Free-From Baking Made Simple

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Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse Cake
Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse Cake
(Image credit: G5_Studio2)

If you're gluten free, dairy intolerant or avoiding refined sugar, baking can be a real minefield. You only have to see how much of a panic the Bake Off contestants got into this week over their allergy-friendly bakes to get a rough idea.

Although alternative ingredients exist, the reality is that in most cases and especially when it comes to sugar, there are no direct substitutes. But this actually means that you can be a lot more experimental with your baking and learn to incorporate non-traditional ingredients like sweet potatoes, nut milk, polenta and naturally occurring sugars in your recipe instead.

We've rounded up some our favourite dairy free, gluten free and sugar free recipes for you to try, with tips along the way...

Dairy free bakes

Coconut milk, nut or seed milk (such as almond, cashew or hazelnut milk), oat milk and soy milk are superb alternatives to dairy and behave in much the same way, so they can almost be used as a direct substitute.

You can also go that step further and make your own which is surprisingly easy. After soaking the nuts overnight, you need to blend them and then strain them through a super finely woven cloth like a cheesecloth. That's all it takes to make your own – but if you’re short on time, you can find a growing selection of alternative milks in supermarkets. As an alternative to butter, you can often use dairy-free sunflower spreads or sunflower oil.

This dairy free lemon meringue cake is a real showstopper and the perfect pud to serve at a dinner party or at a special occasion. It uses sunflower spread instead of butter and soya or almond milk for the bases, therefore elimiating any need for dairy. It really is THAT simple.

We also love this dairy free sticky ginger cake with a cup of afternoon tea, as it’s the perfect bake to enjoy with friends. It uses dairy free margarine and soy milk, which are both really easy to find in supermarket.

Gluten free bakes

If you're gluten intolerant, you'll know all to well that a lot of shop-bought baked goods are out of the question as they often include flour as one of their main components. Luckily for anyone who suffers from coeliac disease, though, you can quite easily find gluten free flour in supermarkets as pretty much a direct replacement to wheat flour.

Try this chocolate orange cake, which is not only gluten free but dairy free too. It's also surprisingly light and demonstrates that you don’t need to deny yourself anything just because of an intolerance.

Our chocolate and hazelnut mousse cake is an absolute dream and you can directly substitute gluten free flour for wheat flour or vice versa. It makes a fantastic centrepiece when you’re expecting guests and no one will evenknow that it's gluten free.

Sugar free bakes

Sugar always seems to be the trickiest of the bunch. Sugar comes in many different shapes and forms and when it comes to baking, it’s not too easy to simply substitute sugar for stevia or honey, for example. You can, however, quite easily avoid processed sugar and get the sweetness you need from naturally occurring sugars.

These brownies by Deliciously Ella are sweetened by medjool dates and sweet potatoes so the need for artificial sweeteners is totally eliminated. The modern palate is accustomed to sugary foods and this recipe is surprisingly sweet but far better for you than bakes that include processed sugar.

For more free-from recipes, download our Eating Smart app.

Luba worked at woman&home between 2014-2017, specializing in food writing and styling. Starting out as a content writer, Luba moved up the ranks to become assistant digital food editor, bringing a creative approach to woman&home recipes. As well as heading up food content during her time at woman&home, Luba also worked on general lifestyle content.