Sugar-free desserts can be as satisfying as the ‘real’ thing

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

 More and more people have been coming up to me and asking, “Can you give us some recipes for desserts using much less sugar and ones with fresh whole fruits instead?” 

I must admit sugarless or at least less-sugar desserts would be a lot healthier for us, but would they taste just as rich and satisfying as the “real” thing?

Sugar-free desserts, as the name would imply, are meant for people with diabetes (high blood sugar) or for those looking to lose weight, since an excess amount of sugar is believed to enhance weight. 

Senior citizens like myself just want to reduce the intake of sugar for dieting purposes. Of course, reducing my carbos and calorie intake would help, too.

Sugar substitutes

Since many of us find it difficult to resist these sugary desserts or “sweeties” as I call them, or if you are diabetic and shouldn’t be eating them anyway, there are ways around this dilemma. You can make them at home with something called sugar substitutes, which are referred to as “sugar free” in the stores.

Sugar-free substitutes are classified into three types: 1) a tablet made of fruit concentrates or purees that can be put in your tea or coffee. It’s not as harmful as table sugar since it’s a form of natural sugar stored inside fruits rather than the raw form found in table sugar; 2) a powdered form made from aspartame, a protein derivative that is 200 times sweeter than table sugar; (3) a sugar-derivative called sucralose, which is converted from cane sugar to a no-calorie sweetener that is not recognized as sugar by the body and therefore, is not metabolized. The brand name for this sugar-derivative is Splenda.

Splenda and Equal Spoonful sugar substitutes can be used spoonful-for-spoonful with regular sugar. Other brands such as Equal, Sweet’N Low and Sweet One use a lesser amount than regular sugar. Be sure to read the instructions for each when substituting.

Sugarless Cherry Pie

1 baked 9-inch pastry shell 

2 (16 oz.) cans pitted tart cherries (in water, no syrup)

1 small box sugar-free cherry gelatin 

Sugar substitute to equal 4 tsps. sugar

1 large box cook and serve, sugar-free vanilla pudding mix


Drain the cherries, keeping all the juice; set aside. In a large saucepan, combine the cherry juice and dry pudding mix. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil and is thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin powder and sweetener until well dissolved. Stir in the cherries and transfer to a baked pie shell. Allow to cool completely before serving or store in refrigerator.

Apple Carrot Cake

2 cups self-rising flour

1/2 cup butter

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup raisins

2 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and grated

1 cup carrots, peeled and grated

1 tsp. grated orange peel

2 eggs

4 Tbsps. orange juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and then add the cinnamon. Add the self-rising flour slowly and continue mixing and then add the walnuts, raisins, apples, carrots and orange peel.

Add the egg slowly, one by one, and finally the orange juice. Mix until all the ingredients are blended properly. Pour the mixture into a greased oven dish and bake for approximately one hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. 

Ricotta Cheese, Cherries and Toasted Almonds

Ricotta cheese and warm cherries are topped with toasted almonds for a rich-tasting,    low-calorie dessert.

1-1/2 cups frozen pitted cherries

1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

2 Tbsps. toasted slivered almonds


Place frozen cherries in a bowl and microwave on High until warm, about two minutes. Spoon equal portions of cherries into 2 bowls and top each with ricotta and toasted almonds. Makes 2 servings.

Yogurt and Fruit Parfait

Combine crushed pineapple or Mandarin oranges with reduced-fat vanilla yogurt and top with toasted coconut.

3/4 cup reduced-fat vanilla yogurt

1 cup crushed canned pineapple or canned Mandarin oranges

2 Tbsps. toasted coconut


Place coconut in a small dry skillet and heat, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Spoon equal amounts of yogurt into two desert dishes and top with pineapple or oranges. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Makes 2 servings.

Sugar-free Pecan Fudge

16 oz. low-fat cream cheese, softened

2 non-sweet chocolate squares, melted and cooled

1/2 cup sugar substitute (your choice)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans


In a bowl, cream the softened cream cheese and then add the pecans, melted chocolate squares, vanilla and sugar substitute; blend thoroughly. Pour the mixture into an oven dish or any flat dish lined with foil; refrigerate until cool and hardened.

Cut into 1-inch squares and refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving.

Sugar-free Cherry Bars

16 oz. fresh cherries (if using frozen, thaw first)

8 oz. non-sweet chocolate cake mix

2 Tbsps. sugar substitute (your choice)


Drain all the water from the cherries and keep it aside. Mix together the cake mix, cherries and sugar substitute in a bowl with a whisk so that the mixture gets thoroughly mixed. Pour the mixture into a well-greased ovenproof cake dish and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. 


Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.