4 ways to make cake healthier – includes a recipe

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Everyone loves cake, but cake doesn’t always love us. Usually high in fat and sugar, cake has been relegated to the position of a ‘sometimes’ food and that’s sad.

On our walking tours we have home made cake every day and it’s marvelous! But when I bake, I nearly always tweak the recipe because no one wants to get fat on a walking holiday. Here are some of my tricks:

1. Choose your cake wisely

I generally don’t make light and fluffy cakes to eat when I’m walking. Which is good because light and fluffy cakes are the precious princesses of the cake world – they are beautiful, but very sensitive.

Choose robust cakes with bits in them. Like fruit, nuts and oats (and maybe a few choc chips) to give you sustenance on the track. You can make all sorts of changes to these cakes and they will hardly ever complain.

2. Replace butter/oil with applesauce Butter is there to add flavour and moistness but butter is fat so less is more.

When I first try a recipe I reduce the butter by a third and replace it with the equal volume of applesauce (you can buy applesauce in the supermarket in glass jars – usually around where the mustard’s are). If it works, I reduce it more next time and more the time after that.

Usually I end up with a recipe that has half to two-thirds less fat. Win!

3. Reduce sugar First, most cakes are too sweet, so reducing sugar doesn’t hurt.

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Second, if you’re already replacing butter with applesauce, you’re adding sweetness too. So, as they say, why kill one bird when you can kill two?

Applesauce. Kills fat and sugar dead.

If you’re adding applesauce to replace butter then just take down the sugar a bit to adjust sweetness and you shouldn’t need to adjust any other ingredients.

If you’re taking this applesauce thing to the next level though, and you want to reduce the sugar even more, keep this in mind: 1 unit of applesauce can sub in for 1 unit of sugar but the mixture will be wetter, so we have to balance the scales. For every unit of applesauce you sub in, reduce a liquid in the recipe (milk, juice etc) by about 1/4 of a unit.

Hey, who said numbers were boring? 1 cup of applesauce = about 100 calories. 1 cup of granulated sugar = about 770 calories 1 cup of butter = 1,600 calories. Yikes!

4. Replace eggs with ground flax

Replacing eggs with flax has great health benefits. Plus, it means I don’t have to go to the shops to get eggs when I run out.

“Flax eggs” don’t act in quite the same way as real eggs in baking – they help stick things together but don’t give body and texture to cakes the way that hens eggs do. Yet another reason not to cook princess cakes.

To make a “flax egg”: put 1 Tbs ground flax seeds in a bowl, add 3 Tbs of warm water, whisk with a fork to combine and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. If a recipe asks for two eggs, I sometimes replace one egg with a flax egg and keep the other one in there.

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Did you know… Flaxseed is a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), offering unique heart health benefits.

So there you have it. Four ways to make a cake healthier. Now to put this knowledge into action with one of our favourites!

Rustic Choc-Chip Banana Oat Cake w Peanut Butter Banana Icing

This is a delicious and wholesome cake. It’s dense, so travels well in a back pack. The sugar can be adjusted depending on your taste. Enjoy!

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients for cake

  • 2 cups oats, processed into a flour
  • 1/2 cup oats (not processed, can be quick oats)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed firmly
  • 1 Tbs cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8th tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/16th tsp ground cloves (optional)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs coconut oil, melted (or other light tasting oil)
  • 3 medium very ripe bananas, peeled
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup milk (almond, soy, cow…)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Ingredients for icing

  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 2 Tbs peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • pinch of salt


1. Preheat oven to 180C and lightly grease a 20 cm cake pan. Take 2 cups of oats and process them in a food processor until flour-like in consistency.

2. In a mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (processed oats, regular oats, sugars, spices, baking powder, and salt).

3. In another bowl, mash two peeled bananas, then mix in the oil, applesauce, milk and vanilla until smooth.

4. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until just combined. Roughly chop the third banana and fold it into the mixture, along with the choc chips and optional walnuts.

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5. Spread into prepared pan and bake for 36-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cake for at least 15-20 minutes in the pan before removing it to a wire rack.

6. Once fully cooled, top with peanut butter banana icing (see below). Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Makes 8-10 servings.

To make icing

Mash banana in a bowl until smooth. Add in peanut butter and mash until combined. Sift in the salt and icing sugar and stir until fully combined. Makes about 2/3 cup. Can freeze or store in fridge in a sealed contained for 1-2 days.

The icing is lovely and runny. You could add more icing sugar to firm it up but then what would be the point of all that hard work making a healthier cake?

Taken from Oh She Glows (with a few little adaptions)

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