Lightened Up Chocolate Cupcakes

A few weeks ago I sent an email over to America’s Test Kitchen to see if we could work on a project together. I was so excited when I got a very positive yes back from them. They wanted to know if I could help promote their Comfort Food Makeovers cookbook. They got a very excited yes in reply!

Comfort Food Makeovers is such a clever book that takes your and my favorite classics and popular restaurant dishes and gives them a makeover for the better. The goal was to drop fat and calories without sacrificing flavor, and if anyone could pull this off successfully it would be America’s Test Kitchen. The best part is they aren’t subbing in things like artificial sweeteners in the dessert, or on the other end of spectrum,  there’s no cauliflower hiding in the mac-n-cheese. They use everyday classic ingredients but cook smarter. I love their approach to cooking!

If you are an old-timer to the blog you know that I’m an America’s Test Kitchen lover (fondly known as ATK to their fans). Husband got me three of their cookbooks a few years ago for Mother’s Day and I blog the recipes often. What I love is that they take the time to teach what they are doing and why they are doing it. They include way more than just a recipe and pictures; reading their cookbooks is like a mini cooking class which I love. So when presented with an opportunity to work with a new cookbook of theirs I jumped at the chance.

Comfort Food Makeovers doesn’t even come out until this Friday (March 1), so ATK sent me over to look at the recipe index for the book. Once I got through all of the delicious pictures and description of the book I stared in wonder at all it includes. Mozzerella sticks, Pork Lo Mein (compared to P.F. Chang’s), baked ziti, cheesy garlic bread, chicken marsala, and potato salad. Then comes cinnamon rolls, carrot cake, lightened up chocolate cupcakes, and key lime bars… can carrot cake really be lightened up?!

They let me pick out 6 recipes from the huge list and then they emailed the recipes over to me (the book isn’t out yet remember). So I just got a taste of what’s to come and boy oh boy am I hungry for the rest. America’s Test Kitchen also agreed to giveaway a copy of the book today! You can enter using the Rafflecopter tool below, and if you don’t want to wait to see if you are the winner you can always preorder your copy of the book here.

Now onto some cupcakes!

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I was really excited to get the recipes and to see the approach that ATK was using to achieve a lighter version of such classic dishes. We’ve all heard of replacing applesauce for oil or even ground black beans in brownies, so how would they reduce the calories in cupcakes?! Well friends, I’m pleased to announce that they just swapped canola oil for butter and went from there… nothing too crazy and the results were phenomenal. I make a lot of cake and cupcakes and these lightened up chocolate cupcakes were probably the best I’ve ever made. I’m not buttering you up for the book; I’m telling you so you make them! The texture was perfect, which is normally my complaint when it comes to homemade cupcakes/reduced fat desserts and the flavor was very rich.

Thomas was out of town when I made them, so I saved him some as a little test (he LOVES cake). I just had him eat a few when he got back and asked him what he thought. He said they were excellent but he would call them dark chocolate cupcakes, not just chocolate (hence the richness and color). I explained that they were lower fat than normal and he was sincerely surprised but totally happy with the results.

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I’m actually going to share a second recipe from the book on Thursday (mac-n-cheese!), but in the mean time enjoy these cupcakes and get excited about this book. The recipes aren’t written in the traditional double column format. You get a whole page per recipe with a paragraph at the top titled “why this works”. I love knowing what ATK tried, liked, didn’t like, and why they settled on what they did. They spill it all in that first paragraph. Each recipe also comes with the “before and afters” of calories, fat, and saturated fat right on the page (more detailed nutrition info is in the back of the book too). The stats for these lightened up chocolate cupcakes looked like this:
fat Not too shabby if you ask me. And my icing was a bit thinner than intended, so I was only able to get about 1 tablespoon on each cupcake which means even less calories. The thin icing was still delicious and the cupcakes tasted a lot like my grandma’s sheet cake which is a good thing.

ComfortFoodMakeovers (1)


Lightened Up Chocolate Cupcakes

  • Author: Bless This Mess
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 19 min
  • Total Time: 29 minutes
  • Yield: 12 Cupcakes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American


You won’t believe these fluffy chocolate cupcakes are lightened up desserts. Topped with low-fat chocolate icing, no one ever guesses they’re healthy!


