I am trying really hard to reduce my intake of white sugar mainly because I have found it really aggravates my symptoms, and I am also trying to avoid gluten as much as possible to help heal my digestive system, so I have been looking for cake recipes that are low in refined sugar and free from gluten.
Last weekend I tried and adapted a lovely Victoria sponge cake recipe that uses spelt flour to replace ordinary white wheat flour, and maple syrup instead of white cane sugar. I went for this recipe primarily because it used a natural, unrefined sugar and didn’t look too difficult to make in terms of baking method (I’m not quite ready yet to make flaxseed eggs as I found in other healthy baking recipes!). I also wanted to keep to conventional dairy butter on this occasion so that I wouldn’t be changing up too much in one go (and because I didn’t have any coconut oil in the house!).
Why is it healthier?
I initially thought that spelt flour was gluten-free, but since reading more about spelt I have found that this is not actually the case. However, it is still more easily digested by the body than wheat flour because the gluten found in spelt is water soluble and therefore more easily digested than wheat gluten. So it’s worth a try for those who have mild gluten sensitivity although it is not for those who have an intolerance. Apart from being more easily digestible, spelt flour offers other health benefits too: it is a whole-grain; unlike wheat where the nutritional bran and germ are usually removed in the milling, the vital substances of spelt are found in the inner kernel of the grain and due to the spelt’s high water solubility, the nutritional substances in the grain can also be absorbed more quickly into the body. Spelt contains more protein, fats and crude fibre than wheat and also has large amounts of Vitamin B17 (thought to be anti-carcinogenic). It is also an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, selenium, zinc, iron, and manganese.
Like spelt, maple syrup (as long as you use the unrefined type) is also better for you than its’ traditional alternative, white cane sugar, because it offers some important antioxidants and minerals like zinc and manganese that are not present in ordinary sugar. In addition, maple syrup supplies less sugar overall to your diet: the glycemic index score of maple syrup is about 54, compared to a score of about 65 for regular cane sugar so this means that maple syrup doesn’t make your blood sugar levels surge as much as ordinary white sugar.
…Health benefits aside, the Victoria sponge cake turned out lovely – the whole family loved it! In fact I would go so far as to say the taste of the sponge was probably nicer than a traditional Victoria sponge recipe I have previously used. Flour made from spelt definitely has a nutty, slightly sweet flavour and this combined with the maple syrup was really very delicious. This is certainly a recipe I will turn to again and again.
Here’s the recipe below if you want to give it a go too.
For the cake:
225g unsalted butter (softened)
4 medium sized eggs (I weigh out eggs so they are as close in weight to 225g as possible)
225g spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon of good quality vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla powder
225g maple syrup
For the filling:
100ml double cream
100ml natural greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
400g fresh strawberries (or any other fruit of choice)
For the sponge cake
- Grease and line two 20cm round baking tins.
- Preheat your oven to 180degrees/160degreesan/ gas mark 4.
- Beat the butter by hand or mixer until very soft and fluffy
- Measure out the flour and sift together in a separate bowl with the baking powder
- Also in a separate jug or bowl mix the maple syrup with the vanilla extract and vanilla powder
- Beat 4 eggs in a separate bowl and then slowly start to add to the butter. Alternate adding a little of the egg with a 2-3 tablespoons of flour/ baking flour at a time.
- Once all the egg mixture and flour has been added, slowly fold in the maple syrup-vanilla mixture. You should end up with a slightly gloopy consistency that can easily be poured into a baking tin. I did find it was gloopier (less thick) than the usual consistency for a traditional Victoria sponge cake.
- Divide the mixture as equally as you can between your two baking tins.
- Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown. If possible bake both tins on the same level in the oven to get an even temperature. You’ll know when the sponges are ready because they should be shrinking away from the side of the tins and the sponge should feel firm but slightly springy to touch.
- Once cooked leave them to cool for about 10 minutes in their baking tins and then turn out onto a cooling rack
For the filling
- Wash, hull and halve about 400g fresh strawberries. Add a few drops of lemon juice to the prepared strawberries – this helps stop them going brown and keeps them fresh
- Next, whisk 100ml double cream until stiff peaks form. Then add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and fold in 100ml of natural Greek yoghurt (using yoghurt really helps lighten the feeling of the cream and gives a slightly tangier taste which complements the spelt-maple sponge really well).
- Spoon the cream-yoghurt mixture on top of one of the sponge cakes, spreading it out evenly but leaving a border for when the mixture gets squashed down by the top layer. Dot about two thirds of the strawberries onto the cream mixture.
- Place the other sponge cake on top and then decorate top of cake with remaining strawberries.
And there you have it – the cake is ready to serve. Yum! Let me know how it turns out for if you try it!