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Easy tips for healthier guilt-free cakes: Recipe for Pumpkin-Cranberry Spice Cake

A slice of cake is always a pleasure, but it doesn't have to be a guilty one.

A slice of cake is always a pleasure, but it doesn't have to be a guilty one.

When baking cakes, there are a few things you can do to give most recipes a healthy makeover. This pumpkin-cranberry spice cake, for instance, is an indulgent but healthy treat that uses tricks easily applied to other recipes.

First, half of the all-purpose flour is replaced with white whole-wheat flour, which significantly increases the cake's whole-grain count without adding the astringent flavours some people associate with more conventional whole wheat.

White whole-wheat flour has the same nutrition as standard whole-wheat flour, but with a lighter colour and milder flavour. It's milled from a hard white winter wheat berry, rather than the hard red spring wheat berry of traditional whole-wheat flours.

Like standard whole-wheat flour, white whole wheat requires additional moisture and some recipes intended for all-purpose flour will require some adjustments if making a substitution.

Second, canned pumpkin puree does double duty by providing a classic flavour and replacing all but 75 ml (1/3 cup) of the oil. This combination keeps the cake moist and tender while keeping down the fat.

For many cake and quickbread recipes, especially richly flavoured ones such as chocolate and gingerbread, you also can use fruit purees to replace up to three-quarters of the fat.

Apple butter or prune puree (which is available commercially in cans as prune or plum pie filling) work best because they add plenty of moisture and contain pectin, which like fat coats the starchy flour particles and prevents them from forming the glutens that make baked goods chewy.

Finally, the pumpkin cake is simply decorated with a dusting of powdered sugar rather than a heavy frosting which would add additional fat and calories.

For a fancier finish, you can make a glaze by whisking together 30 ml (2 tbsp) orange juice, 2 ml ( 1/2 tsp) orange zest and 300 to 375 ml (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar. Drizzle the glaze over the cake just before serving.

Pumpkin-Cranberry Spice Cake

• 300 ml (1 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour

• 250 ml (1 cup) white whole-wheat flour

• 15 ml (1 tbsp) cinnamon

• 10 ml (2 tsp) ground ginger

• 5 ml (1 tsp) allspice

• 5 ml (1 tsp) nutmeg

• 10 ml (2 tsp) baking powder

• 10 ml (1 tsp) baking soda

• 5 ml (1 tsp) salt

• 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) sugar

• 75 ml (1/3 cup) canola oil

• 3 large eggs

• 10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract

• 1 can (426 ml/15 oz) pumpkin

• 10 ml (2 tsp) grated orange zest

• 30 ml (2 tbsp) orange juice

• 30 ml (2 tbsp) water

• 250 ml (1 cup) dried cranberries

• Powdered sugar, for dusting

Heat oven to 180 C (350 F). Coat a large Bundt pan with cooking spray or brush with oil. Add a small amount of granulated sugar and turn the pan to coat the inside, discarding any excess.

In a medium bowl, stir together both flours, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on high until mixture is thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Add pumpkin, orange zest and juice, and water. Beat on low until smooth.

Sift dry ingredients on top of pumpkin mixture and stir just until combined. Stir in cranberries.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan, smoothing top. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted at the centre comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Makes 16 servings.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 205 calories, 54 calories from fat, 6 g fat (1 g saturated, 0 g trans fats), 48 mg cholesterol, 37 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein, 3 g fibre, 311 mg sodium.

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