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A tale of three sugars

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BakeSw@p

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Coconut sugar v Stevia v Rice Malt Syrup

A spot of Saturday afternoon baking in the BakeSw@p kitchen designed to test the effects of switching out three different sugars in the same recipe.  An elegant sufficiency of willing taste testers. Various ages and genders.  And some really interesting results.

Let’s just open the batting with the statement that all cupcakes were pronounced delicious.  But there were some definite preferences among the panel.

The control: Vanilla cupcake

I used one of my favourite vanilla cupcake recipes – usually baked with caster sugar as the sweetener for birthday parties.  Failsafe. Easy. Delicious. Five ingredients, quick and easy to make in a food processor.  

The scientific experiment

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I made three separate batches one after the other within the space of an hour. And the only change I made between the 3 batches was the sweetener – everything else remained constant: ingredients, quantities, method.



The panel of five experienced cupcake-eating professionals
The esteemed panel has over 23 years experience collectively between Charlie, Sam and Lulu alone!  We tested visual and taste appeal, sweetness and crumb.

The panel was asked to complete a blind taste test and then a second test in plain sight. And then a third to ensure a robust sample…  Following the blind taste test none of the panel picked the right cake to match the order in which they tasted them.

The results?

1. Coconut sugar – purple patty pan

  • The mixture was soft and light and a luscious light coffee colour.  The mix made 9 cakes.
  • Thumb img 9455 bsi 3 sugars coconut 87kb copyVisual appeal – these cakes baked to a light coffee colour, and they retained the lovely dome achieved during baking. These were the perkiest of the 3 as a finished cupcake.
  • Crumb – they had a slightly firmer crumb but were deliciously moist. 
  • Sweetness – they taste as cupcakes should – quite sweet.  Closer to a subtle caramel or toffee style sweetness.
  • Verdict.  The panel liked this cake a lot and the boys (big and small) preferred this cake over both the others.
  • The test of time. After a couple of days in an airtight container these cupcakes are still lovely and moist. A close second to the version made with rice malt syrup.
Substitution: the coconut sugar weighs less than sugar and so I used the same volume as the sugar in the recipe. (125g or three quarters of a cup of caster sugar = 85g or three quarters of a cup of coconut sugar)

2. Organic Stevia – green patty pan

  • The mixture was slightly thicker and a light vanilla colour.  The mix made 10 cakes.
  • Thumb img 9459 bsi 3 sugars stevia 76kb copyVisual appeal – these cakes baked to a light vanilla colour and developed a lovely golden top. They did deflate slightly as they cooled but not enough to cause concern.
  • Crumb – they had a slightly firmer crumb than the 3rd option but were deliciously moist
  • Sweetness – they taste as cupcakes should – the sweetest of the three.  
  • Verdict.  The panel liked this cake a lot and the girls (small) preferred this cake over both the others.
  • The test of time. These cupcakes are best eaten on the day of making or the next day. After a couple of days in an airtight container these cupcakes are still OK but nowhere near as moist as the other two.
Substitution: the Stevia was like for like. I used it in equal quantity (weight) to the sugar in the recipe (125g of caster sugar = 125g of Stevia)

3. Rice Malt Syrup – pink patty pan

  • The mixture was a light vanilla colour and looked almost like it was on the verge of splitting.  The mix made 10 cakes.
  • Thumb img 9456 bsi 3 sugars rice malt syrup 89kb copyVisual appeal – these cakes baked to a light vanilla colour and had a nice uniform flat top that retained its height as they cooled.
  • Crumb – they had a very fine crumb and were deliciously moist
  • Sweetness – they taste as cupcakes should – the least sweet of the three with a beautiful buttery flavour.
  • The patty pans come away from these cakes easily – a small thing but can be important to know if you plan to ice them.
  • Verdict. The panel liked this cake a lot and the adults preferred this cake over both the others.
  • The test of time. After a couple of days in an airtight container these cupcakes are still lovely and moist. The best of the three.
Substitution: the rice malt syrup was like for like. I used it in equal quantity (weight) to the sugar in the recipe. (125g of caster sugar = 125g of Rice Malt Syrup)

Pick a sweetener…any sweetener
There was no clear winner and all were delicious naked (i.e. no icing). Panel ecstatic and can’t wait to be engaged in the next scientific experiment in the BakeSw@p kitchen.

Vanilla cupcakes: the recipe (makes 24)

  1. Put all the following ingredients into a food processor and blitz until smooth: 250g Self Raising Flour, 2 tsp Baking Powder, 250g Butter, 250g Caster Sugar, 4 Eggs (70g each), 110ml Milk, 2 tsp Vanilla Extract.
  2. Line muffin tins with patty cases and use an ice-cream scoop to fill them between half and three-quarters full
  3. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 20 minutes
  4. They're cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean
  5. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins and then turn onto a rack
  6. For the full recipe go to Vanilla Cupcakes





The BakeSw@p team would love to hear about your experience swapping out the sugar. Tell us what you swapped it for and how it turned out.

Written by Erin Corner

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