My good friends, and next-door neighbours, Anna and Tom, know that I am a keen amateur baker as they are often the guinea pigs who are brave enough to first sample my bakes! It is Tom’s birthday today (happy birthday Tom!) and Anna asked me to make him a birthday cake to help celebrate. Her specifications were that he likes coffee and chocolate, so I decided to make a coffee sponge decorated with various forms of chocolates. I used a ring mould for the coffee sponge, which I made using a standard sponge cake mixture spiked with home-made coffee essence. Once baked and cooled, I glazed it with a 70% dark chocolate ganache, allowing it to drizzle naturally over the sides. Once the ganache had set slightly, I transferred the cake over onto Anna’s gorgeous vintage-inspired presentation plate, and then had fun with the decorations – I used a block of dark and then white chocolate, and a cheese grater, to cover the ganache with chocolate shavings. Then I filled the centre of the ring with layers of maltesers, chunks of twirl, and milky-bar mixups, to achieve a pleasing visual contrast between the different white, milk and dark chocolate elements of the cake.
Today I’ve been doing some reading about glycaemic index (GI) and glycaemic load (GL), and I thought it would be nice to share my findings with you all. When you are first catapulted into the world of diabetes, the term GI is mentioned a lot, and my aim was to better understand what GI actually is, and how it relates to glycaemic load of a meal/dish/cupcake…
Glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate is digested and absorbed by the body, and thus how quickly it has an effect on blood sugar levels. For those who are interested in the history of the measure, it was coined in 1981 by a scientist named DJ Jenkins (if anyone wants any further info on this, please leave a message and I will be happy to direct you). GI is recorded as a score from 0-100, versus pure glucose which has a score of 100. Anything with a GI of 0-55 is considered “low”, whereas above 70 is considered “high”. However, looking at the GI score in isolation is not very informative, as, intuitively, blood sugar level is effected not only by the rate at which a consumed carbohydrate is digested/absorbed by the body, but also by the amount of that carbohydrate that you eat. What I mean by this is we know that glucose has a GI of 100, but to calculate what effect eating the glucose has on blood sugar levels is important to take into account whether you have eaten 1g, 10g or 100g of the glucose. This is where glycaemic load (GL) comes into play.
To calculate the glycaemic load of a meal, you use this formulae: GL = GI x carbohydrate / 100. This gives you a numerical score again, but this time the parameters are shifted for what is considered low, medium and high GL; a low GL is a meal with a score of 0-10, and a high score is >20. Bearing this is mind, I’ve been calculating the GL of a few of my diabetic-adapted recipes, and have found for example that my “normal” banana chocolate cupcake recipe has a GL of 23.8, whereas my diabetes-adapted recipe has a drastically reduced GL of 9.7. What does this mean in a practical sense? Well it means that you will not get such a sharp blood sugar spike after eating the diabetic-friendly version of the cupcake; to coin a topically-relevant term being thrown around a lot at the moment it has “flattened the curve”!
For anyone who is interested in further reading around the topic, I found that the diabetes.org.uk webpage on the topic is a good place to start and includes some useful example illustrative scenarios https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diet/glycemic-load.html. And because I am a scientist by training, for those more scientifically minded there is a huge wealth of literature available on the topic, but I found table 2 within this publication particularly enlightening in terms of illustration: (N.Mcclenaghan 2006, Nutrition Research Reviews, Determining the relationship between dietary carbohydrate intake and insulin resistance).
I’m very happy this evening because I’ve finally had a break-through with some successful diabetic-friendly icing! Previously, all diabetic icing that I’ve made has been a little on the grainy/dry side, and thus rather difficult to pipe into anything pretty. However, the batches I made today of both chocolate and vanilla buttercream icing were smooth and creamy, and easy to pipe with the 2D and 1M nozzle, hooray! Perseverance is always key.
It’s generally true in life that the more effort you put into something the greater the reward, and this is definitely true of macarons; very fiddly and time consuming to make but oh so tasty! This morning I’ve been playing around with different coloured shells and different filling ideas. The five fillings in the photo are blueberry, strawberry and chocolate, and then two boozy options of strawberry with pink champagne, and chocolate with cointreau (orange).
