I'm always taken aback by how much sugar is necessary to make a cake. And also, I don't like super sweet things.

I gather sugar is not just flavoring, but also necessary so that the crystal matrix provides a structure for the butter to latch on to and not collapse the air gaps when butter is creamed.

Could it be (partially) substituted by something else, like another crystal? Or something flavorless?

  • 1
    Check out low sugar cake recipes for inspiration. scrummylane.com/25-low-sugar-cakes-that-still-taste-great
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 18:22
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    Substituting any meaningful amount of sugar with salt will result in something disgustingly, inedibly salty. Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 6:00
  • Please don't get hung up on any particular crystal. The question is not: "is extremely salty cake tasty"? It is not helpful to answer this question, since any person that has ever tasted knows the answer already.
    – Maarten
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 14:50

3 Answers 3


What you'll want to look at are cake recipes from Japan or Taiwan, since they have adapted traditional French techniques for the usually less-sweet East Asian palette.

One of the substitions that ends up happening a lot is to replace the crystalline matrix of sugar with a protein matrix from whipped egg whites, in e.g chiffon cake or fluffy pancakes. The end result is light in every respect - lightly sweet, light texture, and just physically light due to all the air.


Cake recipes are often quite finely balanced between flour, liquids, fat and sugar ratios, and if you change the recipe too much, you risk failure. I'm a keen home baker, but I have had my share of disasters when getting the ingredient ratios wrong. So, be warned - there is always a risk when experimenting!

However, I have found it is possible to reduce the sugar in a cake that uses the creamed butter-sugar method, but if you go too far it will adversely affect the texture of the cake. Perhaps start with a 10% reduction in sugar, maybe up to a 25% reduction, and see how it goes. Any less than that you will probably find the texture becomes denser, less moist, and more rubbery/chewy, and it might affect the rise. You could even get sinking in the middle.

Another thing to be aware of (I have found) is that cakes with too much vanilla often taste super sweet. For me, vanilla seems to intensify the sweet flavour, and can easily overpower a cake. So you might want to hold back on the vanilla.

Cake with salt as a replacement for sugar doesn't appeal to me.

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    This question is about creamed butter, not cake. If the guy was asking about less sweet cake, he should just make bread instead. Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 22:16
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    @nickcarraway: The title does focus on creamed butter, but the question body not so much, especially given the first paragraph. It appears to me that OP is trying to reduce overall sweetness of a cake and has latched onto the sugar in creamed butter as one way of doing so. I consider this answer sufficiently on topic, even if it contains a subtle frame challenge.
    – Flater
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 22:28
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    Also, cake is not just sugared bread. It has a very different consistency because of the gluten bonding, which sugar also prohibits. Hence the question: can any molecule take over the function of sugar, while not necessarily retaining the sweet taste.
    – Maarten
    Commented Oct 3, 2023 at 10:09
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    -1 Every point in the answer is true, but OP does not ask whether one needs sugar, but what to replace it with... the answer doesn't seem to point out any alternative, not does it make a convincing case that there is no alternative whatsoever...
    – AnoE
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 11:24
  • @AnoE I completely disagree. Do you understand bakers percentages? By removing some of the sugar, one increases the ratio (or percentage) of the other ingredients to the sugar, effectively adding more of the other ingredients in comparison to the sugar. The other ingredients are essentially the substitute for some of the sugar. I'm not ruling out any other alternatives, nor do I suggest there are no other alternatives, I'm merely pointing out one possible method.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 15:56

They are a bit of a pain to find, at least in my area, but sugars other than sucrose that are not as sweet would be one approach that could work. The most common sources I'm aware of tend to be home-brewing (beer) suppliers. Bakery suppliers might be another option. I don't think I've ever seen them in crystalline form at the grocery store.

Dextrose, lactose, and maltose are examples of "less-sweet" (compared to sucrose) sugars.

However, looking at "quick-bread" recipes would be a simpler route to a less-sweet result with a cake-like texture than needing to track down alternate sugars.

  • Substituting sucrose for another sugar can have unforeseen outcomes. For one, different sugars can crystalize entirely differently which can adversely affect the structure of the cake - for instance, dextrose (i.e. corn syrup) is commonly used as a crystallization inhibitor in candy making - so if you're making a specific kind of cake, simply using a different "-ose" sugar likely wouldn't work. For another, both dextrose and maltose have a glycemic index that is much higher than sucrose, making them poor choices for people who have sugar sensitivities for reasons other than taste.
    – Abion47
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 16:53

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