One of the best parts about living in Memphis, TN is that I'm now in the same city as my dear sweet sister, Davina! You know what? We have never lived in the same place before. Except for the few years between when I was born (she was 15 at the time) and when she left for college, but I was so young I don't even remember that time.
Our birth dates are just 5 days apart. I'm August 28 and she is September 2 (Virgos unite!), so it is always super special when we are together to celebrate our birthdays. And this year was extra special since we're living in the same place!
Davina has been on a modified AIP for a while now to help her manage rheumatoid arthritis. So, that means that many of the Paleo cake recipes out there aren't ones she can enjoy, due to almond flour being a pretty typical ingredient.
I wanted to make her a birthday cake this year that was not just AIP-compliant but also INCREDIBLY delicious. I didn't want there to be any compromise in taste or texture. She had the awesome idea for me to try my hand at a healthy version of a southern classic: strawberry Jello cake.
If you Google a recipe for this kind of cake, you'll find two versions: one, you make a cake like normal and then pour melted Jello on top and let it set. The other, you dump the box of Jello in with your dry ingredients and bake the cake like normal. This is the version I wanted to make, since I know how wonderful an addition gelatin is to baked goods.
I certainly was not going to dump a box of Jello in my cake batter, so I had to figure out how to substitute it. Jello is just sugar, a little gelatin, and artificial flavors and colors. I knew I wouldn't need to add that extra sugar, but I needed to know how much gelatin is in a box. The contents of a box of Jello weighs 85 grams. The nutrition label states that 76 of those grams are pure sugar (does that seem like a LOT to anybody else??) That leaves only 9 grams for the gelatin and additives! I guessed that it was 1 Tablespoon of gelatin, and when I used my kitchen scale to weigh that amount of Vital Proteins gelatin, it came out to 9 grams. Easy peasy.
I'm experimenting with variations on this cake using Cassava Flour and Tigernut Flour, but I also wanted to do a coconut flour version since it is more of a Paleo pantry staple item and I like to have recipes that are easy and accessible to a wide audience, not just those who order specialty flours (even though I think those flours are totally worth it and you should try them out!) Be on the lookout for other cake recipes this Fall here :-)
Important note: this cake will taste very good the day you make it, but it will taste amazing if you make it a day in advance and let it sit. The strawberry flavor of the icing will get more potent and the texture of the cake improves as the icing soaks in a bit. I strongly suggest making it a day before you wish to serve it for the absolute best results!
Southern Style Strawberry “Jello” Cake (Paleo, AIP, Egg-Free)
This moist and flavorful cake is like the traditional southern dessert "Jello" cake, but it is made with healthy, Paleo and AIP compliant ingredients! You will forget you're eating gluten-free as soon as you take a bite!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
IngredientsFor the cake:
- 4 Tbsp coconut oil
- 4 Tbsp palm shortening (sustainably sourced)
- 1 cup unrefined sugar of choice (I like sucanat better than coconut sugar)
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 3-4 tsp vanilla extract, depending on how strong a vanilla flavor you want (this one is alcohol-free for the AIP)
- 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup coconut flour, sifted (very important!)
- 2 Tbsp tapioca starch
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp unrefined fine salt
- 1 Tbsp gelatin (I use Vital Proteins, from grass-fed cows)
- 2/3 cup filtered water
- 2 cups palm shortening (sustainably sourced)
- 1 to 1-1/2 cups unrefined sugar of choice (I like sucanat better than coconut sugar)
- 1 to 1-1/2 cups fresh strawberries, minced
- 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-4 Tbsp water, as needed to thin frosting to appropriate consistency
- optional: 2 Tbsp freeze-dried strawberries, crushed into a powder (for extra strawberry flavor and pink color)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 6 inch cake pans. Use a small amount of coconut oil or shortening to coat the pans (including the walls) with fat, then add a small amount of tapioca starch and coat the fat with the starch. Discard any excess starch.
- In a large mixing bowl, add coconut oil, palm shortening, and sugar. Use an electric mixer to cream the fat with the sugar for about 1 minute. Next, add applesauce, vanilla extract, and apple cider vinegar and mix for about another minute.
- In another smaller bowl, add all dry ingredients (coconut flour tapioca starch, baking soda, salt, and gelatin) and combine well (I used a fork).
- Pour about one fouth of the dry ingredients into the large mixing bowl with the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Add about one fourth of the water and mix until combined. Continue to alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the water until all ingredients are mixed thoroughly. Note: this batter with be THICK, much thicker than "normal" cake batter.
- Divide batter evenly between the two greased, floured cake pans using a spatula. This batter is thick so make sure there are no air holes in the batter once it is in the cake pan. Use the spatula to smooth the top.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Allow to cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then remove and transfer to a plate to finish cooling (I don't recommend using a wire cooling rack due to the somewhat fragile nature of this cake).
- For the frosting: Add palm shortening and sugar to a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until creamed together. Add water about half a tablespoon at a time until desired creamy consistency is reached. Add vanilla extract and strawberries and beat several minutes, scraping sides down as needed, until frosting has a faint pink color. Add in the optional freeze-dried strawberries for a boost of flavor and color.
- Apply a thin layer of frosting on the top of the bottom cake layer, then place the second layer on top and add remaining frosting to the top. Use a butter knife or cake frosting spatula to smooth the frosting on the top and work it down the sides of the cake. NOTE: please frost the cake one day in advance before serving for best-tasting results!
Recommended Ingredients and Tools
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