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How to reduce the sugar in cakes


Mottmott
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Over the years, most of my desserts have been fruit based or pies rather than cakes, partly because I have no problem reducing the amount of sugar I use in those. When I do make cakes, I tend to choose pound cakes, tea loaves, etc., where I can omit frostings. But even so, the cakes are often overly sweet The issue here is not one of weight control, but of taste control, of what seems to me balance. Understand, I have a major sweet tooth, but there's sweet and there's sweet.

I'd like to explore reducing the amount of sugar in cakes, but I know it's part of the structure and chemistry of the cake. There must be some general principles about how a cake is constructed and the role of sugar that could guide me in this. Or is it just a matter of experimenting. Try a recipe, reduce the sugar by 10%, next time 20%, etc. til one gets the desired result. Or are there other things one can add in place of the sugar that will take over its function? There must be some basic ratios that can guide me. It irritates me no end to spend a couple hours and waste ingredients when a little research can improve the odds.

Perhaps there are some references I could check out. Oh, and imagine my surprise to find that there is no eGCI course on cake baking! Bread takes the cake. :shock::wacko::rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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I've found that cakes with more butter are fine with less sugar :raz:

Sugar seems to be the dirty secret of the "low fat" snack food industry, so I'm sure there's a balance that can be struck.

I also think that if you look outside of the sphere of American cake recipes, sugar is used more sparingly. You could almost say that Japanese adopted the American "chiffon cake" as their own, and some Japanese recipes I've seen used little more than an ounce of sugar for a whole cake that would likely have four times as much sugar in the typical American incarnation. German and Austrian Torten also tend to use less sugar, sometimes taking advantage of the fat and flavor in ground nuts.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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I regularly reduce the sugar in North American cake recipes by 30% or more. It's a taste issue, I love my dessert and dislike tooth-achingly sweet creations. As with eating chocolate, less (sugar) is more (taste).

I will generally just go ahead and bake with the lesser amount of sugar, or bring it down in subsequent bakings starting at about 20% for cakes. After awhile, you will get a feeling for how much sugar seems right for you based on the size/volume of a cake.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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I also find many American recipes too sweet, and in some cases, like sanrensho, I've had to reduce the sugar as much as 30% or more, with no dire effects on the texture. How much I reduce the sugar depends on how over-sugared it is after I analyze it, ie, in proportion to the other ingredients, and then I reduce it to taste. Many times I compare a new recipe to one I've done before and liked, and see how the sugar proportions compare.

Although, over the years, I've learned how to better pick recipes that suit my taste, and I usually don't have to reduce the sugar at all. There some good cake recipes out there by American chefs, which are very well balanced. As with everything else, experience will be your best guide. As you experiment, you'll discover what works best for you, and that will be your template.

Edited by merstar (log)
There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.
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Also, it helps to work with recipes from a familiar author or source. Some authors just have a lighter touch with the sugar, while others...:rolleyes:

As Jason alluded to, I usually don't need to adjust the sugar level in Japanese cake recipes, which is a great boon (for me).

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Also, it helps to work with recipes from a familiar author or source. Some authors just have a lighter touch with the sugar, while others...:rolleyes:

As Jason alluded to, I usually don't need to adjust the sugar level in Japanese cake recipes, which is a great boon (for me).

Ah, Names, Names, Names? Medrstar, it will take a little while before I can simply analyse a recipe and decide which has already moderated the sugar. And I could use some sources for the Japanese cakes, too, Jason, though I've already looked about a bit on line. There's a green tea cake in my future. Are the recipes on About a good source? a bunch of them are by Setsuko Yoshizuka.

In the meantime, I'm encouraged to hear the success Michelle, miladyinsanity, and you have had by reducing sugar in most recipes. Could all that talk/write about the exactingness of baking be untrue? :unsure::shock::unsure::wacko::unsure:

As for using ground nuts, I do make a couple nut cakes, but so many of them call for heaps of fillings, buttercreams, and glazes...

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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Ah, Names, Names, Names? Medrstar, it will take a little while before I can simply analyse a recipe and decide which has already moderated the sugar. And I could use some sources for the Japanese cakes, too, Jason,  though I've already looked about a bit on line.

I'm not Jason, but I often bake from the CakeChef site, although it's only in Japanese. Sadly, I'm not aware of any Japanese pastry books that have been translated into English. There are a few Japanese cake recipes floating around online in English, but nothing very comprehensive that I know of.

You might like this recipe for Japanese souffle cheesecake:

http://www.kyokoskitchen.com/recipes/recip...esecake〈=en

As far as specific authors to stay away from, well, let's just say that I tend to be wary of recipes that call for 2 or more cups of sugar for an 8-inch torte, for example...then adding fillings and frosting on top of that.:shock:

Edited by sanrensho (log)
Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Sugar provides moistness and structure to cakes. It also impacts volume, baking time and caramelization/browning. For me, a reduced sugar cake is an impaired cake.

If you want to reduce the sweetness in your cake, but don't want to sacrifice texture/moistness, use a less sweet form of sugar, such as glucose.

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I also think that if you look outside of the sphere of American cake recipes, sugar is used more sparingly. . .  some Japanese recipes I've seen used little more than an ounce of sugar for a whole cake that would likely have four times as much sugar in the typical American incarnation.

That's funny, because when I think "Japanese cake," I think of kasutera, which I happen to love but which is about as "tooth-achingly sweet" as any cake I've tried.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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Sugar provides moistness and structure to cakes. It also impacts volume, baking time and caramelization/browning.  For me, a reduced sugar cake is an impaired cake.

If you want to reduce the sweetness in your cake, but don't want to sacrifice texture/moistness, use a less sweet form of sugar, such as glucose.

Could you elaborate on use a glucose? What is it? how does one substitute it for cane sugar?

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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That's funny, because when I think "Japanese cake," I think of kasutera, which I happen to love but which is about as "tooth-achingly sweet" as any cake I've tried.

I love kasutera too, but I don't think it's very representative of "Japanese cake." Kasutera is eclipsed in popularity by more modern cakes such as strawberry shortcake, Japanese-style souffle cheesecakes, mont blanc, choux pastries and chiffon cakes. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find any bakery/pastry shop that sells freshly made kasutera.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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In the meantime, I'm encouraged to hear the success Michelle, miladyinsanity, and you have had by reducing sugar in most recipes. Could all that talk/write about the exactingness of baking be untrue?  :unsure:  :shock:  :unsure:  :wacko:  :unsure:

Could well be, at least perhaps for some items. Reading the posts, I was reminded of a small contest I participated in several years ago concerning angel food cake, which I had never made before. The recipe for all to try stated to put the batter in pans, rather than a single pan. I checked various cookbooks and all used the standard, single tube pan, but I was also struck by the variations in the amount of sugar used in different angel food cake recipes- like from about 1 cup to over 2 cups! I thought that was one of those all-the-same, single recipe items, but noooooo........

"Fat is money." (Per a cracklings maker shown on Dirty Jobs.)
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In the meantime, I'm encouraged to hear the success Michelle, miladyinsanity, and you have had by reducing sugar in most recipes. Could all that talk/write about the exactingness of baking be untrue?  :unsure:  :shock:  :unsure:  :wacko:  :unsure:

Could well be, at least perhaps for some items. Reading the posts, I was reminded of a small contest I participated in several years ago concerning angel food cake, which I had never made before. The recipe for all to try stated to put the batter in pans, rather than a single pan. I checked various cookbooks and all used the standard, single tube pan, but I was also struck by the variations in the amount of sugar used in different angel food cake recipes- like from about 1 cup to over 2 cups! I thought that was one of those all-the-same, single recipe items, but noooooo........

Funny you should mention Angel Food Cake. I just made one using Sax's recipe. Well, I managed to somehow add the ingredients in the wrong order, not creaming the sugar into the butter thoroughly before adding any flour :angry: , but the cake still turned out ok. Not as high, not as airy, but still quite edible and very flavorful. :laugh: I must learn not to bake late at night.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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Sugar provides moistness and structure to cakes. It also impacts volume, baking time and caramelization/browning.  For me, a reduced sugar cake is an impaired cake.

If you want to reduce the sweetness in your cake, but don't want to sacrifice texture/moistness, use a less sweet form of sugar, such as glucose.

It is all in what you are used to. I am used to European cakes which have far less sugar than American cakes. I have only had success with reducing sugar. My cakes are never dry.

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Sugar provides moistness and structure to cakes. It also impacts volume, baking time and caramelization/browning.  For me, a reduced sugar cake is an impaired cake.

It is all in what you are used to. I am used to European cakes which have far less sugar than American cakes. I have only had success with reducing sugar. My cakes are never dry.

Ditto here. I guess I'll just continue to enjoy my "impaired" European and Japanese cakes.

Baker of "impaired" cakes...
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Sugar provides moistness and structure to cakes. It also impacts volume, baking time and caramelization/browning.  For me, a reduced sugar cake is an impaired cake.

It is all in what you are used to. I am used to European cakes which have far less sugar than American cakes. I have only had success with reducing sugar. My cakes are never dry.

Ditto here. I guess I'll just continue to enjoy my "impaired" European and Japanese cakes.

Double ditto. I've always had good results when reducing the sugar in cakes, both in structure, moisture, and overall texture. It's great that I can have control over how sweet I want the cake to be. Rather than an "impaired" cake, it's a "repaired" cake!

There's nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with CHOCOLATE.
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I have done some experiments with reducing sugar in cakes, as well as some of the fat.

I measure out all of the regular amounts of ingredients, either by weight or volume.

I cream together the butter and sugar then remove a measured portion from this mixture and set it aside, beginning with 1/2 the total amount.

I then add the remaining ingredients and beat as the recipe instructs.

Using a small cake pan I fill it to the level I would in a regular-sized pan.

I then add a measured portion of the reserved butter/sugar mix, blend well into the batter and pour some into another small cake pan.

I repeat this again, using the remainder of the butter/sugar mix.

I bake the three small cakes at the same time and note the rise, and when done, the texture of the finished cake.

I have found that reducing the fat/sugar by 1/3 gives a result close to the full amount. However the cake will stale more rapidly.

Using 1/2 the amount resulted in less rise, a rubbery texture that rapidly staled to tough and dry.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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As another European baking fanatic, I agree that Amercan recipes tend to be sweeter than what we're used to and like. So I reduce sugar as well, never had any ill effects.

About considering sources: I agree again. I gave away Nancy Bagget's ' all american cookie book' because I found each and every recipe I tried so extremely sweet that I just gave up.

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Let me preface my post with an admission, I don't do cakes. However, I do do confections, so I am aware of the texture, shelf-life, flavour-enhancement, and other characteristics of various sugars in confectionery.

Glucose was mentioned above by Scott123 because it has a sweetness relative to sucrose (table sugar) of about half.

With regard to the properties of various sugars, including glucose, I strongly recommend having a look at these documents on the Danisco website (particularly the second, though a speed read of the first might be a good starting point):

The Functional Properties of Sugar

The Functional Properties of Sugar - on a technical level

In addition, consider polydextrose (10% sweetness of sucrose), often used as a bulking and texture agent with high intensity sweeters by the low carbohydrate clan. I have been experimenting with this to produce savoury candy, and the one web resource that has proved most useful to me is:

Low Carb Friends - Polydextrose Recipes

led by a certain Scott123 (the same Scott123 as our egullet participant?)

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