Danielle Welch refuses to feel deprived – and she doesn’t want you to be, either.
Growing up, Welch said she loved dessert after dinner and the experience of baking with her mother. But like most adults, that joyful experience was in jeopardy once she learned the facts of what excess sugar, fats and flours can do to a body. Instead of cutting all her favorite baked goods out all together like most, Welch went about it a different way.
“People go on diets and cut everything out completely and they’re miserable,” said Welch. “They crave so much, and then they go on a crazy binge and eat of ton of it. I realized I’d never be able to to not eat this stuff, because I’d drive myself crazy.”
Determined to eat her cake and have abs, too, Welch set about finding a way to make her baked goods “taste good and be better for you.” Through much experimentation, research and a few bad batches of cookies, she’s gotten good at swapping out traditional sugar and sweeteners for maple syrup, dates, local raw honey and applesauce. White bleached flour is swapped for oats, oat flour, coconut flour, and add-ins like flaxseed and zucchini. Vegetable oil for nut butter, and even small changes with milk chocolate chips to dark add up to big changes.
Some of her go-to recipes include oat and peanut butter protein balls, cranberry oat cookies, Paleo-approved zucchini brownies, Greek yogurt blueberry muffins, banana coconut muffins and even pancakes made with egg, Greek yogurt and oats.
Welch’s healthy hacks have enabled her to eat the way she wants, but it’s not ALL alternative flours and produce in her mixer – she goes for the real thing, too. “At a birthday or celebration, I’m not going to say no to having a piece of cake,” she said. “One piece of cake will not ruin everything, especially for someone who works out. Staying healthy is about enjoying life, not ‘I can’t eat this, I can’t eat that.’”
Welch’s balanced, “enjoy yourself” lifestyle is reflected in her workout routine. Instead of approaching her exercise with a self-punishing, “burn-off-the-baked-goods” attitude, she moves in way she feels good. Three to four times a week, you’ll find Welch flushed from a morning run, hitting the heavy bag in a kickboxing class or trying a new strength workout with her brother or at the gym. “It doesn’t have to be a crazy regimented plan,” she said. “As long as you’re sweating and your heart rate is up, do what you’re in the mood for.”
Not only will she indulge herself, but Welch loves baking and decorating so much that she’s developed a real talent for making custom cakes for other people’s special occasions. The full-time teacher is self-taught, but experienced after working at the Gingerbread Factory in Wakefield for the last five years. Unlike big bakery chains, everything on her cakes is completely edible, using buttercream instead of fondant and making character shapes out of puffed rice with marshmallow and candy.
The requests for cakes started with family and friends, but now Welch’s hobby is looking like a business on the horizon. “It’s something I enjoy doing, and I like to share that enjoyment with other people,” she said.
To see what this budding baker has in store, check out some of Welch’s recent recipes or make a request for a custom cake, check out “Danielle’s Delights” on Facebook.
(Kait Taylor is a professional Personal Trainer at the Tewksbury Sports Club.)