Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes are small, but they pack a mighty minty bite. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

These festive three-bite cupcakes are as scrumptious as they are adorable. Their deeply chocolaty, moist cake is infused with a playful hint of peppermint, and their whipped cream cheese frosting is sprinkled with holiday spirit in the form of crushed candy canes.

They also happen to be better for you, thanks to a few tried-and-true healthful baking tricks.

For one, by making half of the flour whole-wheat pastry flour, which is milled from a variety of wheat that is especially soft and tender, you work in some whole-grain goodness without adding any heaviness or “healthy” taste. Using canola oil and Greek yogurt instead of butter and cream keeps the cupcakes tender and moist. And topping them with a cream-cheese frosting rather than buttercream means you get all the spreadable richness you expect, but with a fraction of the saturated fat and calories.

Of course, baking them in mini muffin pans means you can get your holiday sweet fix without going overboard.

Krieger’s most recent cookbook is “Weeknight Wonders: Delicious Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at

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Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes

24 mini cupcakes

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.

MAKE AHEAD: 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.

From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.


For the cupcakes

1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry 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 canola oil

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.

Nutrition | Per cupcake: 120 calories, 2 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 85 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 10 g sugar

Recipe tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; e-mail questions to

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