Dear Nigella and team, I`ve been trying to find cake and cookie recipes using wholemeal (whole wheat) flour instead of plain (all-purpose) flour to make it more healthy. Can you please suggest some recipes. Also, can I use olive oil instead of butter or regular vegetable oil in cakes? Thank you!
Wholemeal flour can be difficult to use in baking as the bran in the flour tends to change the texture of the cake, loosing some of the lightness, and can also make cakes slightly dry as it can absorb more liquid than the more refined flours. It really works best in cakes that have a dense crumb and also those that contain ingredients like grated carrot or apple as these provide extra moisture. We would also suggest replacing 1/4 to 1/3 of the plain flour with wholemeal flour.
Nigella's Apple and Cinnamon Muffin recipe from Kitchen (p130) is a particularly good one to try as is made with spelt flour and wholemeal could be used as a substitute. You could also try Flora's Famous Courgette Cake from Domestic Goddess with 55g wholemeal flour and 170g of self raising flour, though you will need to add an extra 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder to the mixture (bringing the total to 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder).
You can in some cases replace butter with vegetable oil in cake recipes (please see our previous Kitchen Queries postings on this). You need to be quite careful when using olive oil in baking as it has a fairly strong taste and can affect the flavour of the finished cake. You may be able to use a "mild and light" version of olive oil instead of sunflower oil in recipes where the other flavours are quite strong, such as the Chocolate Banana Muffins in Kitchen (p138) but otherwise it is not a substitution that we would recommend.