When I shared my Fat Free Chocolate Cake on "Good Morning America" back in 1994 Joan Lunden and Spencer Christian raved about it. Plain, fat-free yogurt stepped in as the chocolate cake's unique fat-fighting ingredient.
As years went by, I discovered drained, unsweetened applesauce worked magically as a fat substitute and made better chocolate cakes and desserts, like my Decadent Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake or Double Chocolate Chip Fudge Brownies. I left fat-free yogurt back in the '90s and continued to explore ways to make chocolate work in a lean diet plan.
Through Alice Medrich - aka The Patron Saint of Chocoholics as declared by the San Francisco Chronicle - and her book "Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts" (Warner Books), I learned that too much protein from too many egg whites used as a whole egg substitute made for rubbery desserts. Medrich also theorized that: "Low-fat or nonfat yogurt or low-fat buttermilk tenderizes doughs and adds a velvet texture to cakes."
Between my lean chocolate desert experiences and Alice's guidance I believed I could spy decadent, full-fat chocolate cake recipes that through my leanwizardry, could turn into healthier desserts without sacrificing flavor. Turns out, this wizard got bamboozled.
I wanted to make a chocolate dessert that delivered big flavor and zero guilt for my special gal for Valentine's Day and clicked through Huffington Post's "The 100 All-Time Best Chocolate Recipes." I stopped at No. 25: Dark Chocolate Yogurt Cake. The picture looked so tempting I ignored that cake's creator's words, "This cake has a completely different consistency from anything I've ever made - almost appearing somewhat rubbery straight from the oven."
I made that cake before Valentine's Day making my apple sauce substitution and other lean tweaks along the way and was certain this cake would turn out a winner. But the cake's, with very little sugar, just one egg and some plain Greek yogurt, turned out too rubbery, not sweet enough and lacked the chocolate punch I'd expected. If I'd waited until Valentine's Day to test it, my dinner would have ended on a disastrous note.
I headed back to the Web and found another dark chocolate yogurt cake that seemed simpler to make, with proper proportions of sugar and cocoa and eggs that just might produce the cake I wanted.
After working my lean wizardly my valentine and I were treated to a rich, moist and tender cake with a big chocolate flavor. It'll be a happy Valentine's Day after all.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.