Healthy Vanilla Cupcakes
Published Apr 15, 2022, Updated Sep 12, 2023
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These healthy vanilla cupcakes are light and fluffy, but made with whole wheat flour and less butter and sugar than traditional cupcakes. They’re easy to make and perfect for any celebration!
I recently shared my first cupcake recipe on EBF (these almond flour cupcakes), and ever since I’ve been brainstorming more cupcake ideas to share. I knew I wanted to make a healthier version of a classic vanilla cupcake, so that’s what I’m sharing today!
Classic vanilla cupcakes are usually made with white flour, 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup (or more) of butter, but in true EBF fashion I made a few healthier swaps. For these cupcakes, we’re using whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour and half the amount of sugar and butter. They’re still super fluffy and delicious! Nobody will even notice they’re made healthier, trust me!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- These cupcakes are made healthier with whole wheat flour and less sugar and butter than classic vanilla cupcakes, making this the perfect recipe to serve kids for dessert!
- They can easily be made in advance for an upcoming celebration.
- It’s a great base recipe that can be customized with mix-ins and frostings based on your preference.
Here’s What You Need
- unsweetened almond milk – most classic cupcake recipes call for buttermilk or sour cream, so we’re making our own dairy-free “buttermilk” by mixing apple cider vinegar with almond milk (store-bought or homemade almond milk works)! Whisk the ACV and almond milk and set aside at room temperature. The mixture should bubble, thicken and potentially even curdle after a few minutes. Not all non-dairy milk will work for vegan buttermilk, but soy milk does if you don’t have almond milk on hand.
- apple cider vinegar – when shopping for ACV, look for a brand that’s unpasteurized with “the mother” included. This is where all the nutrients are. I personally recommend Bragg’s apple cider vinegar. It’s organic, raw and the best of the best.
- cane sugar – cane sugar is less processed than granulated sugar, but white sugar will also work in this recipe.
- butter – we’re creaming the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer, which helps achieve a fluffy cupcake! You can also use ¼ cup avocado oil instead of butter if you prefer. Just beat the eggs and sugar together and then add the oil and remaining wet ingredients.
- eggs – make sure your eggs are at room temperature before mixing with the wet ingredients. I won’t get into the science behind it but it’s key for fluffy cupcakes!
- applesauce – to replace some of the butter, we’re using applesauce to help keep these cupcakes moist and fluffy. You’ll want to make sure your applesauce is also at room temperature.
- vanilla extract – you can’t have vanilla cupcakes without vanilla extract. Make sure you’re using pure vanilla extract and not imitation vanilla flavor.
- whole wheat pastry flour – whole wheat pastry flour works better than regular whole wheat flour if you’re looking for the light and fluffy texture that regular all-purpose flour provides, but still want the nutrients of whole wheat flour. My go-to brand is Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour. All-purpose flour or cake flour should work as a substitute.
- baking powder – to help the cupcakes rise.
- salt – to bring the flavors together.
- frosting – I used my healthy cream cheese frosting, but feel free to use your favorite homemade or store-bought frosting.
- sprinkles – optional, but they definitely make these cupcakes more festive! I love supernatural rainbow sprinkles. They’re free of artificial dyes and are gluten-free and vegan.
How to Make Healthy Cupcakes
Whisk almond milk and apple cider vinegar in a medium mixing bowl and let curdle for 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl add sugar and butter and whip with a hand mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add your eggs, applesauce and vanilla extract and whisk until combined on low medium speed. Slowly add almond milk mixture while mixing on low.
Add dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) and mix until just combined and batter is smooth.
Pour batter evenly between 12 muffin tins. Bake for 16-18 minutes in preheated oven or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Let cupcakes cool in the tin for a few minutes, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack. Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost, top with sprinkles (if desired) and serve.
tip! Remember to make sure your eggs, butter and applesauce are at room temperature.
