Anything baked is an instant pick-me-up for me. When it comes to sweet treats, I'll always choose a pastry, muffin or cookie over halwa, barfi or even ice-cream. But cakes have acquired a really bad reputation among health-conscious eaters and for good reason. Does that mean that we can no longer revel in the rich, wheat-y aroma of freshly-baked bread or the satisfying moistness of rich fruit cake?
The answer, luckily, is no, you don't have to give up cake completely. All you need is to make some intelligent swaps and you can have your cake and eat it too. Let's look at the main problem ingredients.
Problem Ingredient 1: White flour
White flour is made from wheat that has been stripped of its skin, that is, the bran and germ. But that's where 90% of its nutrients lie and so, all-purpose flour or maida is just starch with negligible nutritional value.
Swap it for: Whole-wheat flour of course. But remember that whole-wheat flour demands more liquid ingredients and longer resting time for the batter as it contains more fibre, which soak up the moisture. You may also combine whole-wheat flour with some brown rice, oat, rye or barley flour for added nutrition.
Or go flour-less: Use chocolate plus cocoa powder instead of flour and allow magic to happen. This is also a great idea for those with gluten allergy. Fancier options are almond, quinoa and coconut flour.
Problem Ingredient 2: Sugar
A woman on a 2000 calorie diet needs only 6 tsps of sugar per day, while a man can get away with 9 (sorry girls). Sadly, most of that gets covered in natural sugars (from fruits, grains, etc), tea, coffee and a hundred other hidden sources.
Swap it for: Honey or maple syrup. It's still sugar, but at least these swaps have additional nutrients, unlike processed white sugar. Another smart move would be up to use ripe fruits, raisins and sweet dried fruits to eliminate or reduce the need for additional sweeteners.
Problem Ingredient 3: Butter
It's high in cholesterol and obviously very calorie-rich. While butter in small amounts may be all right, baking calls for alarmingly high quantities.
Swap it for: Yoghurt, buttermilk, mashed avocados, pumpkin puree or unsweetened applesauce. The last one is just stewed and pureed apples so it doesn't get more guilt-free than that.
Fatty swaps: Ghee, olive oil or coconut oil. These might be okay when a recipe calls for a smaller amount of butter.
The cream or icing on sugar is laden with calories. So choose muffins instead of cupcakes and plum cake over cream cakes.
Eggs are certainly not unhealthy; but if you don't eat them, you may substitute ground flax seeds mixed with water, applesauce or mashed bananas in their place.
Lastly, the secret to guilt-free indulgences lies in portion control. Some people would rather have a single slice of the most decadent cake once in three months, than two slices of less tempting cake every Sunday.
Recipe: Whole-Wheat Fruit Loaf
3-4 soft pears, mashed or finely chopped (2 cups)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter (soft)
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange zest + half or whole orange’s juice (depending on size)