wasn’t.  I wanted a cake worthy of my birthday.  A cake worthy of a dry-clean only dress and heels not just a t-shirt and running shoes.  So I went back into the kitchen and gave the recipe another try.  Fast forward with a fabulous montage set to something peppy and I pulled two more cakes out of the oven.

Low calorie chocolate cake

It was hard walk away and leave them cooling I wanted to poke and stare to make sure they didn’t transform.  When I finally did taste one of the newly baked cakes it was so worth the wait.  It was moist and decadent but still fluffy and caky.  The chocolate flavor, full and rich was further intensified by the espresso.  At long last the cake I imagined during my drooling stupors was in my kitchen just in time for my birthday!

I had already created a wonderful indulgent cake but it wasn’t enough.  I wanted to frost it too!  I separated some eggs and started to measure the sugar for my new favorite meringue frosting when I had a flash of genius.  Tucked in the pantry was a little box of instant sugar-free butterscotch pudding.  I wondered what would happen if I tried to mix the pudding mix into the meringue.  So I did.  And…It totally worked!  The egg whites collapsed a little but in a few minutes I had a low fat fluffy frosting just right to balance the dark chocolate flavor of the cake.

Low calorie cake with light frosting

I used one of the two 8 inch cakes to make the final birthday cake so we could give the other one away.  It was my way of coming part way back to my senses while still indulging in a crazy cake overload moment.  That works, right?

Leaving the cake uncovered in the refrigerator overnight worked really well to set the frosting and the cool cake cut much easier.  The first bite of the frosted layer cake brought on an involuntary long “mmmm……”  Exactly the result I was going for.

With or without the layering and frosting this cake tastes A-MAZ-ING!   Make it, Share it, and most of all Enjoy it! But only occasionally and with moderation.

Low calorie chocolate cake with light frosting

Chocolate Espresso Cake

Inspired by Moist Chocolate Cake and Chocolate Pumpkin Cake.  This cake is moist and chocolatey without being overly sweet.  Serve as two single or one multi-layer cake.  This is delicious with or without frosting.  Makes 12 servings as a layer cake or 16 servings as two single cakes.

Will Need: 2 – 8 inch cake pans, parchment or brown baking paper, non-stick cooking spray, electric hand or stand mixer (or a whisk and some muscles)


  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso dissolved in 1/4 cup of boiling water then cooled to room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups Millet Flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, unsalted at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup low fat buttermilk
  • 4 squares (40g) of 70% dark chocolate, diced into 1/2 inch pieces


  1. Dissolve the espresso powder in boiling water and allow to cool while beginning the batter.
  2. Cut a circle of baking paper to fit the bottoms of two 8 inch baking pans.  Lay the paper in the pans and spray the sides with non-stick spray.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Sift together – flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and unsweetened cocoa powder
  5. In a bowl with high sides (such as a stand mixer bowl) mix the sugar, vanilla, and soft butter with an electric mixer on slow speed.  Add egg and egg yolk and increase mixer speed to medium and mix for about 3 minutes to allow butter and eggs to become fluffy.
  6. Continue to mix while adding yogurt, pumpkin, and butter milk mixing throughly between each ingredient.
  7. Mix in cooled espresso and blend throughly.  Bater should be quite liquid.
  8. With the mixer on low speed slowly add the dry ingredients 1/3 at a time.  When the dry ingredients are completely incorporated set aside the mixer and fold in the chocolate pieces with a wooden spoon or a spatula.
  9. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.  Check for done-ness at 25 minutes with a probe or toothpick.  Cake is done when the center doesn’t jiggle and a toothpick or probe comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

Allow cakes to cool at least 15 minutes before removing from pans or cutting.  Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Approximate Nutrition Information: 12 servings – 197 calories, 6.2 g fat, 34 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 4 g protein, PP = 5 / 16 servings – 147 calories, 4.7 g fat, 25 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 3 g protein, PP = 4

Low calorie cake with light frosting

Butterscotch Meringue Frosting

Inspired by Fluffy White Frosting (aka 7 minute frosting)

  • 3 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tarter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp rum extract (or vanilla)
  • 1 packet of Instant sugar-free Butterscotch Pudding
  1. In a small sauce pan combine sugar and water and heat over medium heat until it becomes a clear syrup.
  2. While sugar is heating beat egg whites on low speed with a pinch of salt in a bowl with high sides.  When they become foamy add cream of tarter and increase the mixer speed.
  3. Within about 5 minutes the whites should begin to form soft peaks. Add flavor extract and continue mixing another minute.
  4. When the whites have reached firm peak stage slowly drizzle in the syrup a little at a time while continuing to mix.  Once all the syrup as been incorporated continue mixing until the whites have become stiff and shiny.
  5. While mixing slowly shake in the pudding mix a little at a time.  Whites will collapse by about a third but there should be enough volume left to cover two 8 inch single layer cakes or one 8 inch multi layer cake.

Frosting may be kept refrigerated for a short time but it may separate and it will become less fluffy, therefore frost immediately if at all possible.

Approximate Nutrition Information: 12 servings – 60 calories, 3.3 g fat, 4 g carbs, .1 g fiber, 3.6 g protein PP = 1  / 16 servings – 45 calories, 2.5 g fat, 3 g carbs, .1 g fiber, 2.7 g protein PP = 1

If you have a morbid curiosity like I do you may be interested to hear the stats for the original Moist Chocolate Cake: 12 servings 296 calories, 9.6 g. fat, 51.5 g carbs, 2.3 g fiber, 4.7 g protein, PP = 8.  This is over course before the cake is frosted with a traditional mostly butter chocolate frosting.  I still find the images drool worthy but will be sticking to my lighter version.


    • Thank you for the comment! I am so pleased that this recipe sounds like something that could work with your low carb life. I’d love to hear how it turns out.

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