It’s that time of year again: New Year, new you! This means the inevitable misery of munching on lentils and dry crackers, sipping water and wistfully wishing there was such a thing as healthy cakes and biscuits. CD&S are here to save the day! With our top healthy cake recipes for 2020, you really can have your cake and eat it too!
"Create healthy habits, not restrictions."
Healthy Cakes & Bakes
Before we get started on our favourite healthy recipes, it’s important to remember that many of these can be made as healthy/unhealthy as you like with just one simple change: sugar.
Oh yes, those glorious white or brown granules that make almost anything taste better are, as we all know, not so good when trying to eat healthy!
While there are plenty of artificial sweeteners on the market, they’re not for everyone. Sometimes the ingredients can be harsh on a delicate stomach and quite often leave your cakes and bakes with an odd artificial taste that just isn’t satisfying. There are plenty of natural and healthy alternatives to sugar out there, including:
● Date paste
● Monk fruit
● Fruit and vegetable purees
It’s important to remember that many of these natural alternatives, such as chicory and monk fruit, are frequently sold combined with other ingredients that are less healthy or artificial, so if you do go for these alternatives, do check that they are in their purest form. Same goes for fruit and vegetable purees, it’s best to make these yourself so you know exactly what goes in them. Shop-bought compotes and jams are frequently packed full of sugar and all sorts of other necessary ingredients, so keep it plain and simple!
Basic fruit compote method
If you want a raw puree, just throw your fruit into a blender and let it do its thing! If you want to cook the fruit to enhance the flavour (but bear in mind this does slightly raise the sugar content), simply chop your fruit up and put into a pan with water. Simmer gently on a low heat until the fruit is cooked and has blended with the water (about 15 minutes, depending on the amount of fruit). Allow to cool and then blend for a smooth, delicious puree to add to your cakes and bakes for natural sweetness.
We recommend these fruits for delicious cake purees:
● Cherries and berries
● Citrus fruits
● British garden fruits: apples/pears/plums
● Tropical fruits: Pineapple/passionfruit/peach
Basic vegetable puree method
As veggies are generally much harder than fruits, we definitely recommend cooking them to make a delicious puree! Chop your chosen vegetables and boil/steam until tender. Drain and run under cold water, then use a blender/food processor to puree to perfection. Depending on your chosen veg, this could take a few goes and some hand-mashing to get the most stubborn fibres to be smooth!
We recommend these vegetables for delicious cake purees:
● Sweet potato
As with everything we consume, use these alternatives in moderation! While they are all, in moderation, better for you than regular sugar, it’s best not to use them as an excuse to load up on extra sugar using them. You’ll just end up back where you started!
These quick, easy and super tasty muesli recipes combine popular flavours such as mango and raspberry with spiced additions such as chia seeds and pumpkin, to create delicious and healthy breakfast combinations for the whole family, as well as incredible crunchy toppings to pimp your bakes!
For the full recipe, click here.
What is muesli?
This ready-to-eat combination of ingredients generally includes a base of oats and whole grains. These are then mixed with a variety of ingredients, from nuts and seeds to dried fruit and sweets. While it’s most commonly known as a breakfast staple, muesli can make excellent healthy cake toppers!
What are the health benefits from eating muesli?
For starters, everything that goes into a basic muesli mix is raw and unprocessed, meaning you’re eating the most natural ingredients possible. The ingredients themselves each have their own particular health benefits, including:
● Whole grains are packed with good carbohydrates, B-complex vitamins, iron and fibre.
● Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein, antioxidants and vitamins, as well as omega-3 oils that can help lower the risk of heart disease, dementia, arthritis and more.
● Dried fruits are full of immune-boosting vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as plenty of antioxidants.
Muesli or granola?
There’s a common confusion about whether or not muesli and granola are the same thing. We can categorically state that they are very different! Think of granola as muesli’s naughty cousin, baked with sugar and oil that makes granola higher in calories and bad fats than muesli. If you’re trying to keep your healthy cake recipes as good for you as possible, we definitely recommend muesli over granola.
Going gluten-free can be a really effective way to make your lifestyle healthier, so what’s better than a healthy cake recipe that is gluten-free to keep your resolutions without punishing your tastebuds! This marvellously moorish bake is packed full of apples and can easily be made dairy-free too! Plus, make it even healthier by replacing the sugar with healthy alternatives!
For the full recipe, click here.
What is gluten?
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock cake these past few years, you’ll definitely have heard all about the ‘evils’ of gluten and how going gluten-free can change your life! Now, we’re not here to tell you that gluten is evil, nor that by going gluten-free you’ll suddenly look and feel like a swimsuit model. However, we will give you the facts so you can make your own minds up!
For a bit of science, gluten is the general name given for proteins that are found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten, much like its name, is a kind of glue that helps many food types hold their shape. Gluten will often be found in breads and cakes and has become a large area of interest for health enthusiasts over recent years.
What are the health benefits from going gluten-free?
