nourishing kitchen

Tips to keep your Big Cake Bake healthier

Eating a healthy diet doesn’t mean that you have to stop eating the food you enjoy.

Here are some tips and hints from Rubina Morley, Red Cross Nutrition Education and Food Security Programs Manager, on how you can still have your cake and eat it too!

What is Food Security?

Red Cross works with people who are experiencing hardship and have limited access to healthy food in a wide variety of communities, so they can have greater opportunities for themselves and their families.

Modifying recipes

There are a lot of ways to modify recipes to make them healthier while keeping them tasty.

Many recipes call for more fat, sugar and salt than is needed for good flavour and a good quality result.

Try some of these healthy variations in your next bake:

  • use ½ wholemeal and ½ white flour to increase the fibre content
  • add chopped or grated vegetables or fruit to pikelets, pancakes, scones and muffins to increase vitamins and minerals
  • add nuts and seeds to add texture and crunch to your baking – you won’t need much


Swap out the fat and sugar:

  • swap butter for margarine or oil
  • swap sugar for fruit puree
  • swap full cream milk for skim or low fat milk
  • swap cream for natural yoghurt
  • swap some of the flour in a recipe for oat bran, fine polenta, or oats

Portion control:

  • use mini muffin tins
  • split cake mixture between two smaller tins
  • match the cake tin size to the number of serves you want – this way you won’t be left with too much temptation at the end of your cake bake


How to make natural sweetener

To make a natural sweetener to substitute sugar in a recipe, just simmer apples or pears in a little water until soft, then puree.

Apple puree can be substituted in a ratio of 1:1 for sugar i.e. 1 cup of apple puree can be used to replace 1 cup of sugar. However, you will need to reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼. For example if a recipe calls for 1 cup (250 mL) of milk, only add ¾ cup (190 mL) of milk.

Your baking questions answered


Are your cakes always cracked on top or mysteriously sink? Never again! Try out these tips from our Food Security experts!


Why don’t my cakes bake evenly?

Not all ovens act the same, so it it’s important that you know how yours works. The fan-force setting tends to cook cakes more evenly, but when you use this setting you generally need to reduce the temperature by about 20°C, as most recipes refer to conventional ovens.

Some ovens may have ‘hot spots’, so to promote even baking, rotate trays halfway through cooking.


Why did my cake become dome shaped?

This tends to happen when the oven temperature is too high as it causes the cake to rise too quickly; it happens more often in fan-forced ovens. Try turning your oven down by 5 – 10 degrees.


Why did my cake crack on the surface?

Either your oven is too hot or your pan is the culprit.

When cooking in ring, loaf or bar pans, a cake usually will crack due to the confined space inside the pan. If you’re using a square or round pan and the cake cracks in the centre this is because the pan is too small.


Why do butter cakes sink?

This is a common occurrence and there are many reasons why this might happen.

Accuracy is key – correctly measuring ingredients can determine if the cake rises or sinks, so make sure to use measuring cups, spoons and scales. Did you know that too much raising agent (eg. baking soda, baking powder) makes the mixture too light to support its own weight, resulting in sinking?

Opening the oven door to check on your beautiful cake can send it into a sinking mess. Letting the cold air in before the cake is cooked can make it sink.

Remember, don’t add in more baking powder. If it has bicarbonate of soda in it and the cake sinks, reduce the amount of soda by a 25%, if it has self raising flour you shouldn’t need to add more baking powder.


Tips for reducing food waste


Research shows that Australians throw away up to 20% of the food they purchase. Food waste doesn’t just effect the environment but also hurts the hip pocket. Here are some tips to help reduce food waste when baking.


Stale bread – pop it into your food processor to make breadcrumbs. Pop them in the freezer to use later

Black bananas – smash them up and make banana bread, fruity muffins or banana toasties

Old apples – terrific for apple crumble

Wilted carrots – perfect for carrot muffins or a currant & carrot loaf

Pumpkin seeds – don’t throw out the seeds when you buy a pumpkin. Simply sprinkle with olive oil and spices, bake and eat as a crunchy and delicious snack

Left over mashed potato or pumpkin – ideal to add to scones for a smooth texture and great savoury taste

Excess fruit summer fruit – you’ll be craving this come winter time! Stew it up and freeze to use in muffins, cakes or slices during winter

Breakfast cereal that no-one will eat – try adding extra fruit, nuts and a little honey, to make your own muesli bars or protein balls

Loads of lemons on the tree – freeze the juice in ice cube trays and use for lemon cheesecakes, lemon loaf cake or lemon and poppy seed muffins

Ask your supermarket or green grocer if they have any odd or bruised fruit – this can be a great way to avoid unnecessary waste and keep costs down.

Meet Rubina

Rubina Morley is the Red Cross Nutrition Education and Food Security Programs Manager based in Perth, Western Australia.

Along with her team, she runs a number of food security and food literacy programs across the state, from Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Perth through to Broome and remote communities in the Kimberley.


Australian Red Cross has been delivering food security programs in Western Australia for over forty years.

The almost 100% volunteer-led Soup Patrol services that operate in four locations have been serving hot soup to people who are homeless or on low incomes for many years.

In 2004, the team started delivering food literacy programs when Red Cross’ work with families and new mothers revealed food insecurity and a need for nutrition education.

Rubina and her team deliver Red Cross’ FoodREDi™ and Superfood Heroes™ programs to groups, individuals, children and families to achieve positive outcomes in improving knowledge of food safety, healthy eating, the benefits of physical exercise, budgeting and label reading. The team encourages people to make healthier lifestyle choices, even if it means starting small like swapping ice cream for low-fat yoghurt or sugary cereals for porridge topped with fruit.


When it comes to baking, Rubina confesses to being a real cake fiend and has been baking with her mum since she was two.

Thankfully, with her knowledge of healthy eating, Rubina knows that cakes are a treat to be enjoyed on special occasions and is always trying out healthier recipes using oats or bran for extra fibre, fruit instead of icing and cutting smaller slices!