Healthy Vanilla Cupcakes


When I was a senior in high school, I attempted going vegan.  I thought that anything vegan was automatically considered healthy, so I indulged in every animal-free product I found — chocolates, candies, cookies… and batches and batches of cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  Vegan can definitely mean healthy, if it’s done the right way…

I did not do veg the right way.  Far from it.

I still have the cookbook on my shelf, however.  I scan through it from time to time to look at the mouth-watering pictures and to get some baking inspiration.  I have been trying to perfect my own Vanilla Cupcake recipe for a while now, but none of the batches I make are an exact replica of the unhealthy kinds you would find at a bakery — they are not fluffy enough, not flavorful enough, never rise enough, etc. So I turned to the cookbook for some help.

Healthy Vanilla Cupcakes

The recipe seemed easy enough, and I had all of the ingredients in my pantry.  Because I know that vegan cupcakes does not mean healthy cupcakes, I adapted the recipe to make it more nutritious.

I lowered the oil content and used a mixture of applesauce and oil instead, I used erythritol instead of white sugar and brown rice flour instead of white rice flour.  For personal reasons (aka allergies/sensitivities), I used almond milk instead of soymilk.  The batter smelled delicious and the cupcakes rose perfectly in the oven.  However, once the cupcakes cooled and I took a bite, I was a little let down.  They crumbled so easily and kind of tasted like cornbread…  I have no idea how or why.

But, these cupcakes were the closest thing to regular vanilla cupcakes I have come so far, especially compared to my own recipes!  I decided to give the cupcakes one more shot, just with a few more adaptations.  I used homemade vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract for more vanilla flavor, added butter extract and used almond flavor instead of almond extract.  Because the cupcakes were super crumbly the first time around, I added some xanthan gum to the recipe.


The result?  Pretty darn good vanilla cupcakes!  Sweet, buttery, moist, fluffy and totally vanilla-y…  you’d never know these are healthy and guilt free (check out the nutritional label comparison below!)

Healthy Vanilla Cupcakes (refined sugar free, gluten free, vegan)

Yield: 11 cupcakes



  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cupcake tin with 11 paper liners.
  2. In a stand mixer bowl with whisk attachment, add the almond milk, applesauce, oil, erythritol, vanilla paste, butter extract and almond flavor. Whisk on medium speed for about one minute.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the starch and flax. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the starch/flax mixture. Whisk on low for about one minute.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the brown rice flour, quinoa flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt. Slowly add to the stand mixer on low speed. When all is incorporated, increase mixer speed to high and whip for about 20 seconds.
  5. Scoop batter into cupcake liners and bake for ~29 minutes, or until surface springs back when tapped. Remove cupcakes from tin and let cool on a wire cooling rack.


This recipe is: sugar free, gluten free, vegan!

Recipe adapted from: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

I topped these cupcakes with Soyatoo’s Rice Whip and my homemade rainbow sprinkles!


Now it’s time for the nutrition label showdown!  Here, I compare the nutrition labels of the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World gluten free vanilla cupcake recipe and my healthified adaption of the recipe.  The cookbook label is on the left, the DWB label is on the right:

Healthy Dessert Blog  Healthy Dessert Blog

Can you believe the difference?  The DWB version has:

  • 80 less calories
  • 2g less fat
  • 12g less carbs
  • 1g more fiber

But it’s not all about the nutrition label, calories and grams of fat, it’s about the nutritional values of the ingredients used so that you can enjoy a dessert without feeling bad or guilty.  This is a dessert with benefits!  🙂

10 comments on “Healthy Vanilla Cupcakes

  1. Isn’t it funny how people misunderstand what it is to be vegan? My roommates and I had people over for a dinner party and everything we made was vegan (not necessarily healthy) and our friends ate SO MUCH of everything because of that! haha

    But great recipe! I am going to try this!

  2. Love the site upgrade! Lovely recipe, too : )

  3. You’re like a brilliant healthy dessert scientist!

  4. LOVE!! Dying to know what icing you used — always on the hunt for good icing recipes. They look divine! 🙂

  5. I’m guessing the nutritional value is without counting the icing? Still, it’s pretty amazing how you managed to “healthify” the recipe.

    I’m considering going gluten-free for personal reasons but I always wonder about cake mixes – how do you get the flour ingredients right? What motivates you to choose brown rice flour, almond meal and quinoa flour? I’m a little confused about baking gluten-free, perhaps you could dedicate a blog post to it?

    • dessertswithbenefits

      Yes, the nutrition label is for the cupcakes only. And I topped the cupcakes with Soyatoo Rice Whip and homemade sprinkles, which adds very little calories/fat/sugar.

      As for the flour ingredients, I just based them off the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World recipe. In my own recipes, I usually just use GF oat flour and brown rice flour because I feel like that combo tastes a lot like wheat flour in a baked good.

      I would love to dedicate a blog post on baking GF, but I am not an expert and there are already so many great ones out there! Check out these sites:

  6. These look beautiful! What a delicious recipe. Did you like the frosting and cupcake combo? I’ve never tried soyatoo rice whip…

    • dessertswithbenefits

      I just used the Rice Whip because I was too lazy to make a frosting lol, but I do like how light and creamy it was. It isn’t packed with sugar so your teeth won’t ache and you can focus more on the cupcake’s flavor 🙂

  7. Pingback: Desserts With Benefits

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