Making wedding cakes healthier

Astrid Inniss, director of the new graduate program in nutrition at the University of Texas Medical Branch's School of Health Professions, discusses ways to make wedding cakes healthier with Judy Elmendorf, owner of Galveston's Chopin Mon Ami, who specializes in wedding cakes and catering.


It’s time for a little sweet talk — especially with Valentine’s Day just around the corner and wedding plans in full bloom for many.

Brides might initially focus on the dress. But the cake is the icing of the event. The culinary masterpieces certainly receive their fair share of oohs and aahs from wedding guests.

With the growing number of people having special dietary needs and those making very conscious healthy eating choices, Astrid Inniss, director of the new graduate program in nutrition in the University of Texas Medical Branch’s School of Health Professions, insists you can have your cake and eat it, too.  

By choosing a few alternate ingredient choices, you can serve up a delectable event dessert that converts even the most serious sugaraholic, Inniss said.

Instead of using the full amount of sugar, salt and oils listed in a recipe, try cutting back by a third or more of each. To ensure an expected level of sweetness and moistness, try folding in puréed sweet potatoes, no-sugar-added applesauce, or adding such fruits as prunes, raisins, strawberries, blueberries and cranberries.

Rather than using white flour, talk to the baker about options that might increase the overall nutritional values and fiber intake. Of course, make sure the baker has experience in turning out the type of cake desired.

Generally, you can substitute about half the white flour with whole wheat flour and not notice that much of a difference, Galveston Community College’s Culinary Arts Chef Paul Mendoza said. 

And it’s possible to reduce the fat in a recipe without sacrificing flavor.

“In general, about one-third of the fat could be left out of a recipe for a cake and still have a good result,” Mendoza said. “If you are specifically looking to serve gluten-free, there are many different flours available now, but typically you must also add some xanthan gum or other gelatinous ingredient.”

Sliced strawberries, as well as all-fruit purées, make nice filling options instead of the whole cream or sugary ones often found within a cake.

Additional substitutes to discuss with the baker might include egg whites in place of whole eggs to reduce cholesterol levels and skim or 1 percent milk instead of whole to reduce saturated fats. Inniss also recommends evaporated milk as a substitute for condensed. 

“As far as frostings go, everyone loves cream cheese frostings, and you can substitute some or all of the regular with less-fat or fat-free options,” Mendoza said.

If the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition in Pennsylvania were consulted, the experts there likely would vote for dark chocolate curls atop a wedding cake. Dark chocolate icings and fillings sound irresistible as well as healthy, too.

Dark chocolate offers antioxidants that have been linked to some of the hallmarks of good cardiovascular health, such as enhanced blood flow, healthier cholesterol levels and even reduced blood pressure.

Milk and white chocolate, on the other hand, contain more sugar and added butterfat, experts say. 

And when buying sweets for your sweet this Valentine’s Day or any other, select the dark chocolates containing nuts and fruits, rather than gooey sugary fillings.

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