Cupcakes. They seem to have hit America by storm over the past few years. They are cute, small, and indicative of a special occasion. Today, for instance, was my last final test and last day of class for all my general education classes! Cupcakes were in order to welcome in summer break. Pastry chefs and innovative home cooks have been spewing out flavor combination by the hundreds, from traditionals like vanilla cupcakes with chocolate icing, to more unique pairings, sometimes involving bacon. Most of the time, however, the cupcakes are overly sweet with so much sugar and butter its hardly worth the momentary enjoyment of those first few bites.
So, I decided I wanted to make a batch of cupcakes that had a uniquely scrumptious flavor without all those ingredients that makes your body wish you hadn’t scarfed that giant Sprinkles cupcakes in 5 seconds flat. The first and more obvious changes I made were to add some whole-wheat goodness (I finally found some King Arthur White Whole-Wheat flour at my grocery store! Score!) and reduce the fat by adding some apple sauce. Next came the goal of reducing the sugar which I think I successfully achieved by adding a healthy splash of both vanilla and almond extracts, creating both a sweet aroma and taste. Lastly, I needed a frosting that didn’t call for pounds of butter and full-fat cream cheese but also didn’t compromise taste. Taking a cue from Ellie Krieger’s recipe for healthier cupcakes, I used Neufchatel cream cheese, a lot less sugar, and pomegranate molasses for both added tangy-ness and color. No food coloring here.
I was pleased with the results of my healthy cupcake recipe experiment, hopefully you will be too if you try these!
Taste: Although this recipe doesn’t require much sugar, the almond and vanilla extracts sweeten the cupcake itself while the frosting adds a nice tangy touch.
Texture: The cupcakes are moist and tender, you would never know they were made using whole-wheat flour and applesauce.
Ease: Every step of this recipe is easy, although it does require quite a few. I love having a batch of pomegranate molasses in the fridge, it can be used to all sorts of recipes (lamb, pork, chicken, salad dressing, baked goods).
Appearance: Cupcakes are always cute, especially when they have a subtle pink-purple frosting.
Expense: The most expensive thing would probably be the POM juice to make the molasses, which is still less than $5.
Pros: I love that these cupcakes are not only cute and delicious with a sweet tangy-ness, but they are healthy due to the lowered fat, whole wheat flour, and POM molasses (hello, antioxidants!).
Cons: There are a few steps involved, but I think they’re well worth it.
Would I make this again? For sure.
Healthy Almond Cupcakes with Pomegranate Frosting
Yield: 10 cupcakes
Recipe by Tessa
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour (King Arthur)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 10 muffin cups with liners.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a stand mixer or with a hand held electric mixer and a large bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, vanilla, and almond of high speech for about 2 minutes, or until well mixed.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Now add the flour mixture alternately with the applesauce, beating after each addition until just combined, scraping down the sides as needed.
5. Pour batter into prepared muffin tin until each cup is 3/4 full and place in oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick poked into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean. Let cool completely on rack before frosting.
- 3 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
- 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (recipe below)
Beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric hand mixer until well mixed and fluffy. Add the pomegranate molasses in and beat until incorporated. Using a small offset spatula, ice the cupcakes. Icing will be somewhat runny initially. Once the iced cupcakes are stored in the refrigerator it should set.
- 2 cups POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- splash of fresh lemon juice
1. Combine ingredients in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer for about 40-50 minutes until the mixture has a thick consistency. Let cool, the use or store in the refrigerator.