Best Frosting to Use
For these cupcakes I used my cream cheese frosting, but they would be equally as good with my peanut butter greek yogurt frosting, strawberry buttercream frosting or healthy chocolate frosting. That said, you can’t go wrong with a classic vanilla buttercream frosting. If going the store-bought route, my favorite healthier store-bought frosting is Simple Mills vanilla frosting.
Tips For Success
- Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature – For the best results, make sure your eggs, butter and applesauce are at room temperature! If your ingredients are super cold it could change the structure or texture of your cupcakes.
- Cream your butter and sugar for 3-5 minutes – Make sure you’re beating the butter and sugar together with your hand mixer for 3-5 minutes for the best results. This will help result in fluffy, light cupcakes!
- Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely – Let the cupcakes cool for just a few minutes in the muffin tin and then remove to let cool completely on a wire rack. Don’t leave the cupcakes in the tin for too long because they’ll continue to bake and could dry out!
- Don’t overbake – To ensure you don’t overbake these cupcakes, set your timer for the low end of the suggested bake time.
Frequently Asked Questions
I highly recommend using silicone muffin liners or parchment baking cups for the best results and to avoid the cupcakes from sticking too much. I also recommend spraying your liners with a little cooking spray. Make sure to let your cupcakes cool completely before trying to remove the liners otherwise they could stick.
I haven’t tested an egg-free version of these cupcakes, but let me know if you decide to experiment in the comments below!
I haven’t tried this recipe as a cake yet, but it would probably work in a square 8×8 cake pan. You can try my healthy vanilla cake or if you’re looking for a gluten-free birthday cake, my healthy birthday cake.
Can You Make These Cupcakes Ahead of Time?
Yes! These cupcakes can be made 1-2 days in advance. To make ahead of time, let the cupcakes cool completely and store them in the fridge, covered until you’re ready to frost and serve. Alternatively, you can frost and decorate the cupcakes and store them covered in the fridge until ready to serve!
How to Store
Store any leftover cupcakes in an airtight container on the counter for 1-2 days or in the fridge for up to 5 days. For longer storage, you can store these cupcakes in the freezer for up to 3 months. If you’re storing these in the freezer I would recommend storing them unfrosted. The day before you’re ready to serve, let them thaw in the fridge then frost and decorate as desired!
More Healthy Desserts to Try
- Healthy Smash Cake
- Healthy Birthday Cake
- Almond Flour Cupcakes
- Healthy Chocolate Cupcakes
- Chocolate Frosted Baked Donuts
- Healthy Chocolate Muffins
- Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Sweet Potato Cupcakes
- Birthday Cake Cookies
- Healthy Vanilla Cake
- Easy Berry Cake
- Oatmeal Carrot Cake
- Easy Strawberry Cake
- Healthy Pumpkin Cake
Be sure to check out all of the popular dessert recipes here on EBF!
Healthy Vanilla Cupcakes
- ½ cup almond milk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup cane sugar
- ¼ cup butter, softened, at room temperature
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ¼ cup applesauce, at room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 ⅓ cups whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper or silicone liners.
- Whisk almond milk and apple cider vinegar in a medium bowl and let curdle for 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
- Add sugar and butter to a large mixing bowl and whip with a hand mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Alternatively, you can use a stand mixer.
- Add eggs, applesauce and vanilla extract and whisk until combined on low medium speed.
- Slowly add almond milk mixture while mixing on low.
- Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined and batter is smooth.
- Pour batter evenly between 12 muffin tins. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean and edges are slightly golden brown.
- Let cupcakes cool in the tin for a few minutes or so, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.
- Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost, top with sprinkles and serve.
- Butter: You can use ¼ cup avocado oil instead of butter. Just beat the eggs and sugar together and then add the oil and remaining wet ingredients.
- Looking to make these cupcakes gluten-free? I have tested these cupcakes with Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free 1:1 all-purpose flour, and they turned out, but were a little more dense.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.