Looking for a healthier dessert option for your next birthday party or celebratory event? Well look no further for I have the BEST Grain-Free Cupcake recipe (with no added sugars or butter) that is free of gluten and guilt, but packed with nutrients and deliciousness! That's right, now you can Have your (Cup)cake and eat it too!
This week's Meal Makeover: Grain-Free Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Avocado Frosting
Now, most of the time when I think about celebratory parties, I think lots of sugar and “bad” fat (from sugar-sweetened beverage like soda and alcohol and from brownies, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, frosting, and ice cream)! While it is fun to celebrate and make memories with friends… too much sugar and saturated fat is indeed a very bad thing. As we know, excess sugar and saturated fat lead to nearly almost every chronic disease (such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney and liver failure, and cancer… to name a few) but I am here to tell you how you can prevent the negative effects of excess sugar and saturated fat by making some healthy swaps when baking your favorite celebratory desserts! It really is all about balance in life and using wholesome real-food ingredients as much as possible.
First, let’s talk about what we know about sugar and saturated fat and the adverse effects they have on our bodies.
1) Causes a sudden increase in blood glucose levels, which then leads to mood swings, sudden tiredness, constant headaches, and increased cravings to eat more sugar.
2) Increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, and heart disease.
3) Causes immune system disorders by blocking normal immune reactions and feeding bad bacteria in the gut.
4) Increases the aging process by reducing the integrity of bodily tissues (skin, collagen, cartilage, and other soft tissues).
5) Increases the release of insulin, which is the “fat-storing” hormone, and leads to weight gain.
6) Can lead to the development of cancer, since sugar causes chronic inflammation and cancer cells feed on sugar to grow and multiply.
7) Sugar is highly addictive and increases cravings.
8) Sugar is void of nutrients, but high in calories and leaves us feeling hungry and unsatisfied in the long-run.
Saturated Fat –
We have long heard that saturated fat is the “bad” fat that raises cholesterol and blood pressure and causes heart disease, but not all saturated fat is created equal. I could give a whole different lecture on saturated fat, but for now I will just talk about the importance of where the fat is coming from. The main point I want to make is that saturated fat from plant sources, such as coconut oil, is not “bad” for you and actually has several health benefits (such as improved skin and hair health, stress relief, cholesterol level maintenance, weight loss, boosted immune system, proper digestion and regulated metabolism) and can lead to healthy weight maintenance. That is why I love coconut oil and use this plant-based saturated fat in nearly all of my baking and cooking recipes in place of animal-based saturated fats.
Speaking of baking, let’s get to the fun part – these delicious vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting made with some of my favorite healthy baking substitutions. So let’s go through the Healthy Baking Substitutions and talk about their health benefits.
1) Agave - Lower on the glycemic index, it offers sweetness without the spike in your blood sugar levels. However, like white sugar, most agave syrup is highly processed.
2) Honey - It offers 132 mg of potassium and may help reduce sore throats. Raw honey is rich in B Vitamins and also vitamin C.
3) Maple Syrup - A one-cup serving offers 180 mg of calcium, and also contains manganese, iron, and zinc, important minerals for a strong immune system; it also contains 322 mg of omega-6 fatty acids.
4) Stevia - Some research shows it can lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Since it's calorie-free it's helpful for weight management, compared to sugar which contains 774 calories in one cup of sugar!
For Butter and Oil:
1) Fruit purees (such as applesauce, mashed banana, dates, and prunes) add natural sweetness (with no added sugar) and are loaded with vitamins and minerals that improve your health.
2) Avocados are loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids for brain and heart health and adds that creamy texture you expect from delicious dessert.
3) Greek yogurt is loaded with lean protein and calcium and is thick and creamy like buttah!
4) Coconut oil, as I mentioned before, is a plant-based saturated fat that will fill you up without clogging your arteries and has a high-heat smoke point, which makes it a great alternative to butter or other processed vegetable oils.
For refined, white flour (which is just lots of sugar particles packed together and thus has similar adverse health effects):
1) Whole wheat flour is greater in nutrients and lower on the glycemic index with more fiber! Not to mention, wheat flour is loaded with energizing B Vitamins and essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc!
2) Quinoa and Oat Flours are higher in protein and fiber and also rich in B Vitamins and energizing minerals. And naturally gluten-free for those with allergies!
3) Nut flours (almond and coconut) are higher in protein, fiber, and healthy fats! And naturally gluten-free for those with allergies.
Now that we all know about the healthy swaps and their associated health benefits, let’s get to baking and tasting!
Chocolate Avocado Frosting (Makes: about 1 cup frosting)
- 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
- ¼ cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tbsp. coconut oil (melted works best)
- ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
- Add avocado to a food processor fitted with an S blade and blend until smooth.
- Add remaining ingredients and blend again until smooth. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides with a spatula a few times. (*Add maple syrup on top of the cocoa powder to keep the dust down)!
- Use the frosting immediately or store in the fridge until ready to use (1-2 days).
Recipe adapted from Veggie Primer
Grain-free Vanilla Cupcake (Makes about 18 mini muffins or 9 regular-sized muffins)
In one mixing bowl:
- 5 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
In another mixing bowl:
- 2 Tbsp almond flour
- 1/3 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp Stevia (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 F and spray muffin tin with non-stick spray.
- Mix ingredients in each bowl well, then blend second bowl into the first bowl until all the lumps are gone. (may need to use a hand mixer)
- Fill greased mini muffin cups 3/4 way (one heaping Tbsp in each). You may need to smooth out the batter before baking.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
Now, that's a lot of mini muffins! Thank goodness they were extremely easy to make, nutrient-dense, and incredibly delicious!
So... what are you waiting for! Head to the kitchen and get to mixing up these guilt-free muffins and get the party started!
Happy baking and have a wonderful week ahead!