For my first post, I thought I’d bake a cake with something that’s famous for its reputation for keeping things moving: prunes. As far as I can remember, prunes have been associated with helping relieve constipation, and upon learning this at a young age, I was afraid to try them for fear that I would be rushing to the bathroom three seconds later. Now that I’m a semi-rational adult I can see that it’s not quite
that extreme, but it got me thinking about how much fibre is in dried fruit – are prunes really that good? How do others compare?
Dried fruits also have a reputation for being high in sugar, and while they’re better than the average lolly, you can eat a lot of them before feeling full, so if you’re not paying attention this can add up.
Thinking about these two points led me to the question – can I make a fruit cake higher in fibre and lower in sugar by changing the fruit I put in?
So I had a look at the AUSNUT 2011-13 Food Nutrient Database, which has the nutritional information of basically every food you can think of, to see which dried fruits were higher in fibre, which were lower in sugar, and which were comparatively low in sugar when taking into account how much fibre they had*. I made a table to summarise (below) – overall out of the fruits I looked at, figs were highest in fibre and had the lowest ratio of sugar to fibre per 100g, and prunes were the lowest in sugar (prunes also came a respectable 2nd lowest for ratio of sugar to fibre). I was surprised to learn that the humble and ubiquitous sultana was the highest in sugar (higher than glace cherries!), and comparatively low in fibre (the lowest if we aren’t counting glace cherries, which aren’t actually dried but I included because they were in my fruit cake recipe). What a bummer!
*Note: when I had a look at some packets I realised that nutritional information varies a fair bit by brand – the info in the table is an average and is intended as a guide.
This recipe was based on the ‘Boiled Pineapple Fruit Cake’ from the Australian Women’s Weekly’s ‘Sweet Old-Fashioned Favourites’, and this is what I changed:
In the end, I opted for the cranberries rather than, say, figs, because I already had some in my cupboard and I’m all about using what you’ve got. Similarly, not only did I already have dates, but turns out they’re the cheapest anyway, whereby figs and prunes are a little pricier (at least in my local supermarket). I made this twice, and ended up cutting back the sugar and changing the pineapple second time around because it turned out super sweet on the first go.
What difference did it make?
The nutritional information for the original fruit cake recipe, as well as my version, is shown below. In the end, my changes led to a whopping 2.7g more fibre (almost double) and 12.5g less sugar (about 3 teaspoons) per 100g (a medium slice). Energy content was 119kJ less per 100g as well.
The recipe – Date & Prune Boiled Fruit Cake
450g can crushed pineapple in juice
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups chopped pitted dates
1 1/2 cups chopped pitted prunes
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 3/4 cups wholemeal plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
- Combine undrained pineapple, butter, sugar and fruit in a saucepan. Stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar is dissolved. Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until mixture is thick and syrupy.
- Remove mixture from heat, stir in bicarb, cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, grease deep 20cm round cake pan and line base and side with 3 layers of baking paper, bringing paper 5cm above edge of pan. Preheat oven to moderately slow (160oC).
- Stir eggs, sifted flour (add back any bran that doesn’t sift through), baking powder and spice into cooled fruit mixture; pour into prepared pan.
- Bake for about 2 1/4 hours.
- Cover with foil and cool in pan.
Should last for at least a week in an airtight container – keep in the fridge if it’s humid. Can be frozen.
How did people like it?
I fed it to my friends and parents with generally a very good response. One friend even said it was the best fruit cake she had ever had! Most people could tell there was something a bit different, but couldn’t put their finger on what. It was moist and just sweet enough; I personally loved zapping a piece in the microwave and having it with some reduced-fat custard.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!