Friday, September 12, 2008

All-natural baking

This is an adjunct to yesterday's post on all-natural cake decorating. Of course, you have to have something to decorate, which is what this post is about.

Sure, you could just use ready cake mix and frosting out of a tub. But I would not recommend any of the main stream brands such as Betty Crocker or similar ones. They have a long list of unhealthy ingredients and don't even taste good at all. In 8 years of marriage, I have never bought ready cake mix or frosting, and don't intend to ever do so.

The best and cheapest option is to make your own cake and frosting from scratch, which doesn't take that much more time. With four young children and highly pregnant, I still manage to bake something from scratch almost every single day (cakes, pies, cookies, pizza, bread, etc.). Skip that TV show you just HAVE to watch and use that time to make a healthy dessert for your family instead.

Alternatively, you can also find ready mixes for cakes and frosting at the health food store. My favorites are the ones made by Dr Oetger, but these are quite more expensive than making your own.

Here are some additional ideas to increase the nutritional value of your favorite recipes:

- You can substitute the flour in just about any recipe with whole wheat pastry flour without anyone noticing.

- You can use canola oil instead of butter in most cake recipes without having to make changes such as adding more flour or less liquid. Your cake will be a lot moister, too, which makes it even less obvious that you used whole wheat pastry flour. Oil is also cheaper than butter.

- Use butter instead of shortening in all your pie crusts. Shortening should not be an item stocked in your kitchen if you are health-conscious.

- Never use margarine for anything. Even the ones labeled as healthy are not.

- You can substitute up to half of the butter/oil called for in a recipe with all-natural apple sauce or mashed banana to cut down on the fat calories. The texture will be more gummy and chewy, though.

- You can reduce the sugar in most recipes by 1/3 to 1/2 without much noticeable difference.

- Never use sugar substitutes, including Splenda, none of which are safe or healthy.

- You can substitute honey for sugar in many recipes. Because honey has twice the sweetening power of sugar, you will only need to use about half as much (or one fourth as much if you were planning on cutting the sugar content in half anyway). This works especially well in cookies, which will stay very moist and chewy.

- Do not use non-stick baking pans or the new silicone dishes, all of which break down their unhealthy coating into your food. Instead, buy glass or ceramic bakeware, or the old-fashioned metal pans without non-stick coating. Another option is cast iron.

- Instead of using parchment paper (which is lined with unhealthy chemicals to make it non-stick), spray your baking pans with oil or rub them with butter.

There is a place for sweet treats even for the health conscious if you adopt a few of these minor changes, and make more changes over time.


  1. I thinking about making a peach cobbler. When you said substitute honey for sugar, do you think it would work in this recipe?

  2. Nikki,

    not sure what recipe you are using, but I would think that you could definitely substitute honey for sugar in the filling. The crumb topping should work if you add some extra flour, and you might even be able to cut down on the butter because the honey will give the needed moisture.

    I also found this recipe for honey peach cobbler that sounds great:

  3. When I bake a cake from scratch, I like to make a pineapple upside cake. You simply use a regular yellow cake recipe and then put brown sugar, melted butter and pineapple slices in the pan before pouring in the cake mix. The best thing is that it's less time consuming because there's not that separate step of waiting for the cake to cool and making frosting.

  4. I said "cake mix" but meant batter.

  5. Hi. Congratulations for your 36-week visit that went so well. I was wondering if you ever used agave juice. I just discovered it. It sweetens much more than sugar, it tastes god, and it is natural. I would think that in AZ it would be cheap too. Angela


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