Baking & Dessert

By Aine Carlin | August 25, 2011

Photo: Aine Carlin

Let’s get one thing straight. I like sugar. Like pretty much everyone else on this planet, I have a penchant for a little sweetness in my life and am not afraid to enjoy it. With that said, I often try to find alternatives because I see no harm in limiting my refined sugar consumption.

I’ve been very careful to put these muffins in the ‘no added sugar’ category because to say they are ‘sugar free’ is a matter of opinion. It certainly could be argued that vegan sweeteners are merely sugar in another form but I’m not here to debate the validity of that – right now, my only purpose is to provide delicious recipes that err on the right side of healthy without comprising taste, texture or prettiness.

Yep, as far as I’m concerned food must be pretty and these super cute lemon poppy seed muffins topped with a bright red cranberry look almost too sweet to eat. Almost; I had no problem putting away several. Believe me when I tell you the lack of refined cane sugar does not detract from the superb taste of these muffins – they are moist, moreish and infinitely less guilt-filled than their sugar-filled counterparts. Now that is muffin music to my ears.

Photo: Aine Carlin

*Remember every oven is different – I recommend getting a separate oven thermometer.

  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup spelt flour, sub wholewheat or brown rice flour
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp malt syrup or brown rice syrup
  • 1 tbsp sweet freedom, maple syrup, agave or other vegan sweetener
  • zest 2 lemons
  • juice 1 1/2 lemons
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup lemon oil, (or olive oil)


1. Pre-heat the oven the 175 degrees celsius/350 fahrenheit.

2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and thoroughly combine with a spatula. Stir in the lemon zest.

3. Whisk together the apple sauce, lemon juice, sweeteners and oil in a separate bowl. The sweetener can be quite sticky so persevere until it dissolves.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently fold in using a spatula. Be careful not to over mix.

5. Divide the mixture between six silicon muffin cases and bake for 20-25mins. Check at 20 by inserting a toothpick into the centre - or thereabouts, as the cranberry might be in the way. If it comes out clean they are done. If not leave them in for a further five or so minutes.

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