When it comes to cakes, everyone loves it. Usually high in fat and sugar, the cake has been categorized as 'bad food' and that's sad. But when you bake it at home, you can always tweak the recipe by substituting some ingredients which can be considered healthier (if still not exactly healthy).
Home baking is a healthier option because, first of all, you're in control. You can control the kind of fats, sugars and flours you use. Most commercial mixes contain hydrogenated fats, additives, preservatives, and a lot of salt. They may also include artificial colours and flavourings, which are not healthy.
Here are some tips to make your cake healthy:
Replace butter and oil with apple sauce or mashed bananas
Butter undoubtedly adds to the flavour and moistness but it is also saturated fat, so less is better. Though oil is a source of unsaturated fats, excessive intake has an adverse effect on health. Replace up to half of the oil, butter or margarine with apple sauce or mashed bananas, pumpkin puree or sweet potato puree. This fruit/vegetable puree adds moisture like fat would, but cuts down on the calories and fat. You can also replace it with plain yoghurt. This substitution increases the fibre and protein content of your cake, making it much healthier.
Most cakes are too sweet, so reducing sugar won't change the taste drastically. Use organic sugar. You can also add sweet dry fruits or fresh fruits to add sweetness, which will also increase its nutritive value. If you want to use granulated sugar, you may be able to reduce the sugar by up to 1/3rd of the requirement. You can also replace sugar with honey; a more natural sugar.
Replace refined flour (maida) with whole wheat flour
You can also add oats flour, ragi flour or almond flour which will add extra protein, fibre, calcium and many other nutrients to the cake.
Replace dairy products such as cream or milk with almond or soy milk
You can replace milk with soy or almond milk. Remember to use unsweetened alternative milk, because many of the sweetened brands have large amounts of added sugar.
Use dark chocolate in place of semi- sweet chocolate whenever possible
Look for chocolate with a high per cent of cocoa. By substituting this, your cake will also become rich in antioxidants.
Replace eggs with 'flax seeds egg'
Replacing eggs with flax has great health benefits. Flaxseeds are a rich source of the Omega-3 fatty acid and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) offering unique heart health benefits. Flaxseeds don't act in quite the same way as eggs in baking and don't give body and texture to cakes the way eggs do, but they help stick all the contents together.
To make a 'flax egg': put 1 tbsp. ground flax seeds in a bowl, add 3 tbsp. of warm water, whisk with a fork to combine and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. If a recipe asks for two whole eggs, replace one egg with a flax egg and use only one whole egg.
To make a healthy icing
Peel a ripe banana and mash into a smooth paste, add peanut butter and mix well. Sift in the salt and icing sugar and stir until fully combined. The icing is lovely and runny. You can also freeze or store the icing in a refrigerator in a sealed container for 1-2 days.
Note: If you plan to make many healthy substitutions in your cake, use in a smaller ratio than ½ of the original quantity for each replacement. Substitutions can cause cakes to turn out differently. Experiment with substitutions often to find the ideal ratios for your taste.
Ms Priya Chaudhari is a Consultant Dietician.