These Healthy Cupcakes are light, fluffy, and moist. They’re also less sweet than most conventional cupcakes, both in the cake and in the pretty pink frosting, but they are still SO delicious! 

cupcakes-with-strawberry-frosting

Healthy Vanilla Cupcakes

I love making classic desserts that have all of the texture and flavor we expect, but that are a little less sweet. This cupcake recipe is one of the staples in our repertoire for kids birthday parties and holidays and it is exactly what you want from a cupcake—fluffy, loaded with vanilla flavor, and sweet enough that no one will mistake it for a muffin.

“Lower sugar” is a more specific description than “healthy” in this recipe as it’s really the sugar content that’s different here. 

A batch of these lower sugar cupcakes—they have 1/4-½ cup less sugar than other classic recipes, plus significantly less sweetness in the frosting options—are a great kids dessert option. They’re even a good option for a first birthday cupcake. I’ve served these to kids of all ages, as well as adults, and no one is ever the wiser as far as the sugar content goes!

ingredients-in-healthy-vanilla-cupcakesIngredients You Need

Here’s a look at the ingredients you’ll need to make this cupcake recipe.

  • unsalted butter
  • sugar
  • whole milk
  • vanilla extract
  • eggs
  • baking powder
  • flour

TIP: The texture of the batter will be best if the eggs and milk aren’t freezing cold and the butter is soft at room temperature.

how-to-make-healthy-vanilla-cupcakes-step-by-step

Step-by-Step Instructions

The process for making these cupcakes is similar to any other cupcake. Here’s a look at the steps involved. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full information.

  1. Cream the butter and the sugar with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy. (photo 1)
  2. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating to combine. Beat in the vanilla. (photo 2)
  3. Add the dry ingredients and the milk, alternating and gently beating together in between. . (photo 3)
  4. Divide the batter among paper liners and bake. (photo 4)

TIP: It’s rare that I use electric mixers in any of my recipes since I know how chaotic homes with little kids can be, but you really do need to add air to the butter and sugar to create a fluffy cupcake.

baked-healthy-vanilla-cupcakes

How can I ensure these are light and fluffy?

Having the butter softened at room temperature (so when you pick up the stick of butter, it feels soft), and beating the butter and sugar for at least 3 minutes. That and not over-baking and allowing the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack, not in the pan so they don’t continue cooking, are my best tips

Can I make these gluten-free?

Try using this cup for cup gluten free flour blend in place of the all-purpose.

Can I make these toddler cupcakes with whole wheat flour?

If you want to use a whole grain flour, I recommend using whole wheat pastry flour as it will be less dense than straight up whole-wheat. Or, use half whole-wheat and half all-purpose.

interior-of-healthy-vanilla-cupcakes

Easy Frosting Options

I have a few options that you can consider:

TIP: My lower sugar Chocolate Cake is another great option (and it’s egg-free) for a less sweet, but still super yummy, dessert!

healthy vanilla cupcakes with sprinkles on teal towel

Tips for Making the Best Healthy Cupcakes

  • Be sure to beat the butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes until it’s fluffy for the best texture results.
  • To avoid over baking, set your timer for the lower end of the time range and check the centers with a cake tester. If it comes out cleanly, and the edges are lightly golden brown and the tops are firm to the touch, pull them from the oven.
  • Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool soon after you pull them from the oven to ensure that they stop baking.
  • Be sure the butter is soft at room temperature and pull the eggs and butter from the fridge about an hour before you start baking if possible.
  • These are best on the day they are made. If needed, you can make these up to 24 hours ahead of time. Let cool fully and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Frost right before serving if possible.
  • It is possible to use plain whole milk Greek yogurt or sour cream in for half of the butter if desired. The results will not be as light and fluffy snd texture-wise, they will be a little less like a classic cupcake.
  • It is possible to lower the sugar further to ⅓ cup. The texture will not be as light and fluffy and they will be a little less like a classic cupcake.
  • Gluten-free: Use cup for cup gluten-flour.
  • Top with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting, yogurt frosting in my Smash Cake, or Quick Chocolate Frosting.

I’d love to hear your feedback if you make these cupcakes so please comment below!

cupcakes-with-strawberry-frosting

Healthy Vanilla Cupcakes (So Easy!)

