If, like me, you are partial to a slice or two of homemade cake, you may well appreciate my predicament. A burgeoning waistline has given me cause to consider the unthinkable – giving up cake.
This unpleasant prospect got me thinking. What if I could bake a healthier cake? A cake every bit as moist, crumbly and delicious as those I needed to avoid. Only without the butter and sugar. What I had in mind was a wholesome cake; more fibre, slow sugars and good fat. Something along the lines of a tea bread (see recipe below).
Replacing the butter was easy. Vegetable oils, such as sunflower oil are high in unsaturated fats and are often used in cake baking. The great thing is that oil produces a soft, crumbly cake that retains its moisture. There are a lot of oils to choose from, each with its own unique flavour. However, only oils with a high smoke point are suitable for baking.
Wholemeal flour with around 15% fibre works well. Sift the flour, sprinkling the courser grains remaining in the sieve into the mixing bowl. Pumpkin seeds or rolled oats could also be thrown in to add more fibre.
Now to the tricky question of sugar. What I needed was a natural sugar that would add both sweetness and flavour. Such as maple syrup made from the xylem sap of red or black maple trees. This sweet, dark amber coloured syrup, contains fewer calories and a higher concentration of minerals (like manganese and zinc) than honey. With the foundations of my cake laid, it was time to add the signature ingredients; fresh apple and blueberries. One of my favourite combinations.
So did I succeed? Had I created a tasty, moist and crumbly alternative? Judging by the smiling face and bulging cheeks of my eight year old daughter, I would say yes. What do you think?
225 g (8 oz) Wholemeal flour
145 g (5 oz) Chopped apple
120 g (4 oz) Fresh blueberries
120 ml (4 fl 0z) Rice bran oil (or sunflower)
55 g (2 oz) Crushed hazelnuts
4 tbsp. Natural maple syrup
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 tsp. Baking powder
2 tsp. Fresh lemon juice
3 Large eggs
You will also need a lightly greased and lined loaf tin.
Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees/320 F (Fan), then lightly grease and line a rectangular loaf tin with baking paper. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon, sprinkling the courser grains remaining in the sieve on to the mixture.
Peel and finely chop the apple, coat in the lemon juice and set to one side. Whisk the egg yolks, oil and maple syrup together in a mixing bowl, then add the apple and blueberries. Blitz the hazelnuts in a food processor or put them in a food bag and crush using a rolling pin. Fold the flour and nuts into the mixture.
Beat the egg whites until light and almost stiff. Fold gently but thoroughly into the cake mix using a large metal spoon (a wooden one will knock the air out).
Spoon the cake mixture to the prepared loaf tin making sure to evenly spread the mixture across the tin. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 40 – 45 minutes. Test with a skewer to check if the cake is done. Leave the cake to settle for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. The cake is at its best the day after baking.
If you prefer your tea bread to have a soft crust, once you take it out of the oven wrap in a clean tea towel and place onto a wire rack – the tea towel will trap the steam from the hot cake and make the crust softer.