Baking brings a huge amount of pleasure to the baker, the recipient, and those sharing in the sweet treats. But how can you ensure that your bakes are nutritious, delicious, and healthier for everyday baking? Simple choices can help you make the most of your baking to improve your self-confidence, sense of achievement, skill and repertoire, but at the same time ensure every bake looks impressive and tastes delicious, whilst being mindful of nutritional content.
With many people opting to follow lower fat, lower sugar, dairy-free, fat-free, wheat-free or gluten-free diets, it can be challenging to know what to bake that’s delicious and nutritious.
How to Have Your Cake and Eat It – Mich’s Tips for Healthier Bakes
1. Butter is 80% fat. By switching to fresh cream (double cream is 48% fat and whipping cream is 35% fat) rather than buttercream to fill a Victoria sponge or a Roulade, you will be dramatically reducing the fat and sugar content of your bakes.
2. Whisked sponge cakes that are fat-free can be a great alternative to butter-based, creamed cakes. These rely on eggs and sugar to create a super light sponge that can be filled with fresh fruit compote or citrus curds and lightly whipped cream.
3. Meringues and pavlovas are gluten-free and fat-free. They’re impressive and serve well with fresh fruit. Serving them with cream will still have less fat than many other bakes. Adding fresh roasted nuts before baking adds texture, flavour, and improves the nutritional content.
4. Unrefined sugars will have more flavour and offer a chewier texture than white refined sugars. You’ll be able to appreciate the enhanced flavour and not need to eat as much.
Add Natural Sweetness
5. Root vegetables, such as carrot, beetroot, parsnip and courgette, will add fibre and natural sweetness to bakes, as well as ensuring that they are deliciously moist.
6. Top these root vegetable bakes with a cream cheese frosting rather than buttercream. At 30% fat (cream cheese) rather than 80% fat (butter), the frosting will be delicious but less calorific than regular buttercream.
7. Make a fruit compote with fresh or frozen berries, unrefined sugar, and orange zest. The acidity and flavour of this intense fruit compote works wonderfully in place of jams (60% sugar) when layered in cakes, roulades, or injected into muffins for a blast of flavour.
8. Naked cakes are an on-trend. Skim coat a tall layered cake with buttercream made with unrefined icing sugar, adding a wonderful caramelised flavour rather than just sweetness. This can then be scraped back to ensure the cake is protected and kept moist, but it isn’t slathered in a coat of sweet buttercream. Decorate with frosted rosemary and fresh fruits.
9. Add seeds, nuts and dried fruits to bakes to boost fibre, natural sweetness, texture, and essential vitamins and minerals. Apricots, cashews and sunflower seeds are great sources of fibre and iron.
Incorporate Natural Flavours
10. Add fresh fruits, such as raspberries, peaches and apples, to bakes to add flavour without the extra fat and sugar.
11. Roast nuts and use them to decorate cakes and bakes. The flavour will be intensified and add a great crunch, as well as providing many essential minerals.
12. If you’re just starting out, try some simple biscuits and flapjacks made with nut butters and oats. They’ll add flavour, texture, and slow-release carbs, and boost your confidence, too.
13. Flavour buttercreams and frostings with powdered freeze-dried fruits, such as raspberry, blackcurrant, strawberry or cherry. The acidity and intensity combine well with them to make them all natural – there will be no added sugar or artificial colours in your frostings.
Swap Out Gluten and Dairy
14. For gluten-free bakes, try recipes with ground almonds, polenta, popcorn or gluten-free oats. Then, flavour well with fruit zests, spices or chocolate.
15. For a dairy-free frosting, consider an Italian meringue or coconut frosting made with coconut oil, icing sugar, desiccated coconut and lime zest. It’s like coconut ice in a frosting!
16. If you have a particularly sweet tooth (or low willpower!), go ahead and make your favourite bakes, but portion control them into small sizes.
17. Train your palate to appreciate a smaller quantity of the more intense flavours of these bakes, rather than accepting a larger portion of sweet, salty, fatty bakes.
Think About Your Ingredients
18. Think about the ingredients that you’re using and look to add flavour and texture to your bakes by maximising these ingredients when they are in season.
19. Dried fruits, such as prunes, figs and apricots, are a rich source of fibre and minerals. Include these in muffins for a healthy breakfast alternative.
20. Decorate cakes and bakes with fresh fruits, berries and edible flowers. They are all bright and vibrant with no fat, no added sugar, and no artificial colours.