Cupcake Recipes – Sugar and Sweeteners Are Not All Equal
Sugar and sweeteners are not the same. You cannot simply replace one sugar with one artificial sweetener in a cupcake recipe. Careful understanding of sweeteners as refined sugar replacements is vital to a tasty finished product.
Sugar provides many aspects of a fine finished product beyond its natural sweetness. Sugar delivers moisture as it liquefies and tenderness as it bakes. It caramelizes at high baking temperatures, giving your baked goods a golden brown finish, and even extends the shelf-life of the finished products.
Sugar and sweeteners can be replaced with a variety of choices: natural products, such as honey or agave, or a sugar replacement, such as Saccharine. Sugar and sweeteners containing refined sugars have a higher carbohydrate level. Refined sugars include raw sugars, such as demerara or turbinado, brown sugar (both light and dark), and simple white sugar. Demerara is produced from the first press and steam of the sugar cane, creating a thick cane syrup that is then dehydrated to form the characteristic large flakes. Turbinado is simply a light brown sugar that has had most, but not all, of the molasses removed through a centrifugal washing process. Light and brown sugars contain the most of the cane molasses, with the light sugar obviously possessing less molasses.
Most agave sugars are 1.4 times sweeter than sugar and should be used at 50 to 66% of the normal sugar ratio in your cupcake recipes. You may need to adjust the moisture content slightly (reduce oils or add a bit more flour); however, most test recipes found that 55% agave to 100% sugar was about right for both sweetness and moisture. Reduce cooking temperature by 8% (for baked goods cooking at 350°F (± 180 °C), bake at 325°F (± 160 °C), but keep baking time the same. Agave has a low glycemic index so it is a great sugar replacement for diabetics or dieters.
Birch bark sugar is known as Xilitol. It can be used one for one with sugar (same ratio as regular sugar) in most baked goods. It will not caramelize like sugar. Yeasts in bread cannot feed on Xillitol and should not be used in yeast baking. Start off slow, as some people may have some intestinal reactions to 100% replacement. Do not feed baked goods containing Xilitol to pets; they cannot metabolize it the same way humans can.
When using honey or other liquid sugars in your cupcake recipes, sugar and sweeteners must be adjusted along with liquid or oil content. Honey, with its distinct flavor and color, is popular with bakers. Honey-sweetened goods tend to be denser, have higher moisture content and brown faster. Honey should be 50% to 75% of your sugar by volume. When replacing one cup of sugar with ¾ cup and one tablespoon honey, reduce other liquids by two tablespoons.
Maple syrup adds depth to the flavor of all baked goods. Made from the sap of sugar maples, it is expensive but worth the taste for special recipes. Replaces sugar at 60%, it is sweeter than honey, and, therefore, moisture content of recipes will need to be adjusted:1 cup sugar = ¾ cup maple syrup, less 3 tablespoons liquid.
Artificial choices for your sugar and sweeteners are as varied as natural ingredients. This group of sweeteners does not add the tenderness, moisture or browning capabilities of natural sugars, and should be considered thusly.
Each brand or type of artificial sweetener is different in their sweetness and baking properties. Sucralose can be substituted one for one with white refined sugar. Saccharine products, such as Sweet and Low, are 200 to 700 times the sweetness of sugar. Aspartame (Equal and NutraSweet) is not recommended for baked goods as it loses it sweetening power once heated, but is great for topping fruit or other non-baked items. Sunette and Sweet One are Acesulfame potassium, heat stable, and often used in baking. Replace each ¼ cup refined sugar with six one gram packets.
When making substitutions in cupcake recipes, sugar and sweeteners must be adjusted based on the choice of sugar substitute. Liquids, cooking times and temperatures may also need to be changed.