Two Low-Sugar Holiday Baking Recipes from Joanne Chang

The woman behind Flour shares slightly-less-sweet holiday treats.

Joanne Chang

Joanne Chang/photo by Kristin Teig

For sweet-toothed snackers all over Boston, Flour Bakery, the ever-growing empire from chef Joanne Chang, is ground zero for diet destruction. Those sticky buns? Those chocolate chip cookies? Those cakes? Game over.

But believe it or not, Chang also knows a thing or two about low-sugar baking. She published a cookbook called Baking with Less Sugar last fall, and has even incorporated some of its treats onto the bakeries’ menus.

Here, the baking wizard shares two low-sugar holiday recipes from the book: Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake with Maple Sauce, and Coconut Chiffon Cake. Make them to spread holiday cheer, minus the sugar hangover.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding/Photo provided

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake with Maple Sauce
Makes one cake to serve 8-10


  • 1 cup/240 g pitted and chopped Medjool dates (about 12 to 16 dates)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cup/175 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp/60 g grade B maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp/55 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs

Maple Sauce

  • 1/4 cup/80 g grade B maple syrup
  • 8 tbsp/115 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup/60 g heavy cream, at room temperature or warmed (if it is cold it could cause the butter to lump when mixed)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and position a rack in the center of the oven. Grease and flour an eight-inch cake pan, or line the bottom with parchment. Set aside.

Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with 1/2 cup/120 g hot water (there should be enough water to cover the dates). Add baking soda and stir to dissolve the baking soda. The soda will soften the skin of the dates. Let sit for about 10 to 15 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, combine the dates and water and process until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and maple syrup, and process/blend until well mixed. Add butter and eggs and process/blend again until well mixed.

Pour batter into prepared pan and place in oven for about 35 to 45 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and it springs back when you poke it in the middle. Remove from oven and let cool on a cooling rack.

In the meantime, whisk together the maple syrup and the butter until blended. Slowly whisk in the heavy cream. The mixture should be somewhat soupy. Let the maple sauce sit as the cake bakes.

When the cake is out of the oven, pour about 1/3 of the sauce evenly over the top of the cake while it cools. Serve slices of the cake warm or at room temperature, with extra sauce generously ladled on top. Cake may be stored at room temperature, well wrapped, for up to three days. Store sauce, well wrapped, in refrigerator for up to a week and warm up before serving.

Coconut Chiffon Cake

Coconut Chiffon Cake/Photo provided

Coconut Chiffon Cake
Makes one cake to serve 10-12 people


  • 2 cups/200 g sifted cake flour (if measuring by volume, sift flour first and then measure)
  • 2/3 cup/135 g sugar, divided
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup/80 g shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup/100 g vegetable oil, such as canola
  • 7 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup/240 g coconut milk (stir before using to combine coconut cream into coconut water)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Coconut Glaze

  • 1/2 cup/70 g confectioners sugar
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and place rack in center of oven.

In a large bowl, stir together cake flour, 1/3 cup/70 g sugar, baking powder, salt, and one cup coconut. Mix until combined and set aside dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, seven egg yolks, coconut milk, and vanilla extract. Set aside wet ingredients.

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium speed until they are frothy and the tines of the whisk leave a trail in the whites, about one to two minutes. Slowly add the remaining 1/3 cup/70 g sugar and continue to whip until the whites get a bit glossy and they hold a soft peak when you raise the whisk from the whites, about two to three more minutes.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to stir the two together. When well mixed, take a few large spoonfuls of the beaten egg whites and fold into the batter. Add the rest of the whites and fold gently until well combined.

Scrape batter into an ungreased tube pan with a removable bottom, and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake is pale golden brown and springs back when you poke it in the middle. Remove from oven and let cool upside down. When cake is cool, run a knife around the sides and bottom of the pan to depan the cake.

Whisk together the confectioners sugar, coconut milk, and remaining coconut until well mixed and somewhat thick but still easy to pour, and glaze the top and sides of the cake, allowing extra glaze to drip off the cake. Serve immediately. Chiffon cake may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.