Many people have to spend their lives on a strict gluten-free diet, due to suffering from coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity. For those with coeliac disease, gluten in their diets has significant negative impacts on both long and short term health. Find out more at Coeliac UK.
However, if you’re simply looking for a lifestyle change, the health benefits from going gluten-free tend to come in association with the gluten-free ingredient or food product being eaten.
What does this actually mean? By changing your diet to remove gluten and only include natural, gluten-free ingredients, you will generally automatically find yourself eating healthier food. By going gluten-free naturally, you will end up excluding most breads, cakes and heavy carbohydrates. If you stick to foods that are naturally gluten free, such as rice, buckwheat, quinoa, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, you will find yourself eating a healthy diet.
However, if you replace gluten-filled breads and cakes with their gluten-free counterparts, you will be in the same position as before. Many processed gluten-free foods that can be bought from supermarkets taste just as good as if they had gluten in them. This is because they are packed with enough sugar and fats to make them taste just as good and therefore be just as bad for you!
Is gluten-free for me?
While we do like to think of ourselves as cake and bake coinesseurs here at CD&S, we are not nutrition experts or food scientists and can’t say whether or not gluten-free is really for you. We recommend following this chart for guidance:
This simple vegan cake recipe is a quick and easy make that is moist and full of flavour! Mix and match the flavours to your heart’s content. Why not switch out raspberry and banana for pineapple and papaya for a delightfully fresh and tropical tasting vegan cake?
For the full recipe, click here.
What is veganism?
Going vegan has been a real trend over the past few years and is only growing stronger. With people challenging themselves to go vegan for #Veganuary and #WorldVeganMonth, it’s a very popular diet!
So what exactly is veganism? Simply put, it means only consuming products that have not come from an animal. It’s like vegetarianism turned up to eleven! While being a vegetarian means not eating meat or fish, going vegan means you can’t eat anything that has been produced by an animal at all. That means eggs, milk, butter, cheese and so on are all off the menu!
What are the health benefits from going vegan?
As you can imagine, no eggs or butter make a cake baker’s life rather difficult! Cutting out meat and fish means needing to get the nutrients you would normally have from such products from other avenues. However, there can be health benefits from cutting out animal products from your diet and trying out a good, balanced vegan diet, including:
● Increasing your consumption of fibre, vitamins, potassium and antioxidants
● Potentially decreased calorie intake without actively cutting calories
● More likely to lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
● Increasing vegetable and fruit intake can lower the risk of developing cancer and heart disease and reduce arthritis pain
Similar to a gluten-free diet, all of these benefits highly rely on the vegan diet focusing around general dietary changes for more natural ingredients and products. If you want to go vegan to improve your health, it’s best to stick to healthy, unprocessed alternatives for certain ingredients, instead of replacing them with cheap, sugar-filled vegan products.
What are the healthy alternatives?
You’re probably wondering how you can replace key cake elements like egg and butter with alternatives that are both vegan and healthier. Here’s a short guide to useful alternatives for your key cake ingredients:
You can have a lot of fun with the above alternatives and match them with gluten-free flours made from almonds, coconut etc. and add some gorgeous, totally-natural and much healthier flavouring!
Now it may seem a bit pointless knowing about how to make healthy fairy cakes, when we’ve just given you ideas for healthy cakes. However, while many healthy cakes can get away with minimal decoration, what do we always look for on a cupcake? A great big fancy swirl of sugary icing!
Any healthy cake recipe can be used to make healthy cupcakes, no problem! Healthy toppings are a little harder to come by, however we’ve got a few ideas to get your tastebuds watering!
We’re not just talking about a sad drizzle of yoghurt, we’re talking a gorgeous swirl of yoghurty goodness! Stick to greek yoghurt to get the desired thickness for the final texture and strain it overnight if possible (definitely no less than two hours) then simply add some vanilla and a small amount of sugar alternative and you’ve got yourself a delicious yoghurt icing that’s far better for you than regular buttercream! Just be sure to put it in the fridge while you make and bake your healthy cupcakes to help it firm up.
Take a look at our blog on yoghurt icing for lots of yummy recipes and inspiration.
Kid you not, healthy chocolate icing is possible! You will need coconut flour and coconut oil, plus a small amount of sugar alternative of your choice, along with cocoa powder for that chocolatey hit. Now here’s the clever bit that gets you the rich texture without compromising on flavour. Apple sauce! While we certainly won’t promise that it tastes the same as old fashioned, super naughty chocolate buttercream, this topping is a brilliant healthy alternative.
We promise we’ve not lost the plot here - you can genuinely make seriously delicious and healthy icing from vegetables! More specifically, sweet potato. Mixed with your choice of sugar alternative, vanilla bean powder and milk of your choice and you’ve got yourself a thick, creamy and totally delicious healthy cupcake icing! Throw in a bit of white food colouring if you're not sure on the orange hue, or leave it natural and watch your recipients go from confused to delighted!
You don’t have to compromise on looks either - you can still Pipe Cupcakes To The Perfect Finish with these healthy cupcake topping alternatives!
