Sunday, 8 August 2010

Taming Aspartame: Baking with Canderel

I use aspartame.

Yes, I'm aware of the many controversial claims about its side effects (one being memory loss, how would I ever tell? ;) But if I stopped ingesting every food and drink stuff about which I'd heard a scare story, my diet would consist of nothing but potatoes. And wait, aren't potatoes linked to…


So I use aspartame. (And sucralose too, for that matter). In my cheap instant coffee. :)

Pete can't stand the aftertaste but it's never bothered me.


When I was invited to a PR event for Canderel recently, I was genuinely interested to learn whether Canderel could be used in cooking, having read that aspartame breaks down at high temperatures, losing its sweetness.

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The event was held in the lovely home of an interior designer who runs cookery classes in her kitchen, which she also rents out for filming, photo shoots and events such as this.


We were welcomed with cocktails and nibbles as we waited for everyone to arrive.

Canderel had recruited Emma Lewis, chef and former editor of BBC Good Food Magazine, to develop a range of recipes using their product.

Ingredients already weighed and measured out for us and equipment at the ready, we paired up and worked our way through the recipes provided, under Emma's friendly guidance.


We started off making a simple walnut bread (recipe provided below), followed by beetroot chocolate brownies and mini strawberry trifles before gathering around the hob as Emma made a quick chicken tagine with couscous.

Some of the recipes worked better than others – I really liked the walnut bread and chicken tagine. The brownies were OK, but a little bland in flavour, unlike a beetroot chocolate cake I'd sampled previously. The trifles didn't really work for me though they looked very pretty!

Best of all, after our labours, we all adjourned to the pretty courtyard garden outside and had a lovely meal together.

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beetroot chocolate brownies

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mini strawberry trifles

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chicken tagine and couscous

Walnut Bread

8 tablespoons granulated Canderel
225 grams plain flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
0.5 teaspoons bicarbonate soda
pinch salt
50 grams half fat sunflower margarine (I'd substitute this for butter, personally)
1 large egg
grated zest from a medium orange
150 ml fresh orange juice
100 grams roughly chopped walnuts
4 tablespoons skimmed milk

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  • Grease a 2 lb loaf tin and line with non-stick parchment paper or a pre-formed liner.
  • Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees, gas mark 4.
  • Put the Canderel, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt into a bowl and stir together.
  • Beat the butter and egg with the orange zest until creamy (the mixture will look curdled, this is OK).
  • Add the orange juice and stir well.
  • Add the dry ingredients and walnuts then mix until just combined.
  • Add the milk to give a soft consistency.
  • Spoon into the tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack.

The bread was a success, with a lovely texture, a pleasant citrus tang from the orange juice, the crunch of the walnuts and just the right hint of sweetness from the Canderel. I really liked it!

Many thanks to Canderel, Emma Lewis and JCPR for a lovely evening.


Will said...

Hallo Kavey,

Please visit to vote on the aspartame issue - and maybe even help to promote the awareness campaign there through social networking with Twitter, Facebook etc

Best wishes


Lizzie said...

But why would you use a chemical powder in your cooking?

Kavey said...

@Will, as I have posted about using aspartame quite happily, it's unlikely I'm going to sign your petition!

@Lizzie, I don't have any problems using chemicals but I was genuinely curious about how well it would work in baking. I use it in my coffee daily but haven't used it for anything else. I'm shit crap at losing weight, and really really need to, so anything that can help is worth thinking about, hence my checking this out.

BeccaRothwell said...

Interesting post, I'm always worried about admitting to using "bad" ingredients like this especially since I'm so new.

Saying that I really can't stand aspartame sorry. I started avoiding it years ago after my ex told me her story; apparently she used to drink Pepsi Max everyday like water, then one day suffered sudden muscle spasms and blacked out. She was told the aspartame had built up in her system because she'd been drinking too much and that was what had caused it. She stopped drinking artificially sweetened drinks and was fine after that. Obviously this is anecdotal, and likely down to the sheer level of sweetener she was consuming on a daily basis which can't have been at all healthy anyway, but I still don't trust the stuff.

Plus, I think it has a horrid chemical after taste. I'd much rather use sugar or replace it with honey or puréed fruit if appropriate in baking, but then I don't have a hugely sweet tooth anyway so cutting down on sugar has never been much of a problem.

Kavey said...

@Becca, No need to apologise! I happen to choose to use artificial sweeteners, though not in big quantities... I'm a bit contradictory as I use it in coffee but prefer full fat fizzy drinks to diet versions. I can understand the choice not to - it's all down to personal choice!

I don't feel any pressure to follow the crowd on what I like/ don't like or use/ don't use or whatever! :)

Wen said...

Just wondering if you've tried using agave syrup as a sugar substitute? If so what do you think?

Kavey said...

@Wen - I have used agave, some came in a make your own chocolate kit, but not in cooking. I'll look into it. I'm not in any particular need to cut out sugar from my cooking, not at all, was just curious about how aspartame would taste...

Lisa said...

(here via that crazy Food Urchin guy..)

Candarel has never really retained enough sweetness for me to continue using it in cooking, so I use Splenda instead. It doesn't have the aspartame aftertaste which means I can sneak it into food for Husband. (I also use far less than any recipe says, as it is very sweet)

(Off to re-read your photo stuff now!)

Kavey said...

Hey Lisa! Welcome! Does Splenda retain it's sweetness better in cooking than Canderel. I should do some comparative baking...

Lisa said...


Yes, it really does. So much so that if a recipe calls for, say, 1/2 a cup, I only use a 1/4. It's a grand thing. It does have an aftertaste, but not much of one. It's almost an over-sweet taste, if that makes sense.

Kavey said...

Thanks, that's great to know, really appreciate it. X X

Vitalife Matcha said...

Have you ever tried using stevia in your baking Kavey?

I know someone who has this in his coffee as a natural alternative to sweetener - but he has to import it from the US as it's illegal in the UK (apparently something to do with the commercial interests of the big sugar/sweetener companies).

If you haven't tried it, has anyone else?

Kavey said...

I have tried stevia as a sweetener, though not in baking. I didn't like the strong aftertaste that came with it, so I gave up on it.

I bought it in a UK health store, but it was a fair few years ago, so I guess that was before it was banned...