A Special (Healthy and Delicious) Valentine’s Day Cupcake

February 11, 2011 | Written By:

by Lana Buseman, Communications Design Specialist

Valentine’s Day has become synonymous with candlelight dinners, mushy Hallmark cards and. . .  indulgent sweet treats. Grocery stores typically have candy aisles dedicated to Valentine’s Day that bear resemblance to the aisles during Halloween. If we're not careful, class parties, candy exchanges and after-school celebrations can add up to overload this time of year. Like all holidays, it is fun to get in the spirit and share something sweet with someone you love—your children, significant other or best friend—but it is even more fun to share a treat that is both delicious and guilt-free!

Red velvet cake is one of my dad’s favorite desserts, and reminds me of Valentine’s Day with its unique red filling. But with all the butter and sugar that goes in it (along with the traditional cream cheese frosting), it’s a calorie bomb waiting to explode.

So I set out to find a healthier cupcake version of this classic recipe (to follow the cupcake trend) and came across one from a blog called Nutrition to Kitchen written by a Registered Dietician named Tram Le.  This particular recipe stood out to me because it used plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt) to cut out a large amount of butter that usually goes into the cake, along with a couple other healthy substitutes (dark chocolate cocoa powder…full of antioxidants!) but did not appear to change the integrity of the flavor. In fact, the yogurt will keep the cake from drying out, without giving at an oily texture.

The only downfall of this recipe was that it still used the cream cheese frosting, which I thought cancelled out the impressive fact that cupcake itself is only about 200 calories. I love the fact that the cupcake recipe uses yogurt in place of butter, so I thought the best way to complement that was to replace the cream cheese frosting with a Greek yogurt frosting.

I love Greek yogurt because it has that same creamy texture (and maybe even creamier!) as full-fat American yogurt with none of the fat. Aside from just the texture, Greek yogurt is full of probiotics that can improve intestinal health, build stronger bones and lower blood pressure. It is also a great source of protein with lower carbohydrates and sodium than its American counterpart.

I found a simple recipe for Greek yogurt frosting that gives the top of this cupcake just enough sweetness balanced by a pleasant tanginess. By combining these two recipes, I was able to share a delicious and special treat that tasted as good as it was healthy!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
(makes about 16 cupcakes, or about 1 cake using a 9-inch round cake pan

  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 1/3 cups cake flour (or 1 3/4 cup all-purpose/whole wheat flour + 5 Tbsp cornstarch)
  • 2 Tbsp dark cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1  tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 1 /2 Tbsp red food coloring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp white vinegar


Preheat oven to 350º F.

In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.Cupcake 2 

In a separate medium bowl, whick together the yogurt, red food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar.  Set aside.

Cupcake 3

In a medium bowl with a stand mixer attachment, beat the sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, until well-beaten.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl.  Beat on low speed.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then increase to medium speed until all ingredients are combined.  Add 1/3 of the wet ingredients and mix until combined.

Cupcake 4

Continue the same process with the dry ingredients, alternating with the wet ingredients, and completing the mixing process with the dry ingredients until smooth.

Place cupcake liners inside muffin pans, enough for 16 cupcakes.  Bake at 350º F for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

Nutrition facts (serving size: 1 cupcake, no frosting): 203 calories; 5.4 grams fat (2.9 grams saturated fat); 3.4 grams protein; 35.8 grams carbohydrates.

 Greek Yogurt Frosting


  • 1 C Greek yogurt
  • A good splash of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C powered sugar, sifted


  1. Whisk all ingredients until they become a bit thick.
  2. Place in the fridge to thicken even more (at least 30 minutes).
  3. Spread on cupcakes.


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