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Let them eat cake!

Monday, 15th January 2021

Many have found baking for pleasure a stress reliever during lockdown- but many baked goods have more fat/sugar/calories than we really want or should eat.

I belong to an organisation called ABST (alliance of bakery students and trainees). They provide opportunities for students/trainees to meet and network with fellow students, industry people, and help them achieve their next goal. Also all levels of education for the bakery/patisserie trade are represented. I use this to exchange ideas and network myself. Whilst talking with the university lecturers it came to light that doing a dissertation on cutting sugar/ fat in confectionary products has been discouraged. (upping the protein content by using cricket flour hasn’t- but that is another story!). The reason for this was the consensus in the long run was that it is  better to eat the cake…have a smaller slice maybe, do more exercise to counteract, eat less often but really enjoy it when you do! 

This got me thinking- I understand all of the above but how could the SEND students and I still make the cake, enjoy the baking but make it a little healthier? 

We decided to make a carrot cake: we exchanged the flour for wholemeal (they do self-raising wholemeal now)  upping the fibre. The cake already has carrots, dates and walnuts. Dates are very sweet but also contain fibre. The sunflower oil is polyunsaturated so it is better than using saturated fats. 

Sugar is sugar: honey, caster, light brown, dark brown sugar are all complex sugars (sucrose), they are broken down into simple sugars by the body ( glucose and fructose). But the darker the sugar the more trace minerals will also be present- so we used granulated molasses (dark muscovado is also good). As carrot cake is spiced it also adds to the flavour profile.

Replacing the sugar with some of the granulated sweeteners alters the structure of the cake, so a no-no in this recipe. Work has been done at industry level to produce premixes with the maths done for you- but whatever you take out something has to replace it, and that may be something you may not want to eat.

Also if you want to make carrot cake Vegan replace the eggs with one small mashed banana per egg (make sure the sugar is dissolved in the banana/oil mix). (When making vegan cakes I prefer to sub with fruit if I can or use the chemical reaction between an acid and an alkali- usually lemon/cider vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and soy milk, I find egg replacer difficult to bake with). 

But the real problem with carrot cake is the icing: it is very sweet, once the cake is iced as it contains cream cheese, it has to be kept in the fridge and has a fairly short shelf life….so you might want to ‘eat up’ more than you thought. 

So we had a think and decided that the cake should be baked, cut into individual pieces and some wrapped and frozen for another day. Then serve each piece as a dessert with a spoonful of low fat cream cheese, some grated orange rind and a drizzle of maple or date syrup. It is nicer in my opinion! 

RECIPE – Wholemeal Carrot Cake

To serve:

Serve topped with a spoonful of  cream cheese, (almond cream topping is good for vegan), grated orange zest and a drizzle of maple or dare syrup


  • 175g  wholemeal Self raising flour
  • Teaspoon of cinnamon 
  • 125g grated carrot
  • 165g Granulated molasses or dark muscovado sugar
  • 125g sunflower oil
  • 2 eggs (replace with 2 small mashed banana for vegan)
  • 2 tablespoons milk (soya or almond are good replacements) 
  • 50g walnuts roughly chopped
  • 50g dates roughly chopped


    1. Set oven at 170*C/  160*C fan gas 3 
    2. Line a 20cm  square tin with baking paper (mix will also make rectangular tray bake foil) 
    3. Combine the flour, spice  and carrot in a bowl.
    4. In a jug whisk together the oil, egg and milk. Then whisk in the sugar until dissolved and no lumps.
    5. Mix ingredients  in the jug into the bowl ingredients.
    6. Combine well and pour into the prepared tin.
    7. Bake for around 40 minutes……the smaller deeper tins may take longer…. Until a knife or skewer comes out of the middle clean or bounces back to touch.
    8. Leave to cool

Happy cooking!

– Sue, Hospitality & Catering lecturer

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