Lemon Cake from Healthy Green Kitchen

I wrote this post about my brief experience with Paleo, and it seems to have ruffled some feathers. I did not expect a slice of cake to be so controversial.

A few people seem to think I said Paleo was not a good way to eat. I never said that. I said I loved the whole foods emphasis and that it may be beneficial for people with certain health concerns, but that it’s not right for me. I don’t have health issues and I don’t do well with restriction. If you’re Paleo (or vegan, or something else) and what you are doing works for you, that’s great. I mean that and I said so in the article. But I do feel very strongly (and I said this in the article, too) that you don’t have to follow a restrictive diet to be a healthy person. I wrote that piece for everyone trapped in the mindset that you must to go to extremes with your food to be healthy. I want you to know that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Yes, elimination diets can be helpful. I wrote about why you may want to eliminate wheat, gluten, and grains here. I wrote about dairy here. And sugar here. There’s a chapter on food sensitivities in my book (hooray! my book’s already up on Amazon! The cover is going to change a bit, but still! Can you tell I am excited?).

But it’s my feeling that elimination diets should be a temporary aspect of healing. Work on strengthening your digestion so you’ll be able to eat the foods that cause you trouble again someday (not with celiac disease or a life-threatening food allergy unfortunately though…you must stay away from those foods for good). Focus on ultimately eating more, not less.

Let’s be reasonable and use common sense here, folks. Let’s eat lots of real foods. Traditional foods. Eating like our ancestors did is great, but I really don’t think we need to go back and emulate the cavemen (who’s really sure how they ate anyway???). How about we just try to eat more like people did before all the processed foods, GMOs, and other undesirable stuff came along? How about we learn to cook and do that more often? How about we eat as organic and local as we can? And how about we don’t freak out SO much about gluten (again, unless you really cannot tolerate it or you have celiac disease) and sugar? I used to tell everyone not to eat gluten and sugar and I used to avoid them for the most part myself. I did that for many months before I even tried Paleo, and it did not make me feel any better than I do now that I’m back to including these in my life. (In fact, I feel healthier now because my mind is at peace since I’m no longer forcing myself not to eat things that I like. When I designate foods as “forbidden”, it brings back the feelings I had back when I used to basically starve myself as a teenager…I think I’ll pass on reliving that.)

Eat plentifully of wholesome stuff and don’t eat so much of the stuff that’s not. But please don’t be “on a diet”: don’t eat for weight loss…eat for your health. Your body needs food (all different kinds and and plenty of it) to do everything it needs to do. Don’t eat too few calories. Or fats. Or carbohydrates. Don’t deny yourself real foods that you enjoy. Move your body! Get lots of deep sleep, and some sunlight. Learn to properly manage stress. Strive for balance in terms of what you eat and in your life as a whole: I think that will go a long way toward helping you get and stay healthy. And happy.

Now here’s that cake I was talking about :)

Yellow Cake with Lemon Curd from Healthy Green Kitchen

This is a very basic, and very delicious cake. It’s “sunny” yellow, so I’ve dubbed it “Happiness Cake”. I had the lemon curd on hand already and needed to use it up, but if you don’t have any, you can fill this cake with something else. Raspberry jam- a homemade one or a high quality one from the store- would be perfect: feel free to just dust the top of the cake with some powdered (confectioner’s) sugar if you use the jam filling (in lieu of an icing). Another option for this cake would be a more traditional white or chocolate frosting that you’d use in the center and to frost the cake. If you prefer to bake this cake in two separate layers (in order to avoid slicing one in half), use two 8-inch round pans.

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Lemon Curd Cake from Healthy Green Kitchen

More on restrictive diets not working out:

Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Paleo by Cheeseslave
Breaking Up with Paleo from Hunt, Gather, Love
Susan’s Experience over at Strands of My Life
I Don’t Need the Gaps Diet
My Vegan Diet Caused Health Problems from Kristen’s Raw


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  1. 1

    Jessica @ Burlap and Butter Knives — April 25, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

    THANK YOU WINNIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yes the caps are intended, and with good reason! All, yes ALL of this needs to be not only said, but preached from the mountaintops. Plastered on a billboard in Times Square, recited every hour on the hour!

    With the exception of medically diagnosed reasons (BY A DOCTOR NOT WEB MD) there is no reason people need to go from one extreme to another, or start eliminating half their foods. Like you said, it’s about going back to real foods! If people want to eliminate something, eliminate junk food, and watch your disposition, waistline, and energy levels change dramatically!

