I teach food science to Nutrition students at a local college. In one of my favorite labs the students explore the role that ingredients play in a recipe for chocolate cake. Always striving for that perfect chocolate cake that tastes “oh so decadent” but in fact has half the fat calories, the students will change one ingredient to make healthier substitutions for specific ingredients within the original recipe. The goal is to see if these healthier substitutes are in fact as tasty as the original recipe.

The students substitute such ingredients as: light butter for the real thing, oil for the solid fat, sugar substitutes for granulated sugar, and whole wheat flour for all-purpose. One group makes the original recipe against which all of the others get judged. The resulting cakes look and taste VERY different than what you might expect.

Some of these so called healthier substitutes work nicely and you can’t really tell the recipe has been messed with. Others, on the other hand, look and taste awful.

Another healthier substitute for fat that I have found to work well is butternut squash. That’s right! That large orange vegetable makes a great fat substitute!

All you have to do is peel and seed a small portion of one of these veggies and boil it up in some water until a knife pierces it easily. Purée it up in a food processor and bake with it. I even pack 1/2 cup baggies of butternut squash and freeze them so I have them whenever I want to bake!

For a chocolate cake recipe that calls for 2 sticks or 1 cup of butter: I substitute 1/2 cup of butternut squash puree and 1 stick or 1/2 cup of real butter. You wouldn’t want to use ALL butternut squash as the fat source for your cake, because it would lack the taste and texture that everyone loves from cake. Oh and one other tip, only use butternut squash with a dark cake like a chocolate one or your white cake will be orange.

When you think about it, you cut the saturated fat by 50% while maintaining the moistness and texture of your cake. Try it and see for yourself. The taste is great and who can argue with a chocolate cake that tastes fantastic with vegetables, fiber, vitamins  and minerals?

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail