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I use date paste in just about every vegan dessert recipe for a sweetener and have successfully used it in my cookies, but I want to make muffins and cakes etc, so I wanted to know if using dates or date paste would be an ok substitute for sugar or agave or other sweeteners? Or would it make the recipe to moist, especially if making muffins or baked goods with other high water content ingredients like zucchini's or berries etc
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Accepted AnswerMattieOfflineHi goldieroo! I used dates to sweeten these Date Spice Muffins.
You're right in that dates hold onto water more. This is likely due to longer chains of sugars called dextrins. It's the same reason why molasses will also result in baked items that hold onto their moisture content more effectively during baking.
The recipe above is a little more dense than a regularly sweetened muffin. I'd be willing to bet that you probably could make a cake with it too but I don't think it would be both light and airy as well as sweet. I think you have to pick one over the other when using dates or other sweet fruits as sweeteners in baked items.
As you mentioned, I'd tread carefully when baking in additional things such as berries or zucchini. You'd probably want to start out with a stiffer dough in those cases, and possibly add additional baking soda to give a little more rising power. The extra acid from the dates should be enough to react with the baking soda. I don't recommend baking powder due to this; we already have enough acid present.
Once I made a date puree and cooked it down in a slow cooker to concentrate the sugars. It worked well but definitely lended its own concentrated date flavor and dark color that might not go with every baked item. I also did it with bananas in this Banana Bread recipe which turned out really well for me.
If you go this route, reduce or eliminate any added acids in your recipe because as the dates or bananas concentrate, the acids concentrate too. It's actually pretty surprising how much it concentrates. This is probably one of the reasons why raisins are so sour.
Let me know if you end up giving date sweetened cakes a go. I love the concept of fruit sweetened baking!