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Secretly Healthy Red Velvet Cupcakes

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Secretly healthy cream cheese frosting + rich and chocolatey red velvet cupcakes that require no food coloring to achieve their trademark color. With all natural ingredients, they're also much lower in sugar than your traditional red velvet cupcake. Full recipe here:

I will admit to dragging my birthday out each year for so much longer than the one day that it pretty much turns into a birthday week. This year’s birthday week began with the Healthy Oatmeal Pancakes I posted a few days ago, and it continued to include a family dinner, Thai food and after-dinner drinks with friends, and a trip to the famed Sprinkles Bakery for birthday cupcakes.

A few days ago, my friend Sarah treated me to birthday cupcakes to-go from Sprinkles. It was my first time at the bakery, and I was super excited to try their vegan red velvet cupcakes. (Sarah ordered chocolate marshmallow.) The cupcake was pretty good… I thought the frosting was extremely over-the-top sweet, but I liked the actual cake. And thus the Sprinkles cupcakes inspired today’s creation:

Red Velvet Cupcake

Healthy red velvet cupcakes!

Note: the red velvet cupcakes in the photos are frosted with my Healthy Cream Cheese Frosting, which I swirled onto each cupcake with a piping bag. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use a plastic bag with a small piece of one corner cut off. Or just spread the frosting onto the cupcakes.  I am partial to cream cheese frosting on red velvet cupcakes, but feel free to use any other frosting recipe if you wish.

natural food coloring

Healthy Red Velvet Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup spelt or all-purpose flour (or Bob’s gf plus 1/4 tsp xanthan gum)(65g)
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (15g) (not Dutch)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup xylitol or sugar of choice (90g)
  • handful mini chocolate chips, optional
  • 1/4 cup mayo-style spread, such as Vegenaise (58g)
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup beet juice (60g)
  • 2 tbsp water (30g)
  • 1 tsp natural red food coloring, optional if you want them redder than the ones in the photos

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a muffin tin with 6 liners (or double the recipe for 12). In a large bowl combine first 5 ingredients (and chips, if using). Sift very well. In a separate bowl combine remaining ingredients and whisk until the mayo spread is completely smooth. Now pour wet into dry and stir until just combined. Immediately pour the batter into the pan (about 2/3 full each) and bake 14 minutes, after which time cupcakes should have risen and domed. Let sit 10 minutes to cool before removing from the mufin tin.

Any of the following mayonnaise spreads will work in this recipe: Earth Balance Mindful Mayo, low-fat or regular Vegenaise, or homemade cashew mayonnaise… Although I can’t vouch for every single mayo spread out there, the recipe should be fine as long as your mayo includes lemon juice or vinegar and a fat source such as oil or cashews. If you are using homemade mayo, I recommend omitting any onion powder and mustard that might be called for in the recipe.

View Red Velvet Cupcakes Nutrition Facts

Healthy Red Velvet Cupcakes

And below, the real Sprinkles vegan red velvet cupcakes that inspired today’s recipe:

sprinkles cupcake   katie cupcake

Questions of the Day:

How did you celebrate your most recent birthday? Or how are you planning to celebrate your next one? Anyone else like to drag out their birthdays to last all week?

Link of the Day: Crustless Pumpkin Pie

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Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. gigi says:

    Where do you get your beet juice? Does it come in a bottle ready to use?

    1. Yes, I found it at Whole Foods.

  2. Lily says:

    My birthday is next week (yaaaaay) and I try to drag it out to “birthday month” if possible. Spread out dinners, etc. so it always feels like I’m celebrating. 😉

    1. moriah says:

      In my family it’s referred to as ‘Birthnukkah’. Eight days of fun!

  3. Justin says:

    Yessss I’m so excited to make these! I’m interested in making homemade cashew mayo…do you have a recipe for that?? And my sister is the one that spreads out her birthday…it’s definitely turned into a birthday month! August also the month a lot of my relatives were born in so she can kind of get away with it 😉

    1. I don’t, personally… but if you google it, a lot of the recipes are probably pretty similar to one another and will work! 🙂

  4. Kelly J. R. says:

    My birthday is coming up in October. My husband and I will be vacationing in the desert southwest. On my birthday we plan on backpacking down into the Grand Canyon and spending the night in our little tent almost a mile lower in elevation than where we started. Most people would not consider that a very good birthday present but it’s so perfect for me.

    1. lisa says:

      I am jealous of your birthday plans, having just read them Kelly! I thought we were the last tent campers alive. Did you have a a fantastic time?? DUH! of course you did. 🙂

  5. Tammela says:

    I am also prone to celebrating a “birthday week,” or at least “birthday weekend.” Much more fun!

