These days, it’s not hard to find baking recipes that call for less sugar or lean on sugar substitutes, like stevia and monk fruit. There’s something to be said, however, for using minimally-processed *real* ingredients, such as honey or maple syrup. There’s the flavor for starters; these natural sweeteners tastes, well, natural, instead of slightly chemical. They’re usually easier to find in the grocery store and, even better, farmers markets. Plus, not only do our brains recognize these sweeteners, our bodies know how to deal with them, too.

Need a home-run recipe to be totally convinced? Whether you’re actively reducing your sugar intake or just looking for healthier treats, you’ll want to add this Honey-Almond Snack Cake from baker Joanne Chang to your rotation.

This Low-Sugar Snack Cake Is the Bee’s Knees

When Joanne Chang, owner of the renowned Boston bakery Flour, published a cookbook dedicated to baking with less sugar in 2015, she was undoubtedly ahead of her time. Chang found that when she started cutting back on sugar, using other ingredients such as fruit concentrates, honey, maple syrup, bananas, and dates, things got interesting in the kitchen. All of these swaps lend complex flavors and deeper, more compelling elements to desserts in ways that sugar alone can’t.

In the case of this snack cake, the result is a honey-sweetened cake with a velvety tender crumb and frosting that’s just sweet enough without being over the top. It’s absolutely delicious and you can feel really great about making it as a special treat for your family.

We also love how adaptable this recipe is, which means you can easily make this snack cake a little differently each time. Some ideas:

  • Swap in wildflower honey, orange blossom, or any other kind of honey.
  • Add lemon zest or orange zest to the wet ingredients and whisk them together.
  • Add a tablespoon of fresh chopped thyme or rosemary for a savory note.
  • Skip the frosting and opt for a naked cake, or dust it with a shower of confectioners’ sugar instead.
  • Make it gluten-free by substituting the all-purpose flour for a 1:1 gluten-free baking blend. (Or make your own; we like 1/2 cup each of sorghum flour, sweet rice flour, and 1/2 cup potato starch.)
  • Substitute half the white flour with whole-wheat flour or a quarter of the white flour with buckwheat flour.

Recipe Notes

We swapped the vegetable oil called for in Joanne’s recipe with coconut oil.

If you don’t have (or can’t find) crème fraîche, use an equal amount of plain yogurt or a slightly thinned out plain Greek yogurt. Sour cream will also work.

Adapted from Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar (Chronicle Books, 2015).

Honey-Almond Snack Cake




15 min


1h 00 min



½ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled

⅔ cup honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 large eggs plus

2 egg yolks

1 cup organic crème fraîche

1½ cups organic all-purpose flour (or gluten-free baking blend)

1 cup almond flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt


8 ounces organic cream cheese, at room temperature

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft

⅓ cup honey

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

¼ teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-in baking pan, spray with nonstick cooking spray, or butter and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and almond extract until well mixed. Whisk in the eggs and egg yolks until well combined. Whisk in the crème fraîche.

  3. In a separate medium bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

  4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the cake springs back when you poke it in the center and is pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

  5. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or an electric hand mixer), beat the cream cheese on medium speed for at least 4 minutes, or until perfectly smooth. (Cream cheese has a tendency to lump up easily, so don’t skip this step.) Using a rubber spatula, scrape the bowl and add the butter. Add the honey, vanilla, almond extract, and salt and beat well on medium speed until thoroughly combined. The frosting can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

  6. When the cake is completely cool, using a rubber spatula or an offset spatula, frost the cake and serve. Once frosted, the cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days; remove at least 1 hour before serving so the cake is not cold.

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