Bake a Better Cupcake

By Stacy Fraser, "Bake a Better Cupcake,"May/June 2010

Delicious recipes and easy tips for healthier cupcakes.

About two weeks before his second birthday, my son, Sawyer, made his birthday cake request. He held up a tiny index finger on each hand and decisively ordered, “One blue cake and one pink cake.” I thought, blue and pink cupcakes, of course. With cupcakes, there’s no messy cake cutting. And, they’re a lot easier to make than a three-tier fire truck cake or princess castle.

Cupcakes are not just for children anymore. The allure of cupcakes has spread from backyard kid parties to elegant, whimsical weddings and gourmet restaurants. It’s hard to say when cupcakes became trendy. Some say it started when Sarah Jessica Parker indulged in a sexy-looking cupcake from Manhattan’s now-famous Magnolia Bakery on an episode of Sex and the City almost 10 years ago. Now, most cities have more than one “cupcakery” to satisfy cupcake lovers. The “trend,” it seems, is here to stay.

When I make cupcakes, I try to keep the ingredients as healthy as possible for my son and his friends, and since they’re individually wrapped, I feel less tempted to overindulge. Even though they’re easier, I try to steer clear of the boxed cake mixes and frosting tubs that contain artificial flavors, colors and ingredients I can’t pronounce.

To satisfy Sawyer’s request for “blue” cake, I added plenty of blueberries to a cupcake batter and mixed blueberry preserves into the fluffy meringue frosting (which ended up a little more purple than blue, but he didn’t seem to mind). For the “pink” cake, I swirled fresh raspberry puree into lemon-flavored cupcake batter and into the frosting to make it look pink.

To limit saturated fat and keep the calories in check, I replaced the butter in each batter with nontraditional ingredients, including mashed potatoes (you can’t even taste the potato!), applesauce, chopped cherries and pureed raspberries.

Having a child has renewed my own love for cupcakes. And it is a fun challenge to make them healthier. I’ll never forget the look of pure joy on Sawyer’s face when I presented the tower of blue and pink cupcakes on the day of the party. I bit into one and knew that my recipe was a success, but the real treat was seeing his smile covered in blue and pink frosting.

Stacy Fraser is the EatingWell Test Kitchen manager. She and her son, Sawyer, love baking together at home.