In her bestselling 2010 cookbook, Flour, Joanne Chang introduced readers across the country to confections served up at her mega-popular Boston bakery of the same name.

Now, the self-described “sweets addict” is back with Baking With Less Sugar (Chronicle, April), offering recipes with white sugar alternatives—honey, molasses, fruit juice, coconut milk—that still satisfy.

"I was playing around with reducing sugar in some of my Flour favorites when O magazine contacted me and asked me if I would like to create six dessert recipes without sugar,” said Chang. “I was talking to the team at Chronicle Books about my next book and shared with them this idea and they loved it. We knew it would not be a diabetic book or a nutritionist book. No, this is a baking book for those who love to bake but want to reduce the amount of refined white sugar they are using to make treats with full flavor.”

In fact, before the magazine reached out, Chang had been tooling around with natural sweeteners in her own kitchen. “One of the reasons I loved writing this book is that my husband has an insatiable sweet tooth and yet he's trying to limit the amount of refined white sugar he consumes,” said Chang “He adores coconut and he's fanatical about cake, and the Coconut Chiffon Cake combines both...with a fraction of the sugar of a normal chiffon cake recipe. It's light and fluffy and tastes fully of coconut- one of the key selling points of all desserts made with less sugar- they taste more like themselves.”


Makes one 10-in/25-cm cake

I adore a light, fluffy coconut cake, and in the first Flour cookbook I included one of my favorite recipes: Toasted Coconut Angel Food Cake. Angel food cakes by nature have a lot of sugar in them. They are made with all egg whites, which can make a cake tough (think egg white omelettes, which are often tough and dry), and the antidote to dryness in baking is often sugar. Add sugar to something and it not only makes it sweeter but also much moister.

To make a moist, delicious, and light coconut cake but without as much sugar, I decided to go the chiffon cake route. Chiffon cakes look and taste similar to angel food cakes, but they are made with egg yolks and have added oil mixed into the batter, which makes them rich and tender. I also use full-fat coconut milk; make sure to stir before measuring to combine the coconut cream into the coconut water. I was able to decrease the amount of sugar in this cake to 140 g/2/3 cup (versus 300 g/ 1 1/2 cups in my angel food cake recipe) and still create a remarkably tender cake full of sweet coconut flavor with a barely sweet coconut-y glaze. You’ll need a 10-in [25-cm] tube pan with a removable bottom for this recipe.

200 g/2 cups sifted cake flour (if measuring by volume, sift the flour first and then measure)

140 g/2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt

80 g/1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

100 g/1/2 cup vegetable oil, such as canola

7 large eggs, separated

240 g/1 cup coconut milk

1 Tbsp vanilla extract


70 g/1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 Tbsp coconut milk

2 Tbsp shredded unsweetened coconut

Shredded unsweetened coconut for garnish

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F [175°C].

In a large bowl, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir together the cake flour, 70 g/1/3 cup of the granulated sugar, the baking powder, salt, and coconut until combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, the egg yolks, coconut milk, and vanilla. Set both bowls aside.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with an electric hand mixer), whip the egg whites on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they are frothy and the tines of the whisk leave a trail in the whites. Slowly add the remaining 70 g/1/3 cup granulated sugar and continue to whip for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until the whites get a bit glossy and hold a soft peak when you raise the whisk from the whites.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, stir the two together to make a batter. When the two are well combined, take a few large spoonfuls of the beaten egg whites and using a rubber spatula, fold into the batter. Add the rest of the whites and fold gently until well combined.

With a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into a 9-in [23-cm] ungreased tube pan with a removable bottom. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake is pale golden brown and springs back when you poke it in the center. Remove it from the oven and let cool upside down on a wire rack supported by the inner tube. When the cake is cool, first run a knife around the sides of the pan to slip off the pan, then along the inside of the tube and the bottom to loosen the cake. Quickly invert onto a wire rack or plate and then pop it right-side up onto a wire rack or serving plate.

To make the glaze: In a bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, coconut milk, and coconut until well mixed and somewhat thick but still easy to pour.

Spoon the glaze over the top and sides of the cake, allowing the extra glaze to drip off the cake. Transfer the cake to a serving plate if it is not already on one. Sprinkle with more coconut, if you like.

The glazed cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.