Chocolate Apple Cupcakes with Cherry Buttercream Frosting

“The days are long and the years are short as a mom,” a friend reminded me last week as we celebrated our son Rusty’s first birthday. It’s hard to believe that a year has come and gone so quickly!

Among the list of Rusty’s favorite foods are dark chocolate and cherries, so I knew that somehow those two things would have to be included in his cake. I have a good amount of cherries frozen from last summer, and anytime I give them to him he eats SO many. Even though it’s not cherry season, February is National Cherry Month, so it seemed fitting to make a cherry dessert. We’ve been trying to eat less sugar and make healthier choices, so I did some research into online recipes and recipes my friends used.

I often use applesauce in recipes to help reduce sugar and oil content, so I knew that was a must. A friend sent me a recipe which included applesauce, shredded carrots and zucchini in chocolate cake. It sounds like it might be a strange combination, but I promise you can’t even taaste it! (I can hear the narrator from Kid History saying that right now – or Jim Gaffigan saying “I snuck some kale in there…“) Jokes aside, it was very tasty and even went over well with the kids.

A few weeks before the birthday party I had tested out a different recipe for chocolate cake with applesauce without the carrots and zucchini. It was quite delicious, but I didn’t reduce the sugar at all so it was still pretty sweet, especially once you put the icing on it. I decided to make a version of vanilla cupcakes too, just in case any guests weren’t too keen on having vegetables in their cake.

I will say that the texture of the chocolate cake was a little more dense than traditional cake, but it was still really, truly delicious. And then there’s the frosting that was just to-die for. I didn’t reduce the sugar in that, but I did skip the food coloring by using cherry jam or frozen cherries instead. (I made it both ways).

So I leave you with three recipes. I realize that everyone has their own definition of what’s healthy and what’s not, so if you prefer to use a different kind of oil or flour, go ahead and play with the recipes. For me, I was most concerned about reducing the sugar content of the cupcake (since it’s nearly impossible to reduce the sugar content of the frosting). Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Chocolate Applesauce Cupcakes

Chocolate Applesauce Cupcakes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24 servings
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1½ cups sugar (next time I would try to reduce this to ½ cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup baking cocoa
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups unsweetened applesauce
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. (Interesting note - this step IS important in allowing these ingredients to foam up and add air to the cake, so that your cake isn't too dense.
  2. Combine dry ingredients; add to the creamed mixture alternately with applesauce. For cupcakes, add liners to two muffin tins and divide accordingly for 20-24 cupcakes. For cake, pour into a greased 9x13in baking pan. Bake at 350° for 18-22 minutes for cupcakes, 30-35 minutes for cake or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

 

Chocolate Applesauce Cupcakes with Carrots and Zucchini

Healthy Chocolate Cupcakes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20-24 cupcakes
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup grated zucchini
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1-2 cups applesauce
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
  2. In another bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with first cup of applesauce, beating well after each addition. Fold in zucchini and carrots. (*My zucchini was frozen, so I drained off the excess liquid and needed all 2 cups of applesauce. See how watery your vegetables are before deciding how much applesauce to use. It should be a thick cake consistency that you can easily spoon off onto the muffin tin.)
  3. Fill paper-lined muffin cups three-quarters full. Bake at 350° for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  4. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.
  5. Frost with Cherry Buttercream Frosting recipe.

 

Cherry Buttercream Frosting

Cherry Buttercream Frosting
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5-6 cups confectioner's sugar
  • ½ cup cherry jam, or chopped cherries, juices drained but reserved
Instructions
  1. Place butter and jam or cherries in a mixing bowl, food processor or an electric mixer. Cream until well incorporated, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time, until you reach desired consistency. If the mixture gets too thick you can add water, but do not add any milk as the cherries can make the milk curdle.

 

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