If you have a kiddo, chances are you've been to birthday parties with giant cupcakes with heaping mounds of frosting. I am absolutely not opposed to desserts (and I never restrict treats when we do go to parties), but I do believe that it's possible to serve sweets with better nutritional profiles that still taste good—especially since wee ones are often more sensitive to high doses of sugar. This is especially important to me because I love being able to serve dessert regularly without worrying that it's going to undermine my toddler's overall diet.
Which brings us to these cupcakes. They are light, fluffy, and moist. They also happen to have less sugar (and butter) than most conventional cupcakes, both in the cake and in the frosting, but they are still sweet enough that no one will mistake one for a muffin. As an added bonus, the light pink frosting is made with mashed and strained raspberries, so they are even free from artificial colorings.
A batch would be a great addition to a Valentine's Day party or dinner with other families. And you don't need to explain their nutritional profile unless someone asks or raises an eyebrow at you for filling the kids with dessert!
L helped me to bake this batch and she especially loves helping me use the handheld mixer. She stands in her (Ikea hack) learning tower and we hold it together. I keep it on a low speed for the sake of safety but she's impressively careful. She also took her role of lining the muffin tin with paper liners very seriously—and yes, she did pick out all of the pink ones!
To make these with your toddler, just make sure you pull the butter and cream cheese out of the fridge at least 3 hours before you want to start baking so they have time to come to soften up at room temperature. This is key. Otherwise, you can do the measuring, the kiddo can do the dumping into the bowl, and as long as you don't beat the batter endlessly, you'll have a wonderful treat to share.
(And if you prefer to go with store-bought cupcakes for a kiddo party or other event because it's just so much easier? Consider requesting that they use half the amount of frosting they usually do for a slightly less intense dose of sugar. There will still be plenty of frosting and the kids won't ever know the difference.)
Lower Sugar Vanilla Cupcakes with Natural Pink Frosting
You can bake the cupcakes with either 1/4 or 1/3 cup sugar, depending on what your kids are used to and your own preferences. 1/3 cup will more closely resemble a conventional cupcake but it's still less sugar than in most other recipes. 1/4 cup is noticeably less sweet but the texture is what you'd expect, so it's a great choice for younger toddlers who don't have ingrained flavor expectations. (My two year old eats them either way, if that's helpful to know!) And as you are mixing the frosting, stop to taste it for sweetness. Remember that it will be eaten with the sweeter cake base, but adjust the sweetener according to your preference.
Update: I've slightly decreased the baking time on these to ensure that they have the right texture. Check with a cake tester starting at 18 minutes to ensure they are baked through but not over-baked.
Makes 1 dozen
1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons), softened at room temperature
1/4-1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup raspberries
1 8-ounce package full fat or light (not fat free!) cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 raspberries to top cupcakes, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Make the cupcakes: Cream the butter and the sugar with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add in the sour cream, milk, vanilla, and eggs and beat to combine.
3. Add the baking powder, salt, and flour, and mix until just combined. Stir with a spatula to make sure all of the dry ingredients are combined thoroughly. Spoon into paper liners, filling each cup about halfway. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until just golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
4. Make the frosting: Mash the raspberries in a small bowl with a fork. Spoon into a fine mesh colander and press and scrape through the wire to release the juices into a small bowl. Discard the seeds. You should have about 1/4 cup smooth raspberry puree. Set aside.
5. Beat the cream cheese, sour cream, and maple syrup with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add additional sweetener if necessary. Beat in raspberry puree. Spread or pipe (I use a plastic bag with one corner cut off) onto cupcakes. Garnish with a raspberry on each if desired.
Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice to the frosting for a brighter flavor.
Use strawberries instead of raspberries.
Add 1-2 tablespoons sifted cocoa powder to the frosting instead of fruit for cocoa version.