Reduced Sugar Cupcakes for Mother’s Day (or any day!)

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We’re happy to welcome Amy Palanjian back today, this time sharing her classic chocolate cupcake recipe. We think these will make a perfectly sweet treat for Mother’s Day, or any day. Enjoy!

Reduced Sugar Cupcakes

My little girl has a birthday this month, so we’ve been talking about cupcakes a lot in my house. She adores frosting in any form and likes to talk about what color cupcakes she wants to share with her friends. (The answer is almost always pink, in case you were wondering.) But of course, as a parent to a toddler, I am hyperaware of how many sugary treats we’re eating and there are times when it feels like we are being bombarded with them every time we leave the house. But you know what I’ve realized over the past two years of feeding her? There is a serious downside to worrying too much about what our kiddos consume—namely, it can make a mama crazy!

Reduced Sugar Cupcakes

I’ve come to realize that for me, teaching my daughter to enjoy sweets in appropriate amounts is something that I value more than how many grams of sugar she has on a particular day. I want her to have a healthy relationship with food as she grows up and while she is only two, I want her to enjoy the food that she chooses to eat, no matter what it might be. So I choose not to restrict treats when we’re out in the world and I give her the chance to learn to monitor her own intake. But when we’re making treats at home, I use some simple methods to make desserts that taste delicious and also happen to have a better nutritional profile. This way, we both wind up happy and well nourished. It’s easier than you might think!

Reduced Sugar Cupcakes

Which brings us to these cupcakes. They are light, fluffy, and moist. They also happen to have less sugar than most conventional cupcakes, both in the cake and in the frosting, but they are still sweet enough that no one will mistake one for a muffin. I’ve found that it’s entirely possible to enjoy the baked goods we all love in healthier forms by simply taking down the added sugar a notch. There’s plenty of cocoa flavor in the cakes and the fresh flavor of the strawberry frosting adds an almost refreshing note. Plus, you can whip up a batch quickly and have them cooling on the counter in under a half an hour! I’m not saying that these cupcakes are health food, but I will say that there is absolutely no reason to feel anything but happy when you—and your kids—eat one.

Reduced Sugar Cupcakes

Prefer vanilla? Check out my Reduced Sugar Vanilla Cupcakes recipe here.

Reduced Sugar Chocolate Cupcakes

This recipe makes a dozen modest-sized cupcakes, so if you want them to be larger, simply fill the muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for about 2 minutes longer. These cupcakes are best when they are freshly baked, so make them on the day you plan to eat them if possible and keep them at room temperature. Frost just before serving if possible. If making them ahead, bake and cool as directed, then wrap tightly in foil and place into a zip top freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Freeze for up to 2 months.


3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk plus 2 tablespoons
Fresh Strawberry Frosting



  1. Prepare the Fresh Strawberry Frosting and place into the fridge. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a standard muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar with a handheld electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream, vanilla, and milk. Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Do not over mix.
  3. Fill prepared paper liners about 1/2 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. Just before serving, remove the frosting from the fridge. Snip off one corner of the bag and pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Garnish with a slice of berry, if desired, and serve immediately.

Fresh Strawberry Frosting

Place 1/2 cup chopped strawberries into a food processor. Grind until very smooth, about 20 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons honey, 6 ounces cream cheese, and 2 tablespoons butter, softened at room temperature, and process until very smooth. Spoon into a quart-size zip top bag, seal, and refrigerate until ready to serve.


  • Use blueberries instead of strawberries in the frosting.
  • Bake cupcakes in a mini muffin tin and reduce the baking time to 12-14 minutes.
  • Use whole-wheat pastry flour for 1/4 cup of the all-purpose.

~Amy Palanjian, Yummy Toddler Foods

Amy Palanjian is a writer, editor, recipe developer, and crafter for magazines, books, and websites. She’s also mama to a very energetic toddler who inspires her to share wholesome, yet realistic recipes and feeding tips with other parents of little ones at her site Yummy Toddler Food. For more inspiration, check out her website and Instagram.


  1. These look good! I also have a birthday this month. I think I’m gonna be making these for myself. 🙂

  2. The timing is perfect for this post – I have been on a serious sugar-binge (I’m looking at you brownies!), but I can’t kick my sweet tooth entirely.

  3. Kristy Vera

    We made these and they were actually the most delicious baked thing I have ever participating in making, and that’s saying a lot!

  4. Ashley Sneyd

    I used 1/4 almond meal/flour for part of the flour and it turned out great! My frosting was a little tart/ sour… any suggestions?

  5. We are so glad you liked them, Kristy! Be sure to check back for more delicious (and easy) recipes!

  6. I’m gonna suggest adding more honey. Of course, organic maple syrup or agave could be a nice try.

  7. Hi there,

    Can I replace the sour cream with greek yogurt?

  8. Pingback: 14 Fun Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day - The Honest Company Blog

  9. It looks Nice!! Great idea for birthday. I try this recipe on my friends birthday. He likes homemade cupcakes, this is perfect gift on his birthday. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

  10. I made these for my 2 year old’s birthday. I really liked the chocolatey, not too sweet flavor and the frosting was a hit (I did add a bit more honey as someone suggested). I doubled the recipe and it worked fine. My only complaint is that they didn’t rise hardly at all, so were quite dense and didn’t fill all the muffin cup. That might be partly my fault for over mixing, but to make them easier to eat I think I would just make a sheet cake or even call them chocolate strawberry bars so that people expect the denser consistency.

  11. I used whole fat yogurt, mine were dense but tasty.

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