Calculate calories and fat in baked goods
The ideal coffee cake!
In the midst of some years of adult trauma, I found myself longing for a taste of innocent childhood. So, I tracked down the retired owners of Trost’s Bakery in Summit, New Jersey. The bakery had closed with nobody buying the recipes or carrying on the business. Charles and Elaine Trost happily gave me the recipe to their spectacular Butterfluff Coffee Cake, which had comforted me on many Sunday mornings growing up.
Eating one thin-ish slice of Butterfluff is not too different than scarfing a massively-larger, gooey Cinnabon (880 calories, 32g fat). Alternatively, you could have one large, proper, buttery croissant (about 400 calories, 36g fat). Croissants are essentially coffee cake minus the sugar (hence the calorie savings), with fat coming exclusively from butter.
I made this baked goods calorie calculator in order to understand what was going on with my Butterfluff Coffee Cake. The calorie content is primarily attributable to the flour – meaning the cake is just….really, really dense. A fluffier-textured cake would just have less stuff per unit volume. For example, a similar size slice of birthday-or-wedding sponge cake contains less than half the calories and fat (about 250 calories and 12g fat), before the frosting.
Is homemade always better?
It depends on your objective.
Less crap. Most importantly, homemade food typically doesn’t have artificial ingredients such as dyes, preservatives, texturizing chemicals, and other unpronounceable crap. General consensus and common sense suggests that natural is better, even if we can’t yet specifically predict negative health effects in all cases.
Fewer calories and less fat. Often, homemade items contain fewer calories and less fat than the commercial variety. Restaurants and commercial packaged foods add things to food that a home cook wouldn’t stomach witnessing go into the pot… even though we love the tasty effect when we aren’t uncomfortably aware how fat- and calorie-dense it is. They are expected to deliver very flavorful food, which means more sugar, salt, and fat to amp up the flavor.
People who eat lots of restaurant and processed food wind up with spoiled taste buds. An otherwise flavor-packed homemade breakfast burrito tastes bland compared to the microwaveable frozen variety, and the best homemade winter soup is just ‘meh’ without extra spoonfuls of salt, butter, and bacon bits. Their “tell” at a dinner party is salting their food without even tasting it…. an insult to the chef in (rare) circles where etiquette still matters, but more disturbingly an indicator of habituation to packaged food.
One trick of advanced home cooks is to add both sugar and salt to savory concoctions – they cancel each other out in terms of distinguishable flavor notes, but elevate the overall intensity. Similarly, adding a tiny bit of umami (e.g., in the form of anchovy paste) to the pot adds to the sensation of yumminess without bringing in an identifiable flavor note to interfere with taste.
More calories and fat. However, sometimes homemade items can have more calories and fat than the commercial variety. Without unusual additives and hard-core mechanical equipment to optimize texture, home cooks’ output can require more fat to achieve a similar flavor result as commercial food. This is the case with baked goods
Some interesting conclusions from using this calculator:
- It’s hard to improve upon Haagen Dazs. Homemade ice cream (classic style, with eggs and cream) has about twice the fat as high-end, commercial ice cream. Even without adding strange, enriching ingredients, commercial operations can make creamier ice cream without as much egg yolk, using advanced equipment to blend and freeze their batter. Also, as rich as ice cream seems, it’s still fewer calories and less fat to have a generous scoop of it, than to down a slice of Butterfluff.
- Only make your own mayonnaise for the technical challenge. Hellman’s classic mayo has about 130 calories and 15g fat per tablespoon. Make it yourself through the magic of emulsion (12T butter/oil + 1 measly egg yolk transforms into a cup of glossy fluff) – and you will have about the same calorie and fat profile as from the jar.
- Be careful if you have an Eggs Benedict habit. Hollandaise sauce is essentially cooked, collapsed mayonnaise. A small ladlefull of Hollandaise (egg yolks + butter, with negligible bits of sugar, water, lemon juice, and salt) adds tons of fatty flavor to your breakfast, comparable in nutrition effect of a scoop of ice cream. Two poached eggs on a split English muffin provide 155 calories and 3g fat; add the sauce, and it’s now double the calories and 27g fat!
|Ingredient||Quantity||Units||Calories / unit||Total calories||% of total calories||Fat grams / unit||Total fat grams||% of total fat|
|Number of servings|
|Values per serving||1||calories||1||fat grams|