Michelle Darmody: Baking with alternative sugars

Sugar comes in many forms. There are some sugars that are easier for us to digest than others, and that are not as processed as refined sugar.

I find it difficult to use the word “sugar-free” as I always feel if something tastes sweet it has some form of sugar in it. 

It is, however, good to explore different alternatives to the ubiquitous processed sugars or sweeteners. 

Dates, coconut milk, honey and maple syrup are all natural ways to ward off a sweet craving.

I have included a few recipes here that use alternative sugars and work well for a healthier snack. The seeds and nuts in the cookies are good for an added energy boost. 

Maple syrup is used in place of refined sugar. Maple trees are tapped by drilling holes into their trunks and the sap is then collected and heated which allows much of the water to evaporate creating a natural and concentrated syrup.

For the honey and orange cake the entire orange is used to create flavour and added sweetness. 

You will need to give the oranges a really good scrub before using them, or if you can find unwaxed ones all the better. 

The oranges are boiled whole for two hours until they have completely softened, by blitzing the soft orange you get a lovely paste that forms the base of the cake. 

Almond flour is added for texture and flavour and they also keep the cake moist.

If you like coconut these bites are for you. The recipe includes coconut flour, coconut milk and also desiccated coconut. 

They can be eaten just as they are but I think dipping them in chocolate with a little butter elevates them greatly.

Seed and nut cookies

Michelle Darmody: Baking with alternative sugars 


  • 150g of butter
  • 90g of fruit sugar
  • 130g of oats
  • 60g of mixed seeds
  • 60g of chopped nuts
  • 90g of spelt flour
  • 1/2 tsp of baking powder
  • 2 tbs of maple syrup


Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray.

Beat the butter and fruit sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Form walnut size ball in your hands and place on a lined baking tray.

Leave enough room between them so they can spread to about twice their size.

Bake for twenty minutes or until golden.

Coconut bites dipped in dark chocolate

Michelle Darmody: Baking with alternative sugars


  • 125 mls of coconut milk
  • 1 tbs of coconut flour
  • 80g of desiccated coconut
  • One-and-a-half tbs of honey
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 150g of dark chocolate, melted
  • 1 tsp of soft butter


Heat the oven to 180D and line a baking tray with parchment.

Stir the milk, flour and desiccated coconut together and add the vanilla and honey until everything is combined.

Spoon a generous blob of the mixture onto the tray with two soup spoons.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until golden on the top. Set aside to cool while melting the chocolate. Stir the butter into the melted chocolate to give it a nice shine.

Dip the coconut bites into the chocolate and allow to cool.

Honey and orange cake

Michelle Darmody: Baking with alternative sugars


  • 2 large oranges, scrubbed
  • 120mls of honey
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 200g of almond flour
  • 5 eggs, beaten


Gently boil the oranges in a saucepan with the lid on for two hours until they are completely soft. When they are cool enough to handle remove the pips.

Grease and line a 9 inch round tin.

Blitz the oranges to a pulp in a food processor.

Add the honey, baking powder and almond flour to the beaten eggs.

Gently stir in the orange pulp and scoop the mixture into the prepared tin.

Cook for an hour or until a skewer comes out clean.


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