Lean In 15: Chocolate & Almond Protein Cake

Chocolate & Almond Protein Cake - Lean In 15 Recipe Review -

I decided over the weekend that I would be trying a few recipes from Joe Wicks’ book Lean In 15. I was in the baking mood so I thought I would give the chocolate & almond protein cake a whirl. I won’t be using this recipe in my review of the book as it was a spontaneous off-the-cuff decision to make this. We’ll treat this as a stand alone review.

Seeing as it was Mother’s Day, I wanted chocolate. I mean I always want chocolate, but being the day it was I really wanted chocolate. I thought this might be a nice treat and help with the guilt I’d feel if I was eating a slice of chocolate fudge cake. I had a few of the ingredients in my cupboard already, but I did need a quick nip to the shop to buy a few extras of things I didn’t have (almond butter, dates, ground almonds). In hindsight I should have bought more eggs because this calls for 4 of them. It also doesn’t follow the motto of 15 minutes, but being a cake I can’t fault that. What cake can you make in 15 minutes? A raw one.

The recipe called for the following ingredients:

  • 120g pitted dates
  • 125g chestnut puree (I substituted for almond butter as I could not find any chestnut puree to save my life)
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g chocolate (it calls for 85%, I used 70%), melted
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 4 eggs
  • juice and finely grated zest of 1 orange

The first thing that stood out to me about this recipe was that there was no flour or raising agent. My brain kept thinking, “Nope, this isn’t cake, cake has flour. What is this scorcery?!” It was in a cook book though, so it had to work. I told my brain to shut up a minute so I could keep reading. I was really excited about making it though. Sure it’s cake so it isn’t healthy, but it would be sure a lot healthier than standard cake. There was also no sugar or sugar substitute listed, bonus! I figured the sweetness would come out from the dates and protein powder.

I couldn’t believe how easy the recipe seemed. Throw the ingredients in a food processor and bam, you have cake batter. Typical cake recipes you have a wet and dry bowl followed by various steps of mixing ingredients, it can be quite time consuming. This was dead simple, 10 points to Joe Wicks. I prepped the ingredients before hand so it was all ready to be added in without any waiting. Some recipes can go wrong if any part of the batter sits, I didn’t want to risk that. Once I had everything ready, I soaked the dates as the book requested and blitzed them in the food processor. I had to blitz them a few times as I had a few tough dates. I then added in the rest of the ingredients and blitzed it again until, voilà, I had a lovely cake batter. Considering there was no flour, it looked and felt just like regular cake batter.

I had a lick of the spoon, as you do, and was surprised at how bitter it was. Now from years of tasting batter as I grew up, I knew that the batter does not reflect the taste of a baked cake. I figured that the reaction of the ingredients with the heat of baking would bring out the sweetness. I used Morisson’s own vanilla protein meal replacement powder as I know it is very sweet and hoped it would be a good substitute for the lack of sugar. With that said, the cocoa powder I had on hand was Cadbury’s Bournville baking cocoa powder and the melted chocolate was 70% cocoa. This alone would be quite bitter.

In the oven the cake went to cook away for 20 minutes. When it was done baking, I set the pan on a wire rack and left the house for a few hours. I couldn’t wait to get home and tuck into a slice after I’ve finished my Mother’s Day celebrations. The book states that the cake will rise in the oven but collapse as it cools, so I was quite surprised to see that it still had a decent rise to it when I got home 4 hours later.

The book calls for more cocoa powder to be dusted on the top. I normally hate this on cakes as when I take a bite I feel like I’m choking on the cocoa powder. However, it’s what the recipe called for so I went along with it. The cake cut beautifully but it did have a very dense texture. I wasn’t surprised by this based on the ingredients and I wasn’t expecting a fluffy sponge.

