How to Make a Healthy Birthday Cake

Today is not only Mother’s Day, it’s also my husband’s birthday.  Thankfully, we’re both on the same page in terms of trying to eat healthy every day and not making excuses to go overboard, not even on our birthdays.  It’s one thing to splurge with a little greasy food, but sugar is a different story.  It’s unforgiving, leading immediately to bloat, guilt, and a week of insatiable sugar cravings.  So how do you make the traditional birthday cake healthy?  If there’s one aspect of healthy cooking that I’ve mastered, it’s baking.  I’ve learned tons of substitutes for the traditional sugar, oil, butter, and white flour.  Granted, it won’t always turn out exactly like a regular cake, but close enough that it’s worth the swap!

My husband loves pineapple and coconut, so I decided to make a Healthy Pina Colada Upside Down Cake.  I used Pillsbury’s Sugar Free Classic Yellow cake mix for the base.  Yes, it’s made with white flour and other artificial ingredients, but I’ve made some from scratch and this is better, and so much easier!  But if you prefer to go the natural route, you can make a regular dry cake mix, using the guidelines below for substitutes.

The recipe on the cake box calls for 1 cup water (sub pineapple juice), 1/3 cup oil (sub coconut oil and applesauce), and 3 eggs (you can sub egg whites, but I don’t see any issue with whole eggs).  In addition, you’ll need pineapple slices (no sugar added), maraschino cherries (I used no sugar added cherry pie filling), sugar substitute (Truvia works best and is closest to sugar’s consistency), another 1/3 cup of coconut oil, and about 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes.  So here’s the new, edited recipe:

Healthy Pina Colada Upside Down Cake


  • 1 can (20 oz) Pineapple Slices in juice (no added sugar)
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup Truvia or other sugar substitute
  • Maraschino cherries
  • 1 box Pillsbury Sugar Free Classic Yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup Pineapple Juice (from the 20 oz can)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes


Pre-heat over to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 13 x 9 pan, or 8 10-oz individual baking dishes.  Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice.  Stir together the melted coconut oil and Truvia and pour into the pan, or divided evenly among the baking dishes.  Place the pineapple slices on top of the coconut oil & sugar mixture in the pan, or put 1 in each baking dish.  Place a cherry in the middle of each pineapple slice. 

Make the cake mix according to the package directions, subbing 1 cup pineapple juice for the water (top off with water if you’re a little short), and 1 Tbsp coconut oil + 1/3 cup applesauce for the oil.  When the ingredients are blended, stir in the coconut flakes.  Pour the cake mix gently onto your pineapple slices.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool the cake(s) and then loosen the edges with a knife.  Invert onto a cookie sheet (or small plates if making individual cakes).  Top with a dollop of whipping cream and serve.

So there you have it.  A delicious birthday cake without the guilt!  You can use these substitutes for lots of different types of cake.  What variations have you tried in your baking adventures?