I’m mostly ignoring the current food fad for ‘eating clean’, because I’m not really sure what the ‘clean’ means, but one thing I am very consciously doing is reducing the sugar in my diet. However, I am a cake lover, I like eating them and I like making them and reduced sugar doesn’t sit well with this.
So when Henrietta Inman’s Clean Cakes was offered up for review, I genuinely wanted to see what she had to say about how to approach this tricky (for me, anyway) issue. Can you eat ‘healthy’ and still stuff yourself with deliciously filling sponges? The answer according to Henrietta is ‘yes’, as you simply need to replace refined sugar, processed groceries and cow’s dairy with things like coconut sugar, nut butters and something called Palmyra nectar powder.
There are some good recipes in here, not least being the nut butters, and it shows you how you can replace the devil’s foodstuffs (white sugar, white flour, anything from a cow) with alternatives, which is definitely helpful. As an experimental cook I will certainly seek out chestnut and coconut flour because they sound like they might taste good, but I might leave the teff flour and non hydrogenated dairy-free butter for someone else to play with.
Is it ‘healthier’? Well where ever the sweetener is coming from, it still has many calories, although the book claims to have reduced the sugar content in the recipes.
If you are starting your baking career, this is an excellent educator, it shows you that there are many interesting, vegetable based sweeteners, flours and fats you can use. I grew up using either butter or marg, self-raising or plain flour, so this is certainly a horizon expander in terms of ingredients. For those of you old enough to remember the Cranks cookery book, where wholemeal flour, brown rice and unrefined sugar was used with gusto, this feels like the modern version of that.
Clean Cakes: Delicious pâtisserie made with whole, natural and nourishing ingredients and free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar
Might I offer a ‘sugar’ suggestion? If it’s unrefined white sugar that you want or need to avoid make your cakes without it or use a tiniest amount. You don’t need sugar in cakes for them to be cakes. I’m a regular baker who loves cakes but I don’t have a ‘sweet tooth’ and that isn’t a contradiction in terms. I sweeten my baking with dried fruits and a range of spices such as cinnamon, ginger, star anise, Chinese Five spice and cardamom. When making jams or preserves I use a fraction of the sugar recommended in the recipe e.g. instead of using equal amounts of fruit and sugar as many recipes include I would use a quarter of that e.g. for 1kg of fruit I’d use 200g of sugar. You won’t get a heavy set jam or preserve but you will get one where the vibrant taste and texture of the fruit comes alive. Of course you’ll need to keep your low sugar preserves in the fridge as their shelf life is far shorter than those made with more sugar but they are healthier and taste better.