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Healthy-ish Double Chocolate Cupcakes

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Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes can pretty much solve all the world’s problems. Well, that might be a stretch. Ok, it’s flat out not true. I will say, however, that sometimes it feels like it could be true. Chocolate Cupcakes are the culinary equivalent of a dog wagging its tail — simple, clean pleasure. They cause children to beam with joy and can bring out the kid in fully functioning, (overstressed and anxious) responsible adults. Read on for more info about my healthy-ish Double Chocolate Cupcakes that are lighter in calories and fat, but double the chocolate flavor. You’re going to love them!

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

How to Use Applesauce as a Baking Substitute?

How do you achieve a moist chocolatey cupcake without a ton of fat and calories? First up, ditch the oil and butter for applesauce. When substituting applesauce for oil in baking, the ratio is typically 1:1. So if the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of oil, use 1/4 cup of applesauce. This works great with cupcakes, muffins, and quickbreads.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Baking with Buttermilk

Secondly, I use low-fat buttermilk in the batter. Buttermilk owes its success as a baking ingredient to its acidity.  The acid is responsible for buttermilk’s thicker consistency, which adds a soft, rich, quality. Buttermilk is not as sour as lemon juice or vinegar, but the lactic acid present in buttermilk helps keep baked goods moist and tender by breaking down the strands of gluten. Even low-fat buttermilk has a thicker viscosity than low-fat milk contributing to the texture of the cupcake. And, the same tartness adds a pleasing, subtle tang to cupcakes, cakes, and pastries.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

How Do I Tell if the Cupcakes are Done?

Third? Be Goldilocks and get it just right!  Don’t underbake or overbake. Overbaked cupcakes are dry and will quickly go stale. Underbaked cupcakes sink in the center. The main reason that cakes sink after baking is that they were not fully cooked. To check if a cake or cupcake is thoroughly cooked, insert a wooden toothpick in the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Or, gently press the center of the cake with your finger, and if it springs back, it is baked. The edges of a baked cake and cupcake will also pull away from the sides of the pan.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

Whether you go old-school like the photo above or whip out the piping bag like the photo below, the frosting is key. You can’t skip on the frosting. Some of the diet blogs and social media posts absolutely wear me out. Fat-free lite non-dairy frosting with sugar-free chocolate syrup is not frosting. It’s a chemical landfill.

In my Creamy Chocolate Frosting, I use Neufchatel — essentially a lower-in-fat cream cheese. Neufchatel is a creamy white cheese made from whole or partly skimmed milk originally in Neufchâtel, France. I’ve used it for subbing out cream cheese for years. Cream cheese is made with 33% milkfat and Neufchatel is made with 23% milkfat and has a slightly higher moisture content. Despite this difference, it can be substituted in almost any dish that requires traditional cream cheese.

This tangy, creamy cheese is combined with both dark cocoa powder and melted bittersweet chocolate chips. I add just enough confectioner’s sugar to sweeten things up. The result is dark, rich, and uber-chocolatey.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Measured Success

Another secret here is that this recipe makes 1 1/2 cups of batter, enough for 6 regular cupcakes. One of my tips to success with becoming healthier and stronger is not keeping things in the house that are too tempting! Unfortunately, if it’s there I want to eat it. So, I like baked goods to be in limited supply. The recipe can be easily doubled if you want to make more. I’ve calculated that each cupcake is about 10 (green) points. It’s not “nothing” but I can feel pretty good about enjoying one of these and being completely satisfied. (I might even wag my tail.)

I spoke to more folks on the phone or in texts this week about Weight Watchers and my success. The response to my before and after picture has been astonishing. And, I am not done yet. I’ve decided I am looking at losing 10 additional pounds. I want to be super clear – it’s not about a number. It’s about how I feel and how I feel about my body. I’ve moved my goal twice.

Happiness and health are not found on a number between your toes — but the former may be found in these Healthy-ish Double Chocolate Cupcakes.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend. Stay safe and well.

Bon Appétit, Y’all

Virginia Willis

PS Join me every weekend for Cookbooks with Virginia! It’s my cookbook giveaway on Instagram. I also host a Facebook Live about the featured book every Friday at 11:30 am EST. It’s lots of fun — and you can win a free cookbook!

Healthy-ish Double Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 1 1/2 cups batter to make 6 cupcakes
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cupcakes, healthy-ish, smart points, weight watcher desserts
Servings: 6
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips about 1 ounce
  • 4 ounces Neufchatel room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tablespoon warm water


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a regular muffin tin with baking cups. Set aside.
  • To make the cake, combine the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a bowl Add the water, buttermilk, vanilla, and eggs; mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared cups. Bake until the center springs back when lightly touched and the sides just start to pull away from the pan, about 13 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Place the chips in a bowl and microwave in bursts until melted. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir with a spatula until smooth and creamy. (You can also use a handheld mixer, but if the cheese is warm enough you can certainly do it by hand.)
  • Ice the cooled cupcakes with the frosting. Serve with a smile.

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Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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