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A cupcake piled high with creamy chocolate buttercream frosting is the perfect single-serving dessert, yet on average it packs in more than 25 grams of fat, leaving plenty of room for improvement. We tried a number of low-fat cupcake recipes that included “alternative” ingredients like prunes or applesauce, but they were overwhelmingly disappointing, and gave us dry, crumbly cakes. Instead, we worked with a more traditional recipe and trimmed the fat by reducing the amount of chocolate and switching from butter to canola oil, which is lower in saturated fat. We managed to get our cupcakes down from 420 calories to 340, and cut the fat from 28 grams to a much more reasonable 11.
MAKEOVER SPOTLIGHT: CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
1. There’s no doubt about it—chocolate is a fatty ingredient. But after we trimmed the chocolate from our cupcakes, they were light on flavor. To ramp it up without adding lots of fat and calories, we increased the amount of cocoa and added instant espresso powder, which adds depth and complexity. To help these ingredients meld seamlessly into the batter and to bloom their flavor, we combined them with boiling water, which works to melt the chocolate.
2. Swapping canola oil for the butter not only lowers the amount of saturated fat in these little cakes, but it also helps keep the cakes moist and allows the bold flavor of the chocolate to really shine through. We also found that bread flour helped prevent these leaner cakes from falling flat because it has more protein than all-purpose flour, and the additional protein gives the cakes extra lift and structure.
3. This rule applies to all low-fat cakes because they are quick to turn dry and crumbly when overbaked. When testing the cakes, aim for slightly underdone because they will continue to bake after you remove them from the oven. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick or bamboo skewer into the center of the cake. When you remove it there should be some moist crumbs attached, but not any raw batter.
4. Buttercream frosting, made with lots of butter and egg yolks or cream, was a no-go for our lightened cupcakes. Instead, we opted for a frosting made with confectioners’ sugar, milk, and just 2 tablespoons of butter. A half-cup of cocoa and an ounce of chocolate gave our lightened frosting an intense, chocolaty flavor and a creamy, silky texture. Adjusting its consistency is easy; if it’s too loose, add extra confectioners’ sugar to tighten it up, and if it’s too dry, add small drops of milk to loosen it.