Having had several failed attempts in a row at baking diabetic macarons, I decided to cut myself some slack and treated myself to some baking with real sugar with makes life so much easier! I made some lemon cupcakes with lemon icing to match, and banana cupcakes with chocolate icing and grated dark chocolate to decorate. I’m also a beginner when it comes to using a pipping bag and nozzle, so I had fun trying out these two different patterns with the butter cream frostings.
For taking into account when adjusting insulin doses; each cake has approximately 15g caster sugar in the sponge and 30g icing sugar in the frosting.
Amazingly, it was Alice’s third birthday today! And naturally, as any three year old does, she requested a chocolate cake for her birthday. So i baked her a diabetic chocolate cake, using dark chocolate chunks in my batter, and a sugar-substitute. I iced it with a silky smooth chocolate ganache, and sprinkled it with multi-coloured sprinkles (would have looked better with chocolate shavings in my opinion, but then, I’m not a three-year-old!) before leaving it to set overnight. We enjoyed it in the garden, and Alice ate it by first licking off the icing and then eating the cake…
On a recent evening I served Alice a portion of my diabetic Eton Mess for pudding, and she looked at me with a completely straight face and asked “Mummy, are we eating the mess?”. Hence, in our house, “Eton mess” has since been referred to as “Eating the Mess”!
In my meringue recipe, I substitute caster sugar for a diabetic-friendly sugar-substitute with a GI (glycaemic index) of very close to zero. Compared to normal meringues, I bake my diabetic meringues at a lower temperature and for a shorter amount of time, although the meringue mantra of low-and-slow still applies. Alice loves all kinds of berries, so I’ve crumbled my meringues up and mixed them with blueberries, strawberries and whipped double cream. Delicious on a warm quarantine Spring-time evening!
Easter, and certainly an Easter during lock-down, calls for a celebration cake with a bit of a zingy pick-me-up. So I thought I’d try making a zesty orange-flavoured cake, decorated with (non-diabetic) MiniEggs as a treat. The cake itself has zest and juice from two oranges incorporated into the batter, and after baking I drizzled it with an orange and diabetic-sugar syrup, before icing with orange-coloured diabetic cream-cheese icing flavoured with yet more orange zest. As we all know, we eat with our eyes before we do with our mouths, and I think colouring icing the colour you expect it to taste from the aroma it gives off, somehow seems to enhance the flavour you are expecting to taste! Alice enjoyed helping to separate a big bag of MiniEggs out into different colours, and we decorated across the top of the cake with colour-coordinated spirals. And yes, it’s true that MiniEggs are not diabetic-friendly, but this is a special occasion and the rest of the cake is sin-free!
Today I’ve had (another) failed attempt at adapting my salted caramel macarons recipe into a diabetic version! I tried with an alternative sugar-substitute to my preferred one, but the mix came out too heavy yet also too full of air bubbles. This meant that during baking, the shells collapsed downwards rather than rising upwards, and came out like biscuits. Not untasty, but not what I was aiming for! Yet this is the joy of the journey that I am on – the failures make the successes all the more “sweet”!!
(The image shows the mixture piped into disks prior to going into the oven)
During these strange times of quarantine where we are supposed to be avoiding going to the shops as far as possible, most of us will have instead been searching through the dark depths of our freezers for food inspiration, and to this I have been no exception! Happily, I stumbled across a freezer bag of peeled cored and blanched cooking apple chunks which were harvested from our apple tree last autumn – and thus I was inspired to have a first attempt at baking a diabetic-friendly Dorset Apple cake. It came out very moist inside, due to the extra water from the blanching and freezing of the apples prior to using them for baking. I decorated it with a spiral of thin slices of eating apple arranged neatly over the deliciously crisp top. It was very moreish, enjoyed being paired with a splash of cream, and went down very well with head judge Alice. However, recipes can always be adapted and improved upon, and I have a few ideas for what I can do to make the bake even better next time.