To celebrate Valentine’s Day and American Heart Month, we decided to give chocolate cupcakes a healthy makeover. We share the recipe — along with some interesting health factoids about chocolate — on this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast.
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Don’t get us wrong. We adore chocolate (especially dark chocolate), and we love nothing more than treating our kids to gooey, chocolaty goodies on Valentine’s Day. But what we don’t love are the saturated fat and calories found in most cupcakes. No disrespect to Martha, but when we crunched the nutrition numbers on one of her frosted chocolate cupcake recipes, we found that each cupcake had 500 calories, 16 grams of saturated fat, and over 14 teaspoons of added sugar (thanks, in part, to the three sticks of butter and four cups of sugar in the recipe). Even if Martha made mini cupcakes like we did, the numbers would still be pretty high.
If you volunteered to bring in a special treat for your child’s school Valentine’s party, consider our Berry Good Chocolate Cupcakes!
To health-ify our new cupcake recipe without losing the sweet, decadent, melt-in-your-mouth quality associated with cupcakes, we used some Meal Makeover Mom magic. We can’t take full credit for the makeover. Our kitchen assistants for this recipe project (and trust us, it was a bit of a project to get it right!) were our two fabulous Boston University nutrition interns, Ashley and Cristine.
Meal Makeover Magic:
> Stick with the usual all-purpose white flour, but replace some of it with whole wheat.
> Switch from butter in the batter to canola oil and butter in the frosting to a healthier soft spread (did you know that of all the popular cooking oils, canola is the lowest in saturated fat and a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fat?).
> Keep the sugar to a respectable 3/4 cup (we initially used 1 cup but felt the cupcakes were actually too sweet).
> Add blueberries! They blend right in, and this super fruit adds natural sweetness as well as a burst of antioxidants.
> Reduce the portion size from one large cupcake to one mini cupcake, and use just a schmear of frosting.
When Liz gave her 12-year old son, Simon, five tries to “guess the secret ingredient in our cupcakes,” he answered, “tomatoes, avocados, potatoes, mushrooms, and kiwi fruit,” but never picked up the sweet, subtle flavor of the blueberries!
All it takes is a small amount of frosting to make our cupcakes extra special. In other words, to be a great cupcake, you don’t need to see your teeth marks in the frosting.
The mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and the blueberry bits provide a kid-pleasing flavor combo.
BERRY GOOD CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
Makes 24 Mini Cupcakes
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 2 large eggs (we like Eggland’s Best)
- 3/4 cup frozen wild blueberries, thawed (but not drained)
- 1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
For the Frosting …
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 tablespoons buttery “spread” (we used Smart Balance Buttery Spread with Flax)
- 2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil or coat 24 mini muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
2. Place the sugar and oil in a large bowl and beat at medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, blueberries (and their juice), milk, and vanilla extract, and continue to beat on medium until the blueberries are broken up a bit and well incorporated, 1 more minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. At low speed, gradually beat the flour mixture into the liquid mixture until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups, filling almost to the top. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Remove the cupcakes and cool completely before frosting. (Note: Depending on the size of your muffin cups, you may have some batter left over. Feel free to bake up a second small batch of cupcakes with any leftover batter).
5. To make the frosting, place the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, buttery spread, milk, and vanilla extract in a bowl and beat at low speed until blended. Raise the speed to medium once the sugar is incorporated and continue to beat until creamy. Spread the frosting over the cupcakes, and garnish as desired with a red candy or conversation heart. * If you use a 12-cup muffin tin, you’ll want to bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes.
Nutrition Information per Serving (1 frosted cupcake): 140 calories, 7g fat (1g saturated, 4g monounsaturated, 0.5g omega-3), 65mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 13g sugar, 2g protein
There’s been lots in the news over the past few years touting the heart-health benefits of chocolate. That’s because chocolate contains flavonoids … an antioxidant also found in green tea, red wine, nuts, and many fruits. In addition, the type of fat found in chocolate comes from oleic acid (a type of good-for-you monounsaturated fat), and two saturated fats, stearic and palmitic acids. Research shows that stearic acid has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol levels. The bottom line for us is that it’s okay to eat a small amount of dark chocolate (which typically has more flavanols than milk chocolate) every now and then (or every day!) along with an array of other health-enhancing foods.
Happy Valentine’s Day … and please let us know what your family thinks of our Berry Good Chocolate Cupcakes. PS: Here’s an interesting article written by Shaw’s supermarket dietitian, Jennifer Shea, on the Top Ten Heart Healthy Foods to look for at the market. And guess what? Blueberries and dark chocolate are on the list.