    Keep on preaching Winnie! xoxoxo

  2. 2

    Jeanine — April 25, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

    Ha, loved reading the ruffled feather comments… I haven’t tried paleo because I know myself well enough to know that I too go crazy when I feel restricted. (If it works for others and they feel better, that’s great). I’ll happily take some cake every now and then :)

  3. 3

    Anna — April 25, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

    I love lemon curd! I’ve never thought of filling a cake with it. I love your thoughts on food and eating and agree completely. I admit, though, that even though I eat a pretty well balanced, whole foods, mostly made from scratch diet, I often feel that I should do better and maybe eliminate some things that aren’t so good. I stick to everything in moderation and when I doubt myself, I’ll try to remember your wise words.

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    Paula — April 25, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

    I hope the people whose *feathers were ruffled* read this post. It’s excellent and special attention needs to be paid to your final paragraph before *Now here’s the cake I was talking about.*

    I didn’t realize that your book was available for pre-order on Amazon. Where have I been! It may be a long wait until the December 3rd release date but I know it will be worth it. Congratulations Winnie :)

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    Mel @ The cook's notebook — April 25, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

    Great post Winnie. I found your blog [and this post] via a tweet from Shauna James Ahern BTW.

    You appear to follow many of my personal food philosophies, particularly eat most food in moderation [some foods I flat out refuse to eat, mostly stuff full of preservatives and ingredients I can’t pronounce and Brussels sprouts].

    As I’m getting older [in my 40s], I am definitely eating more for health. While I need to lose weight, I figure if I focus on my health, my weight should take care of itself.

    Your cake looks great – possible the beautiful yellow can be attributed to the eggs from your chooks. We have chooks too, and everything I make with their eggs is a vibrant yellow.

    Congrats on your book – will check it out :)

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    Amanda — April 25, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

    Thank you for your post! I am in complete agreement, and with so many of my friends going vegan or doing monthly juice cleanses, sometimes I just need to hear from someone who believes in a well-rounded, whole diet as well. It isn’t the years in your life, but the life in your years! I try to eat healthy and whole as much as I can. Everything in moderation. No extremes. Most recently, I am just trying not to be hard on myself when I do indulge in a few boxed cookies or crackers. I have a three-year old. We need to have something fun once in awhile and as much as I love to cook, I’m also very busy as a teacher and student, so convenience is an absolute necessity sometimes! (And I LOVE meat and cheese – can’t live without them.)

    Thank you again for your opinions!

  7. 7

    Julie — April 26, 2013 @ 12:48 am

    Thank you for this post Winnie. There is a balanced middle, the problem is people go to extremes both ways with their eating habits. Moderation! Now I’m off bake a yellow cake with lemon curd!

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    Barbara — April 26, 2013 @ 1:49 am

    Great post. Agree with you totally.

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    Victoria — April 26, 2013 @ 2:36 am

    I totally get what you are saying! Cant wait to try the cake!

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    Kathryn — April 26, 2013 @ 4:40 am

    I agree with absolutely everything that you’ve written. So many people that I know seem to be doing cleanses or eating paleo or whatever and it just seems to make them completely obsessed with what you’re eating and not in a good way. I fear that the damage it can do to your mental well-being far outweighs any physical benefits you may feel.

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    Candace Karu — April 26, 2013 @ 6:12 am

    I love your philosophy on food and eating, which is similar to mine. As the mother of a child with life-threatening food allergies, I understand the necessity for some people to restrict certain foods. I also understand that eating a wide variety fresh, unprocessed foods in moderation combined with regular exercise works as a healthy lifestyle for me and my family. PS That cake looks amazing!

  12. 12

    Wendy — April 26, 2013 @ 8:12 am

    I love this post and I love you Winnie!

  13. 13

    Donna — April 26, 2013 @ 11:34 am

    Paleo very much includes cake, just not gluten-laden cake.

    As for not cutting anything out unless a Dr says so, well I don’t need a Dr to tell me what wheat does to my stomach.

  14. 14

    amanda — April 26, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

    This post is a mindful sigh of relief, in blog form. Thank you, Winnie, for your peaceful voice and sense–two things that sadly seem to be lacking in this world (food-related and otherwise). As a cookbook editor, I too know how radical people can get, and unnecessarily so. We all take our own paths.

    Now if only we could find a diet that makes us act a little more kind to one another!

