Double Chocolate Cupcakes

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!

Double Chocolate Cupcakes
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Healthy-ish Double Chocolate Cupcakes

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


  • 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 has foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and executed the food styling for a Super Bowl commercial seen by over 160 million people. Virginia is a Beard award-winning cookbook author, chef, content creator, and motivational speaker. She has lost 65# and kept it off for more than 3 years. Because of her own health journey, she is a cheerleader for others seeking to make lifestyle changes to feel healthier and happier. Her experience inspired her to launch “Good and Good for You” a lifestyle brand rooted in culinary that shares health and wellness content through digital channels; public speaking; and print media. Fans love her approachable spirit and friendly down-to-earth style. For more information visit

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