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TIP OF THE DAY: Turn Your Favorite Cake Into Mini Cupcakes

A new book, The Case Against Sugar, is pretty; scary.

For a synopsis, read the review in The New York Times. The one-sentence message: Beyond our diabetes and obesity epidemics (had these been infectious diseases, according to the book, sugar is probably related to heart disease, hypertension, many common cancers and Alzheimer’s.

But we’re not here to scare you. we’re here to offer one of our favorite work-arounds to eat less sugar: mini cupcakes with much less frosting.

Mini cupcakes are nothing new. It’s easy to find them, whether for kids or as an alternative to regular cupcakes, that are three- or four-times the size.

But rather than buy some average cupcake made with some average mix—even at a cupcake boutique—they’re so much better when you make them with your favorite cake recipe.

(Disclosure: We don’t like airy, fluffy cakes, preferring more dense styles like carrot cake, banana bread with chocolate chunks and chocolate cake enriched with sour cream).

This recipe from Kraft uses a cake mix for this recipe, but you can use your own.

Prep time is 20 minutes, bake time is 12 minutes; total time is about an hour.


Ingredients For 48 Mini Cupcakes

  • 1 package (2-layer size) carrot cake mix
    For The Frosting
    (See Our Alternative Frostings Below)

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Food color as desired

  • Mini muffin/cupcake pans
  • Paper liners

    1. PREPARE the cake batter as directed on the package. Spoon into 48 paper-lined mini muffin cups. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.

    2. COOL in the pans 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely. As the cupcakes cool…

    3. MAKE the frosting. Beat the butter and cream cheese in medium bowl with mixer until creamy. Blend in the vanilla. Gradually add the sugar, mixing well after each addition. Spread onto the cupcakes.


    Use a small (flat) amount of anything you like. The biggest caloric bargain is aerosol whipped cream, such as Reddi-Wip, at 15 calories per tablespoon.

    The idea is simply to spread it with a spatula, not mound it on! Some cupcakes can seem like a base for eating frosting!

  • Chocolate ganache
  • Greek yogurt, with agave or non-caloric sweetener and other flavorings (cocoa powder, lemon zest, etc.)
  • Ice cream, softened*
  • Reddi-Wip* or homemade with a canister
  • Stabilized whipped cream (recipe below)

    For color, flavor, and minuscule calories, top with a berry.

      Mini Carrot Cakes

    Chocolate Mini Cupcakes

    Lemon Mini Cupcake
    Angel Food Mini Cupcakes

    [1] For smaller portions, turn your favorite cake into mini cupcakes. The recipe for these carrot cake minis is below (photo courtesy Kraft). [2] The next step is to minimize the frosting. Chocolate ganache requires just a smear, not a pile (here’s the recipe from Life In The Lofthouse). [3] Another icing tip: Whipped cream has fewer calories because of all that air (photo courtesy Rose Bakes). [4] For the finale, add a fresh berry (here’s the recipe for these angel food cupcakes from Cooking Classy).

    *With “collapsible” frostings, frost the cupcakes immediately before serving, or bring the frosting to the table for self-service.

    We love stabilized whipped cream as a frosting and filling. It holds its shape for two days without collapsing.

    The stabilizing agent is typically stabilized with gelatin. Here, we use cream cheese.

    As you can guess, it’s richer in flavor and texture when you substitute cream cheese.

    This recipe makes enough to frost a cake; but there are only four tablespoons of sugar in all five cups!

    Add cocoa powder for chocolate frosting/filling.

    Ingredients For Five Cups

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups heavy/whipping cream
  • 4 tablespoons powdered sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

    1. WHIP the cream cheese in a small bowl until soft and aerated. In a larger, chilled bowl, whip the cream until it forms soft, collapsible peaks that.

    2. ADD the cream cheese to the cream and continue whipping on high speed until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Beat in the sugar, vanilla and optional cocoa powder.

    3. REFRIGERATE until ready to use.


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