  15. 15

    Lauren — April 26, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

    To all your friends who said you didn’t stick with it long enough- I did. I was paleo for a few months (not listening to my body the whole time, as I was told ‘it would get better’.) I felt like CRAP the whole time. Nausea became a daily occurrence, in addition to ZERO appetite, weight loss (which I certainly did not need), low energy and anxiety. I have been gluten-free and low sugar for years now, but my body needs whole grains. Simple as that. The goat cheese, hummus and peanut butter are for my mind ;) Thanks so much for this great article! Wish I too stopped after a week and didn’t get thrown into the insanity. Our bodies always know best. Always.

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    Joni Ruhs — April 26, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

    From what I understand(overheard from a pastry chef), once the eggs and sugar are mixed, the sugar sort of “cooks” them so I’m sure the non-refrigeration is no great crime. I’ve never had an issue with it.

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    Oui, Chef — April 26, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

    Amen, Winnie. Thank you for these reasoned words of wisdom. Can’t wait to get your book!

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    Catherine Clark — April 26, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

    I love a whole foods diet. Unfortunately, until the day comes when I can get my gut healed, grains give me eczema. Every single time I eat even sprouted grain breads. I love them, but my body sure doesn’t. We call ourselves Flexitarians, because we eat pastured/grass fed/finished meats, range chicken, wild caught fish when we can afford it, and lots of greens and veggies and fruits. I am expanding my garden this year (with plans to keep the blasted squirrels OUT of things – furry tailed rats!) with just three permanent raised beds and 3 moveable ones, plus a multitude of containers and even a shoe bag for the fence for some of the smaller herbs. Working on dwarf trees for a very small yard – apples, pears, cherries, nuts, miniature lemons/limes/banana (must be brought in during winter) and also edible landscaping. I work full time, so am also working on a homemade drip irrigation system; last season was a disaster with the drought. I digress. I enjoyed your post because I am so tired of the vegan and vegetarian pushers that insist those are a one-size-fits-all diet regime – NOT. Seen that first hand. Common sense is what I saw in your article. Thanks!

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    Sonnet — April 26, 2013 @ 2:28 pm


    I LOVE this post and I really enjoyed your article on MBG. Paleo is something I’ve been experimenting with lately (which is a huge shift from being vegan for many years) and I absolutely agree with your thoughts about balance, making foods work for you, and focusing on a healthy lifestyle, not a diet. And, the cake looks amazing too! :)

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    Melissa — April 26, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

    I truly enjoyed reading and thank you for writing it.. My husband and I took a good look at our diet last year & are still fine tuning what is good for our bodies, it’s a long process & some days are easier than others but we are starting to find balance.

    One thing I flat refused to do was go Paleo or any type of diet. I’ve battles for years with my weight & one day it just clicked, I just needed to find the foods that fuelled me and gave me nourishment there didn’t need to be a name on it.

    I totally get the process of elimination and went through that BUT we must not deny our bodies anything that it needs. If a certain ‘diet’ like Paleo or veganism works wonders for you that’s great but its ok to just eat nourishing food and not have a label on it.

  21. 21

    Hannah — April 26, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

    Well said, Winnie! I appreciate all you shared here. Cheers to balance, moderation and listening to your body. I’m looking forward to your book!

  22. 22

    Eileen @ Phoenix Helix — April 26, 2013 @ 11:11 pm

    I eat paleo for health reasons and didn’t feel offended by your post at all. I agree with a lot of what you said, and there’s actually an anti-diet movement happening now called “Just Eat The Food” to help people get over their obsession with weight and body image. Paleo is amazingly helpful for reducing inflammation and reversing autoimmunity, but if I didn’t have those issues, don’t you know I would be making this cake tonight? Here’s something I also find ironic about the paleo community – the bloggers who focus 100% on paleofied desserts (including paleo twinkies) have significantly more fans than ones who focus on nutrition-dense paleo meals – just like the food blog community as a whole. We have such a bipolar culture when it comes to food, swinging between deprivation and indulgence. May we all find a middle road, whatever way we choose to eat, and may we all embrace what makes us healthy, mind body and soul.

  23. 23

    Winnie — April 26, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

    Here, here. Thank you so much for adding your beautiful (rational!) voice to the conversation ;)

  24. 24

    Laura (Tutti Dolci) — April 27, 2013 @ 1:09 am

    I thought your post was incredibly well-written! As for your cake, it certainly looks like happiness – I’d like a slice right now :).

  25. 25

    Carol Sacks — April 27, 2013 @ 6:52 am

    Go Winnie! Smart post, beautiful cake. I pre-ordered your book, too!