While healthy and pancakes in the same sentence may seem like an oxymoron, you can definitely make these healthy cakes with just a few changes! Plenty of fruit and fat-free yoghurt are the secret to healthy pancakes.
For gorgeous gluten-free buckwheat pancakes, click here.
For vivacious vegan oat pancakes, click here.
How can pancakes be healthy?
While many of us will happily sit down just once a year in February, consume our body weight in pancakes, sugar, lemon juice, maple syrup and vow to never eat another pancake again, there are many other people who have a far healthier relationship with pancakes!
As we all will have seen on sitcoms, our friends across the pond love a huge stack of pancakes for breakfast (where they normally only take one bite of while saying ‘I'm late’, cramming books under their arms and running for the door. Think of those poor, abandoned pancakes. Who will eat the pancakes now?!). We digress, the point is that pancakes for breakfast are growing in popularity, especially in the UK. So how can you make those delicious cakes healthy?
A great source of protein and healthy fats, substitute some flour with finely ground walnuts, almonds, coconut etc. This adds an extra depth of flavour to your pancakes too, so win win!
Whole grain flour
Make your pancakes healthier with a good dose of fibre from wholewheat, buckwheat or rye flour. Just bear in mind you will probably find you may need more liquid, as whole grains are thirsty!
We promise, it’s not as weird as it sounds! Some vegetables, such as squash, sweet potatoes and carrots are naturally sweet and work beautifully pureed or cooked and grated, then mixed straight into the batter. Plus, you can get some fun and funky coloured pancakes to trick (or encourage would be the better word!) the kids into eating more vegetables!
Great for whacking up your antioxidant intake and full of fabulously natural sweetness, go traditional with blueberries or bananas sprinkled on top, or mix it up and try peaches, strawberries, plums, the list goes on! Dry or frozen are the healthiest way to have them.
Perfect for adding an extra crunch to your bakes, seeds are also full of protein, fibre and healthy fats. We recommend sticking to tiny seeds like chia, poppy or flax for the best results.
These delicious cookies require a little tweaking, but when finished will prove just how good vegetables and cookies can be together! Plus, a pumpkin is for life, not just for Halloween, so make good use of this totally underrated ingredient to make gorgeous chocolate chip and pumpkin cookies. Either substitute chocolate chips for carob or cacao nibs, or swap out for dried fruit like raisins or sultanas. You can always throw in some cocoa powder to get that chocolate hit without the calories!
For the full recipe, click here.
How can biscuits be healthy?
Don’t worry, we at CD&S are very aware that healthy and biscuits don’t generally go together like peas and carrots. More like peas and trees. Or parrots and carrots.
We’re getting off topic again, oops! It’s all about finding natural, healthy substitutions for the naughtiest of ingredients. While we’ve already looked at sugar alternatives, what makes biscuits and cookies so delicious is not just sugar, but often the extra ingredients. Who doesn’t love a triple chocolate cookie, or a gorgeous shortbread biscuit?
So if you’re looking for delicious healthy ingredients to add to your cookies and biscuits instead of chocolate chips, glace cherries etc., why not try:
These are tiny pieces of crushed-up cacao or cocoa beans. This means that, while they’re chocolatey in flavour, they do have a significant bitterness to them. Without the fats and sugars added to make regular chocolate, these little morsels can be a bit of an acquired taste.
You can’t beat a bit of dried fruit in a delicious oat biscuit! Whether it’s raisins, sultanas, apricots, prunes, cranberries or whatever takes your fancy, dried fruits add a lovely variety of texture to your bakes. Fruit peel can also add a lovely zing to your biscuits, so don’t forget about a nice grated lemon, lime or orange peel to give your bakes some life!
While not the healthiest thing around, yoghurt flakes are still a far healthier option than chocolate chips! You can buy delicious yoghurt-covered fruit flakes in most supermarkets, giving you an extra option to add flavour to your cookies and forget about chocolate chips!
Nuts are back to save the day once again! Unlike a lot of other ways we’ve suggested using nuts as an alternative, healthier ingredients, this time you can keep them as nature intended: nice and crunchy! Instead of making a paste or powder from your nuts, chop them into decent-sized chunks and add into your mixture for a really strongly textured biscuit.
If you’re happy to skip on the texture of chocolate chips, you can always enhance the flavour of your healthy biscuits and cookies with a variety of spices and powders that are calorie free! We are especially fond of:
● All spice
Cocoa powder is of course always an option for that chocolatey taste without the calories, just be aware of how dry it is and adjust the moisture in your mixture accordingly.
We think that just about covers everything you might want to know about healthy cakes and biscuits! Do you have a favourite healthy cake recipe? We can’t resist those amazing pancakes!
If you’re interested in nutrition and want to know more about what goes on behind the scenes of baking, why not check out our article on Baking Science: How Does Baking Powder Work? You’ll be surprised at just how much baking powder does for baking… plus, find out why you should never substitute baking powder with bicarbonate of soda!