Olive Oil & Baked Treats!

All too often, yummy baked cakes and cookies get part of their yumminess from margarine or other trans fats. These trans fat shortenings help trap air bubble in the batter and also help give a delicious crumb tenderness, moistness, and mouthfeel. But, of course, trans fats are unhealthy – raising LDL (lousy) cholesterol, reducing HDL (healthy) cholesterol, triggering inflammation, damaging blood vessels, and otherwise disrupting normal development. This has led to famous bans in New York City restaurants, and in other cities, like Chicago.

But what if you could ditch the unhealthy fats without ditching the delicious decadence? What if you could have your cake, and eat it too (in moderation)?

To reduce the amount of trans fats or saturated fats in cakes, many recipes replace some or all of the margarine or butter with applesauce. This gives a cake a delightful dense texture, but it doesn’t exactly mimic the fluffy, light consistency of a cake made with the original ingredients.

That’s why it’s great news for all of us that using olive oil as a substitute can result in a cake that is sinfully similar to the original – without the unhealthy fats! Surprisingly, taste testers found that the olive oil cakes had the same appearance and odor of the cakes made with margarine. Researchers from Greece, where olive oil is a wonderfully common ingredient, had made cakes with margarine only, with extra virgin olive oil only, and with a combination of olive oil and margarine. The tasters found all three cakes tasted remarkably similar, with the reduced trans fat cake actually nosing out the margarine cake as the winner.

I’m excited both about the results of this study and that scientists took the time to investigate delicious solutions. Perhaps it’ll lead to healthier fat use in commercial baked goods such as crackers and cookies, and thus better treat options for all of us.

Source: LWT – Food Science and Technology Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.lwt.2010.02.002 “<em>Aroma and physical characteristics of cakes prepared by replacing margarine with extra virgin olive oil<em>” Authors: A. Matsakidou, G. Blekas, A. Paraskevopoulou

Published on: February 19, 2010
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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