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Cupcakes and coconut palm sugar

Posted Mar 17 2011 10:43am

There’s nothing like a trip to Napa to remind me what I love about food, life and friends. This charming valley is full to the brim with culinary excellence, winemaking passion, the friendliest people and the freshest ingredients. Lustful eating is what I do there, usually throwing dietary precautions to the wind and chowing down with the best of them. It was a wonderful two days, to say the least. 

Our trip was a welcome relief from the insanity that is my brain these days. In the midst of the usual tasks consuming my time, a I spent a great deal of energy last week on a few rather large decisions that will determine my life for the next few years. I’m one of those people who just can’t sit still: Tell me to be patient and I’ll have a panic attack; hold me back and I’ll develop anxiety; tell me to slow down and I’ll feel lost. I love speculation, I love planning, I love knowing what I want and when I want it to happen. But sometimes, it really is so much more useful to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride of life. I’ve been trying to do a lot of this lately, because I know myself and I know better. It’s hard, but I’m riding on the belief that everything will work out for the best. Not knowing can be very, very exciting.

So, feeling rested, rejuvenated, well-hydrated and anxious to leap and bound into the future, I decided that cupcakes were in order. Celebration-of-life cupcakes. I recently became owner of the BabycakesNYC cookbook (by Erin McKenna) and I’ve been so excited to try my hand at one of her vegan and gluten-free confections. In an attempt to avoid a $100 grocery bill, I purchased just the unusual essentials called for and otherwise used what I had on hand, paying close attention to Erin’s substitution guidelines. The best part? With an egg-free batter, licking the bowl is almost mandatory. Enjoyed with a good glass of bubbly wine, they’re perfect.

But because I have yet to modify the recipe to suit my own tastes, I regrettably cannot share the exact recipe here. For now, I will tell you about Coconut Palm Sugar, which I used in place of the agave and/or cane sugar that are staples in the BabycakesNYC cookbook.


:: Coconut Palm Sugar ::

While browsing the bulk bins at Whole Foods the other day, I came upon a peculiar looking substance with a deep caramel color and rough, coarse-crystal texture. Coconut Palm Sugar, the label read. Eager to try some, I grabbed a scoop and continued on my way. After returning home and doing some research, I discovered that this sweetener is of a unique breed*. 

Relative to most other sweeteners on the market, coconut palm sugar has a lower GI (glycemic index) value of 35. The glycemic index is a tool that measures how quickly the sugar content of foods is absorbed into our blood stream. Agave nectar is said to have a low GI value, but at 42 it’s still higher than my new coconut-derived friend. 

Also, coconut palm sugar is 70-79% sucrose. Having followed Sarah Wilson’s recent sugar-free adventure, I know that fructose is the type of sugar we should watch out for. Both agave nectar and raw honey are pure fructose, as is the sugar found in fruit; so logically-speaking, can I feel a bit better about sweetening my treats with sucrose? I like to think so...

Finally, I learned that coconut palm sugar is extremely rich in nutrients, trace minerals and vitamins of the B and C variety, making it nutritionally superior to all other sweeteners on the market. We have to be careful these days to make well-educated choices amidst all the media’s diet hype, with “natural corn sugar” claiming to be “great in moderation.” Please. Although sweetened treats aren’t a regular occurrence for me, I plan to explore coconut palm sugar’s potential as a replacement for maple syrup and honey, my usual dessert suspects. If you try it, let me know what you think!

What are your sweeteners of choice? What’s your view on sugar?


*Source: Big Tree Farms

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