The lovely Shelly at Little House in the Corner blogged about giving up sugar for a month, which is an unbelievably brave thing to do, especially as the nights draw in & the soul begins to crave sweet puddings and warming drinks of an evening.
Acknowledging & tacking the unhealthy or sticky aspects of your relationship with food is never easy to do, and I have so much admiration for those who recognise their issues and work on them.
So I had a good long think about the Tearoom. For me cooking is an expression of love, of friendship & of compassion. I make food to make people happy. I have always had the policy of there being sugar free options for diabetics (my scones & teacakes are sugar free, and I offer sugar free jam for toast and cream teas). But I also enjoy a challenge, so for the next month I'll be making sure there is always a sugar-free cake on the counter.
Now when I say sugar, I mean sucrose, the refined granular stuff that goes in your tea. I'm well aware that fruit contains sugar (fructose), dairy contains sugar (lactose). You are also aware of this, so don't wave your finger at me saying 'Apricots have sugar in them'* and missing the point like a like a joyless pedant.
When going sugar free in baking, there are several alternatives to sweetening your treats.
The refined juice of the Agave plant, a massive succulent that grows in South America that is also used to make tequila. It is a little sweeter than sugar, but has a distinct flavour somewhere between honey & caramel. It works well in darker, richer cakes that have a lot of dried fruit or cocoa in them.
Made (as you might have guessed) from apples, it's a great sweetener for cakes (and lovely on porridge!), and I use it in scones & teacakes. I'm a big fan of Sweet Freedom apple syrup, which is made from apple, grape & carob. I find it much easier to use than apple puree, which is a bit sloppy & tricky to use in cake making, where too much moisture can be the difference between light & delicious cakey noms and something that gets thrown to the chickens.
Dates & apricots are great for making sugar free chocolate or fruit cakes. They can be chopped or soaked in water & blended to a thick puree. Chocolate brownies made with dates simmered in tea until they collapse into a fragrant mush are pretty damn fine.
I suppose you could, but what fun would that be?
Sugar-free cake recipe coming soon!
*may Nyarlathotep send his bat-winged, clanking rat-thingys to poke you in the eye and call you a thundering old bellend