  6. My sister is obsesed with red velvet, so I can’t wait to have her try these! My birthday bumps heads with Thanksgiving, so I’m lucky to even get one day some years.

    1. OilLadyLaura says:

      I feel your pain, mine does too and as I kid I almost never got a party on my birthday because all my friends were visiting out of town relatives.

  7. I love that you used beets for red colouring!

  8. Leesa D says:

    What perfect timing! My birthday is on Sunday and I was trying to decide what sort of cake/cupcake I would make. I think I may have found a winner 😉

    1. Sarah =) says:

      Mine, too! =D Happy early birthday!

  9. OilLadyLaura says:

    Whatever I end up doing for my birthday, I hope it starts with breakfast in bed! And I wouldn’t mind having these cupcakes for breakfast, yum.

  10. That’s a beautiful frosting swirl on top of those cupcakes! I hate it when cupcakes are too overloaded with sweet frosting – yuck! I’m not big on my own birthday celebrations but I love to go over the top celebrating others’!

  11. Dianne says:

    My hubby and my birthdays are two days apart, this week so yes at our age 60 and 65 we definitely drag it out from birthday week to birthday month. It’s so much fun to be bad…

  12. Ekta says:

    Hello! First time posting on a blog! Love your recipes!
    Can I substitute sour cream for the vegan mayo? or yogurt or buttermilk?

    1. Technically, yogurt will work… it has less fat so it tastes a bit more gummy. But it does work.

      1. Oh, if you do use yogurt you will have to play with the proportions but I’d suggest adding some oil in there as well, maybe subbing out the water…

        1. Ceci says:

          How about using regular mayo? would that be ok?

  13. Aya B. says:

    Very nice recipe.. I have the same issue with any baked Goodie that we get from a bakery or a store, they are always either wood stiff (almost dehydrated lol) or too sweet (sometimes I believe bakeries do that to misguide you so you think the cupcakes or cake is tasty while it has only sugar in it)
    Last birthday I baked my own lowfat carrot cake with frosting & honey drizzle.. it surely was way better than any bakery birthday cake & way healthier 😀

    1. Ceci says:

      omgosh! I totally agree! I think they do that because of 2 reasons: 1. sugar is cheaper than cream, chocolate, flavoring and other good ingredients… 2. sugar is addictive… I personally dont like sugary or too sweet stuff so I am so happy to cook these things at home!

  14. Kelly L. says:

    Answering the birthday question: I have actually dragged my birthday out for a whole week. I call it my birthday celebration week! Usually what I do is take a few days off from taking care of my three year old and go on a much needed vacation for a few days with my husband or I leave my husband and child at home and go on a girl’s vacation week with a friend of mine.
    I always come back refreshed and ready to take on the world when I get back.

  15. Emah says:

    For my birthday on the first of last month my bf got me a strawberry gateaux from the VeganCakery here in the UK, which was scrumptious. But for my mums birthday this week I made coconut lime cupcakes, and they are even tastier. I’ve only tried red velvet cake once and didn’t like it. But I’ll give these a whirl soon:) X

  16. Celebrating all week is a concept I was first introduced to by the blog world – too late to put it into action this year but I’ll definitely keep it in mind for years to come.
    Such a [literally] sweet idea of Sarah to take you out for cupcakes. I wish we had more vegan options over here, too, but at least they are slowly expanding. Until then it’s still ‘bake you own’ – and that’s not too bad, either :).

  17. Debbie says:

    You look beautiful in that last picture! I love Sprinkles cupcakes, can’t wait to try your version. If my birthday is inconveniently in the middle of the week, I spread it out. But it mostly falls during Memorial Day weekend or the actual holiday itself so I get to celebrate all weekend and have a “birthday weekend”!

  18. Amanda says:

    Hi Katie – in this recipe and others, do you primarily use xylitol or do you use the sugar in the recipe? I have never used xylitol but was curious if any other readers here have?

    Thank you.

    1. I’ve tested these cupcakes (or the chocolate ones on which they are based) both ways. I always test both ways before posting, just because there are some recipes where xylitol will not work.

  19. Ah red velvet cupcakes are where it’s at. These look so decadent and healthy, thanks for sharing!

  20. Lisa says:

    I’ve been loving beets in red velvet desserts lately. I just posted a recipe for red velvet protein balls and they are so tasty. I love them, and it’s kind of cool being able to get that red velvet color without using food coloring – plus much healthier.
    This looks awesome!

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