Food and Nutrition

These 2-Ingredient Apple Coconut Cake Bars Offer Endless Gut-Boosting Benefits

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Photo: Stocksy/Tatjana Zlatkovic
While it’s never not the season for from-scratch baked goods, there are certain times of the year when firing up the oven and whipping up a batch of warm homemade treats feels particularly appropriate. One of occasions is, of course, the fall. Temperatures are dropping, scarves and sweaters are back in style, and the main objective for most days is feeling as cozy as possible. Baking is a key part of that, but it can be a challenge to squeeze it in on the reg when there are so many other fall-tivities to participate in.

This, friends, is why we’re particularly partial to healthy treats that are as easy as they are delicious. Enter this recipe for two-ingredient apple cake bars. They're not only comically simple to bake, but they're also vegan, free from added sugar, allergy-friendly, gluten-free, and they're great for your gut.

Thanks to Kirbie’s Cravings creator and 5-Minute Mug Cakes author Jennifer Lee, you can bake an apple coconut cake bar with minimal time and effort, all while taking good care of your digestive system. Naturally sweet, super moist, and cake ball-esque, these little bars of goodness are comprised of apple sauce and coconut flour. That’s it: No sugar, wheat or white flour, butter, dairy, or eggs needed.

apple coconut cake bars
Photo: Kirbie's Cravings

While applesauce is likely a familiar ingredient in your kitchen, you may be new to the beauty of coconut flour (unless you have a gluten sensitivity, that is). Know this: As far as flours go, it’s about as simple to bake with—and as good for you—as they come.

“Coconut flour is made from coconut flesh that is dried and then ground into a powder, creating a consistency very similar to flour,” says Lee. “Coconut flour is highly absorbent which is why it works for this recipe. It will absorb a lot of the moisture from the applesauce and soften and expand, creating a cake-like texture. It also is naturally sweet so it won’t cut into the sweetness of the apple cake." You can pick up coconut flour at pretty much any grocery store (including Whole Foods) or find it on Amazon.

But beyond its cooking benefits, coconut flour is also good for digestion thanks to its high fiber content. Given that it has significantly more fiber than traditional wheat-based flours and contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, coconut flour encourages healthy GI activity (including healthy bacteria in your stomach).

Apple sauce is similarly a tummy-friendly ingredient. Apples, which are also particularly high in fiber, contain a high amount of pectin. In fact, around 15 to 20 percent of apple pulp is made of pectin, a kind of soluble fiber that is also present in other fruits (especially citrus) and other vegetables. Apple pectin is has been shown to be beneficial for those with GI problems, including irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. Applesauce in particular is a food often recommended by gastroenterologists to those with stomach issues, as it's incredibly easy to digest. Plus, as a prebiotic, pectin helps to encourage the growth of healthy gut bacteria.

In order to ensure that your applesauce is as fresh and pectin-packed as possible, you may want to consider making your own rather than buying the packaged variety. This can also help to eliminate any added sugar from your recipe. "I prefer making these cake bars with homemade applesauce, but you can definitely use store bought applesauce," Lee says. "I like using homemade because I make mine thicker and slightly chunkier, which gives these bars more apple flavor. I found when I used the store bought applesauce, I could still taste the apple flavor but it wasn’t as strong."

To make your own applesauce, Lee says all you have to do is peel, core, and slice your apples, then boil the slices in water until they are very soft. Drain from water and then mash the apples by hand, in a food processor, or a blender until the applesauce reaches your desired consistency. DIYing your applesauce is, again, definitely not required; if you prefer to buy applesauce, we're all for it. Just check the label to make sure it doesn't have added sugars.

Now that you're armed with your preferred form of applesauce and coconut flour, you’re ready to start making your no-bake apple coconut cake bars. Get the recipe below and head to Lee's site to check out more yummy, nutrient-rich dessert ideas.

apple coconut cake bars
Photo: Kirbie's Cravings

Apple Coconut Cake Bars Recipe From Kirbie's Cravings

Ingredients
1 cup (8 oz) unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup coconut flour
Optional: cream cheese frosting or cinnamon for topping, if desired

1. Line an 8 x 4 inch baking loaf pan with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together applesauce and coconut flour. Stir until coconut flour is completely incorporated into the applesauce. Your mixture should be thick (like cookie dough) and scoopable. You can taste and adjust as needed. Depending on the brand of applesauce you are using, you may need to add 1 more tbsp of coconut flour.

3. Spread cake batter into prepared baking pan, using a spatula to smooth out the surface. Cake can be enjoyed right away but Lee recommends placing it into the fridge for about 1 hour, which will let the coconut flour soften a little more as it absorbs the applesauce and will make it easier to slice the cake. If you are adding frosting, you can add it before placing the cake into the fridge or after the cake has been refrigerated. Just be sure to add it before cutting up the cake. Use a sharp knife to slice the cake into 8 squares.

4. Store uneaten cake in the fridge in an airtight container.

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