Better-for-you Valentine’s Day cupcakes from a mix (chickpea variation)

YOU DON’T EAT THEM EVERY DAY so why mess with a good thing? Because in our house we’re dealing with babies. And toddlers. And neither one is a pretty sight in the company of too much sugar. Actually, Estelle hasn’t really had sugar yet and Phoebe talks a good game but after a few bites she usually gives up–and we’ve got half a regular-sugar cupcake in the fridge to prove it.

With the health and happiness of my little people in mind (not to mention the big ones, ahem, like myself) we’ll adapt our recipes for Valentine’s Day and also Estelle’s first birthday.

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For cupcakes like these above, which I made during a cupcake class this weekend (yes, I go to cupcake classes on the weekends) there are two simple ways to cut back without making ANY substitutions: make mini cupcakes or use less frosting. Just reduce the portion and you’ll be ahead of the game.

But there are several easy options for making any dessert a little healthier. I use these over and over:

  • Reduce the sugar. Just cut it by half and if that seems too drastic, reduce by a quarter. You won’t miss it.
  • Substitute half the oil for applesauce. Don’t cut all the oil but take out half and fill the rest of your measuring cup with a naturally sweet, nutritious boost instead.
  • Use a blend of wholewheat and white flour.
  • For a lower sugar butter-cream frosting (which is what we used this weekend, combined with fondant) make half a batch of regular butter cream then add a box of cream cheese at room temperature, shooting for a 50/50 ratio of butter-cream to cream cheese. The result will be delicious without so much powdered sugar. Or try a lower-sugar meringue.

For those willing to experiment, there is the option of replacing some of the white sugar with agave, honey or pure maple syrup. You can also add vegetables like white beans, spinach or roasted beets which obviously add a vitamins and fiber but also keep a baked dish moist. And I’ve been known to add wheatgerm, millet, whole oats and even quinoa to anything that’ll sit still long enough. Usually they’re hits, sometimes they’re misses.

But for foolproof recipes, one of my best resources for quick and easy recipes that are light on sugar and fat is the Sneaky Chef series by Missy Levine. Her Quick Fix for Yellow Cake Mix is something any busy baker can whip up and feel good about. It also comes in chocolate. We’ve also had some luck with her lower-sugar, lower-fat “sugar” cookie recipe. And as it turns out, a basic brownie mix is easy to update too. There’s a secret good-for-you ingredient that I’ll bet no one in your brood can guess, even after they taste it.

And why chickpeas? They’re an easy, inexpensive source of many health benefits starting with these five:

(From Hub Pages)

  1. Protein: Chickpeas has good source of folic acid, manganese, iron, copper and magnesium. Also they provide fat free and high quality protein.
  2. Lower your risk of heart disease: Regular consumption of chickpeas or garbanzo beans can lower bad cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. Studies also shown that chickpeas can lower the risk of heart disease.
  3. Constipation: Dietary fiber prevents constipation and digestive disorders.
  4. Calcium: Chickpeas are a significant source of calcium. Some sources quote it as equal to milk and yogurt.
  5. Iron for energy: Chickpeas can boost your energy because of their iron content. If you’re pregnant or lactating, your needs for iron increase. Children and adolescents also have increased needs for iron.


Adapted from The Sneaky Chef to the Rescue

Also try the carrot puree variation


  • 1 box yellow cake mix (Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker…)
  • 1/3 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup pureed chickpeas (garbanzo beans blended with just enough water to liquify)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 eggs


Heat oven to 350. Combine the whole thing, ignoring the instructions on the box. Fill a muffin pan with paper liners and add batter three quarters full. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cupcake tops spring back, but aren’t yet brown. (To test, press your finger onto the top of one cupcake. If it springs back immediately, they’re done.)





  1. says

    I love the sound of these! Gorgeous photos, too! And your little one is an absolute doll. I miss my girls being that small. They’re 5 and 7 now and I wish they’d stop right where they are. LOVE your site – gorgeous!!


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