  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups Low- Fat Chocolate Frosting (recipe follows)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl add the chocolate and cocoa. Pour the boiling water over the top and allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes to give the chocolate time to melt. Whisk until smooth and then let the mixture cool, about 10 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to combine.
  4. Once the chocolate mixture has cooled add the eggs, vinegar, and oil to the bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture and whisk everything together until well combined and a smooth batter is formed.
  5. Measure out 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin tin. Bake the cupcakes for 17-19 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Pull the done cupcakes from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan, on the rack, for 10 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pan once the 10 minutes are up and allow them to cool completely on the wire rack, about 1 hour.
  6. Frost each cooled cupcake with about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the chocolate frosting and serve.


The original recipe calls for 3/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder to be added with the chocolate and cocoa. Leaving it out was the only thing I changed.

To properly measure boiling water allow a larger amount of water than you need to come to a boil in a small saucepan and then carefully measure out the amount of water needed once it has begun to boil.

I used dutch-processed cocoa with wonderful results, and would recommend it (something like Hershey’s Special Dark). You could use traditional cocoa but your cupcakes and icing will look less black and more brown than mine.

Don’t be tempted to switch all-purpose flour for the bread flour. The extra gluten in bread flour is a big part in the texture and structure of the cupcakes.

Keywords: easy chocolate cupcake recipe, healthy chocolate cupcake recipe



Low-Fat Chocolate Icing

  • Author: Bless This Mess
  • Prep Time: 5min
  • Cook Time: 0min
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 2 cups
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Food Processor
  • Cuisine: American


A low-fat, easy chocolate icing recipe perfect for cupcakes and cakes.


  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 7 tablespoons one-percent milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Combine the powdered sugar and cocoa together in the food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the milk, butter, melted chocolate, and vanilla, and pocess untill smooth.


I don’t recommend measuring out the milk over the hole in the top of the food processor… you might get a little crazy and spill some extra milk in which will make your icing too thin. This may or may not have happened to me 😉

I used dutch processed cocoa powder and would recommend it. You can use traditional but your icing won’t be as dark as mine.

Keywords: food processor icing, chocolate icing recipe, easy chocolate frosting recipe

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And here’s where you enter to win a copy of your own!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Lindsay from Pinch of Yum (adore her!) made Healthier General Tso’s Chicken from the cookbook and is giving away a copy too.

And did you know that ATK has a blog of their own? They post more than just recipes too. They have great how-to’s and recommendations on kitchen gadgets as well as fun articles like “The 5 cheesiest tips you’ll ever need” – get it?! Cheese tips! So clever…

Thanks so much for reading and good luck.

Disclosure: I emailed America’s Test Kitchen to see if they would work on a project with me. The were more than willing to supply the cookbook for this giveaway and are even doing the shipping. I’m also going to get a copy of the cookbook out of the deal (score!). I was not paid for this post because I was the one begging them to do let me do it 🙂

38 Recipes for Busy Moms
112 Responses
  1. Henry

    I believe that Comfort Foods, along with soups and stews, are the heart of cooking and eating. They’re the soft foods that we ate when we were so young that we didn’t have much in the way of teeth, so we love the texture, and any book by Cook’s Illustrated is a please to read and cook from, so I’m looking forward to it.

  2. Ashley

    A while back I made this mistake of adding only half the butter to my cookie recipe and they turned out amazing. Since then I have been wondering how many other things can I make with less fat and calories and still have a great taste…I am so excited for this cook book!

  3. Hershey’s Special Dark is not 100% Dutch processed, however. For consistent results, I use 100% dutch processed cocoa.
    Bread flour? Who would think up that? Only ATK! That is awesome!

    1. Melissa

      I know it’s not all Dutch processed but I can’t get anything better here in the middle of no where and it’s a reasonable price while still being better than traditional cocoa. I wonder how much of it IS Dutch-processed though?! Do you know? And ATK didn’t recommend the Dutch-processed in the recipe… just cocoa. I used what I had and liked, with good results.

      1. amber robbins

        I have recently found dutch processed at a few places….one is an amish store near my house here in Indiana and a food storage company from Utah (shelf pantry or something like that).

        But the other place I usually get it from is Penzey’s Spice- they have amazing spices for reasonable prices. There’s not one in Utah, but there’s one in Louisville (maybe your mom could pick it up next time she’s at the temple), but they also have free shipping on orders over $30. I just looked and a pound of dutch processed cocoa is $11.30. I love their cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, curry powders (used it when I made your curried coconut chicken with squash and dried cherries and made it amazing), and everything else I’ve tried. So much better than spices bought at Walmart and pretty comparable prices.

