Baking with Sugar Substitutes

Sugar substitutes, sugar blends, plain old sugar -- there are so many choices for baking, what's a person with diabetes to do? We took the guesswork out of choosing a sugar substitute for baking by testing one cake recipe with five different sugar substitutes. Here's what we found.
  • Baking with Sugar, Blends, and Sugar Substitutes

    The Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen tested several recipes, including our favorite white cake recipe, with different sweeteners, including sugar and sugar blends. Our only change was to replace all of the sugar in each cake with a different sugar substitute. Using sugar as the "control," see how each sugar substitute performed.

  • Baking with Sugar

    Calories per teaspoon: 16

    Test Kitchen Notes: The function of sugar in a recipe varies greatly. Sugar may act solely as a sweetener, as in lemonade, or it may provide volume, tenderness, browning, crispness, moisture, structure, and sweetness, as in a cake or cookies.

    Take a Look at the White Cake: Notice the light crumb texture (structure), even browning (caramelizing), smooth top, and high volume. The flavor was pleasantly sweet.

  • Baking with Aspartame

    (Equal Spoonful)
    Calories per teaspoon: 0

    Test Kitchen Notes: You can use Equal Spoonful measure-for-measure in place of sugar in cooking. Because aspartame loses sweetness when heated for a prolonged period, add Equal Spoonful to recipes after heating, such as stirring it into a cooked custard sauce after the milk mixture is hot. Avoid using this product in baking.

    Take a Look at the White Cake: Notice the lack of browning, compact texture, tunnels, and low volume. The cake was gummy and tasted more like a biscuit because the sweetener had broken down in baking.

  • Baking with Saccharin

    (Sweet'N Low)
    Calories per teaspoon: 0

    Test Kitchen Notes: Saccharin is heat-stable, but baked foods made with saccharin produce the best results when only part of the sugar is replaced, not all of it, as shown here. When cooking, use the equivalent amount suggested on the package for the amount of sugar. And if a recipe calls for brown sugar, use the brown sugar bulk form as the package directs.

    Take a Look at the White Cake: Notice the extremely low volume, very light browning, and bumpy surface. The cake seemed dense, firm, and rubbery, and it had a strong aftertaste.

  • Baking with Sucralose

    (Splenda granular)
    Calories per teaspoon: 2

    Test Kitchen Notes: Use this product to replace sugar in recipes where sugar is only needed for sweetening, rather than in baked recipes that require sugar for structure and browning.

    Take a Look at the White Cake: Notice the lack of volume, very slight browning, and dense texture. Besides being tough and gummy, this cake tasted sweet at first but then had a noticeable metallic aftertaste.

  • Baking with a Sucralose-Sugar Blend

    Sucralose-Sugar Blend
    (Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking)
    Calories per teaspoon: 20

    Test Kitchen Notes: This blend has about the same carbohydrate and calorie content as sugar, but you only need half the amount. Use it in baked recipes as long as the carbohydrate savings, flavor, and cost work for you.

    Take a Look at the White Cake: Notice there's less browning and volume than the sugar version. The texture is also denser and less tender. The cake seemed gummy and had a slight aftertaste.

  • Test Kitchen's Top Baking Pick

    After baking the cakes, we concluded that it's best to use the sucralose sugar blend (Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking) for cakes and other delicate baked recipes, weighing calories and carbohydrates against cost, flavor, and other characteristics.

    For prolonged cooking, we suggest using the bulk forms of sucralose or saccharin, using acesulfame-K, or adding aspartame after cooking.

    For recipes that need no heating, you can use any of the bulk forms of these sugar substitutes, including aspartame.

    For sweetening drinks, the handy portion-size packets without bulking agents work very well. Your own taste preferences may lead you to a specific product.

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