Baking Substitutes

Do you love to bake but are wary of calorie-laden desserts that can pile on the weight? Whipping up healthier baked goods is not as difficult as you think. Cakes, cookies, muffins and pies can be delicious and healthier with some simple ingredient substitutions! Use this substitution guide to reduce the amount of sugar, fat and/or calories in your recipe.

1. Flour Power

A pile of bran flour

Most baked treats use refined white flour which has very few vitamins and minerals. Try replacing every cup (125g) of white flour in your recipe with 1/4 cup (35g) of the suggested amount with wholewheat flour for a start, to give your treat additional nutrients and flavour. Once you have gotten familiar with the taste and texture of wholemeal bakes, you can gradually increase the proportion of white wholemeal flour. Wholewheat gives you a fibre boost, helps in digestion and lowers the risk of diabetes and heart diseases.

Besides wholewheat flour, you can try substituting with other wholegrain flours, such as oat flour, buckwheat flour, rye flour or spelt flour. Spelt flour is a popular nutritious substitute because it can be substituted for white flour one-on-one. On the other hand, the other wholegrain flours may not give the same result as white flour which has a high gluten content.

Try to substitute one-third or half the portion of white flour in the recipe with your preferred wholegrain flour. Then experiment and gradually increase the quantity depending on how you find the baked product.

You can also consider nut flours like almond flour, which is full of fibre, protein and healthier fats. Use it to replace up to half of the white flour in cakes, muffins, pancakes and cookies. However, bear in mind that nut flours will not rise like wheat flour, so more rising agents like baking powder and baking soda may be needed when replacing more than ¼ cup of white flour.

Related: Wholegrains — The Wise Choice!

2. Sweet Nothings - Sugar Substitute for Baking

Mixxing in raisins into batter with individual ingredients lying around the table

Instead of using sugar to sweeten your baked goods, try replacing sugar with fruit. You could use raisins blended in a food processer as a sweet alternative. Or you could add fresh fruit, like apples, pears, mango or pineapples to inject your recipe with new flavours and give a fibre boost to your baked goods. Fruit contains liquids and hence when using fruit in your baking, you may need to reduce the liquid added.

A lower calorie alternative is to use sweeteners or sugar substitutes when baking. Stevia, acesulfame K and sucralose have little or no calories and can taste 200 — 600 times sweeter than sugar. Being that much sweeter, substitute with caution! Check the sugar equivalent of the sweetener, so you can convert the amount of sugar suggested in your recipe to the amount of sweetener you should use. Sugar offers bulk, browning, colour and aroma to baked goods, so you will get less of everything if you only use sweeteners. To fix this, simply replace 50% of the sugar with sweetener.

Related: Staying Sweet without Sugar

3. Better than Butter - Butter Substitute

A man adding baking ingredients into a bowl

Do you know why some freshly baked cookies and cakes give off a delicious fragrance and why cakes are so fluffy? This is because of butter. When deciding what to replace butter with, it would depend on which recipe you are tweaking.

For muffins, cakes, and cupcakes, you can swap one cup (225 grams) of butter with ¾ cup (180ml) of plant-based oil such as sunflower, corn, or olive oil, which are healthier because they contain unsaturated fats or ‘good’ fats that are good for your heart.

In cookie recipes, you can replace half the amount of butter in your cookie recipes with half the amount of full-fat plain Greek yoghurt. This will help to reduce the calories and the saturated fat. If you are avoiding dairy altogether, try soy yoghurt as a substitute for butter.

Related: Getting Your Fats Right

4. The Skinny on Milk and Cream

A lady adding milk into her egg yolk mixture

One way not to alter the flavour and texture of a recipe too much is to just swap for something with a notch less fat. For instance, in recipes that call for cream, use whole milk instead; or use yoghurt or buttermilk instead of sour cream.

For recipes that require sour cream, a lower calorie alternative is Greek yoghurt. Use an equal amount of Greek yoghurt in place of sour cream. For recipes that ask for heavy cream, try evaporated low fat/skim milk instead.

Another approach is to go for the low-fat versions. So, instead of full-fat cream cheese, use fat-free or low-fat cream cheese, or the low-fat milk or skimmed milk in recipes that call for full cream milk.

Related: All About Dairy

5. Frosting With Flavour

Carrot cake with yoghurt icing and topped off with nuts

Here are some healthier icing alternatives for a lighter cake that still packs in the flavour. Look for something that gives a smooth coating but with less fat.

Yoghurt and Greek yoghurt can be an easy and healthier topping on your favourite baked goods. Drizzle some honey to up the sweet factor. For some colour or contrast, smooth a small dollop of jam over your cupcake or cake, or dust on some cocoa powder.

Want an even healthier option? If you can, just go without frosting, or stud your cake with freshly cut fruit. Not only does the colour present a visual feast for the eyes, it also gives a healthier feast for the tummy.

Related: How Well Do You Know Your Sugar?

A Few More Tips

Home made dense carrot cake with mandarin oranges

  • Low-calorie Pie Crusts: To reduce the butter in your pie crust recipe, add two tablespoons of low-fat milk when you are pulsing the graham crackers. That will hold the crust together — doing away with the need to slather on the butter.
  • Smaller Servings: Instead of making chocolate chip cookies that are 8-10cm in diameter, make them smaller to lower the calories per cookie. Do your family and friends a favour, and serve your cakes and pies in thinner slices.
  • Fresh Fruit: For recipes that call for canned fruit, choose fresh fruit instead, or fruit canned in their own juices to reduce your sugar intake.
  • Cacao Nibs or Dark Chocolate: Instead of using white chocolate or milk chocolate in the recipe, try chocolate alternatives that have less milk and sugar, such as dark chocolate or cacao nibs.

It really isn’t too difficult to turn your decadent and sinful cookie or cake recipe into a healthier one.

Some of these substitutions may change the flavour of your recipe, so try experimenting to see what works for you, and who knows? You might come up with a new winner on your list of recipes!

Read these next: