Sugar and Spice and all things nice.
Is there really such a thing as healthy cakes?
If you’re anything like me, motherhood has meant that I’ve developed a habit of going to cafes to ‘do coffee (and sometimes cake)’. The reason I do it is for my own sanity. Whilst being unquestionably busy with children, I’ll often get a rising feeling that I’m going slightly bananas with lack of adult conversation and have a growing need to escape ‘the house’.
Everyone’s different though, but I’m guessing by the sheer volume of parents I see in coffee shops that I’m not alone. After all, there’s no harm in having a little of what you fancy, but juxtaposed to this is my desire to stay healthy and for my children to be healthy (as they munch away at their chocolate brownies, and flapjacks!). All good intentions.
I caught up with Seema owner of LEAN pantry in Stamford, whose health-conscious coffee shop offers gluten-free, wheat-free and lactose-free products.
Seema comments on how she decided to go LEAN: ‘About 4 years ago, I wanted to lose a bit of that baby weight. So I had a personal trainer, and I cut out dairy, and refined sugars and saw some massive changes.’ Seema continues ‘I love baking and started experimenting and giving people gluten-free, and dairy-free cake - my son is also lactose intolerant, so it’s really great for him.’
Health cake - is it really possible?!
Is there really such a thing as healthy cakes? I asked Seema, to which I felt the answer was..no, not entirely healthy and guilt-free but you can make cakes ‘healthier’.
Seema says: ‘Everyone has a different definition of healthy, some people will say if you if I don’t have dairy, refined sugars, or gluten in my diet I will have a healthy diet. Some of our cakes have more sugar than others and we point that out to our customers who will ask what has the least amount of sugar, and we are really honest with that.’
So what can make a cake healthier?
Substituting ingredients such as sugar with naturally sweet alternatives seems to be the way forward. Cakes are typically made of sugar, flour, eggs, and butter. Butter is high in saturated fats, and can often be replaced with olive oil as a healthier alternative. You can think about replacing the sugar by using naturally sweet fruits or vegetables and flour can be replaced with a gluten-free alternative.
Seema tells me how they do it...‘ With cakes, we work backward. We have a cake recipe of a standard cake, and we take it back, and switch ingredients and we kind of have an idea now of proportions, we just experiment really.’
Seema continues ‘If you want to have a cake-like sticky ginger cake, you cannot expect it to have a minimal amount of sugar. It’s not physically possible, but what we do try and do, we use coconut sugar, dates, so it’s healthier. We don't use any white sugar. Our vegan cakes have the least amount of sugar, except if you have frosting on top, but again we’ve used maple sugar. For the healthiest, lowest sugar cake it would be our vegan cake, with no frosting.’
Spice it up!
Seema is Asian, Hindu and has grown up with Indian cooking all her life. She has applied her healthy ethos to her curries and makes all curries dairy-free. She believes you can’t tell the difference. Her tips are to cook with fresh ingredients - all Lean’s ingredients are locally sourced - her spices from Leicester, her fresh vegetables from Oakham market, her meat from Nelsons, her eggs from Whissendine - and experiment with spices and flavours.
Seema says ‘‘Don’t be afraid of mixing spices up. That’s the one thing I’ve recently started doing, once you start combining 6 or 7 different spices, you have instantly got a good rub or a marinade, and honestly, it’s delicious. Mix it with flour so you have a batter, do it without flour and add it with lemon juice, oil, so whether it’s meat, chicken, fish, tofu...anything it adds a big, big flavour to it. Cook from scratch, and experiment!
Seema’s tips for mums trying to budge those final few pounds:
‘I would recommend seeing a dietician or personal trainer, they will do a plan based on you, your activity and fitness levels. If you were to do one thing, without seeing anybody, I would say cut out refined sugar, cut out snacks in the day, just 3 meals a day. And drink loads of water to keep hydrated!’
SEEMA’S TOP TIPS
For brownies, ginger cakes, stodgy gooey cakes - prepare them, put them in a tin and freeze them. Take them out and cook as and when you need them. Makes life easier!
Spices -mix them up, combine 6 or 7 spices and make into a rub. Experiment!
For fresh-tasting garlic, make garlic oil - meltdown coconut oil, grind down garlic cloves and mix the two together. Let it set and you have garlic oil on tap, it saves time and lasts a while.
Please note the information in this article is not advice. For specific nutritional plans, fitness guidance, please refer to an expert for advice.