Artificial sweeteners: Are they all created equal?

One of the baking experiments I have always wanted to do is to substitute artificial sweetener for sugar and see if how it affects the end product in baking. However, before going ahead with the baking experiment, I wanted to taste test each type of sweetener on its own. It will be interesting to see if/how the flavour is affected by heat when I use it for baking.

There are a number of sweeteners in the market place, the most common ones being Equal, Sugar Twin, Sweet & Low, Sugar Twin. What are they? How are they different? And most importantly – how do they taste compared to sugar?

For the purpose of this experiment, I tested four different types of artificial sweeteners – all of which are widely available in most grocery stores:
  • sweetenerSplenda (aka sucralose) – 600x sweeter than sugar. This sweetener is heat stable, but is cloudy
    when dissolved. It does not attract moisture and doesn’t brown.
  • Sweet N’ Low (aka saccharin (US)/cyclamate (Canada)) – 300x sweeter than sugar. It has an unpleasant/bitter aftertaste. Saccharin was only recently approved for use in Canada but has been used in the US for quite some time.
  • Equal, Nutrasweet (aka Aspartame) – 200x sweeter than sugar. Made up of two amino acids – asparatic acid and phenylalanine. It is not appropriate for people with the metabolic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) who cannot metabolize phenylalanine. It is not heat stable and loses it’s sweetness with high cooking temperatures.
  • Sugar Twin (aka cyclamate) – 30 – 50x sweeter than sugar. Some reports indicate that it has an unpleasant aftertaste but not as bad as saccharin.

My theory:
I think that it will be pretty obvious to tell which sample is real sugar. However, I think that the reviewers will have a hard time distinguishing the taste differences between sweeteners. I don’t even know if people will be able to identify which two are cyclamate (Sweet N Low and Sugar Twin).

Taste testers:
Please try all five of the samples. Please note the flavour, is there are any difference in the level of sweetness, and do you notice an after taste? Please indicate which sample you think is sugar, and which sweetener you like the most. For extra points: Can you tell which of the two samples are cyclamate?

The reveal:
Thank you taste testers for submitting your comments. Here are the results:

A: Sweet N Low (cyclamate)
B: Splenda (sucralose)
C: Sugar Twin (cyclamate)
D: Sugar (obviously)
E: Equal (aspartame)

The results:
These results were inconclusive. People could obviously tell which one was sugar because it was granular whereas all the other samples were a powder. People preferred sugar but mostly because it’s what they are familiar with. Sample C (Sugar Twin/cyclamate) had an awful metallic and slightly sour aftertaste. Sample A (Sweet N Low) which was also cyclamate had a salty after taste. Sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame (Equal) both tasted acceptable. All of the samples tasted much sweeter than sugar. It will be interesting to see how these measure up in the second part of this experiment – in baking.

The bottom line:
People could definitely taste an unpleasant aftertaste in the cyclamate samples (Sweet N Low and Sugar Twin). Both sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame (Equal) didn’t have a noticeable or unpleasant aftertaste. I will be using these two sweeteners for part 2 of this experiment when I use them in baking.