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Creating Tasty & Healthy Chiffon Cakes (Amongst Other Things)

Posted Jun 02 2010 7:42am
Vanilla Chiffon Cake Made with Powdered Sucanat

Vanilla Chiffon Cake Made with Powdered Sucanat

In the world of natural sweeteners — i.e., unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup and molasses — there aren’t as many solid sweeteners as there are liquid ones.  Normally, this works out fine when baking, because most baked goods include liquids (which allows you to tinker with the overall total amount of liquids), but some baked items are meant to be airy and towering rather than have a more dense, lower-to-the-pan crumb.  Case in point: chiffon and angel cakes vs. brownies and cornbreads.  Frosting is another thing that normally works best when made with a fine, powdery sugar rather than a liquid one.

In my quest to remove refined white sugar from my repertoire of baked goodies, I’ve been struggling with a way to make Qualitarian airy cakes and frosting.  This quest became especially pertinent a few weeks ago — one of my best friends was about to graduate from law school, and since she’s celiac and therefore can’t have gluten, I’d said I would bake several cakes for her party as her graduation present.  One of the cakes I wanted to make was a Vanilla Chiffon with Strawberry Frosting.  (Others were a Caribbean Chocolate-Banana Rum Cake and Chocolate-Cranberry Squares, but since those weren’t meant to be high and airy, I knew they’d be easy to do gluten-free — brown rice flour and sorghum flour make wonderful stand-ins for the traditional all-purpose wheat, and that was the biggest tweak I’d have to pull off.)  But I knew that the sucanat that I normally use in place of white sugar would be far too grainy to make a successful chiffon.  How would I be able to make a Qualitarian cake that everyone would recognize as a chiffon?  (Albeit a far more flavorful one — natural sweeteners retain their signature tastes rather than just hitting your tongue as sheer sweetness.)

Two days before the party, I had an epiphany: use my trusty coffee grinder to grind the sucanat into powdered sucanat the same way I use that coffee grinder to grind grains/nuts into flour.  How had I not thought of that trick before?

It worked as well as I’d hoped it would!  In fifteen seconds, I had plenty of wonderfully-fragrant powdered sucanat to use in all of my cakes, not just the chiffon.  I used about 7/8 of a cup for every cup specified in the recipes (mostly garnered from the ever-classic Joy of Cooking) to account for the fact that the powdered sucanat is more densely packed in the measuring cup than standard white sugar, and I was very happy with the results.  (When using the cups-and-spoons measuring system, volume differs tremendously from one ingredient to the next.  This is the #1 reason why we’d be better off using the weight-based metric system rather than the volume-based English one, but that’s another topic for another post.)  The frosting came off equally well.

So, there you have it!  If you have a coffee grinder, you can have powdered sucanat in your chiffons, too.  Compared to one made with refined white sugar, the made-with-sucanat-cake’s color and flavor will be far richer, its texture will be fantastically fluffy, and you’ll have made a dessert that’s far better for your health and environment than anything you’ll find on a supermarket shelf.

Oh, and one more tip: store your extra powdered sucanat in a glass screw-top jar and use it to make your own hot chocolate (or any other sweetened beverage) from scratch.  It’s so fine that it’ll dissolve almost instantly.


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