These festive three-bite cupcakes — with their chocolaty, peppermint-infused cake and their cream cheese frosting sprinkled with crushed candy canes — are as scrumptious as they are adorable. They also happen to be better for you, thanks to the use of whole-grain pastry flour, canola oil instead of butter and Greek yogurt instead of cream. Because they are mini, they let you get your holiday sweet fix without going overboard.
There’s just enough frosting for a nice piped dollop on top of each cupcake; if you’d rather have total coverage, increase the amount of Neufchâtel cheese to 8 tablespoons and the confectioners’ sugar to 1 cup.
The frosting needs to be refrigerated for 1 hour (and up to 1 day) before using. The frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
FOR THE CUPCAKES
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, white whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat plain Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons low-fat milk (1 percent)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
FOR THE FROSTING
6 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese (may substitute low-fat cream cheese), at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons crushed candy canes or peppermint candies (3 standard-size candy canes)
For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup mini muffin tins with paper or foil liners.
Whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
Combine the yogurt, oil, brown sugar, eggs, milk and peppermint extract in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer; beat on medium-low speed until smooth and beginning to lighten in color. Reduce the speed to low; add the flour mixture in three additions, mixing well after each one, to form a smooth, thick batter.
Distribute the batter evenly among the lined wells. Bake (middle rack) until a toothpick inserted into the centers of the cupcakes comes out clean, 10 to 13 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool slightly, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
For the frosting: Combine the Neufchâtel cheese and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon-whisk attachment, or use a handheld electric mixer; beat on medium speed for a few minutes, until smooth. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a medium-size round or star tip. Refrigerator for 1 hour (and up to 1 day) before using.
Pipe frosting on each mini cupcake, then sprinkle the crushed candy canes over the frosting.
Servings: 24 mini cupcakes
Serving size: 1 mini cupcake
Per serving: Calories 120; Total Fat 6g; (Sat Fat 1g); Protein 2g; Carb 16g; Fiber 0g; Cholesterol 20mg; Sodium 85mg, Sugar 10g