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Let the dieters eat cake!

How you can still indulge and not pile on the pounds.
Gesine Bullock-Prado and her Figgy pistachio upside-down cake.Tina Rupp

With beach season just a month away, it’s time for the annual ritual of starting an ill-fated diet to fit into your swimsuit.

But it doesn’t mean depriving your sweet tooth until August. Gesine Bullock-Prado, a pastry chef and author of new book “Let Them Eat Cake,” believes that dessert is essential to a healthy diet.

While you might dismiss the words of someone whose profession promotes indulgence, there’s scientific evidence to show that sweet treats can fight hunger. A Yale University research team studying ghrelin, the hormone that regulates hunger, found that a person’s state of mind can influence whether they feel satisfied after a meal.

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Study participants were given a 380-calorie milkshake under the pretense that it was a 620 calorie “indulgent shake” or a 140-calorie “sensible shake.” Those who thought they had indulged saw a dramatic decline in ghrelin levels, while those given the “sensible” option had a flat ghrelin response.

“What was most interesting is that the results were somewhat counterintuitive: Consuming the shake thinking it was ‘indulgent’ was healthier,” explained lead author Alia J. Crum.

Bullock-Prado considers diet fads “ineffective at best or dangerous at worst. Nutrition experts will always reaffirm the only tried and true method of dieting is moderation,” adding that “there are ways to modify recipes to add health benefits.” Among her recommendations is switching granulated sugar for palm sugar, which has a lower glycemic index plus additional minerals.

Bullock-Prado says her lean frame is an example of someone who practices what they preach. “I indulge every day. I find that when I deny myself, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what I can’t have,” she says. “If I eat my daily chocolate or slice of cake at 3 p.m., I’m happy and don’t waste my time obsessing – there’s no magic to being healthy, just common sense.”

Ingredients

For the fig layer:
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
13 small fresh mission or Calmyrna figs, stems removed, halved

For the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup finely ground pistachios
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1½ sticks unsalted butter
½ cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp grated orange zest
⅓ cup whole milk

Directions

For the fig layer, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper and spray the parchment and sides with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the melted butter into the prepared pan, sprinkle with brown sugar, and place the figs cut side down in concentric circles.

For the cake, combine the flour, pistachios, baking powder and salt; whisk for 30 seconds. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar. Mix on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and orange zest and mix until just combined. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining flour. Mix until well combined. Spoon batter over figs. Bake about 45 to 50 minutes.

 
 
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