Have your (healthy) cake and eat it!

Angela Shepherd is a wellness coach and freelance copywriter specialising in health issues. With a lifelong interest in health, nutrition and complementary therapies, she is also a qualified massage therapist and aromatherapist. Her interests include running, cycling and not eating ready meals… but she also enjoys the occasional cake, curry or glass of wine because ‘life’s too short not to’! You can find out more about Angela and what she does on her website.

 Is baking the new rock and roll? It certainly seems like it sometimes! The Great British Bake Off has recently become something of a national obsession, ex-supermodel Lorraine Pascale made baking suddenly cool with her Baking Made Easy TV series and even A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow are getting in on the act.

In our house we aim to be fairly healthy most of the time, but we do love a bit of cake. This being the case, I like to actually make the cake we eat whenever possible rather than buying it, as I then know exactly what’s gone into it and can try to keep the ingredients as healthy as possible. If you get the urge to bake during National Baking Week but don’t want to pile on the pounds in the process, why not have a go at one of my favourite ‘healthier’ cake recipes below? They use vegetable oil rather than butter, so that’s good fat rather than bad. Of course if you eat them with cream that’s a different story!

If you want to make your cakes even healthier (or suitable for diabetics) you can substitute the sugar in these recipes for Perfect Sweet, a natural xylitol-based sugar substitute available at health food shops. Most sugar substitutes (such as those you might add to coffee or tea) aren’t really suitable for baking as they don’t behave in the same way as sugar when heated, but you can use xylitol weight-for-weight and it works fine. The cakes are also suitable for those allergic to dairy (use soya milk in the chocolate cake).


Chocolate Express Cake

This recipe is completely idiot-proof – ideal for time-pressed Mums who have to whip up a cake at short notice!

You’ll need:

  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tblsp good quality cocoa
  • 120g sugar
  • ¼ pint rapeseed or sunflower oil
  • ¼ pint milk (dairy or soya)
  • 2 eggs

Pre-heat oven to 170°C.

Grease two sandwich tins with oil spray and base line with greaseproof paper.

Put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix together.

(To make a plain sponge just use 200g flour and leave out the cocoa.)

Measure the oil and milk in a jug, then add the eggs and beat in.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Divide the mixture between the two sandwich tins.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cakes are springy.

Cool on a wire rack.

Fill and top with whatever you like. I like to put low-sugar strawberry jam in mine, then melt dark chocolate over it!

 Low Fat Banana Bread

Being a cyclist, my husband is a proper cake fiend, so I often make this to put in his lunchbox (not a euphemism!). It’s a great way to use up bananas that are slightly past their best.

  •  220g plain flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 150g sugar (I like Billingtons unrefined Demerara for this)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 125ml rapeseed or sunflower oil
  • 2 medium bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 160C/Gas 2½. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, oil and bananas. Mix well and pour into a greased loaf tin. Sprinkle the top with a bit more sugar and bake for around an hour (depends on your oven and tin size – test with a skewer to see when it’s done). Simples! I guess you could add some dried fruit to this if you like, but I think it’s sweet enough as it is, and also moist enough to eat without buttering it.

Blueberry and Orange Muffins

You might think it a bit odd to use olive oil in a cake recipe but trust me, these are lovely. You do need to use light olive oil though, not extra virgin. They’re great for elevenses, and very easy for kids to make too.

  •  80ml light olive oil
  • 180ml orange juice
  • Finely grated zest of one orange
  • 2 medium organic eggs
  • 275g plan flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon or mixed spice
  • 150g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5 and place 12 muffin cases in a muffin tin.

Whisk the oil, orange juice, zest and eggs together in a bowl.

Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and spice in another bowl.

Tip the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir lightly to combine – don’t go mad with the mixing.

Fold in the blueberries.

Divide evenly between the muffin cases.

Bake for around half an hour until risen and golden.


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