We all know refined sugar is bad for us. The food industry is buzzing with demand for sugar replacements as food and drink manufacturers come under pressure to reduce the refined sugar content of their products. Government regulations on refined sugar content in manufactured food and drink do not apply in the family home but home bakers can take responsibility for lowering the amount of refined sugar in their family’s diet by baking with raw honey.
Honey’s moisture-retaining properties prevent cakes from drying out and keep them fresh, which is why honey is already widely used in commercial baking. Replacing refined sugar with raw honey in home baking adds flavour as well as sweetness to your favourite recipes. You’ll appreciate the difference in flavour, your cakes will be healthier and the kids will still love the sweetness in them.
Here are 10 tips to help you start baking with honey:
- It’s best to use light, mild-tasting raw honey as a refined sugar substitute in baking so the honey doesn’t overwhelm the overall flavour of the cake. We recommend Gustare’s Delicate Yellow Box Honey, light in colour, delicate in taste and has the added benefit of a proven low GI of 35 (white sugar has a high GI of 68).
- If you are baking a honey cake rather then simply substituting honey for refined sugar, feel free to use darker, stronger tasting raw honeys. Darker-coloured honeys can also be used for glazing cakes after they come out of the oven. We recommend Gustare’s Stringy Bark or Apple Tree Honey for this purpose.
- The sugars in raw honey (higher levels of fructose) taste sweeter than the sucrose in refined sugar so you can use less honey than refined sugar to obtain the same sweet taste, thus reducing the overall sugar content of the cake.
- Opinions differ but the general rule is that 1 cup of refined sugar in a recipe can be substituted with 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of honey. Check out our handy conversion guide below.
- Lubricate a spoon or measuring cup with hot water to ease the honey into the mixture.
- Substituting raw honey for refined sugar increases the amount of liquid in the recipe so you need to reduce the amount of other liquid ingredients in the recipe. For every 1/2 cup of sugar you are replacing with honey, reduce the other liquids by 1 tablespoon. If you replacing less than 1/2 cup of sugar, there is no need to reduce the other liquids.
- For every 1/2 cup of refined sugar you are replacing with raw honey in a recipe, add 1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to manage the density of the honey and help the dough rise more evenly.
- Honey browns more quickly than refined sugar so lower your oven temperature by 15°C or 25°F and check your cake regularly. Turning a cake pan or baking tray around during the baking process can help ensure even heating. Covering the pan with foil part-way through baking can prevent burning on top of the cake.
- Honey works best in dense, moist cakes.
- Honey cakes or muffins usually taste better when eaten the day following baking as the honey flavour takes time to develop. Wrapping the cake in grease-proof paper and storing in an airtight container will maintain the moisture and flavour of the cake.
Refined sugar to honey conversion guide
1/4 cup sugar → 3 tbsp raw honey
1/3 cup sugar → 3 tbsp raw honey
1/2 cup sugar → 1/3 cup raw honey
1 cup sugar → 3/4 cup raw honey
2 cups sugar → 1.5 cups raw honey