We have a well-established apple tree in the garden of our new home which is laden with fruit this autumn. Sadly, many are diseased and go straight into the compost bin. But even so, there are plenty to use so I’ve been busy in the kitchen making chutney, apple sauce for freezing, dried apple rings and – of course – cake. It would be rude not to 😉
One of the biggest challenges for baking when following a whole-food plant-based diet for health is what to use as a fat replacement. Refined oils like generic ‘vegetable oil’ and saturated fats like butter or dairy-free spread are not conducive to health – the complete opposite in fact as they all contribute to inflammation within the body, which is the key thing most people using food as medicine are trying to counterbalance.
You’ll notice from many of my cake recipes that I might still use a little oil like olive or organic rapeseed oil. But this does move away from the whole-food concept as even if some of the health benefits like omega 3 fatty acids are retained. Recipes like this super healthy apple and oat muffins are a tasty oil free options.
Oil is still basically pure fat with most of the nutrients removed. This makes the product much more calorie dense rather than nutrient dense, unlike most whole-foods which tend to be the other way round.
However, if you’re not managing a health condition like heart disease or cancer which requires strict adherence to whole-foods, then you might have a little more leeway and a window of opportunity for a little oil and sugar 😉. Unless you eat cake at every meal. Which may sound like a fabulous idea but not in reality; I can feel my thighs expanding just thinking about it!
If you don’t want to use any fat at all and want an oil-free cake, is there an alternative that can act as a binding agent like egg? Yes there is – apple sauce. Not only that but it also contributes sweetness so you can reduce, or even eliminate, added sugar if you so desire. Double bonus!
The downside of using apple sauce as a fat replacement is texture. It is heavy so your cake will struggle to be light and fluffy, even with the extra raising agents. However, as with all cakes with extra fruit added, it’s always going to be lovely and moist. This loaf cake is more bread pudding texture than sponge cake, but not quite as dense. It also tastes gorgeous and can be eaten as a slice with a cup of tea or served with dairy-free yoghurt or cream as a hearty dessert.
Both the apples and sultanas (or raisins) provide sweetness which is why you don’t have to add sugar. However, I have included some in the recipe as it’s an acquired taste and something you may want to move towards as your tastebuds change. After all, it is cake, something to be enjoyed not endured!
The top is adorned with chopped apple, maple syrup and cinnamon, a gorgeous combination that completes the cake. You’ll notice in the photo I’ve drizzled a little icing over the top, mainly to make it look pretty but also to add a little extra sweetness. You can miss this off if you so wish, or alternatively dust a little icing sugar over the top. Mix a little cinnamon into the icing sugar is another super tasty option.
You’ll find cinnamon in both the apple mix and flour mix in this recipe. It is the perfect spice partner for apple after all (in my humble opinion). Cinnamon also helps move sugar from the blood stream into cells more readily, so helps regulate blood sugar levels which is a good thing.
I’ve used wholewheat self-raising flour for this recipe but if you are gluten free then a good self-raising gluten free mix will work just as well. Alternatively, trying spelt or mixed ancient grains flour but add another teaspoon of baking powder to the mix to make sure you get a rise.
As always, I recommend using soya milk to make dairy-free buttermilk – this helps the cake to rise more readily. Soya milk is the closest to dairy milk and sours the most readily. You can find out more about this here.
Another side benefit of eating cooked apple is it contains a good amount of pectin. Why is this important? It’s something that good gut microbes love to eat. And if they’re happy, then your gut is happy too. Gut health is key to overall health, so the old saying of “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is proving to be most accurate. This recipe contains a selection of fibre in the whole ingredients, so lots to keep your microbiome happy and healthy.
This cake will keep up to 3 days in an air-tight container – keep in a cool place or the fridge if your kitchen is on the warm side. Alternatively, freeze as a whole cake or in slices. If like me you have a lot of apples to use up, double or even quadruple the ingredients and make a whole batch of cakes to slice and freeze so you can enjoy this yummy apple and sultana cake well into the winter.
I hope you enjoy making this tasty oil-free cake. Do let me know if you make it, and how you get on.
Apple and sultana cake (oil free)
- 2lb loaf tin
- non-stick baking paper
- 2 mixing bowls
- 1 large jug
For the apple mix
- 2 medium apples peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 30 ml maple syrup
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar/molasses optional
For the wet ingredients
- 150 ml soya milk or other dairy-free milk of choice if you can't tolerate soya
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp apple puree
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 50 grams dark brown sugar/molasses/coconut sugar optional
For the dry ingredients
- 200 grams wholewheat self-raising flour or gluten free self-raising if needed
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- pinch salt
- 80 grams sultanas or raisins
For the icing (optional)
- 3 tbsp icing sugar
- 2 tsp water
- First prepare the apple mixture. Peel, core and finely chop the apple. Place in a bowl with the lemon juice (to stop it oxidising), maple syrup, cinnamon and sugar if using. Stir well to coat and put to one side.
- Line the baking tin with non-stick baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
- Pour the soya milk into the large jug and add the lemon juice. Leave for a couple of minutes until it's curdled and thick. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
- Sift the first 4 of the dry ingredients into the large bowl and mix well to combine. Add the sultanas or raisins and stir well again.
- Once everything is ready, pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Working quickly, add 60% of the apple mix and stir well to combine, making sure the flour is all scrapped up from the bottom of the bowl.
- Pour the mix into the prepared baking tin, spreading to the corners. Tap on the work surface.
- Spoon the remaining apple mix over the top of the cake mix, pressing lightly into the top. Tap the tin on the worktop again then transfer to the oven.
- Bake for 25 minutes in the centre of the oven then check to make sure the top isn't getting too brown. Gently cover with tin foil if there is any danger of the top burning, then return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when poked in the middle.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Carefully lift the cake out with the non-stick baking paper and transfer to a cooling rack, gently peeling off the paper before leaving it too cool completely.
- If using the icing, pop the icing sugar into a small bowl and carefully add the water, mixing well to combine. Don't use too much water or you'll need to add more sugar. Once thick, drizzle over the top of the cake using a small spoon.
- The cake tastes lovely when served warm or keep in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.