This recipe was updated Jan 12, 2021. Comments from before that are from an old version of this recipe. Significant testing and improvements have been made!
4.90 from 58 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dessert
Calories 166kcal
Servings 12

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature if possible)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (at room temperature if possible)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting Yogurt Frosting, or Quick Chocolate Frosting

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.
  • Add the butter and sugar to a medium bowl. Beat with a hand-held electric mixer on medium-high speed until light, fluffy, and thick or about 3-5 minutes. 
  • Add in the eggs one at a time, beating in between to fully incorporate each egg. Add in the vanilla.
  • Add the baking powder, salt, and half of the flour to the bowl. Beat on the lowest speed. Add half of the milk. Beat on the lowest speed. Add the remaining flour and milk and beat on the lowest speed to just combine the batter.  
  • Divide the batter among the paper liners, filling each cup with about ¼ cup batter.  
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes or until just golden brown around the edges and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and let cool completely. 
  • Frost as desired.

Notes

  • These are best on the day they are made. If needed, you can make these up to 24 hours ahead of time. Let cool fully and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Frost right before serving if possible.
  • Store any leftover cupcakes, once frosted, in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Let sit for a bit at room temperature before serving to allow them to soften up (the cupcakes firm up in the fridge).
  • Be sure to beat the butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes until it's fluffy for the best texture results.
  • To avoid over baking, set your timer for the lower end of the time range and check the centers with a cake tester. If it comes out cleanly, and the edges are lightly golden brown and the tops are firm to the touch, pull them from the oven.
  • Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool soon after you pull them from the oven to ensure that they stop baking.
  • Be sure the butter is soft at room temperature and pull the eggs and butter from the fridge about an hour before you start baking if possible.
  • Gluten-free: Use cup for cup gluten-flour.
  • It is possible to use plain whole milk Greek yogurt or sour cream in for half of the butter if desired. The results will not be as light and fluffy snd texture-wise, they will be a little less like a classic cupcake.
  • It is possible to lower the sugar further to ⅓ cup. The texture will not be as light and fluffy and they will be a little less like a classic cupcake.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupcake, Calories: 166kcal, Carbohydrates: 19g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 49mg, Sodium: 109mg, Potassium: 41mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 292IU, Calcium: 44mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

 

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Comments

  1. I’m curious, the the cupcake/muffin pan you used for the recipe, is it a 2.5″ diameter cupcake? I feel like the pan I have is a larger muffin one which is almost 3″ across per cupcake muffin. Just wondering to make sure I get the portions correct. Thank you!

    1. I haven’t tried them that way so I can’t say for sure if the texture will be the same.

  2. I’m planning on making these for my son’s 2nd birthday tomorrow! However I want to use a mini muffin tin – should I reduce the cooking time/oven temp and if so, what do you recommend changing it to?

  3. Would it be possible to bake this batter in a 4 inch cake pan, to make a mini vanilla cake? If so, would I use the whole recipe or halve it? Keep bake time the same? Thanks!

    1. Hi- if you were planning to make two or three 4 inch cakes, I would do the recipe as is. If you want to just do one 4 inch layer, yes I would half it. The baking time might be closer to the 12-16 minute range

    1. 5 stars
      I’ve made this and they turned out amazingly good! Do you know if i can add fruit to it? Like strawberries? Thanks 🙂

      1. Hi- I bet you could stir in 1 cup of diced strawberries and have good results. Let me know if you try that!

  4. 5 stars
    Excellent! My 5 year old had a blast making it and eating it! Super moist and delicious. I made mine into a cake using a smaller glass dish. We added maraschino cherries because my son loves them. I love being able to indulge my sons without having to feel guilty about unhealthy treats.

  5. I’m baking at high elevation; do you think I should add a little extra flour (my go-to for adjusting recipes) or leave it as-is?

    1. I haven’t tested it at high elevation so I can’t say for sure, but if that’s how you usually treat similar recipes, it’s probably a good idea

  6. If I were to bake this in a two 9 inch cake pans would I need to double the recipe? Do you have any suggestion for baking time if it’s in a cake pan?

    1. Yes, double the recipe and I think the baking time would be similar, though I would check it starting at 18 minutes just to keep an eye on it. Watch the middle of the cakes for doneness and test that area with a cake tester

  7. 5 stars
    Just made these with vegan butter and added 1/4 cup of sprinkles for funfetti and they came out great for daycare tomorrow!

    1. I would recommend either a store bought egg replacer like the ones from Bob’s Red Mill or you could try adding 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 cup milk, which is usually a great option in baked goods. (I haven’t tested it here yet.)

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