          1. amber robbins

            I love sweet things so I use their sweet curry powder, but I also like their garam masala. I haven’t tried the others yet, but plan to in the future.

  4. Lindsay

    I entered!!! I’m new to your site but love that you are clean 80/20 I am hoping to get to this point!! Loveeee cookbooks and I too am a huge ATK fan 🙂

  5. EllenFitz

    These look great and I’d love to win an ATK cookbook I don’t already own. I’m curious why you left the esspresso powder out? Was it because you just didn’t have any or for some other reason?

    1. Melissa

      I’m Mormon! We have a bit of a health code we like to stick by (no alcohol, no smoking, moderation in all things…) and coffee happens to be on that list of things to avoid. I assume for it’s addicting qualities. I know a little espresso powder never killed anyone, but I have always liked to do things with my whole heart, religious convictions included. Is that crazy?! Thanks for asking.

  6. Deanna Peoples

    Another winner from ATK. Finger crossed that I can have that cookbook in my waiting little hands. Without ATK and blogs like your I’d be lost in the kitchen. 🙂

  7. Veronika

    You make this cookbook sound so good! I had no idea their cookbooks were so scientific…I realllly want one now! Here’s to hoping I win 🙂

    1. Melissa

      Hmmm. I would use all-purpose white flour before whole wheat… whole wheat is pretty hard to work with when it comes to cakes. Are you able to buy gluten in a tub in the baking isle? Or does the internet tell you any good subs for bread flour?! Let me know!!

  8. Excited for Spring - Bless This Mess

    […] so much for reading and don’t forget to enter to win an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook here. Have a great […]

  9. Corinne

    I am a new follower of this blog and I am really excited about the giveaways!
    P.S. Melissa, you might not remember me, but I actually know your sister. We roomed together at BYU when she was and RA. I’m really excited for her to be home soon. 🙂

    1. Melissa

      I wouldn’t have know it by just the first name but OF COURSE I REMEMBER YOU!!! Sarah loved you and so did Macey and I 🙂 How the heck are you!?

    1. Melissa

      Thank you! I literally spent weeks trying to think of what to call the blog and it came to me in the shower one morning. I’ve liked it ever since 🙂

  10. These cupcakes are seriously making my mouth water. Between the deep color and the drip on that frosting. Awesome photos. I frequently replace butter with olive oil in cakes and muffins and love it. So, I imagine these taste just as good as they look. Have a great day!

  11. Ashlie

    I would love to win, because I’ve never failed when following a ATK recipe – made their roasted shrimp last week and it was so easy and soooooo tasty!

  12. Danielle

    Thanks for the recipe! I’ve been on a great health kick and am constantly looking for ways to satisfy my horrible sweet tooth while still staying healthy.

  13. Patty Bee

    Hi Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I will be making these to take to a pot-luck this weekend. Will you please give the amount of expresso powder and when it is to be added? Thanks again 🙂

  14. Stephy

    This sounds like the perfect cookbook! Still able to eat the classics but know that I’m eating a healthier version is ALWAYS the best!

  15. Laraine

    I am really excited about this giveaway. I have never used the ATK cookbook. I am always looking for good recipes that are easy to follow and always turn out. Thanks Melissa for getting this together. I am excited to try the cupcakes.

  16. Great post. I love all things ATK and even have a couple of my cookbooks signed by Christopher Kimball…got to meet him at a local bookstore and I was literally star struck 🙂 I’ll be buying this book if I don’t win.

  17. Melissa, can you believe I only just started following this blog last week? I read your family one all the time, but I had no idea you’re such a big deal in the blogosphere. You’ve gotten even more amazing than I thought you already were 😉 xo, Sarah

  18. Stephanie Cooper

    This would be perfect for me right now!! We are really trying to eat healthier but sometimes you just want some good comfort food! Yay for the giveaway!

  19. Lynn

    These are super quick and delicious! I used regular all purpose flour, and used half a cup of batter to fill “jumbo” tins (made six) for a dinner get together. Made a buttercream frosting to top them off so they were a lot higher in fat and calories! These were so quick and simple to make, and were such a decadent, dark and moist cupcake. Very impressed. Can’t go wrong with ATK!

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Bless This Mess - About Me

I’m Melissa, and I want to help you feed your family wholesome food.

As a hobby farmer and mom of five, I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I want healthy meals that feed my family well, and then I want to get back to my (messy) life. Let’s work together to find something yummy for your dinner table.

Dinner Ideas for Busy Moms