The Simple Rule For Sweetening Desserts With Fruit Instead Of Sugar

Sugar is the most common sweetener in desserts, but it's far from the only sweetener in existence. While honey and maple syrup may come to mind as worthy sugar substitutes, fruit is the sweet ingredient that will also make your desserts more nutritious. Apart from being the flavor protagonist in countless pies, tarts, breakfast bread, and ice cream, fruit is a great source of sweetness to substitute sugar in non-fruit-flavored desserts.

While fruit supplies many beneficial properties like antioxidants, fiber, and different vitamins and minerals, it lacks sugar's leavening powers. Consequently, the simple rule for sweetening desserts with fruit instead of sugar is to only swap out half the sugar for fruit. Common fruit sweeteners include dates, raisins, prunes, bananas, and applesauce, all classified as wet ingredients. If you substituted all the sugar for fruit, you would have to adjust the proportions of wet and dry ingredients to prevent overly dense desserts. However, keeping half the sugar will give you the best of both worlds: A healthier dessert with a fluffy, tender texture.

When you add fruit to a sweet dessert, you'll add it to the foundation of creamed butter and sugar along with the rest of the wet ingredients before adding flour and other dry ingredients. This rule is especially relevant to light and airy cakes. Denser desserts like pound cakes, puddings, pancakes, brownies, and no-bake bars or cheesecakes can handle all-fruit sweeteners.

Tips for adding fruit to desserts as a sweetener

Dried fruits are popular sugar substitutes because drying fruit concentrates their natural sugars. To make fruit pastes with dried fruit, you'll need to soak them in hot water before mashing or grinding them. This also allows you to add spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger, which can further enhance the dessert recipe you add them to. For example, spiced prune paste would make the perfect spicy, sweet addition to a carrot cake or ginger cakes.

Dates are even sweeter than sugar and are often used as honey or maple syrup substitutes, so when you substitute them for sugar, you'll use two-thirds of a cup of date paste for every cup of sugar. They taste great in nutty and chocolate desserts like peanut butter cookies, pecan pie, and fudgy brownies.

Apple sauce is another popular sweetener in baked goods because it provides sweetness without a strong flavor. Apple sauce is a good sugar swap in sugar cookies, oatmeal cookies, and muffins like these cardamom blueberry muffins. Coincidentally, it also makes a good replacement for butter and eggs in vegan cakes.

Banana puree is the easiest sweetener to make by simply smashing overripe bananas in a bowl. You need twice as much banana puree as sugar when you make the swap. Bananas also have a distinct flavor that's best suited to banana-flavored desserts like banana bread or banana nut muffins, or tropical desserts like a coconut or pineapple upside-down cake.