Sunday, March 7, 2010

Revising Cake Recipes


Revising Cake Recipes for Better Health by Larisa Sparrowhawk

Do you have a recipe book that consistently gives you desserts your family enjoys, but which could be healthier? Are you struggling to meet your New Year's resolutions while your kids are clamoring for cake? Most unhealthy recipes can be improved without your family's resistance if you try one upgrade at a time - for instance, cutting back sugar without also changing to whole grain flours and lessening the fat content.

Many cake recipes include as much sugar as flour. Sugar does have a moistening effect on baked goods, so either try reducing the sugar by 1/3 and not changing the rest of the recipe, or reduce it by 1/2 and add in a tablespoon of honey or unsweetened apple sauce for each 1/2 cup sugar used. Add a little extra vanilla, cinnamon, ginger or other spice. Don't be fooled by the advertisements for fake sugars - they are bad for you. Aspartame is a neurotoxin and Splenda, a chlorocarbon, is hard on the liver and digestive system.

The next time you try the cake recipe, sustitute 1/3 of the flour with a whole grain flour. This is a lot easier to do sneakily with chocolate or carrot cake than vanilla or light colored cakes. Wheat, spelt or kamut work best. Heavier flours like oat work well in muffins and brownies. Gluten free recipes often include half "real" flour and half starch of some sort. You can usually drop the starch to 1/3 of the recipe without complaint if you use a smooth grained flour. Authentic Foods makes a finely ground rice flour. Sorghum flour is also smoother than most rice flours.

Replace all trans fats (like margarine, shortening and most commercial peanut butters) with real fats. Replace vegetable oils with flavorful nut oils and you can often decrease the amount used. Peanut oil is not expensive and contains 48% oleic acid, the same acids revered in olive oil. If a recipe calls for 1 cup vegetable oil, try 7/8 (or 3/4) cup of mixed peanut oil and melted butter. Add 1/8 (or 1/4) cup apple sauce. Although it may be tempting to use flax oil, DON'T - all its benefits disappear when heated.

Frosting recipes are usually horrible - generally tremendous amounts of powdered sugar plus a little liquid. The better ones use cream cheese, but you can lower the fat by replacing each 8 oz package of cream cheese with 1 cup and 2 tablespoons whole milk plain yogurt. Place the yogurt in a colander lined with cheesecloth overnight and allow all the water to drain out, then gently press out a little more. Flavor with 2-3 tbsp.honey and a pinch of appropriate spice or 2 tbsp. carob or cocoa. Beat in 2 tbsp. melted butter or coconut oil and refrigerate to firm the frosting enough to spread. This is so good with cardamom and honey that it's tempting to eat it straight!


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