Kitchen How-To: “Healthy-fying” a Recipe

I often make substitutions in recipes to make them healthier.  Instead of butter, I will substitute some applesauce.  Instead of all white flour, I substitute half whole wheat, or a combination of other whole grain flours.  A few days ago, however, I did a major reworking of a favorite breakfast recipe, and thought that the results would be worth describing to you.

The recipe I was reworking came originally from a Rachel Ray magazine, Cherry Breakfast Cake.  I have made the recipe for several years, using cherry or rhubarb for a fruit layer between a cake layer and a very buttery streusel topping.  The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups butter and 2 cups sugar, making it very rich and delicious.  I guess the real problem with it is that we like to eat it for breakfast, and the original recipe had nearly 1000 calories per serving.  Not only that, but none of us could eat just one serving, so we ended up with a 1500 calorie breakfast that left us starving by 10:00.  I guess we could have tried will power and self control, but I decided to try lightening the recipe instead.  The resulting recipe was about 750 calories per serving, and the oatmeal made it more filling, making it a little more reasonable breakfast treat.

Here are some of the substitutions I made:

  • whole wheat flour and oatmeal for white flour
  • decreased sugar substantially (1/2  cup)
  • substituted applesauce for melted butter, and then mixed them together before using them

I was able to use home canned cherries for this cake, so they were very lightly sweetened.  I would not use cherry pie filling for this recipe.  Instead, substitute frozen sweet cherries, blackberries or blueberries, thawed.  I also like to use frozen rhubarb (I freeze this myself every spring.)  Rhubarb requires some sugar to make it palatable.

Here is the adjusted recipe:

Cherry Breakfast Cake

For streusel topping:

3/4 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup smooth applesauce

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix together butter and applesauce, remove 2 Tablespoons to a medium bowl for making the cake batter.  To the remaining butter mixture add sugar, flours, and oatmeal mixing with your fingers to make a crumbly topping.  This forms very large crumbs, much stickier than a standard streusel.

For the  cake batter:

Reserved 2 Tablespoons butter/applesauce mixture

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup white flour

1/4 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients to make a smooth batter.  Fold about a third of the crumb mixture into the batter.  Spray or butter a 9×13 baking dish and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spread the batter into the bottom of the baking dish.  Thoroughly drain 1 quart sour cherries and spread on top of the batter.  With your fingers, sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top of the cherries, breaking up large clumps.  Bake the cake until golden brown, about 45 minutes.  Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.  We like this in a bowl with a little milk or cream.

This reworking of the recipe was a success, although I made the mistake of telling my family that I had done it, and some of them complained that it wasn’t as good as the “real thing.”  I think they’ll forget what the “real thing” tasted like when I make this next and don’t remind them!  It made me feel a lot better to serve a healthier treat breakfast.

Do you make substitutions in recipes to make them healthier?  What is your most common change?  Please leave me a comment.

Leave a comment


  1. Amritorupa Kanjilal

     /  March 13, 2012

    Are you sure It’s as tasty as the real thing, though?


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