Can we bake more healthily?

Healthy baking?


In looking at the cake recipes I’ve posted, I’ve done cakes with apples, carrots, pumpkin, oranges, and lemons to name a few, so I have one tiny component of healthy cakes right.

But I could do better.

I like the idea of Greek yogurt in frosting (My mother, who loved baking and decorating cakes like in the photo above, always baked with butter and / or lard). Olive oil in place of butter also sounds reasonable – in some cakes, anyway.

She would have loved these cakes!

Read on for more healthful tips:

The pandemic has bought everyone’s health into sharp focus. But, as well as trying to look after ourselves we also want to eat the occasional sweet treat. A lot of us got turned on to baking in lockdown 1.0 too. So is it possible to bake a completely healthy cake? Unfortunately no. The key ingredients for baking a cake are fats (generally butter) but also sugar. However, it is possible to make a cake that is less heavy on sugars and fats, so here are some ideas to get you going on your quest to bake a healthier cake.

Replace the butter

One of the main unhealthy offenders when baking is butter. Butter is high in saturated fat, which raises the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood. Replacing butter with olive oil can reduce the amount of salt and saturated fats that are used in recipes. Olive oil also contains vitamin E, omega-three fatty acids and antioxidants which help to lower bad cholesterol. Olive oil is a great alternative as fat but be careful not to replace butter for olive oil, like for like, you’ll generally need less olive oil than you would butter or another harder fat.

Augment your cake with sweet veg

With the exception of a carrot cake, many of us wouldn’t have considered using a vegetable to make a cake. Fruit is sweet and veg is savoury, right? Not quite. Vegetables like carrot or parsnip contain lots of natural sugars (which is perhaps why they are not recommended on low G.I diets) so swapping out some of your caster sugar and replacing it with natural sugar will certainly help make your bake a healthier one.

More fibre less sugar

The other main ingredient in a cake is flour. When baking most of us reach for a standard self-raising flour which, like most white flour, will be super processed. You can increase the fibre content in your cake by replacing some of this processed flour with wholemeal or wholegrain varieties, which are better for you. These flours will take longer to cook so remember to adjust the temperature and bake time accordingly. By using all (or even half/half) a wholemeal alternative you’ll be getting some fibre into your diet – by baking and eating cake. What’s there not to like?

Fruit and nuts

Fruit and nuts work well in chocolate and nuts are also a great and healthy addition to a cake. There are lots of nuts out there that you can use but almonds and walnuts seem to lend themselves best to baking. Nuts contain healthy fats, fibre, as well as minerals such as calcium making them a great ingredient for your healthy cake.

Healthy cake decorating?

Ok, so when it comes to decorating a cake you might struggle to find a healthy alternative. However, if you’re using icing on your cake why not try making it yourself? By using fat-free Greek yoghurt instead of butter you can make some really tasty icings. You might also consider cutting down the amount of sugar that is used in the recipe – or even ditching it completely.

Decorative inspiration

If you’re looking for some cake decoration inspiration why not check out Anges De Sucre? The cakes they bake are almost certainly not healthy but there are loads of ideas for cool cake designs which could be swapped out for healthy alternatives. And after all, as the Epicureans believed, everything in moderation will probably do you some good.

6 thoughts on “Can we bake more healthily?”

  1. I don’t bake much. I make cookies usually once a week so hubs can have one with his coffee in the morning. Other than that, it’s holiday baking for me. My great grandmother’s shortbread, a few Christmas cookies, eggnog cheesecake, pumpkin pie…I have three birthdays between November 12th and Christmas so everything is crammed into those two months. After that, just the cookies. Because of that, I think I’ll stick to the butter, lard and full fat cream cheese. It ends up being just a few days out of the entire year so…

    • I have never seen lard here – but duck and goose fat is easily available. Not for baking…. I bake a cake 2 or 3 times a year, for dinner parties and usually send some home with everyone. Other than that it’s Christmas – and butter.

      • There’s only one baking I use lard for and do you think I can think of the name right now? Sheesh! Beef fat and I add a little lard if I don’t have enough. They puff…oh for heaven sake. I do use lard when doing steaks in the cast iron pan because I finish them in the oven. I can’t think of it! I am getting so old!

        • I remember my mother rendering tallow to make birdseed balls for feeding the birds in the winter…. horrible smell lol
          But lard always went in the pie crust.

          • Yorkshire Pudding! I knew if I waited long enough, I’d remember. I never have enough beef drippings, ever so round it out with lard. Sheesh, am I getting old. And I don’t make pie crusts. I can’t. My paternal grandmother made the most fabulous pie crusts. I have never had better. Truly. She used that crust for everything though so when she made my grandfather’s pasties, she always had to wrap them really tight because I remember him saying if he wasn’t careful, they just fell apart in his hands. When they came here from England, he worked in the mines in the UP and of course, that was his lunch every day. And her pasties were fabulous. She tried to teach me to make the crust. I never learned. I can make a passable one, but nothing like hers. Layers and layers of flaky, fall apart goodness.

        • That’s bizarre – now I can’t reply to your latest comment…. My mother was the same with pie crusts. She could whip up a pie in no time. Never had the time to teach me how to do it, tho. I don’t make pie crusts, either.

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