Sugar gets a bad rap these days. It’s the evil empire of the food world (perhaps eclipsed only by corn). People seem to forget that sugar is magic. Don’t believe me? What happens if you take bitter, unpalatable chocolate and add sugar? That’s right, you get one of the most heavenly foods in existence. Watch again; take lemons and add sugar (and a little water). Abracadabra, you’ve got lemonade! However, Getting a toddler to eat anything but sugar, starch and chocolate takes more than just an Abracadabra. Little Guy’s sweet tooth is the size of Texas, and I’ll let you in on a little secret; he gets it from me. Lately he’s shunning all healthy foods, and only eating the evil sugary fatty ones. I know this is hardly surprising and unusual behavior for a toddler, but I have ways of making him eat his veggies and fruit.
The bran muffins at breakfast are full of applesauce, the meatloaf at dinner is loaded with onions and carrots, and the cupcakes after dinner are loaded with beets. This is hardly a new idea. Long before Jessica Seinfield wrote a book on it, parents have loaded foods down with hidden nutrition. The pasta sauce I ate as a kid was more a veggie puree of celery, onions, green peppers and tomatoes than a true tomato sauce (something I still do), and foods like banana bread and prune cake are double duty treats older than your grandma.
These cupcakes are perhaps the sneakiest of recipes though. At first bite, they seem a chocolaty cupcake with a soft pillow of marshmallow whoopie pie filling. However, they are really under-cover agents packing a wallop of pureed beets and a decent dose of whole wheat flour. The nutrition is great, and I feel slightly better knowing that when Little Guy eats one, that he’s getting a small dose of nutrients, antioxidants and flavanoids along with his heavy dose of fat and sugar.
Yes, I wanted these to have a hidden dose of health in them, but I also wanted them to taste like real whoopie pies. So, for the filling, I stuck with a classic whoopie pie filling. whoopie pie fans will tell you that there is only one way to make filling. But there are two camps to the correct way to make the filling. In Pennsylvania Dutch country the filling is made with egg whites and milk, and in New England, Marshmallow is the key ingredient. In both versions the traditional fat is shortening. I prefer the sweet sticky Marshmallow version, and I also prefer the rich flavor of butter so if you are a whoopie pie traditionalist, then you’ll have to forgive me this variation.
Yes, these cupcakes are moist and yes they are slightly more nutritious than your average chocolate cupcake, but in the end they are just a very tasty combination of the holy-trinity of yummy goodness; fat, sugar and goo. I guess I should warn you though, these suckers are so good that you might find yourself standing over the sink eating one when no one else is looking (not that I would ever do that, but you might!) Enjoy!
Whoopie Pie Cupcakes with Beet Puree – Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe
makes 24 cupcakes
These cupcakes are versatile and can be used anywhere a chocolate cupcake is required. Using the beet cooking liquid in the recipe helps the cupcake keep a nice dark color, and also adds back some of the water-soluble vitamins lost when cooking the beets.
Marshmallow Fluff is a local New England favorite and part of the traditional filling, but you can use marshmallow crème if you prefer.
1 cup buttermilk
1 ¾ cup sugar
1 bunch beets (about 3 medium beets)
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
¾ cup butter, softened (1 ½ sticks)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, 1 stick
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups Marshmallow Fluff
½ teaspoon vanilla
Tip: To keep the Fluff from sticking to every surface it comes in contact with spray the utensils you are using when measuring with non-stick cooking spray.
Peel beets and cut into 1” chunks.
Cover with cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain off the liquid, reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid.
Pulse the beets in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners (24 each) and spray with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium sized bowl, combine flours, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda and set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer combine sugar and butter and beat until fluffy. Slowly add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions, then add the vanilla and beets.
Add the flour mixture in three parts alternating with buttermilk beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each flour addition.
Right after this shot was taken the finger went into Little Guy’s mouth (against my wishes) and he said, “Mmmm, my you make good cupcakes!”
Divide batter between 24 cupcake cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
For the filling:
Beat butter in the bowl of a mixer.Slowly add powdered sugar followed by Marshmallow Fluff. Beat for about two minutes, or until all the lumps are gone. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Transfer the filling to a pastry bag or large zip-topk bag with a ½ inch hole cut into the tip of the bag.
To fill the cupcakes take a funnel and stick the neck down into the center of the cupcakes about ⅔ of the way creating a hole just large enough to stick the tip of the pastry bag down into the cupcake. Carefully fill each cupcake until it just starts to bulge. Do not over fill or the cupcake will crack open. When you are finished filling the cupcakes, clean the tip of the pastry bag of any cake crumbs sticking to it, and then use the remaining filling to add a small dollop to the top of each cupcake.
Cupcakes can be make one day ahead and stored in an air-tight container or frozen.