Moment of truth, time for the first bite! I braced myself simply because this is a different type of cake than I had ever eaten before. Before I took a bite I reminded myself that this wont taste like a normal chocolate cake and to keep an open mind. The texture was wonderful, I really enjoyed how it felt. It was almost like eating a hybrid brownie cake. As expected, I choked on the dusted cocoa powder. This was not the cakes fault but my throat being a prat. The taste of the cake however was extremely bitter and acidic. The sweetness from the dates, protein powder and orange got lost in the oven I think. I thought perhaps it was the extra cocoa powder, so I scraped off what was on the top. I had another 4 bites to see if it was a taste that would grow on me. It wasn’t, in fact each bite tasted worse and worse. My husband had a slice as well and couldn’t get past one bite. Bear in mind, he is not a fan of dark or bitter chocolate, so I didn’t think he would like it anyway.

Was it the fact I used dark chocolate cocoa powder that made the cake bitter? Could be. Was it the fact I used almond butter and not chestnut puree? Doubt it. I can’t think of what I did wrong that could have made the cake come out so bitter. Surely the lower percentage of cocoa in the melted chocolate would have made it less bitter than it would have been with 85% cocoa. I really do not know.

To be honest with you, I got so excited about this cake that I forgot to take photos of it. Mark me down on authenticity here, but it did look the part in regards to the photo in the book. Would I suggest this cake for others to try? Not unless you have no sweet tooth in your entire body. I ended up binning the entire cake. It was a shame and a waste of some pricey ingredients.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still excited to try the other recipes in the book though! I think this one was a bit daring anyway. It hasn’t put me off the book one bit. In fact, at least I know now that when it comes to cakes I prefer to go big or go home – no healthy alternatives for me. I think I would rather just munch on some sweet fruit than have a protein cake again. This coming from the woman who would live off of protein bars if she could.

Love Tiffany

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    25th April 2016 at 2:36 pm

    If you are ever tempted to give this another go, try changing the vanilla protein powder, with chocolate protein powder. I’m not completely sure if this is allowed, but I ran out of vanilla so took the risk. It tasted great! I also shared it with some friends who weren’t doing Lean in 15 and they were all quite pleasantly surprised.

    • Reply
      28th April 2016 at 8:52 pm

      Thanks Lucie! I’ll have to give it another go and see how it tastes 🙂 x

  • Reply
    Merchant Gourmet
    5th October 2016 at 3:05 pm

    We know this is a bit late but you can buy Merchant Gourmet Chestnut Puree from Amazon and Ocado and also from selected Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Morrisons stores all year round. We hope this helps maybe with the next batch 🙂

    Team Merchant Gourmet x

  • Reply
    Maggie Donaldson
    22nd February 2017 at 11:31 am

    Hi Tiffany, I agree with Lucie. I used Atkins Chocolate Protein Powder instead. Also, I do think the chestnut puree would help, as it has an inherent mild sweetness to it. Merchant Gourmet do it in a 200g pouch. I just used half and froze the rest for when making this again. I also added a good spoonful of vanilla paste to make up for the lack of vanilla with the swap in protein powder flavour. I thought it was delicious and went down very well at work where several people have asked for the recipe, so perhaps it was the tweaks you made……what a shame for you, as it is an expensive thing to make. I also found that it was a massive cake to serve 6! It cut into 12 slim portions and these were quite sufficient. Mind you, I wouldn’t be so restrained with a ‘proper’ chocolate fudge cake, I am sure!

  • Reply
    Vanessa M.
    11th March 2017 at 11:33 am

    I noticed that the recipe didn’t specify whether the chestnut puree was sweetened or unsweetened. I wonder if it was supposed to be sweetened and that’s part of where the sweetness should have come from. Especially since the author in the magazine said they couldn’t pretend the recipe was particularly healthy. Regardless, I plan on making this and seeing what happens. It sounds interesting!

  • Reply
    Vanessa M.
    12th March 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Since the recipe used cocoa powder and chocolate, I stayed along the same flavor profile and used chocolate protein powder (half whey and half casein). Since the author had issues with sweetnesss, I cut out the orange zest, since it can lend a bitter quality, depending on how much is used, and also nixed the cocoa powder to sprinkle on the cake top. My chestnut puree was unsweetened. For me this is definitely a recipe to make again, and my somewhat picky husband agreed. My recipe came out PLENTY sweet, despite the fact that I used degleet noor dates which are less sweet than the more typical medjool dates. Yummy!

  • Leave a Reply