  26. 26

    Fiona — April 29, 2013 @ 12:45 am

    Excellent post. I’m working on moderation and more incidental exercise, less pressure, more balance.

  27. 27

    Kari — April 29, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

    I just read your Paleo article two minutes ago which is why I ended up here. I was interested in reading more about you. I LOVED your article. One of the things that always turns me off from the healthy eating lifestyle bloggers is this unintentional (but maybe not so much) snobbishness that comes with elimination diets. You know, the people who when you mention a great recipe you just found for say, yellow cake with lemon curd they say something like ‘oh, I don’t eat . it can do to your body and then you will die in 5 more year.’ No one actually says that, but that’s what I hear. Anyhow, I found your post to be so true to how I’ve felt when I’ve tried stuff like this. When I deny myself something I enjoy it’s only going to make everything so much harder. I just think you’re awesome and wanted to let you know. I plan on grabbing your book and subscribing to your blog. Thank you so much!

  28. 28

    Winnie — April 29, 2013 @ 10:20 pm

    You just made my day Kari. Thank you :)

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    Cheri Litchfield — April 30, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

    AMEN!!! So very well expressed. I am in complete agreement with every sentiment. Poor diet choices can certainly land one in a place of very poor health and I know that many are in that place. But to avoid that place doesn’t require being extreme – just smart. If we ate the way people ate 100 years ago, we would probably be quite fine.

    Thanks for an excellently expressed post. And a terrific looking recipe :) Can’t wait to try it.

  30. 30

    Roy Montgomery — May 1, 2013 @ 11:37 am

    Forget about the diet! This would be lovely with some nice custard as a pudding to end any meal.

  31. 31

    Marisa — May 3, 2013 @ 8:46 am

    I. Love. This. Post. Thank you for summing eating up in a practical and approachable manner. I’ve been feeling guilty for not soaking or fermenting or culturing or … enough. We’re eating vegetables. We’re eating whole grains. We’re eating well-sourced protein. Sometimes we eat sugar. And that’s OK. THANK YOU.

  32. 32

    Honey Wheat Toast with Roasted Asparagus and Poached Egg | Healthy Green Kitchen — May 10, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

    […] recently wrote about wanting more cake in my life. Same goes for […]

  33. 33

    France @ Beyond The Peel — May 12, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

    Great piece. It’s so easy to ruffle the feathers of those that don’t hold the same belief. Some people follow these restrictive diets like they are gospel. But we are ALL different and we all require different things. No single diet is best for everyone. I can’t wait to get your book. I tried to order it on Amazon.ca today, but the release date isn’t until Dec 13th. :( I don’t even know where I’ll be living that far in advance, so essential no shipping address. Sad, a little, but true. I hope to have an shipping address by Sept. I can’t wait to get it. I’m so happy for you!!!!

  34. 34

    GoodRay — May 17, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

    Hi there, I found your site thaks to biggirssmallkitchen. I really feel this article. I have had my tomato, a little cottage cheese and thats’it-fase in my teens, then I had an intestinal candidosis caused by wrong meds, and I put my desperate self in the hands of a Homeopath..and cured it with a looong (any kind of)sugar-white flour-levening-free diet. I had the tendence to be to really strict, and one summer I cut out carb-sources completely, except maybe 50 grams a day max! When my Homeopath found out She told me that was wrong, that I needed more, and to stop listening to my head, and start listening to my body. I underestimated that. Now I have some friends that are “religious” vegans, and it really hurts me how intolerant they are. I think being vegan is great, but I know it is not right for me. I would only have to give up butter, yogurt, and the little cheese I eat, but still. I don’t think that little change would heal my endomethriosis, just beacause “now I’m eating right”. I’m already eating healthy. I really enjoy trying New healthy recipes, vegan, gf or others. As long as it’ decious and quite affordable. So, now when someone wants to force me in any direction dietary-whise I have an inner distance. What they say is interesting and important, but what my body says is more important. Period.

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    carlylynn — December 19, 2013 @ 10:26 am

    Hello-I just stumbled upon your blog today and I wanted to leave a comment to say “thank you”. I also agree completely with you about all the craziness of elimination diets, etc. I think these can be a good place to start for some people-but not if your mind is consumed with thinking about what you can and cannot eat. It was encouraging to read about your personal connection with linking memories to not eating as a teenager. I also had the same problem, and have to be careful to not fall into those same habits. Your article is a breath of fresh air! I agree totally and hope people will read and be inspired to enjoy eating {real food} again instead of restricting themselves to less and less.
    You have blessed me! Thank You.